Thursday, December 19, 2019

Home of the Ark of the Covenant is 'discovered' in a 3,000-year-old temple in BET SHEMESH

Religious archaeologists in Israel claim they have discovered the stone on which Ark of Covenant once sat.
The biblical claim was made by researchers from Tel Aviv University who found a 3,100-year-old temple near the modern-day town of Beit Shemesh.mal pen.
Religious teachings claim that the Ark contained the Ten Commandments received by Moses on Mount Sinai.  
They also preach that the Ark rested on a square table and this latest find is being hailed as merging biblical teachings with archaeological evidence. 
Archaeologists say it is strikingly similar to the mythical 'large stone' described in the First Book of Samuel.
It was used to hold up the Ark after it arrived at Beth Shemesh when it had returned to Israeli hands from the Philistines.

Excavations of the 12th century BC temple reveal it was subsequently plundered and 'intentionally desecrated' by the nearby Philistines who turned it into an animal pen.
The Ark of the Covenant has been sought for centuries by archaeologists, a search made famous by the fictional 1981 Steven Spielberg film Raiders of the Lost Ark.  
Academics researching the discovery of the 'large stone' believe the 1,100 years between when it existed and the time of Jesus, Moses and the Ark is evidence of biblical history dating back further than most experts previously believed.  
It is believed the 12th century BC building is a temple due to the fact it was separated from most of the buildings, had sturdier walls and faced the rising sun. 
The speculations go further, stating that two large round concave stones with carved gutters may have been used for libations of wine or for creating sacred wine from olives.
Fragments of animal bone, pottery and cups indicate rituals were performed at the site. 
'There is a lot of evidence that this was indeed a temple,' Professor Shlomo Bunimovitz, the archaeologist leading the dig, told Haartz
The relic was 28 feet (8.5 meters) long on each side and perfectly square. 
'When you look at the structure and its content, it's very clear that this not a standard domestic space but something special,' Professor Bunimovitz added.
The holy place of worship was plundered and destroyed in the mid-12th century BC and covered in animal dung. 
'Very shortly after it was destroyed, the entire place was turned into an animal pen,' Dr Zvi Lederman, a Tel Aviv University archaeologist who led the project, tells Haaretz. 
'To me this is an act of hostility, an intentional desecration of a holy place.' 
There is no evidence linking the nearby Philistines - whose settlement of Tel Batash was just seven km away - as the culprits of the destruction, but the researchers believe them to be prime candidates, according to their interview with Haartz. 
Beth Shemesh was a border town in pre-monarchic Israel sandwiched awkwardly between the Israelites and the Philistines.
It was often a flashpoint for conflict and between the vying religious factions. 
The reason for such hostilities could be the alleged table found deep inside the temple. 
First found last summer, six years after the excavation started at the site, the square slab was found lying on two smaller rocks. 
'At the beginning we thought it was a massebah that had fallen over,' Lederman says.
Massebah were standing stones used in the Levant as part of cult rituals. 
'But soon we realised that it was meant to be a table.'
According to the first book of Samuel, Beth Shemesh natives then peered inside the Ark and were smitten with lightning from God as punishment. 
This tale from the Old Testament is retold in cinematic fashion via the Indiana Jones film 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', which sees the faces of the poor souls peering into the Ark to start melting.  
After its stint in Beth Shemesh, the Ark then went to King David in Jerusalem after a 20 year detour via Kiriath Yearim.
The concept that this find is indeed part of the Ark of the Covenant tale is littered with issues. 
Firstly, the bible states the table was in a field and not in a temple. 
Secondly, the story was not written into scripture until the 7th century BC, centuries afterwards.
Tel Aviv University archaeologist Israel Finkelstein has led other excavations also in search for the Ark. 
He sheds doubt on the latest find and the fact 400 years passed without anything being penned. 
He told Haartz: 'The Ark Narrative depicts realities from the 8th century B.C.E. It is difficult to assume that a memory from the 12th century B.C.E. was preserved until the 8th century with no continuous writing tradition.' 
But Avraham Faust, a professor of archaeology at Bar-Ilan University, cautions the value of the find may not lie in its literal existence, but what it means for traditions. 
'Obviously the story was written much later, but this find might support the theory that there are some very early traditions that made their way into the Bible.' 
He adds: 'This is a noticeable stone, placed in a conspicuous position within what looks like a temple, at sort of the right time, so there are many dots that can connect this find to an old tradition that may have found its way into the biblical story. 
'I don't know if they are right or wrong, but I think it should be examined carefully.' 


