Ark of the Covenant
The sacred box made of shittim wood covered with gold that was borne by the Hebrews in their journey in the desert. As recounted in the Book of Exodus, the ark was about four feet long, two feet wide, and two feet high, and plated with pure gold. Its lid, the 'mercy seat', was of solid gold and had two cherubs with outstretched wings. The Ark was carried on two gold-plated poles inserted through four gold rings fastened to its four feet.
The ark contained the tablets of the Law (Deuteronomy 10:2), a pot of manna and Aaron's rod (Hebrews 9:4), and was the focal point of the presence of God. In fact it was believed to be the literal manifestation of God on Earth.
The Ark of the Covenant was also one of the most terrifying artifacts illustrated in all of biblical history. A golden chest with the power to clobber men dead, to the ancient Hebrews the Ark was both a divine expression and a amulet so powerful that they carried it with them into battle — a weapon of God.
The Ark was kept at Shiloh until it was captured by the Philistines and set up in their temple at Ashdod. It eventually found a resting-place in the Temple of Solomon, where it remained until the fall of Jerusalem, when (2 Maccabees 2) Jeremiah hid it in a cave until God should gather his people again. By New Testament times apparently it no longer existed (Hebrews 9:4-5).
Other sources say that Menelik, son of Solomon and the Ethiopian queen Makeda, managed to bring the holy Ark to Ethiopia, but scholars believe that this legend was originated by the kings of Ethiopia themselves, in a deliberate attempt to assert their right to the throne through their descent from Solomon.
So potent was the Ark as an emblem to the Jewish nation, its rediscovery would shake the world, wrote American explorer Antonia Futterer in 1927. Furthermore, finding the Ark would "change the belief of millions of people of all nations for the better; be the greatest blow skeptics ever received; and perhaps be the greatest modern proof of the authenticity of Holy Writ."
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Sources: (1) Quest For The Past, Reader's Digest Association, Inc; (2) Mysteries of the Unknown Series, Mystic Quests, Time-Life Books.
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