Is Ark of the Covenant Fate Revealed in Ancient Hebrew Text?

January 12, 2014 Updated: January 12, 2014

The fate of the Ark of the Covenant from the Bible could be revealed in a newly translated Hebrew text.

King Solomon’s Temple, also known as the First Temple, was plundered and burned by King Nebuchadnezzar II in the sixth century B.C., according to the Bible.

The Ark of the Covenant was famed as the container of the tablets containing the commandments. It was inside the temple when Nebuchadnezzar set upon it. 

The newly translated text, called “Treatise of the Vessels, or Massekhet Kelim in Hebrew, says that the treasures inside the temple “were concealed by a number of Levites and prophets,” writes James Davila, a professor at the University of St. Andrews.

Davila wrote about the text in the book “Old Testament Pseudepigrapha More Noncanonical Scriptures Volume 1.”

“Some of these (treasures) were hidden in various locations in the Land of Israel and in Babylonia, while others were delivered into the hands of the angels Shamshiel, Michael, Gabriel and perhaps Sariel,” Davila wrote.

The text says that the gold in the temple “radiated like the radiance of the sun and moon, which radiate at the height of the world.”

Davila told LiveScience that the writer of the text, who is not clearly known, was writing a work of fiction combining different legends. 

“The writer draws on traditional methods of scriptural exegesis [interpretation] to deduce where the treasures might have been hidden, but I think the writer was approaching the story as a piece of entertaining fiction, not any kind of real guide for finding the lost Temple treasures.”

The text doesn’t include locations of any of the treasures, including the Ark of the Covenant.

It says that the location “shall not be revealed until the day of the coming of the Messiah son of David.”

Davila said that the text has “striking parallels” to the Copper Scroll, including that both refer to “vessels,” or “implements,” made of both gold and silver.

“My guess is that whoever wrote the Treatise of Vessels came up with the same idea [of writing a treasure list on metal] coincidentally on their own, although it is not unthinkable that the writer knew of some ancient tradition or custom about inscribing important information on metal,” Davila said, noting that metal is more durable than other materials such as parchment.

Research continues on the treatise.

Meanwhile, a group of Christians in Ethiopia claim to have the ark in their possession, though no one but the ark keeper is allowed to see it.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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