The substantial recent findings of ancient seals near the City of David in Jerusalem, sheds further light on the time period close to when the Ark of the Covenant last received any prominent mention in Holy Scripture.
Jerusalem site where First Temple seals found March 2019
Photo Credit: Daniel Ventura
Its significance lies in an apparent association between the almost palatial residence situated south to where the first temple was located, and the possible high ranking priestly cast owner of that home. Why is this of interest? It was the priestly cast who were charged with the Ark’s well being, but in particular, the period associated with this archaeological find corresponds to the time when the Ark might have been moved by such priests, by direct royal decree from king Josiah himself.
A key theory being researched by Expedition lostArk 2020 is that the prophet Jeremiah may have shared the location of an underground tunnel network that could have served a dual purpose. Beforehand, it is pertinent to point out that Jeremiah had more than a passing connection with the higher echelon of the priestly cast, he was regarded as a prominent priest himself, and well placed to have been part of an elite cadre tasked with the Ark’s security.
Back to the theory. The first purpose a subterranean cavity might have served is associated with an attempt to hide prominent Biblical artefacts, in particular the Ark of the Covenant. This conforms with scriptural passages attributed to king Josiah wishing to return the Ark to a presumably safe place near the temple. Many connect this hiding place with an underground vault prepared by king Solomon several hundred years before the time of king Josiah. The prophet Jeremiah was a contemporary of king Josiah, and as a prominent member of the priestly cast himself, was well placed to have been in the know about such a hiding place. This provides segue into the second purpose an underground cavity might have served.
King Zedekiah, the last ruler of Judah, is known to have had constant dealings with Jeremiah, not all of a benign nature. However, the prophet did show concern for the king’s welfare, and was quick to point out the pressing danger faced by the besieged monarch from Babylonian invaders from the north. There is ample scriptural reference to king Zedekiah fleeing Jerusalem following prior warnings from the prophet. Some respected commentators ventured to say that his escape route took him through an underground passage. Ancient legends suggest the king was captured emerging from a cave several miles away near the plains of Jericho. Whether the cave was a portal for a long tunnel between Jerusalem and Jericho, remains a separate issue. However, on a stand-alone basis, there is the prospect that the king did use an underground entrance to effect his immediate escape from Jerusalem.
Returning to the connection between Jeremiah and his possible knowledge of subterranean Jerusalem, together with his strong association with king Zedekiah, it becomes clear that further research in this area is warranted. The significance of this recent discovery is that further finds are anticipated in the same building. Hopefully, something might also come to light that illuminate the priestly connection with royalty, and in particular any role played for hiding temple artefacts or enhancing the kings safety through the many passageways known to exist under Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, in another recent development, Expedition lostArk 2020 is turning its attention to a specific area north of the Old City of Jerusalem that could also be associated with this remarkable find.
By David Bannister