Saturday, May 12, 2012

THE ARK OF COVENANT

THE BIBLE SAYS that God inscribed the Ten Commandments on two stone tablets that he gave to Moses. To protect the tablets, and to let them be carried, a wooden chest decorated with exquisite gold ornaments was built. It was about three-and-a-half feet long, just over two feet wide, and had two poles attached through gold rings on its sides. There were two carved cherubim on top, and the chest’s lid was called the atonement cover or the ‘mercy seat’. The box accompanied Moses and the Israelites on their quest for the Promised Land, and brought them victory wherever they went. When they finally founded Jerusalem, King Solomon built the ‘Holy of Holies’, or First Temple, and housed the box there. This supremely holy chest is called the Ark of the Covenant. No single item is involved in more legends of treasure, unexplained wealth and international intrigue than this great chest. Some legends say that the Ark was destroyed or captured by invading Egyptian forces around 925 BC, others say that the Babylonians stole it in 586 BC. The Jewish sect who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls may have buried the Ark in the Jordanian desert before they were overrun. Likewise, it has been suggested that an early Christian group called the Cathars may have hidden it in an ancient church at Rennes-le-Ch√Ęteau in France before they were destroyed by the Catholic Church.

King Arthur has also been linked to the Ark’s history, whilst many researchers claim it was taken from the Holy Land by the Knights Templar. It is said that they may have hidden it at the pit on Oak Island, or even at a Scottish chapel in Rosslyn. Conspiracy theorists believe the descendants of the Knights Templar are the Freemasons, who now have the Ark under their control. In fact, many mysterious tales have incorporated aspects of involving the Ark of the Covenant. Here, we will look at two of the most plausible theories.

Leen Ritmeyer is an archaeologist who has conducted tests on Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and believes he has established the true position of the First Temple. He claims he has discovered a section cut out of the underlying rock that exactly matches the dimensions of the Ark. From this, Ritmeyer believes the Ark may be buried deep inside Temple Mount, but it seems impossible that excavations will be carried out in the area,
particularly whilst it continues to be the site of violent political turmoil. Many other experts also believe the Ark remains in the Holy Land, and one, an American called Ron Wyatt, even claimed to have found the sacred chest in the Garden Tomb, in the north of the old city of Jerusalem.

Perhaps the most celebrated theory connecting the Ark with a real object revolves around western Africa. Ethiopia has a legend that claims the Queen of Sheba was impregnated by King Solomon. The child, known as Menelik, meaning ‘the son of the wiseman’, travelled to Jerusalem when he was 20 to study in his father’s court. Within a year, Solomon’s priests had become jealous of the king’s son and said he must return to Sheba. Solomon accepted this but said that all first-born sons of other elders should accompany Menelik. One of these, Azarius, was the son of Zadok, the High Priest. It was Azarius who stole the Ark and took it to Africa. Menelik decided that their success must be divine will, and founded the ‘Second Jerusalem’ at Aksum in Ethiopia. Today, the ancient church of St Mary of Zion is said to house the Ark, which was traditionally brought out every January for the celebration known as Timkat.

In recent years, due to the instability in the country, the Ark has been hidden away and cared for by a devoted guardian, who is the only man allowed to see the true nature of the box. Certainly, there is a lot to recommend this theory – for instance, Ethiopians are one of the few races that practise Christianity in Africa, and the national constitution ruled that the Ethiopian emperor is a direct descendant of Solomon. Ethiopians are confident of their role in the Ark’s heritage, but with so many legends vying to reveal the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant, it is impossible to decide on one. Perhaps, as many religious groups believe, its presence will become known when the time is right.

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