This is a topic of interest for many believers and non-believers. Knowledge of the Temple is very limited for most people, but nearly everyone has heard of the Ark of the Covenant. Movies and countless documentaries have been made about it. However, what most people do not know or understand is that this topic is tied in with the Temple. There are many ideas about it and most of them are mythical, like it is a “power conduit” or a “generator.” To understand where the Ark is, we must understand the concept of Kedusha.
There are several names for the Ark. It is called the Aron Edut (Ark of he Testimony); Aron Ha Brit (Ark of the Covenant); Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark); Aron Ha Mikdash (Ark of the Sanctuary); Ha Merkavah (The Chariot) and Ha Kiseh (The Throne). There are many various theories of where the Ark is. Ron Wyatt said it was hidden in a cave right beneath where Yeshua was crucified. Nice fairy tale, but incorrect. Then there is the Ethiopian Theory that says King Solomon gave the Ark to the Queen of Sheba and she took it to Ethiopia. However, this story is based on Isa 18.7 but the Cush in that verse is not Ethiopia, but Assyria/Babylon. Cush was the father of Nimrod (Gen 10.8-12) and Mesopotamia means “between the rivers” mentioned in the chapter. Ibn Ezra says this is Babylon. It is inconceivable that Solomon let the real Ark out of his hands.
The Temple that was built was for the Ark. It is something he cannot give up or give away. Then there is the South Africa Theory which is utterly ridiculous. Further investigation of this theory revealed that it was drum. The Vendyl Jones Theory says that it is in a cave near Qumran, the home of the Essene sect. We also have the Mount Nebo theory that says Jeremiah took it to a cave there before the Babylonians came.
There is another theory that the Ark never left the Temple Mount at all but is in a hidden chamber under the southwest corner of the Azarah. It is this last theory that we will develop, which in turn will automatically eliminate the others because of the concept of kedusha.
The Temple had four corner buildings in the Azarah. It was that way in the First Temple and also will be that way in Ezekiel’s Temple. In the northwest corner there was a building called the Beit Ha Moked (House of the Hearth). It was the dormitory for the course of priests that were on duty in the Temple for the week. We don’t know what this building was called in the First Temple, but it could have been called that. The gate that ran through that building is called the Shaar Ha Yeconiah (The Gate of Jeconiah, also called Jehoichin). He was a king of Judah and he went through that gate when he was taken into captivity into Babylon. So, we know that building existed in the First Temple.
In Ezek 42.13 it says, “Then he said to me, ‘The north chambers and the south chambers which are opposite the separate area, they are the holy chambers where the priests who are near to the Lord shall eat the most holy things. There they shall lay the most holy things, the grain offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering for the place is holy.'” The “separate area’ is behind the Sanctuary building called the Parbar and the “most holy things” means the Kodshai Kodeshim. Then it goes on to say “there they shall lay the most holy things (Kodshai Kodeshim).” Now, you don’t just lay certain things down in the Temple unless the area has equal kedusha.
The concept of kedusha is basically defined as, “to designate or to set apart for the service of God by formal and legal restrictions and limitations. The kedusha of periods of time, such as the Sabbath and festivals, are marked by limits on man’s activities of work and construction.”
Kedusha can come in varying degrees and it touches the whole world. The nations of the world have a lower kedusha than the nation of Israel. Israel and the land has a lower kedusha than Jerusalem. Jerusalem has a lower kedusha than the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount has a lower kedusha than the Court of the Women. The Court of the Women has a lower kedusha than the Court of the Israelites. The Court of the Israelites has a lower kedusha than the Azarah. The Azarah has a lower kedusha than the Heichal of the Temple. The Heichal has a lower kedusha than the Kodesh Ha Kodeshim. There are many peoples in the world, but Israel has a higher Kedusha. There are many tribes in Israel, but the tribe of Levi has a higher kedusha. There are many families in the tribe of Levi, but only the family of Aaron has a higher kedusha. There are many in the family of Aaron, but only one has a higher kedusha, the High Priest. So, you can see the Temple teaches the concept of kedusha and that is why it is called the Beit Ha Mikdash, the “House of Kedusha.”
