The Ark of the Covenant in Christian and Jewish mythology is the box that holds the tablets given to Moses by God on Mt. Sinai. Moses received the instructions in Exodus 25, and then got more details on how to fix up the entire Tabernacle (temporary temple), how to dress his family, and how to prepare the appropriate sacrifices. Finally, in Exodus 31, Bezaleel the son of Uri, and some other master craftsmen, build the ark.
The Roman Catholic tradition has the Ark as the location where god spoke to his followers.
Yahweh used to speak to his servant in a cloud over the oracle (Leviticus 16:2). This was, very likely, also the way in which he communicated with Josue after the death of the first leader of Israel (cf. Joshua 7:6-1). The oracle was, so to say, the very heart of the sanctuary, the dwelling place of God; hence we read in scores of passages of the Old Testament that Yahweh “sitteth on [or rather, by] the cherubim”.
While based upon similar Abrahamic traditions, the Muslims have a different perspective on the Ark.
The Islamic history of the Ark of the Covenant is that its origin was from the time of Adam, who brought it out from Eden. It contained the Hajr al Aswad, the Staff of Moses, the Ring of Solomon, the Sword of Prophet Muhammad (s) called Zulfiqar among many other relics. From Adam, it was passed to Seth, and from Seth, to his son, and it continued to be guarded by Prophets until the birth of Abraham.
The Ark of the Covenant is the name of a Heavenly treasure chest, which was used as a weapon of war by the Prophets, including Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, and as I will prove, even by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wa aalihi wa sallam).
Back to the Jewish tradition:
The Ark accompanied the Jews throughout their time in the desert, traveling with them and accompanying them to their wars with Emor and Midian. When the Jews crossed into the land of Canaan, the waters of the Jordan River miraculously split and the Ark led them through (Josh. 3). Throughout their conquest of the land, the Jews were accompanied by the Ark. The most dramatic demonstration of its power comes when the Jews breached the walls of Jericho merely by circling them, blowing horns and carrying the Ark (Josh. 6).
After the conquest was completed, the Ark, and the entire Tabernacle, were set up in Shiloh (Josh. 18) . There they remained until the battles of the Jews with the Philistines during the Priesthood of Eli. The Jews, after suffering a defeat at the Philistines’ hands, took the Ark from Shiloh to Even-Ezer in hopes of winning the next battle. But the Jews were routed, and the Ark was captured by the Philistines. Back in Shiloh, Eli, the High Priest, immediately died upon hearing the news (I Sam. 4).
The Philistines took the Ark back to Ashdod, their capital city in the south of Canaan, where they placed it in the temple of their god Dagon. The next day, however, they found the idol fallen on its face. After replacing the statue, they found it the next day decapitated, with only its trunk remaining, and soon afterward, the entire city of Ashdod was struck with a plague. The Philistines moved the Ark to the city of Gath, and from there to Ekron, but whatever city the Ark was in, the inhabitants were struck with plague. After seven months, the Philistines decided to send the Ark back to the Israelites, and accompanied it with expensive gifts. The Ark was taken back to Beit Shemesh, and, according to midrash, the oxen pulling the Ark burst into song as soon as it was once again in Israel’s possession (A.Z. 22b). The actual text of the story, however, tells a much grimmer tale: The men of Beit Shemesh were punished for staring disrespectfully at the Ark, and many were killed with a plague.
From Beit Shemesh, the Ark was transported to Kiryat Yearim, where it remained for twenty years. From there, King David transported it to Jerusalem. En route, however, the oxen pulling it stumbled, and when Uzzah reached out to steady the Ark, he died immediately. As a result of this tragedy, David decided to leave the Ark at the home of Obed-edom the Gittite. Three months later, he moved it to Jerusalem, the seat of his kingdom, where it remained until the construction of the First Temple by David‘s son Solomon (I Sam. 5-6). When the Ark was finally placed in the Temple, the midrash reports that the golden tree decorations that adorned the walls blossomed with fruit that grew continuously until the Temple’s destruction (Yoma 39b).
After the destruction of Solomon’s temple, the Ark was either hidden or destroyed, depending upon which tradition you choose to rely upon. According to Islamic tradition, the Ark had been used by Mohammed, and will be found again.
