For centuries, people have tried in vain to locate and recover the Bible’s most sacred objects. Among the most sought-after of these religious antiquities is the famed Ark of the Covenant.
This legendary artifact is the ornate, gilded case built some 3,000 years ago by the Israelites to house the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written. Biblical accounts describe the Ark as large, about the size of a 19th-century seaman’s chest, made of gold-plated wood, and topped with two large, golden angels. It was carried using poles inserted through rings on its sides.
The Ark has been linked to several of the Old Testament’s miracles. It was carried before the Israelites during the Exodus and is said to have cleared impediments and poisonous animals from their path. When the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, the Bible says that the river stopped flowing the moment the Ark-bearers set foot in it.
And when the Israelites besieged Jericho, they carried the Ark around the city for a week, blowing trumpets until, on the seventh day, the walls fell down, allowing easy conquest.
But in 597 and 586 B.C., the Babylonian Empire conquered the Israelites, and the Ark, at the time supposedly stored in the Temple in Jerusalem, vanished from history. Destroyed? Captured? Hidden? Nobody knows.
Keep reading: National Geographic - Ark of the Covenant: Many Legends, No Evidence