Ezek 42.14 says that the priestly garments had to be laid aside if they went outside of the Azarah because of kedusha. You will also see this concept in Ezek 44.19. The concept says you cannot have something with a certain level of kedusha upon it go “down” to a lower kedusha. As a result, the priests could not wear their priestly garments outside of the Azarah. Many movies about the Bible or the life of Yeshua have shown this very thing. You will see the High Priest and other priests wearing their garments outside of the Azarah, in the outer courts. But, they cannot do that because of the level of kedusha on their garments.
The Dead Sea Scrolls is another example of kedusha. The name of God (YHVH) was on those scrolls and they could not be destroyed. However, there is one book that did not contain the written name of God (YHVH) in it, and that was the Book of Esther, and it was the only book not found from the Tanach in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Even today, if you have a Tanach or a Siddur (Prayer Book) or anything written in Hebrew with the name of God in it (YHVH) yo don’t throw it away. These books are taken to a synagogue and put int a “genizah” (meaning “storage”). Then there will be a formal “burial” because of the kedusha of the name of God. When Masada was excavated they came to the synagogue there and it had a genizah. The genizah was excavated and they found a scroll of Ezek 37 (the “dry bones” prophecy). When they had the 40th anniversary of Israel, they read Ezek 37. Anything with kedusha needs to be treated a certain way.
1 Macc 4.36-49 talks about this very concept. The Maccabees had to tear down the old altar because it had been defiled by a pig that was sacrificed on it by the Syrian Greeks. In 1 Macc 4.42-47 it says, “So he (Judah Maccabee) chose priests of blameless conversation, such as had pleasure in the law who cleansed the Sanctuary and bare out the defiled stones into an unclean place. And when as they consulted what to be done with the Altar of Burnt Offerings which was profaned, they thought it best to pull it down, lest it should be a reproach to them, because the heathen had defiled it; wherefore they pulled it down and laid up the stones in the mountain of the Temple in a convenient place (we know where) until there should come a Prophet, to show what should be done with them.”
The Mishnah is a book containing the recorded decisions of the Sanhedrin from shortly before the time of Yeshua till about 200 years after his death. They tried to record everything because the people were dispersed and the Temple was destroyed, and it would be needed by later generations. Tamid 3.3 gives some of the sub-chambers of the Beit Ha Moked saying, “He said to them, ‘Go and bring a lamb from the Chamber of Lambs.’ Now the Chamber of Lambs was in the northwestern corner (of the Azarah). Four chambers were there (in the Beit Ha Moked): one was the Chamber of Lambs (southwest corner), one the Chamber of Seals (tokens in the northeast corner), one was the Chamber of the Hearth (in the northwest corner), and one the chamber wherein they made the showbread (a bakery in the southeast corner).” Now, let’s compare this to Middot 1.6 where it says, “There were four rooms in the Chamber of the Hearth (Beit Ha Moked) like cells opening into a hall, two within holy ground and two outside holy ground (The whole building had a kedusha. If a building opened up to the Azarah, it had the same kedusha as the Azarah. If it opened to the Chel (common area) it had the kedusha of the Chel. There were posts sticking out of the Temple walls called “Rashai Pispesin” to tell you when the kedusha was changing. The Beit Ha Moked opened up to both the Azarah and the Chel, so the half of the Beit Ha Moked that was closest to the Azarah, you could not lay down or sit because it had the kedusha of the Azarah. The other half closest to the Chel was a place you could lay down or sit because it had the kedusha of the Chel), and the ends of flagstones divided the holy from what is not holy (rashai pispesin). And what was their use? That to the southwest was the Chamber of the Lamb offerings, that to the southeast was the chamber of them that made the Showbread; in that to the northeast the sons of the Hasmoneans (Maccabee’s in 1 Macc 4.42-47) had hidden away the stones of the Altar which the Grecian kings had defiled; and by that to the northwest they went down to the Chamber of Immersion.” Why did they store theses stones there? Because of their kedusha. It was a high kedusha item, equal to the Aron Brit (Ark of the Covenant).
In Part 2, we will pick up in 2 Chr 35.1-3 and Solomon moving the Ark from the Gihon Spring into the Temple. Keep in mind the concept of kedusha because when we understand this concept it will help us eliminate all these other theories about the location of the Ark, and help us see the possibility of its true location on the Temple Mount.