[b-hebrew] Stone slab replacing the Ark of the Covenant

Dave Washburn dwashbur at nyx.net
Tue Aug 2 11:12:23 EDT 2005

On Tuesday 02 August 2005 09:03, Read, James C wrote:
> Good reasoning. But one thing I note is that whenever the Ark was not
> in Isreal's possession the tanakh closely accounts this and follows its
> movements and tells us about the plagues suffered by those holding it.
> The fact that the book of kings makes no more mention of other kingdoms
> taking hold of the ark suggests that the ark was still in their possession
> up to the babylonian conquest.
> Jeremiah's prophecy combined with the Maccabean tradition seem to indicate
> that it was hidden by Jeremiah in accordance with Yah's will.

A lot depends on how one views the books of Maccabees, but that's an aside.  I 
have always heard that the Babylonians most likely took it with them when 
they destroyed Jerusalem and melted it down, since it was made of gold.

> The fact that Josiah would command that the ark be taken into the temple
> shows that he believed it was there. And a lack of an explanation as to why
> they didn't obey would be very strange.

Perhaps it's just assumed in the narrative that they did obey.  The fact that 
it's not mentioned in the description of the Passover etc. is easily 
explained by noting that only the High Priest could go near it, and then only 
once a year, so it probably didn't figure in the Passover celebration since 
that wasn't when the priest went in before it.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org on behalf of Brian Roberts
> Sent: Tue 8/2/2005 3:37 PM
> To: Alexander Oldernes
> Cc: b-hebrew
> Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Stone slab replacing the Ark of the Covenant
> Interesting that you should bring this up, Alexander. There is reason to
> believe that this order to reinstall the Ark was not carried out.
> Around 622 BCE, major renovations on the Temple of Solomon were
> undertaken. In the process, a scroll called "the Book of the Law" was
> found in the Temple (II Kings 22: 8-10).
> It was brought before Josiah and read, and the king was so shocked to
> hear its contents that he tore his robes in penitence (II Kings 22: 11).
> He then made a proclamation to his High officials:
> "Go and inquire of the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah
> about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the
> LORD's anger that burns against us because our fathers have not obeyed
> the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that
> is written there concerning us" (II Kings 22: 13).
> Josiah deserves a tremendous amount of credit for effectively ruling
> during a time of national reconstruction. Such periods of rethinking and
> reflection do not historically add glory to a monarch's name, as do
> those which are marked by military and political conquest. There was a
> lot of work to be done, with little to show for it, save the
> satisfaction of pleasing YAHWEH. Pleasing the deity was Josiah's motive
> for his whole program of religious cleansing, as evinced by the zeal
> with which he undertook his reforms.
> Therefore, anything he could do to repair, rebuild, and sanctify the
> physical edifices which would bring such honor to YAHWEH would have been
> done with much flair and color, as is displayed in the Passover
> observation (II Chronicles 35: 1-19). The writer of Chronicles was so
> impressed by the celebration that he wrote that "The Passover had not
> been observed like this in Israel since the days of the prophet Samuel;
> and none of the kings of Israel had ever celebrated such a Passover as
> did Josiah, with the priests, the Levites, and all Judah and Israel who
> were there with the people of Jerusalem" (II Chronicles 35: 18).
> In the midst of the preparations for the grandest Passover celebration
> in several centuries, Josiah made this statement to the Levites:
> "Put the sacred ark in the temple that Solomon son of David king of
> Israel built. It is not to be carried about on your shoulders. Now serve
> the LORD your God and his people Israel" (II Chronicles 35: 3).
> The preparations of the sacrificial animals goes on (II Chronicles 35:
> 5-7), with a total of thirty thousand goats and sheep being offered from
> the king's personal stock (II Chronicles 35: 7). There is no indication
> from the text that the Levites ever actually followed the king's orders
> to reinstall the Ark back in the debir of the Temple. The Passover
> celebration continues with the account of the actual service, where "The
> Passover lambs were slaughtered, and the priests sprinkled the blood
> handed to them, while the Levites skinned the animals" (II Chronicles
> 35: 11). Great care was taken by the writer to tell exactly what was
> done in the rituals and how, yet the Ark is nowhere to be found. We can
> be forgiven for expecting to read of a grand procession leading to the
> Temple Precincts, similar to the one in David's time, when the king
> danced before the Ark during its conveyance to Jerusalem (II Samuel 6:
> 1-23).
> Yet, there is none of that. In fact, the Ark is conspicuous in its
> absence from this most Holy celebration. Are we to assume, then, that
> the precious Ark, still important enough to warrant the attention of
> Josiah, was simply brought into the Temple through the back way? Or
> perhaps it was taken in at some wee hour that would not have been