What is the Ark of the Covenant?
The Hebrew bible states that the Ark was built by the Israelites in the Sinai Desert after they fled Egypt and its purpose was to hold the tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. 
When this is rumoured to have happened is up for debate, but any trace of the Ark has vanished following the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 587 BC. 
There are contrasting beliefs about what the Ark was made of and looked like, with the Book of Exodus describing a lavish chest made with gold and other precious materials. 
'Have them make an ark of acacia wood — two and a half cubits [3.75 feet or 1.1 meters] long, a cubit and a half [2.25 feet or 0.7 meters] wide, and a cubit and a half [2.25 feet] high. Overlay it with pure gold, both inside and out, and make a gold molding around it.' Exodus 25:10-11.
It was supposedly built to be placed inside a movable shrine known as the tabernacle. 
A curtain prevented people from viewing the Ark of the Covenant and an altar and incense burners were placed in front of the curtain. 
The incense was made of gum resin, onycham, galbanum and Frankincense and was to be burned by Aaron, the brother of Moses, and his sons at morning and sunset.
Exodus also mentions more details about its alleged appearance and talks about Bezalel, who was chosen by God to build the Ark.
'I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills — to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.' Exodus 31:3-5. 
The second description of the Ark is far less ornate and describes it as being made just of wood, according to the Book of Deuteronomy.
This contrasting tale tells of a story where the Israelis lost their faith in God and, at one point, were worshipping a golden calf instead. 
Moses became so outraged and angered by this that he smashed the existing stone tablets with the Ten Commandments inscribed.
God promptly ordered Moses to create new tablets, also engraved with the Commandments, and build a wooden box to put them in.  
'Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones and come up to me on the mountain. Also make a wooden ark. I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Then you are to put them in the ark.' Deuteronomy 10:1-2.
'So I [Moses] made the ark out of acacia wood and chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I went up on the mountain with the two tablets in my hands. The Lord wrote on these tablets what he had written before, the Ten Commandments he had proclaimed to you on the mountain….' Deuteronomy 10:3-4. Moses then put the tablets inside the wooden ark.
Magical powers and curses of the Ark 
It was claimed in the religious scripture that the Ark also had magical powers. 
In one story, the Jordan River stopped flowing and remained still while a group of priests carrying the ark crossed the river. 
Other stories describe how the Israelites took the ark with them into battle where the powers of the ark helped the Israelites defeat their enemies. 
The Ark was once captured by the Philistines and caused outbreaks of tumours and disease among the population. 
So bad was the pestilence that the Philistines returned it to their foe, the Israelites.  
After its return, it was lowered on to its 'large stone' base which supported its mass, but some awe-struck residents of the town of Beth Shemesh made the mistake of peering inside, resulting in them being struck down by God with lightning. 
This scene is recreated in the 1981 Harrison Ford film, Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the faces of people looking inside melted.
Differing accounts of the Ark have led some scholars to the conclusion that there may have been more than one created.  
 What is the 'large stone'?
The mythical 'large stone' described in the First Book of Samuel was used to hold up the Ark - a large chest containing the Ten Commandments - after it arrived at Beth Shemesh. 
The return to Beth Shemesh is documented in the first book of Samuel.
It states: 'Now the people of Beth Shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley; and they lifted their eyes and saw the ark, and rejoiced to see it. 
'Then the cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh, and stood there; a large stone was there. 
'So they split the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. 
'The Levites took down the ark of the Lord and the chest that was with it, in which were the articles of gold, and put them on the large stone.'
Tales of the Ark are littered through the Holy book, with many alluding to its mysterious disappearance and unknown whereabouts. 
Where the Ark of the Covenant is - common theories 
According to the Book of Maccabees, the ark was hidden in a cave on Mount Nebo by the prophet Jeremiah.
'[ This] place shall remain unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows his mercy.' 2 Maccabees 2:7
The 'Treatise of the Vessels' says that the ark 'shall not be revealed until the day of the coming of the Messiah son of David….'
The Book of Revelation claims that the ark will not be seen again until the end times.
Revelation 11:19 states: 'Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the Ark of his Covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm.' 
Ongoing research has looked to unearth the mysterious Ark and looked at various locations around Jerusalem. 

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