The fate of the Ark of the Covenant has been a burning question pondering Bible scholars, theologians, biblical historians and archeologists since the exile of the Jewish people to Babylon in 586 BCE. The most prominent of these is Vendyl Jones and his search for the Qalal and the Sanctuary of the Congregation with it valued treasures including the Ark of the Covenant with its two golden cherubim. The most well known account is found in the Maccabean story about the Prophet Jeremiah, who hid the contents of the Wilderness Tabernacle (Mishkhan), the Ark of the Covenant, the Qalal which held the ashes of the red heifer in the Valley of Achor near the tomb of Moses (Moshe) not far from Mount Nebo. These were hid because fate of the Temple of Solomon (Beit HaMikdash) was being threatened by the forces of Nebuchadnezzar, which many felt was built on the Temple Mount (Haram As-Sharif) in present day Old Jerusalem.
The discovery by Rabbi Rachnael Steinberg and Rabbi Mendel Tropper of the writings called the Emeq HaMelekh (Valley of the Kings) by Rabbi Naftali Hertz in which several mishnahs were recorded by five temple guardians who hid the treasures of Solomon’s temple, plus the records of Solomon Schechter finding the ancient Talmud Tosefta, Massakhet Keilim in an ancient Genizah at the Old Cairo Ben Ezra Synagogue, an ancient scroll called the Temple Scroll, purchased by Yigael Yadin, which was found in a cave by Mohammed Dieb near the Essene community of Qumran by the Dead Sea, the discovery of the Copper Scroll, Luach Nehoshet, and two large engraved marble tablets found at Mount Carmel, depict the hiding of a vast hoard of temple furnishings and artifacts about ten years before the first invasion of Nebuchadnezzar. These five men were Shimur HaLevi, Chaggai (Haggai) the prophet, Zechariah son of Iddo, Zedekiah (Zidkiyah) Hezekiah (Hizkiyah) plus Ezra the scribe and Baruch son of Neriah, the scribe of Jeremiah. The leader of this group, Shimur HaLevi, was one of the priests who killed two of the nine red heifers for the Ashes to purify the temple.
"I do not know how the story got started that I was throwing rocks at my goats. My goats were grazing down there in the flat. I was sitting right up there on that ledge. I was bored and started throwing rocks against some big stones to see if I could break them. One rock glanced off of a stone and went into a small opening and I heard a strange thud and a cracking sound. I came down and slid into the opening. The whole cave was full of jars. There were forty jars, but they were all empty except the ones here in the niche on the right side. We found seven scrolls. One of them was the scroll that Yadkin got from Kendo." - Mohammed Dieb
In an article written by Rabbi Tropper, he writes the following: "This house of worship ("Mishkhan") contained the altar for the daily and seasonal sacrifices, the elaborate Menorah (candelabra) of solid gold, the Qalal (copper urn) containing the Ashes of the Red Heifer, and the numerous other vessels utilized for the detailed services of the Kohanim (priests). Within the Mishkhan's inner chamber, the Holy of Holies could be found the magnificent Ark of the Covenant containing among other sacred items, the Tablets of the Ten Commandments brought down by Moses at Sinai. Because of these sacred contents and the level of holiness attained by the Prophet Moses, only the Mishkhan reached a pure enough state to warrant that the Shechina (Divine Presence of G-d) come to rest within it for all eternity. When the First Temple was built in Jerusalem, the Ark of the Covenant was placed inside while the rest of the Mishkhan was buried beneath in a secret vault."
‘These Mishnayot ["Records"] were written by five righteous men. They are: Shimur the Levite, Hizkiyah, Zidkiyah, Chaggai the Prophet and Zechariah, son of Ido the Prophet. They concealed the vessels of the Temple and the wealth of the treasures that were in Jerusalem which will not be discovered until the day of the coming of Moschiach, son of David, speedily in our times, Amen, and so it will be.”
Let us quickly compose ourselves quickly with the implication of the introduction to these Mishnahs. Four of the names are easily recognizable; Hezekiah (Hizkiyah), Zedekiah (Zidkiyah), Haggai (Chaggai the prophet) and Zechariah the Prophet, son of Berachiah (Mishanah 2), son of Ido. Other names found within these Mishnahs include: Shimur HaLevi (the Levite), Ezra the Cohen (priest) the scribe, Hilkiyah the Scribe (Mishnah 7), Beruch ben (son of) Neriah with Zidkiyah (Mishnah 9 and 10), and Hiluk, the son of Shimur HaLevi (Mishnah 12).
Shimur Ha Levi’s identity is still unknown in the Hebrew Scriptures, but the name, Shimur meaning ‘watchman” attested on an ancient seal impression, appears to be closely identified with the name Shimur, great, great-grandson of Aaron, from the house of Merari. (1 Chron. 6:46) The Merarites were the family that was in charge of the singing in the House of the Lord by King David, after the Ark was moved to Jerusalem. (1 Chron. 6:32).