Hence, according to multiple Islamic traditions, the Ark of the Covenant will finally be ‘taken out’ by Imam Al Mahdi (a), who will be its true and rightful heir, as a descendent of both Abraham, Ishmael and the Seal of Prophets, Muhammad (s), from the bloodline of ‘Ali and Fatima al-Zahra (r). After retrieving this sacred Prophetic treasure of his ancestors, he will be coronated King of the Kingdom of Heaven in Jerusalem by Jesus Christ, upon his Second Coming.
There are a number of hypotheses on the current location of the Ark, all of which make the assumption that it existed and was not destroyed.
Mount Nebo 2 Maccabees 2:4-10, written around 100 BC, says that the prophet Jeremiah, “being warned by God” before the Babylonian invasion, took the Ark, the Tabernacle, and the Altar of Incense, and buried them in a cave on Mount Nebo (Jordan), informing those of his followers who wished to find the place that it should remain unknown “until the time that God should gather His people again together, and receive them unto mercy.
Southern Africa The Lemba people of South Africa and Zimbabwe have claimed that their ancestors carried the Ark south, calling it the ngoma lungundu or “voice of God”, eventually hiding it in a deep cave in the Dumghe mountains, their spiritual home.
Chartres Cathedral, France French author Louis Charpentier claimed that the Ark was taken to Chartres Cathedral by the Knights Templar
Rennes-le-Château, then to America Several recent authors have theorised that the Ark was taken from Jerusalem to the village of Rennes-le-Château in Southern France. Karen Ralls has cited Freemason Patrick Byrne, who believes the Ark was moved from Rennes-le-Château at the outbreak of World War I to America.
Italy The Ark of the Covenant is alleged to be kept in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, surviving the pillages of Rome by Genseric and Alaric I.
United Kingdom In 2003, author Graham Phillips hypothetically concluded that the Ark was taken to Mount Sinai in the Valley of Edom by the Maccabees. Phillips claims it remained there until the 1180s, when Ralph de Sudeley, the leader of the Templars found the Maccabean treasure at Jebel al-Madhbah, returned home to his estate at Herdewyke in Warwickshire, UK, taking the treasure with him.
Ireland During the turn of the 20th century British Israelites carried out some excavations of the Hill of Tara in Ireland looking for the Ark of the Covenant – the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland campaigned successfully to have them stopped before they destroyed the hill.
One of the more persistent traditions maintains that the Ark was taken by Menelik, the son of Solomon and the
Queen of Sheba, to Ethiopia where his offspring constitute the royal family. Unfortunately for that theory, there is no reference in any text to any offspring of these two, and the Ethiopian royal family can only trace it’s roots back to the 13th century. Not to be outdone, some Muslims claim that Empress Menen, the wife of Haile Selassie, was a descendant of Mohammed.
For many, the current home of the Ark of the Covenant is a small temple in Axum, Ethiopia guarded by monks who claim that it houses the relic. Of those monks, only one is allowed inside to see the Ark, so no one knows exactly what is inside. However, there is one small problem. The temple roof has sprung a leak.
No one has been allowed to see the holy object, described in scripture as being made from acacia wood, plated with gold and topped with two golden angels, except one solitary elderly monk, who must watch over the Ark for the remainder of his life, and is never allowed to leave the chapel grounds.
But now the chapel – which was designed by the Ethiopian leader Emperor Hailie Selassie – has had to be covered in a tarpaulin to stop rain getting in.
The water damage could mean the Ark will be moved for the first time in decades giving religious worshippers and adventurers alike a chance to see it.
British photographer Tim Makins, 54, who is a travel photographer for publications like Lonely Planet, discovered the church had sprung a leak whilst travelling through Ethiopia last September.
‘To protect the Ark, a tarpaulin now covers the roof of the chapel but this is just a temporary measure.
‘To renovate the building thoroughly, the roof must be stripped back to the bare bones and so a replacement chapel is to be built next door providing a temporary home for it.’
Whether you believe that is was built under the instructions given by God, or a mere human, it would be a great opportunity for experts to have a look at one of the greatest and most mysterious antiquities of the Western world.