> conducive to public spectacle?
> Neither option is plausible. Josiah didn't treat other Temple objects
> with such casual regard. Take for example the aforementioned "Book of
> the Law" (II Kings 22: 8-13). It is important to take note of the
> tremendous value placed upon the document. A public reading was
> performed (II Kings 23: 1-3), and the covenant between Israel and YAHWEH
> was renewed (ibid).  The concept of covenant renewal stems from the
> original renewal dating back to Joshua's time, when the Covenant was
> renewed at Mount Ebal:
>   Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the LORD, the God of
> Israel, as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded the Israelites.
> He built it according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses
> -an altar of uncut stones, on which no iron tool had been used. On it
> they offered to the LORD burnt offerings and sacrificed fellowship
> offerings. There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua copied on
> stones the Law of Moses, which he had written. All Israel, aliens and
> citizens alike, with their elders, officials and judges, were standing
> on both sides of the ark of the covenant of the LORD, facing those who
> carried it - the priests, who were Levites. Half of the people stood in
> front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses
> the servant of the LORD had formerly commanded when he gave instructions
> to bless the people of Israel.
> Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the Law - the blessings and the
> curses - just as it is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a
> word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the
> whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the
> aliens who lived among them (Joshua 8: 30- 35).
> If the Ark had been in Judah in the time of King Josiah, then there
> would have been no logical reason why the people would have become so
> divorced from their religious traditions, because the Levites would have
> had access to the original tablets of the Law.
> It is additionally possible that another copy of the Laws contained in
> the Book of the Law - that inscribed by Joshua - was contained inside
> the Ark itself, which would have made it possible to renew the covenant
> without the original book that Josiah discovered. Thus it would seem
> logical to expect an equal or greater ceremony accompanying the
> reinstallation of the Ark into the Temple. There is a formulaic lapse
> here as well. The usual biblical pattern upon the receipt of orders is
> for the writer to record the order, and then to record the carrying out
> of the order, to show the respect and obedience of God's people. Well,
> obedience would certainly not have been lacking on the part of Josiah.
> This lack of natural follow-up in the account of Josiah's reform actions
> regarding the Ark, as well as the complete lack of mention of the
> installation of the Ark back into the Temple, lead me to conclude that
> the Ark was not in Jerusalem during the time of Josiah; indeed, it is
> further likely that it had not been there for perhaps as long as two
> centuries prior, based on the like absence of the Ark from the Temple
> during Joash's cleansing and repairs (II Kings 12: 1-18).
> So, then, that leaves us with your question about a stone slab, which
> may have been a simple platform upon which the Ark could have raised
> above the gaze of the High Priest, forcing him to direct his look upward
> in a move of humility and reverence to the deity. If anyone writes about
> this stone, it's not any of the canon texts. You're going to have to
> look elsewhere. I would suggest the later Rabbinic traditions.
> On Tuesday, August 2, 2005, at 06:56  AM, Alexander Oldernes wrote:
> > Maybe your expertise can help me with this question...
> >
> > I have read somewhere that when the curtain covering the entrance to the
> > Most Holy was torn in two, in the first century CE, the Most Holy was
> > exposed containing no Ark of the Covenant. In place of the Ark was a
> > stone
> > slab upon which the high priest sprinkled the blood on the Day of
> > Atonement.
> >
> > I know the last mention of the Ark of the Covenant is in 2. Chronicles
> > 35:5,
> > saying:
> > He said to the Levites, who instructed all Israel and who had been
> > consecrated to YHWH: "Put the sacred ark in the temple that Solomon son
> > of
> > David king of Israel built. It is not to be carried about on your
> > shoulders."
> >
> > This happened around 642 (?) BCE.
> >
> > And now the question...
> > Do we know that the Ark of the Covenant was replaced by a stone slab?
> >
> > If so...
> > Who writes about it?
> > Do we know when this was done?
> > Do we know what the stone slab looked like?
> >
> > ----
> >
> > Alexander Oldernes
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > b-hebrew mailing list
> > b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
> > http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/b-hebrew
> Best Salaams,
> R. Brian Roberts
> Amateur Researcher in Biblical Archaeology
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Dave Washburn
"Well, if I'd wanted a safe life, I guess I wouldn't have 
married a man who studies rocks." - Betty Armstrong (Fay Masterson)

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