We are going to go to the Mishnah and pick up some valuable information. It is going to tell us where the Ark is, and it is not going to be in Ethiopia, and it is not in South Africa, it is not at Golgotha, not on Mt Nebo or a cave near Qumran. It will be in a chamber under the Azarah of the Temple, in the southwest corner. Remember, we are talking about the concept of kedusha and we are talking about priests who taught it (Ezek 44.23). It was their specialty, not just their job. There are only two other things that have the same kedusha as the Ark, and they are the Mizbeach (Altar of Burnt Offering) and the Kodesh Ha Kodeshim (Holy of Holies).
Now, kedusha has guidelines. It is “to set apart, to designate for the service of God by formal, legal restrictions and limitations. This includes the kedusha of time (like the Sabbath) which are marked by limits on man’s activities of work.” Now, the Mishnah has some valuable information concerning the location of the Ark in Shakalim 6.1-2 where it says, “There were thirteen shofar (shaped) chests, thirteen tables, and thirteen prostrations in the Temple. They of the House of Gamaliel (he was Paul’s teacher, the Nasi of the Sanhedrin about 30 AD) and of the House of R. Hanina the Prefect (Sagan, or deputy High Priest) of the priests used to make fourteen prostrations. And where was added one? Opposite the wood-store (this is called the Deir Ha Etz. Word had been handed down from their ancestors that the Ark was hidden there. If you can locate the Deir Ha Etz you can locate the Ark) for thus was the tradition among them from their forefathers, that the Ark lay hidden. Once when a priest was occupied therein he saw a block of pavement that was different from the rest. He went and told it to his fellow, but before he could make an end of the matter his life departed. So they knew assuredly that the Ark lay hidden (very similar story to Uzzah and the Ark-2 Sam 6.1-7).
Now we have the location of the Ark below the Deir Ha Etz from the Mishnah, which means “the wood store.” The Lishkat ha Etz (Chamber of Wood) is in Beit Avtinas and it was paneled with cedars from Lebanon. The Deir Ha Etz and the Lishkat Ha Etz should have the same kedusha if it to qualify as the place of the Ark, and it does. The stones of the old altar are in the northwest corner building called the Beit Ha Moked, in the northeast corner of that building. These stones have the same kedusha as the Ark, and the Maccabee’s knew they could not be just taken anywhere because of kedusha, they had to stay in the Temple area.
In the Court of the Women we go down in Kedusha. There are four chambers in that area. The Chamber of Oil is in the southwest corner called the Lishkat Ha Shemen. The southeastern corner had the Lishkat ha Nazarim, or Chamber of the Nazarites. In the northwest corner there was the Lishkat Ha Metzorim, or Chamber of Lepers and in the northeast corner there was the Lishkat Ha Etzim, or Chamber of Wood. The Lishaket Ha Etzim was where the the disqualified or aged priests would inspect wood for the Altar. This cannot be where the Deir Ha Etz is that the Mishnah spoke about because it is lower in kedusha. The priests can’t even wear the garments there (Ezek 42.14, 44.19). This area would not qualify as the location of the Deir Ha Etz and the location of the Ark. So, let’s narrow down the search.
There is a gate on the southern side called the Shaar Ha Delek, or “Kindling Gate” (for wood). Once the wood has been inspected, it goes to the storehouse called the Deir Ha Etz. As wood is needed, wood would be carried in through the Shaar Ha Delek (Kindling Gate) to the Altar. So, the Deir Ha Delek (the storehouse for the wood) has to be close to the Shaar Ha Delek, either right next to it or very near to this gate, and somewhere near the Beit Ha Otzrot (House of the Treasuries). The Ark has to be buried under this area in a chamber made by Solomon, the same chamber that Josiah used for the Ark during repairs of the Temple in 2 Chr 35.1-3. To give you an idea of this area, the Beit Ha Otzrot is in the southwestern chamber in the Azarah. Now, let’s go further.
Har Ha Bayit means the “mountain of the House” or in other words, the Temple Mount. This only applies to the 500 cubit x 500 cubit area, the Temple Mount proper. People call the whole mount up there the Temple Mount, but it really is just the 500 cubit x 500 cubit area. Then the Hasmoneans built a southern extension on to the Temple. There is a gate called Barclay’s Gate, which is in the women’s prayer area on the western wall. You can still see the lintel of that gate even today. King Herod extended the southern area even more, adding on to what the Hasmoneans did. Josephus describes four gates on the western side. There were two upper gates where you would climb stairs, or a bridge, to get on to the Temple Mount, called Robinson’s Arch and Wilson’s Arch (not what they were called when the Temple stood, but named after the guys who found them again with the PEF). In addition, there were two lower gates called Barclay’s Gate and Warren’s Gate that were designed for you to go through, and ascend to the Temple Mount. What was discovered by Charles Warren and Charles Wilson of the Palestinian Exploration Fund in the 1860’s and 70’s is as they went into Barclay’s gate, the stones matched those on the other side of the wall, and that section was Hasmonean. The western wall tunnels are right under Wilson’s Arch, an upper gate. Warrens Gate will be like Barclay’s Gate and it leads to Warrens Gate tunnel.
After 1967, the Temple Mount was turned over to the Jordanian governing authority called the Waqf, even though Israel captured and took control of the Mount during the Six Day War in June, 1967. The Arabs will riot if they think any digging is being done on the Temple Mount. They are aware of all the archaeological work that has been done and what has been found about the Temple being there, and they don’t want any more confirmation of a Jewish presence on the mountain, especially a Jewish Temple. They know it was there, but they don’t want everyone else to know. It doesn’t fit their religious world view. So, in secret, a tunnel was made running along the western wall of the Temple. This is called the Western Wall Tunnel.
In our conclusion, we will pick up here and talk about what was found during this excavation and how all of this was done in secret.