Tag Archives: Ark of the Covenant

CAN ARCHAEOLOGISTS FIND THE ARK OF THE COVENANT?

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March 28, 2022

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST

Having traveled and worked in the Middle East since l968, Robert L. Wise  has journeyed through the region, giving him insights from behind the scenes. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon. Each week he attempts to present an objective view of current events.

Can archaeologists find the Ark of the Covenant?

With so much horrible news coming from Russia’s unprovoked attack on the Ukraine, it seemed that a “breather” might be in order. What could be more enchanting than a look at one of the most fascinating subjects of all archeology? Is the Ark of the Covenant still there? Could you become a “raider of the lost Ark?” Here’s the latest.

The last known location of the Ark of the Covenant was in the First Temple’s Holy of Holies. However, after the Temple’s destruction in 586 BCE, it disappeared. 

Finnish scholar Valter Henrik Juvelius claimed to have decoded numeric ciphers in the Bible indicating that the Ark was hidden in the intersection of the water tunnels and canal that once carried blood from the sacrificial offering in the Temple. Juvelius successfully convinced a number of British aristocrats, among them Montague Parker, to embark on an archaeological quest to locate the Ark. The expedition members were not archaeologists and did not bother to research previous digs in the area or to record their own excavations. What’s more, evidence indicates that they bribed Ottoman authorities to permit the excavations.  

The expedition members proceeded to dig from what is now the City of David into ancient Jerusalem’s water tunnels and shafts, completely draining the Siloam Tunnel, diverting water from the Gihon Spring and other passages, and searching for a formerly submerged secret entrance. They found nothing, save some pottery, a piece of an Ionic column, old lamps, Roman projectiles and coins, and an ancient toilet. Although it was forbidden to dig within the Temple Mount, Parker eventually managed to bribe authorities to allow the expedition to do so.

The expedition members dug for nine nights before they were discovered, just as hostilities between religions in Jerusalem were on the high due to Passover, Easter, and the Muslim Nabi Musa celebrations. At the arrest of Temple Mount guards and the expedition’s middleman, the remaining members fled Jerusalem.

This incident left an enduring mark on Jerusalem’s Muslim population, encouraging, as Addison describes it, “a sense of Palestinian identity, centered on Jerusalem and the Haram al-Sharif.” The scandal helped bring Muslims together under a unified front to defend al-Haram al-Sharif in an “emerging sense of Palestinian nationalism.”

The Jewish population felt threatened by the Parker Expedition’s encroachment as well, at the time recruiting Baron de Rothschild to invest in parallel digs and ensure Jewish relics didn’t fall into Christian hands.

Seventy years later, Rabbi Shlomo Goren and Rabbi Yehuda Getz, the Rabbi of the Western Wall, repeated the expedition’s stunt, digging beneath the Temple Mount secretly, until they, too, were discovered. While the expedition may have provoked much outrage, it also provided a service to the local population, employing hundreds in the project and filtering the water in the Virgin’s Well and Siloam Pool, after having drained and cleaned the area. They even rebuilt steps to allow for better access to the spring. 

Most notably, in 1995, Israeli archaeologists Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron continued digging in the same water tunnels and shafts, eventually opening them to the public in the City of David. I personally walked through the water tunnel before it was open to the public.

As for Juvelius, until the end of his life he continued decrypting additional ciphers that never availed to any discoveries.

Whether the Ark is hidden beneath Jerusalem is unknown. However, the belief that it has been concealed and preserved beneath the city for 3,000 years spurred an expedition so bizarre, it attracted the world’s attention and caused a ripple effect whose reverberations are still felt today.

Sounds a little far out? Sure, but so did the flight of the Wright Brother’s airplane in Kitty Hawk South Carolina.

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