Yet this Shimur HaLevi will soon be seen as the leader of a quintet of Jewish
Revolutionaries: Shimur the Levite, Hizkiyah, Zidkiyah, Chaggai the Prophet and Zechariah son of Ido the Prophet. They were intent on fulfilling the commands of the Lord given to Jeremiah the Prophet to hide and secrete the treasures of the Wilderness Tabernacle and a large part of the treasures of Solomon’s Temple away before the military forces of Nebuchadnezzar could take custody of them to Babylon.
Whereas the Essenes were the custodians of the documents of Qumran in the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE near the Dead Sea, these documents, authored or co-authored by Shimur HaLevi, one on Ibex Skin, one on a seven foot Copper Sheet baked in porcelain clay, a Silver Scroll, yet to be discovered and the latter engraved on two white marble tablets, are accepted documents that antedate the Essene community at the time of Christ by five centuries. They stand as a class of writing by themselves.
The Temple Scroll, called the Ibex Skin Scroll was found at Qumran in 1950 in Cave 11, by the same Bedouin, Mohammed Dieb, who found the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 less than 25 meters away. This scroll was also documented as being written by Shimur HaLevi in the Year 431 BCE. An extensive document, which multi-volumes have been written by the Dead Sea Scroll scholars, it was initially purchased by Yigael Yadin for the Nation of Israel at the end of the 1967 Six Day War and published in 1983. Professor Yadin was fascinated by the wording of the author, who wrote the script in the First Person, suggested by some authorities that it was a dictated script given by the Lord of hosts to Moses on Mount Sinai. In the Ibex Skin “Temple” Scroll, was recorded a detailed account of how to re-institute the Temple services and the rituals described are felt by many scholars to be a description on how to put these buried treasures to use in the service of the God of Jacob in a future third temple. Included in the Temple Scroll are accounts of the ancient Hebrew festivals which were celebrated by the Essenes, but also instructions of the animal sacrifices that were not celebrated by the Essenes. As such, this document is not accepted by some scholars as a true Essene document, but a treasured document which was a part of their extensive library. Did the Essenes totally reject animal sacrifices? Yes and No! They rejected the sacrifices of the priests in Herod’s Temple as being from a false and corrupt High Priest not of the lineage of Zadok, the High Priest of King David. No, they may not have rejected animal sacrifices as long as the pure and authorized lineage of priests were in charge of the temple services, but the modern Order of the Nazorean Essenes who trace their spiritual heritage to the Essenes of Qumran claim that in the Panarion written by Epiphanius,
"The Nasaraeans - they were jews by nationality . . . They acknowledged Moses and believed that he had received laws - not this law, however, but some other. And so, they were jews who kept all the Jewish observances, but they would not offer sacrifice or eat meat. They considered it unlawful to eat meat or make sacrifices with it. They claim that these Books are fictions, and that none of these customs were instituted by the fathers. . . (Panarion 1:18)
Shimur HaLevi, along with being credited as a co-author of the Copper Scroll from Qumran and author of the Ibex Skin “Temple” Scroll, a third document of his that has been discovered in the archeological digs of Israel are two immense Marble Tablets.
Even so the archeological hunt continued to the basement of a museum in Beirut, Lebanon, when two large Marble Tablets, found initially at Mount Carmel, and later discovered in the summer of 1952 during renovations. (Implications of the discovery not recognized until years later). The ancient Hebrew script was written in bas relief, just like the Copper Scroll, in that the letters were protruding out of the marble instead being engraved within the marble. As Rabbi Avraham Sutton noted, the writings carved on the two Marble Tables were identical to the Emeq HaMelekh (Valley of the Kings) and the missing text of the 9th century document, Massakhet Keilim, found in the Tosephta Mishnayot III under the section of Kilim in the Genizah of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo, except for the opening statement,”
“These are the words of Shimur HaLevi, the servant of HaShem. In the year 3331 of Adam”.
Yet this same Shimon HaLevi still seems to warrant a distinction of why he is not recorded in scripture. We have one more clue; we shall soon see in the Mishnah 5 in the Tractate Parah, it lists the number of red heifers that were sacrificed since the time of Moses. After noting that one of the red heifers was burned by Ezra the Levite, then it records that and additional two red heifers were burned by Shimon Ha Tzaddik. Shimon the Levite had now become Shimon the Righteous One or Zaddik.
