A Deadly Obsession

‘ . . . with the vessels of the sanctuary . . . they warred against the Midian . . . and killed every male’
‘ . . . and the wall of the city will fall down flat.’
‘ . . . there came a fire . . . and consumed upon the altar the burnt offerings.’

An intelligence threat assessment of a rogue nation’s secret arsenal? Breaking news of a horrific terrorist attack? No on both accounts. These are descriptions of the Ark of the Covenant lifted from the pages of the Old Testament. Responsible for the deaths of thousands, the Ark of the Covenant was the biblical version of ‘shock and awe.’

In my debut novel Stones of Fire, I explore the worst-case scenario – the Ark of the Covenant is found by a group of religious fanatics intent on fulfilling an apocalyptic prophecy. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

What exactly is the Ark of the Covenant?

Most people are well aware that the Ark of the Covenant was a golden chest into which Moses placed the stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. They may even know that for forty years the Israelites carried the Ark as they wandered through the wilderness in search of the Promised Land. What they probably don’t know is that the Ark was built of acacia wood, a sturdy species native to the Sinai Desert, overlaid with gold, and measured a cubit and a half in width by two and a half cubits in length. A configuration that employs the Golden Ratio. On the Ark’s lid were the two winged, golden cherubim, Gabriel and Michael. Mind you these weren’t the chubby, rosy-cheeked angels that adorn everything from posters to coffee mugs. These were the fierce archangels who battled Lucifer and his minions. Tradition has it that the Ark was transported on a specially designed cart. Only the High Priest could touch the Ark. If anyone dared, the penalty was death. Oftentimes instantaneous. Yahweh possessed of a very bad temper. And, yes, the Ark did level mountains, raze cities, and decimate enemy armies. Or so the Bible tells us. And, most fascinating of all, it was claimed that Yahweh, himself, resided within the confines of this golden box.

How did the Ark work?

No one knows for certain, the Bible is rather vague on the details. Some scholars have theorized that the Ark was a primitive storehouse for electric energy. Others contend that it contained a piece of radioactive material, perhaps from a fallen meteorite. And there are those who believe that the Ark’s destructive power was simply the wrath of God in action. What we do know is that in the 10th century B.C., King Solomon built his famous temple to house the beautiful but deadly relic. Soon thereafter the Ark of the Covenant vanished. Without a trace. Never to be seen again.

Was the Ark captured or destroyed?

The question has confounded biblical scholars, religious leaders, and armchair archaeologists alike. As with any mystery, rumors abound. It was stolen by Solomon’s illegitimate son Menelik and taken to Ethiopia. The invading Babylonians destroyed the Ark when they leveled Solomon’s Temple. And, then, of course, there’s the theory popularized in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark: that the marauding Pharaoh Shishak took the Ark to his capital city Tanis whereupon he promptly buried it in the sands of Egypt.

Is the Ark a God-in-the-box or the ultimate weapon of mass destruction?

Maybe a little of both. Which is why, down through the ages, the mystery of the lost Ark has fascinated and enthralled. We can only hope that one day soon a team of archaeologists will uncover that most sacred of relics and the ancient secret will finally be revealed.

Let the hunt begin . . . .