Trail of the Ark investigates a dark period of Israel’s history, during the time of the devastating civil war between the north and southern kingdoms of Israel. In particular, focus is placed on the Ark’s whereabouts during and following that war.
To help you better understand this episode of the Ark’s journeys, we begin with the replacement of the leading priests during the time of King Solomon, known in Hebrew as Shlomo. The replaced priest was banished to the village of Anatot, north of Jerusalem, the capital of the united Israel kingdom.
After the death of Solomon, the kingdom was divided between the south, now known as Judah, and the northern kingdom known as Israel.
Anatot – Home of Jeremiah the Prophet
The new ruling priests’ dynasty were based in Jerusalem, in the kingdom of Judah, while the relegated priests were now close to the border of the northern kingdom. It maybe be relevant to know that these priests in Anatot had originally descended from Eli the High Priest, who had been based in Israel’s first real main capital of Shiloh, which now stood in the northern kingdom.
The first monarch of the northern kingdom refused to recognise the priests in the south, who officiated in the First Temple built by Solomon, in Jerusalem. Sadly, their king Jeroboam introduced pagan worship to the northern Israelites, his greatest sin being the way he appointed priests. But not all the northerners went along with that. The priests of Anatot eventually gained favour by the latter kings of Judah in the south, and also gained influence over the remnants of the northern Israelites. One priest in particular stands out in this regard, the prophet Jeremiah.
Jeremiah was allegedly the son of Hilkiah, the High Priest serving King Josiah, one of the last kings of Judah. By this time, Assyrians had overrun the northern kingdom, and many Israelites sought refuge in the south. King Josiah called for the Levites (a family that included the ruling priests) to bring the Ark of the Covenant into the Temple compound in Jerusalem. Josiah soon after met his death in battle, and there is no record that confirms if the Ark was actually restored to the Temple. However, one key question is from where the Ark was to have been brought? Its answer obviously gains interest in light of the possibility that the Ark might not have been removed from its abode.
To better determine an answer to this mystery we return to the story of the priests from Anatot. However, beforehand it is pertinent to consider the primary sources of this information. There are two accepted sources of this period in question. One is the Book of Kings, and the second is the Book of Chronicles. The Biblical scholar Yair Shalev, our guest speaker in the next episode of this story has determined that the Book of Chronicles spoke more in favour of the banished priestly family living in Anatot, which included Jeremiah. Conversely, he argues that the book of Kings was biased towards the southern kingdom of Judah. Shalev also brings potential evidence to suggest that the Ark played little significance to the southern kingdom of Judah. There are many meaningful implications that could be drawn depending upon the strength of this argument.
From the premises he builds based on these assumptions, the beginnings of a fascinating theory takes shape. Could the Ark of the Covenant have been hidden in the Northern Kingdom for many decades? And if so, it raises the more intriguing question of when it was restored to its place of honour in Jerusalem, that’s if it was actually returned there?
Regardless of how it impacts upon the Ark story, it is clearly an episode of Biblical history worthy of critical research. Stay tuned for the revealing exclusive interview with Yair Shalev in the near future, sure to provoke debate!