American culture was largely introduced to the biblical story of the Ark of the Covenant in 1981 by Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford in the epic tale “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” It now appears that the actual biblical artifact will be revealed for the first time in centuries.
Abuna Pauolos, the patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia, has announced to the world the unveiling of the Ark of the Covenant, perhaps the world’s most prized archaeological and spiritual artifact. He says the Ark has been hidden away in a church in his country for over a millennia, according to the Italian news agency Adnkronos.
In Italy for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI this week, Pauolos told the news agency, “Soon the world will be able to admire the Ark of the Covenant described in the Bible as the container of the tablets of the law that God delivered to Moses and the center of searches and studies for centuries.”
The Bible describes the Ark as the sacred container designed to hold the 10 Commandments. (See biblical text below) God instructed Moses on how to build a chest overlaid with gold. The lid of the Ark was more commonly referred to as the Mercy Seat (or atonement cover) and was constructed of pure gold. On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the lid as a sacrifice to God on behalf of the entire nation.
The most recognized piece in the Tabernacle and perhaps best known for its remarkable powers, the Ark held a central place both physically and spiritually. The Ark of the Covenant symbolized God’s throne on the earth. God’s presence did not dwell inside the box, but remained over the Ark, in between the two Cherubim. Here God dwelt “in unapproachable light” (I Timothy 6:16 Psalm 104:2). The high priest had to shield his eyes, because “no man shall see Me and live” (Exodus 33:20). This was where God met with Moses (Exodus 25:21-22 Leviticus 16:14-15). The glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle on the day it was erected and anointed (Exodus 40:9,18,34-35).
One striking aspect of the Ark is its size. It is relatively smaller than one typically imagines. At about 45 in. x 27 in. x 27 in., it is smaller than a typical office desk. While no one accurately reproduce the appearance of the Ark, the photo below is representative of what biblical scholars believe the Ark looks like.
Another question for scholars and historians is the position of the angels. We are not told in great detail exactly what the angels. looked like. Some models show the Cherubim kneeling. Other models show the Cherubim standing. What we do know is that the wings of the Cherubim were stretched out, to cover the Mercy Seat. The wings of the two Cherubim possibly touched one another to form a complete covering.
Over last 2500 years, dozens of locations have been suggested for the location of the Ark. The History Channel, biblical and archeological magazines, and hundreds of universities and treasure hunters have searched the globe for the wonderous Ark.
My own personal belief has been that either the Ark was lost to history after being melted down for the gold or it was located in the high monastery in Ethiopia.
What does the revelation of the Ark of the Covenant mean?
- Perhaps nothing. It could be a fake.
- Additional archeological confirmation of the authenticity of the biblical message.
- Affirmation of the Exodus pilgrimage and God’s deliverance of Israel.
- Additional archeological support for the presence of Israel as a nation.
I am personally looking forward to pictures, information and details over the next few days as we learn more about this compelling piece of history.
Exodus 25:10-22 NIV
“Have them make a chest of acacia wood—two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. Overlay it with pure gold, both inside and out, and make a gold molding around it. Cast four gold rings for it and fasten them to its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other. Then make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. Insert the poles into the rings on the sides of the chest to carry it. The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed. Then put in the ark the Testimony, which I will give you. Make an atonement cover of pure gold—two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover. Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the Testimony, which I will give you. There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.”