Zedekiah (Zidkiyah) is a name meaning ‘Yahweh is righteousness’. This sounds familiar, as we identify it with the name of the last king of Judah, King Zedekiah, who reigned from 597-586 BCE. His original name was Mattaniah, but was changed to Zedekiah by King Nebuchadnezzar, when he appointed him king instead of his nephew, Jehoiachin (2 Ki 24:17; 1 Chr 3:15). He was a morally weak and vacillating king, who at times appeared to side with the prophet Jeremiah, who was pro-Babylonian. He even went to visit Babylon in the 4th regnal year, in what some historians suggest was for the great festival of Nebuchadnezzar in which he erected his golden statue in the Plain of Dur as recorded in Daniel 3, the time of the three worthies, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, who were thrown in the fiery furnace during that event. King Zedekiah later upon returning to Jerusalem succumbed to the pressure of the anti-Babylonians and the pro-Egyptians and rebelled against Babylon. This resulted in the 3rd capture in 20 years and final destruction of Jerusalem after a long and appalling siege between 10th day of the 10th month in the 9th regnal year (January 15, 588 BCE) and the 9th day of the 4th month in the 11th regnal year or Nebuchadnezzar’s 19th year (July 19, 586 BCE.). His sons were killed in front of him and then his eyes were removed from their sockets and he was imprisoned in Babylon the rest of his life. (2 Ki 25:1-7; Jer 39:1-7; 52:1-11)
There was also another Zidkiyah who was a prominent leader noted in the assembly brought together by Nehemiah, the governor of Judah, who with Ezra the Cohen and scribe set out a series of religious reforms (Nehemiah 8) which culminated in the reading of the Torah and the teachings contained within it. Governor Nehemiah then convened a great assembly to sign a covenant of reform. This included the prominent civil leaders, the cohenim (priests) and Levites and all the people of Jerusalem.
Zidkiyah was the first of the civil and political leaders to set his seal to Nehemiah’s covenant of reform. As such he was designated as the 1st representative of the people after the governor, Nehemiah. (Ned 10:1) Was this the Zidkiyah of the Emeq HaMelekh?
Haggai (Chaggai) the prophet, meaning ‘one born on a feast day’, became one of the most potent prophetic voices to the newly return exiles from Babylon to Judea. In his five messages recorded in the Book of Haggai, he encouraged the people that they were in active cooperation with the Lord of hosts and that their faithful service would be richly rewarded by their God. With the resounding response to his first message on August 29, 520 BCE, the clarion call went out to rebuilt the House of the Lord which lay in ruins (Haggai 1: 1-12)
It appears that he was a senior citizen in Judea, a revered grandfather of the returned exiled Jews. What they may not have known, Haggai was one of the guardians of the treasures in the Old Temple of Solomon (Haggai 2:3) when he challenged his contemporaries, “Is there anyone among you who saw this house in its former glory? You can almost hear him say the obvious, “I did”. As we shall soon see, he was one of the guardians of the Temple Treasures, a memory that was sealed within his memory to his death. While the people mourned that the new temple did not have the glory of Solomon’s (Sholomo’s) temple, the whereabouts of the treasures that could have increased the glory of this Temple was known, but the Lord of hosts would not allow it to be revealed until a future and more glorious temple in the future of history of the Jews. Why did he not reveal these treasure hiding places to the leadership of Judea so they could be restored into the house of the Lord in Jerusalem?
Zechariah, the Prophet, the son of Iddo’s life has been accounted for in the Oracles of Zechariah, a commentary on the Book of Zechariah. What we now know as the rest of the story, Zechariah was not only a contemporary of the prophet Haggai, the renown civil leader Zidkiyah, Hezekiah, and Shimur, the Levite, a possible member of the temple chorus were all accomplices in the secret and delicate espionage of hiding the treasures of the Temple of Solomon not only in the land of Judea but also in the city of Babylon and also near the city of Baghdad. Wait a minute, the capital of Iraq of Saddam Hussein is the site of the repository of hidden treasures from the era of Solomon’s temple? Yes, this is the implication of this document that has been preserved in the archives of the Jews.
Not only that, it was the intent of the five Guardians that the wealth of these treasures would remain concealed until ‘the day of the coming of Moschiach, son of David. It was their hope that the coming of the Moschiach ben David would have been ‘speedily in our times’, but as we now know, they carried their secret to their grave except for the legacy recorded on these Mishnayots, there was another record. This team working in concert with each other, they inscribed the inventory of these ‘holy vessels and the vessels of the Temple that were in Jerusalem’ on a “Luach Nehoshet” or a Copper plate or sheet, hoping it would be preserved until the end of times and prior to the coming of the Messiah (Moschiach). Shimur HaLevi engraved in bas relief on two immense marble tablets the same mishnayots for the sake of preservation of the record.
Credits and Links:
Ashes for Beauty--The Mysterious Ashes of the Red Heifer by Jim Long
The Gate between Two Walls, by Vendyl Jones
Vendyl Jones Research Institute Home Page
Vendyl Jones and the Ark of the Covenant by Gerard Robins
Temple Mount Sites
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem by the Temple Mount Organization
The Gihon Springs Temple Site by Ernest Martin
Emeq HaMelekh Sites
The Temple and the Copper Scrolls by the Order of the Nazorean Essenes
Emeq HaMelekh and the Ark in King Tut’s Tomb by Andis Kaulins
The Treasures in the House of the Lord by Lambert Dolphin
Pictures of Mount Nebo by Travel Adventures
Pictures of Mount Nebo by BamJam Pictures
King Josiah and the Ark of the Lord
Did the Temple Guardians know there was to be another Temple?
Five Sacred Articles not found in the Second Temple