History of religion

The Ark of the Covenant

(Published in GralsWelt 25/2002)

A search for the legendary treasure
“In 1118 nine of the most distinguished French knights appeared before Baldwin II, king of Jerusalem. They wanted to found an order to protect the pilgrims in the Holy Land from thieves and murderers and to monitor the land routes. Then they moved into a house where Solomon's temple once stood; therefore their knightly order was given the name Templar Knights or Templars. None other than the canonized great preacher Bernhard von Clairvaux (1091-1153) contributed to the rule of the Templars.

But the knights and their entourage initially cared little about the protection of the pilgrims. They worked as archaeologists, began to dig and uncovered the gigantic horse stables of Solomon under the temple square, which, according to more recent research, could hardly be traced back to Solomon.
In 1128 the board (leader) of the Knights Templar, Hugo von Payens, traveled with a large part of his knights on behalf of the King of Jerusalem to the Pope in Rome. There he was supposed to ask for help for the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, which was threatened by the Muslims.

The noble knights had not fought in the 9 years of their stay in the Holy Land, but they apparently fulfilled their mission there; because the introduction to the Templar rule seems to indicate that the knights were called back by Bernhard himself after completing their task. " (2, p. 65). (More on the topic of "Temple Knights" in "Brief, Concise, Curious" on page 143 "The Destruction of the Templars")
What did the aristocratic amateur archaeologists want on the Temple Mount? What were they looking for? What did they find?

“Make an ark of acacia wood, two and a half cubits long, one and a half cubits wide and one and a half cubits high! Cover it inside and outside with pure gold, and put a gold strip around it! Cast four gold rings for them and attach them to their four feet, two rings on one side and two rings on the other. Make poles out of acacia wood and overlay them with gold! Put the bars through the rings on the sides of the drawer so that you can carry the drawer with them. The poles are to remain in the rings of the ark; they shouldn't be pulled out. You are to put the covenant that I am giving you in the ark. Also make a top plate of pure gold, two and a half cubits long and one and a half cubits wide. Make two kerubim out of chased gold and work them out on either end of the top plate. Make a kerub on one end and the other; on the top plate makes the kurubim at both ends! The Kerubim should spread their wings upwards, shield the cover plate with their wings, and they should turn their faces to one another; the faces of the kerubim should face the cover plate. Put the cover plate on top of the ark, and in the ark put the covenant that I am giving you. There I will identify myself to you and tell you everything I will tell you for the Israelites over the cover plate between the two kerubim that are on the ark of the covenant. " (Exodus 25: 19-22).

The Ark of the Covenant
One of the strangest descriptions in the Bible is the description of the federal states, a chest, covered on the outside and inside with sheet gold and about 137.5 cm long and 85.5 cm wide and high (7, p. 661). According to the biblical account, God wanted to reveal himself there and speak to Moses; hence the ark is also called the “stool of the feet of God” or “mercy seat”. Numerous myths and conjectures have grown up around them.

In the 25th chapter of Exodus (Exodus), 12 verses deal with the ark, 17 with the altar utensils, and another four chapters are needed to describe the tabernacle, priestly robes, and altar utensils. Even so, it is not clear exactly what the tabernacle, a tent in which the ark was housed, looked like.

As can be learned from the Bible, the ark also worked miracles:
When Joshua went to Jericho, the ark held up the waters of the Jordan so the Israelites could cross the river with dry feet (Josh. 3:16). She was also involved in the conquest of Jericho (Josh. 6).

The ark carried to battle did not always bring the promised victory (Numbers 10:35). In Samuel's youth (around 1000 BC), after the lost battle of Eben-Eser, the Ark of the Covenant fell into the hands of the Philistines, who brought it to the Dagon temple in Ashdod. The next day the statue of the god Dagon was overturned. Erected again, this idol fell for the second time and broke (1 Sam. 5: 2-4). Then the bubonic plague broke out in Ashdod until the Philistines returned the ark. (1st Sam. 5: 6-12).

No one was allowed to touch the sacred implements or see them uncovered if they did not want to die (Numbers 19-20). When the ark was brought to Jerusalem by Usa and his brother on behalf of David, the oxen broke out and Usa reached out to support the ark; when he touched her he fell dead to the ground. (2nd Sam. 6,7).

Such biblical miracles were considered incontestable facts for millennia, and it was only in the last few centuries that they began to be viewed in a more nuanced manner, until today only a few Bible-believing fundamentalists fully believe in these miracles.

The meaning of the ark
Religious scholars see the ark as an expression of a clever move. The ancient peoples often worshiped local deities and had problems leaving the district in which their god was settled.

