How did the Ark disappear in the second temple?

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By BibleAsk Team


The disappearance of the Ark of the Covenant is a mystery that has intrigued scholars, historians, and theologians for centuries. While the Bible does not provide a clear account of the fate of the Ark during the time of the Second Temple, there are various theories, traditions, and historical clues that shed light on this enigmatic event. To explore this topic thoroughly, we will examine the biblical references, historical context, and scholarly interpretations surrounding the disappearance of the Ark in the Second Temple period, drawing upon references from the New King James Version (NKJV).

The Ark of the Covenant in the First Temple

The Ark of the Covenant played a central role in Israelite religious worship during the time of the First Temple in Jerusalem. According to 1 Kings 8:1-11, King Solomon brought the Ark into the newly constructed Temple and placed it in the Most Holy Place. The Ark symbolized the presence of God among his people and served as the focal point of Israel’s worship and covenant relationship with God.

The Disappearance of the Ark

The Ark disappeared probably during the reign of Queen Athaliah, who worshiped the false god Baal. The high priest of Jerusalem knew of the Queen’s evil intentions to destroy the temple of God and cease its religious objects. So, he and the priests hid the Ark of the covenant to protect it.

And in order to hide their deed, the priests continued their worship services as if nothing had happened. The high priest entered the Holy of Holies, and he was silent about the disappearance of the Ark and he sprinkled the blood of sacrifice before the Lord in the Holy of Holies. Thus, the sacrificial rituals continued as before, but without the presence of the Ark in Second Temple (Mishnh Yoma 5:2).

It is true that God’s presence dwelt between the two cherubims over the mercy seat (Exodus 25:17-22), where the blood was sprinkled by the high priest (Exodus 25:17-22), but God’s presence was not only limited to the existence of the Ark in the temple. And when Jehoash captured the temple in 786 BC, he too acted wisely by not mentioning the Ark’s disappearance, to avoid religious consequences.

This secret continued until the time of Jeremiah who declared: “men shall no longer speak of the Ark of the Covenant, nor shall it come to mind. They shall not mention it, or miss it, or make another” (Jeremiah 3:16). The prophet predicted the coming of the time when God would set up His abode upon the earth. God’s actual presence would make the symbol of His presence superseded. Jeremiah’s declaration that no Ark would be made in the future suggests that being a prophet belonging to the priestly line, he knew the secrets of the temple and that the Ark was no longer in existence.

Following the Babylonian exile, a remnant of Israelites returned to Jerusalem under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest to rebuild the Temple. Ezra 1:7-11 records the inventory of Temple vessels that were returned from Babylon by King Cyrus of Persia, but there is no mention of the Ark of the Covenant among these items.

The temple in Jerusalem was captured first by the Babylonians (Nebuchadnezzar) in 597, 586 BCE, and then later by the Romans in 70 AD.  Thus, the Ark was preserved from these enemies for it contained the only document on Earth that was ever written by the very finger of God (Exodus 31:18) – the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17).

In conclusion, the disappearance of the Ark of the Covenant during the Second Temple period remains a mystery that has puzzled scholars and historians for millennia. The Lord protected it by keeping it out of the reach of His enemies.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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