Bible Archaeology

In 1981, I watched an incredible movie that instantly inspired me and ignited my curiosity in history, and the discovery of things and significant artifacts that tell stories about people and events from long ago. That movie of course was Raiders of the Lost Ark, since then there have been numerous people, groups and researchers that have set out on quests around the globe to find the long lost Ark of the Covenant. Hebrews 9:4 is one of the best Bible Verses that offers a biblical description.

Ark of the Covenant, Bible Archaeology, Temple of Jerusalem

Bible Study Resource

Ark of the Covenant

The Ark of the Covenant disappeared from the Jewish Temple somewhere before or during the Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem in 586 BC. It may or may not have survived. There has been much speculation about it.

What was the Ark?

The Ark had its place in the Holy of Holies in the centre of the tabernacle, and was removed only when the whole shrine was dismantled to be moved somewhere else.

As to its religious significance, different scholars have put forward two conflicting interpretations:

  1. according to one school, it was a lidded chest
  2. according to another, a sort of throne.

Both views draw their evidence from different passages in the Bible text. In Exodus 25:10-11; 37:1-9, the Ark is described as a chest made of acacia wood, about 4 ft. long and 2.5 ft. wide and high, covered with gold plates and fitted with rings through which poles could be fixed so that it could be carried.

Ark of the Covenant, Auch Cathedral, gilded panel

Kapporeth — Mercy Seat and Cherubim

Over the Ark was the Kapporeth, a gold plate the same size as the Ark, called in some translations the mercy seat. The golden cherubim stood one at either end of the mercy seat covering it with their outspread wings. This tradition is clearly influenced by the realities of the Temple of Solomon where the Ark stood in the Holy of Holies, sheltered by the wings of the cherubim.

Creatures strongly resembling the Bible's description of the cherubim, on the side of the Egyptian pharoah Tutankhamun's tomb
Creatures on the shrine doors in the Egyptian pharoah Tutankhamun's tomb. They strongly resemble the Bible's description of the cherubim.
The Bible specifies 'two cherubim of hammered gold with wings spread upward, facing each other at the ends of the cover'
The Bible specifies "two cherubim of hammered gold with wings spread upward, facing each other at the ends of the cover"

Deuteronomy 10:1-8 simply refers to an Ark made of acacia wood as a container for the two stone tablets of the Law. This became known as the Ark of the Covenant, and Deuteronomy gives no further description of it, and does not connect it with either tent or tabernacle. Archaeology has furnished many parallels to the placing of the tablets of the Law in the holy place of the nation. Among ancient peoples, legal bonds and documents were frequently deposited beneath statues of the gods who were witnesses to the agreements.

The Ark was the oldest of the symbols. It stood, apparently without being covered by any tent, in the camp of Gilgal (Joshua 7:6) right at the beginning of the Conquest. It was transferred to Bochim near Bethel (Jud. 2:1-5), then Bethel (Jud. 20:27) or according to Joshua 8:33 to Mt. Ebal near Shechem. In Samuel’s time it was kept at Shiloh (ll Samuel 1-3) until it was taken into the Battle of Aphek (1 Samuel 4:3) and captured by the Philistines (4:11). They returned it to the Israelites at Beth-Shemesh (6:11-l4) and from there it was taken to Kiriath-Gearim (7:1) where it remained until David took it to Jerusalem and installed it in his city.

The Bible specifies 'two cherubim of hammered gold with wings spread upward, facing each other at the ends of the cover'
Floor plan of the Temple of Jerusalem. The Ark was kept in the inner-most part of the sanctuary
Remains of the Great Temple at Palmyra
Remains of the Great Temple at Palmyra. Though this particular temple was looted hundreds of years ago, its most sacred objects would have been kept in the now-open niche (above) at the rear of the temple cella. The same was done with the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple of Jerusalem.

After the Temple had been built, the Ark was placed in the innermost sanctum (I Kings 8:3-4, 6-8) and lay there until it was destroyed along with the Temple in 587-586 BC. No new Ark was made for the post-Exilic Holy of Holies (Jeremiah 3:16) but in the post-Exilic period, the phrase, the room for the mercy-seat (Kapporeth) stands for the Holy of Holies of Solomon's Temple. Its memory remained, but Josephus (Wars 5, 5, 5) records that in Herod's Temple, there was nothing in the Holy of Holies.

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There are many interesting archaeological finds and information that I plan on showcasing here. Hopefully I can reach the author of Women In The Bible who put together the original information for this site, and get permission to continue publishing much of the great content that she put together over the years. The collection of articles and photos of bible archaeology will eventually be restored.

I'm a big fan of random acts of kindness and appreciate all the hard work that was done by the author of women in the bible. A great daily inspirational tool I use is this neat little random bible verse spinning wheel.

Another person that has led the research and and development of Biblical Archaeological activities is Dr. Seth Rodriquez. According to Colorado Christian University: Dr. Rodriquez leads a team of CCU students to excavate in Israel every summer, leveraging his extensive experience studying and traveling in the land of the Bible. He studied and the Israel Bible Extension (IBEX) campus of The Master's University in 1996 and 2001, and at the Jerusalem University College on Mt. Zion in 2001. He worked on the excavation team at Tel Hazor in 2006 and has served as a Square Supervisor at the Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavation Project since 2018. For several years, he was a research assistant and writer for Bible Places and LifeintheHolyLand.

One of the best books I have found that gives great illustrations and maps to help your research and study is: Archaeology Study Bible