The Israelites, on the other hand, carried their God with them; he was always with them, could always provide assistance and lead his followers to victory over their enemies. And this god, superior to all other gods, who protected his loyal servants in the best possible way, was invisible, not a natural deity like the often revered sun. Because the ark with its tablets of the law is also a symbol of the break with Egyptian idol worship, with animal worship and the cult of the dead.

The Ark of the Covenant was the most important Jewish cult object of the time of the Exodus. David finally brought them to Jerusalem (around 970 BC), the capital he had chosen. Tradition has it that at the place where David put up a tent with the Ark of the Covenant, Solomon's temple was later erected, and finally the Dome of the Rock. In the Temple of Solomon the Ark of the Covenant was in the holy of holies, which only priests were allowed to enter.

Speculation about the Ark of the Covenant
Numerous speculations and assumptions have grown up around this most important of the ancient Jewish cult objects.

For example, it was assumed that the chest, clad in gold foil on the outside and inside, was a capacitor that could be electrostatically charged. Then Usa might have received an electric shock, but it was hardly strong enough to kill a person. But the fright this unexpected and inexplicable spark triggered may have killed Usa.

Others even think of it as a radio device that connected aliens to the Moses they led.

Some esotericists see more than just the tablets with the Ten Commandments in the “tablets of the law” kept in the ark. They refer to the Bible: "I created the world with measure, number and weight" (Wisdom 11:20) and conclude from this that there is a basic physical law that governs the universe. (2, p. 35).

Now it is not far to the assumption that universal wisdom teachings were kept in the Ark of the Covenant, comparable to the “world formula” of today or the “Tabula smaragdina” *) of esotericism.

If you follow Charpentier (2), then the Knights Templar actually found the federal states. The secrets handed down in it supposedly made the phenomenal rise of the Knights Templar possible, which is said to have introduced the Gothic architectural style. The secret of the federal states or the Templar secret, which is said to have disappeared with the violent dissolution of the Knights Templar by the Pope, is still being searched for today (cf. 2 and 6).

What happened to the ark?
The ark was probably lost when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the temple.
But neither Jewish mystics nor Christian treasure hunters are satisfied with this obvious explanation.

Centuries, perhaps millennia old, legendary reports tell that the ark was saved and hidden from the Babylonians just in time; maybe in a cave under the Temple Mount.

A romantic story in the Bible speaks of a visit by the Queen of Sheba, who wanted to experience the much-vaunted wisdom of Solomon herself (1 Kings 10.1-10). As old legends tell, she had a son from Solomon who was named Melech. As a youth he visited his father, was baptized by him in the name of David, and on the journey home he kidnapped the federal states, including the tablets of the law, to Ethiopia, where it is said to be kept in Aksum today and is said to have special powers. Hancock (5) and Grierson (4) report in detail on this fabulous story, the truth of which is highly uncertain.

The kingdom of the Sabeans, whose queen Solomon is said to have visited, is located in southern Arabia; possibly with a colony in Ethiopia. The visit of this queen to Israel is doubted by historians who do not see Solomon as an outstanding ruler either; because in extra-biblical sources Salomon - unlike other Jewish kings - is hardly mentioned. As long as the alleged Ark of the Covenant with the tablets of the law kept in Aksum cannot be examined, the question of what the Ethiopian Christians venerate there must remain open.

Today's view
Today the Ark of the Covenant is considered a cult object, which was probably made in the 6th century BC. disappeared; for it is no longer mentioned before the conquest of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (601 BC).

The biblical accounts of the Ark of the Covenant and the miracles it wrought are hardly authentic. They originated centuries after the time of Moses and were possibly only written after the end of the Babylonian captivity **).


*) Tabula smaragdina = emerald table; mysterious manuscripts, supposedly written by Hermes on emerald tablets. Among other things, they should contain the secrets of alchemy.
One can assume that these tablets - if they are more than pure fantasy - cannot be found on earth.
**) The exodus from Egypt (the Exodus) is around 1225 BC. dated, the Babylonian captivity between 597 and 538 BC.

(1) Barthel, Manfred “What is really in the Bible”, Econ, Düsseldorf 1987.
(2) Charpentier, Louis “The Secrets of Chartres Cathedral”, Gaia, Cologne 1972.
(3) Freedman, David Noel / Robinson, Thomas L. “1000 questions to the Holy Scriptures”, Das Beste, Stuttgart 1992.
(4) Grierson, Roderick / Munro-Hay, Stuart “The Pact with God”, Gustav Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach 2001.
(5) Hancock, Graham “The Guardians of the Holy Seal”, Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach 1992.
(6) Lincoln / Baigent / Leigh “The Holy Grail and its Heirs”, Lübbe, BergischGladbach 1994.
(7) Mertens, Heinrich A. “Handbuch der Bibelkunde”, Bechtermünz, Augsburg 1997.