We are going to begin with other things related to the Temple that teach the concept of holiness, or kedushah, and then put this all together in relation to the location of the Ark. We have an inner courtyard that is 187 cubits east to west and 135 cubits north to south. You will have all the gates and the buildings leading to it. Now, gates in Israel were more like houses than what we may imagine here in the west of what a gate looks like. You walk through it. If a gate opens up into the inner courtyard, the building has the kedushah of that inner courtyard. If the other end of that building opens up to the Chel, the rules are relaxed and the beginning half of that building has the kedushah of the Chel, and the other half closest to the inner courtyard has the kedushah of the inner court. A priest comes in and changes his clothes from his “street” clothes and puts them in a locker. When he goes out of the inner court, he goes to that locker and puts his priestly clothes in that locker and puts his street clothes back on. Even the kohanim going on duty have to wash their hands and their feet if they go in between the porch and the altar. When they leave they need to do the same thing because they have been walking around the slaughter area and the blood needs to be washed off. It has a kedushah on it and it belongs to God, so it needs to stay in the inner court. This cannot go to the people.
Four buildings are on the corners of the azarah, or inner court. In the northwest corner building there is a room that stores the stones from the altar that was desecrated by Antiochus Epiphanes when he slaughtered pigs on it. Now they had a problem because the altar had a kedushah on it, and what were they going to do with it. They just couldn’t take it out of the Temple because of that, so what do they do. This relates to why we have the Dead Sea Scrolls. A “genizah” is a special chamber or room to store scrolls and books that have the name of God in them. All the books of the Tanach were found in these caves except the book of Esther. It was never found because the name of God is not in the book of Esther. Now, this building in the northwest corner of the azarah was huge, it was 100 cubits long going north to south, and 50 cubits wide going east to wet. Remember, if a gate opens up to the azarah, that building has the kedushah of that azarah. However, if there is a door at the other end towards the Chel, the rules are relaxed. That half towards the Chel has the kedushah of the Chel.
Now, the word Chel by the way is related to the word “chol” which means common or intermediate. Also, remember the Scripture phrase “L’havdil bain kodesh l’chol” meaning “to distinguish between the holy (kodesh) and the profane (common).” Why is this important? Because is teaching us something with all this. In the Mishnah, Midot 1.6 we have a discussion about the chambers. In the northwest chamber the Hasmoneans stored the stones of the desecrated altar. They had to build a new altar because they did not know how to render the stones back to ritual purity. They knew they could not just get rid of the stones because they had a kedushah of the altar on them. So, it was stored in that building that had a kedushah of the inner azarah.
So, here is a question. What about the kedushah of the Ark of the Covenant?” If the priestly garments, the blood and the altar stones could not leave the azarah because of kedushah, what about the Ark? When the Babylonians came down to attack Judah, you will have the last of the Judean kings. There were two priests that prophesied during those days, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Jeremiah was from Abiathar and Ezekiel was from Zadok. This is significant, but we will not get into that right now. In the time of David, there were two high priests. One was at the Mishkan and the other was with the Ark after it came back after being separated at Aphek when the Philistines took it. The Mishkan was north and the Ark was at the Gihon Spring in Jerusalem. The Kedushah of the Mishkan and the Ark demanded two high priests.
The greatest commandment that a kohen had was to teach the people about kedushah, and to separate the clean and the unclean (Ezek 44.23). They knew that something with a certain level of kedushah on it cannot be downgraded or “go out” of the area where it was in the Temple. The book of Maccabee’s is about priests from the Hasmonay family and how they led a rebellion against the Seleucid Greeks. Would the Hasmoneans have known about the concept of holiness, or kedushah? Yes. Judah ha Maccabee (meaning “hammer”) oversaw the cleansing of the Temple. Who told them to put the desecrated altar stones in the northwest chamber of the Beit ha Moked? Judah did because he was a priest who understood kedushah.
There are many theories about where the Ark is. All of them (except the one that it is on the Temple Mount) are by people who do not understand kedushah. In the book of Maccabees it says that Jeremiah (a priest) hid the Ark in a special place before the Babylonians came. One theory is that the Ark went to Ethiopia. But the Ark was not taken to Ethiopia by Menelek (2 Kings 19.15) because Hezekiah said God was still enthroned above the cherubim (Exo 25.22). It was not taken by Shishak to Egypt (1 Kings 14.25-26) because it was still in the Temple at the time of Josiah, 300 years after Shishak (2 Chr 35.3).
The Red Heifer is needed before the Temple can function. Sons from priestly families are being prepared to do this ceremony and have been separated from birth. They have been protected from being discovered. If someone asks where these 8 year old boys are who are ritually clean, you will not get an answer. Now, how does that apply? In Maccabees it says that Jeremiah hid the Ark on Mount Nebo (2 Macc 2.5-8). Remember, Jeremiah was a priest and knew about kedushah. Would he have allowed the Ark to leave the level of kedushah that it had? He knew his garments, the blood and other things cannot do that. This is a diversion in Maccabees, just like if you were to ask about the boys being raised for the Red Heifer ceremony today. Jeremiah hid the Ark in an area that had the same kedushah, and that would be an area on the Temple Mount. It is said that Solomon built a special chamber where the holy things could have been hidden in a time when the people departed from God (1 Kings 8.46-55). We have already been told in the Mishnah that it is under the Deir ha Etz (Wood Chamber). We have four buildings in the azarah. In the southwest corner there is the Beit ha Otzrot, in the southeast corner there is the Lishkat ha Gazit. In the northwest corner we have the Beit ha Moked and in the northeast corner we have the Beit ha Nitzotz. There are three possibilities where the Ark is hidden. The Lishkat ha Etz, the Lishkat ha Etzim in the Court of the Women and the Deir ha Etz under the southwest corner building called Beit ha Otzrot and some other names. There is a wood chamber next to it. Gates on the south are: the Sha’ar ha Elyon (upper gate), Sha’ar ha Delek (kindling gate), Sha’ar ha Berakot (first born gate) and the Sha’ar ha Mayim (Water gate). The Ark is near where the Sha’ar ha Elyon was in the southwest corner.
We are all familiar with the western wall. What people do not know is that there are western wall tunnels. There are four massive stones there called “The Master Course” and you can research these on the Internet. Some of them weigh 600 tons, which is heavier than a fully loaded 747 passenger jet. It is 595 tons bigger than any stone on the Pyramids. They are just behind where the southwest chamber would have been. They believe there is a chamber that went below the southwest chamber according to researchers, and that is where the Deir ha Etz is located, and that is where the Ark is. This is based on locating the Deit ha Etz, where the Mishnah says it is, and based on the concept of holiness, or kedushah. The Ark would have never been taken off the Temple Mount and it is still there today.
SOURCES USED IN THIS STUDY INCLUDE:
Hatikva Ministries “Kedusha” video series
The Talmud (Babylonian and Jerusalem)
Internet “Master Course” article