Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Enigmatic Fate of the Ark

Chronicles of the Two Kingdoms

(1) Astarte and Asherah in Jerusalem

"In my view, the Hebrew books of chronicles were exactly what the author of Kings believed: genuine records of the king's public deeds and major events, copies of which had survived the catastrophes of 722 and 587 and were available to an inquiring Jew in the years of Exile. Probably, these 'chronicles' were primary records or at the very least based directly on such primary material. The biblical references to them show that they referred not only to royal building works and new cities, to deeds of might and war, but also to conspiracies and revolts. These contents are entirely credible, from what we know of royal annals or chronicles in other near Eastern monarchies."
- Robin Lane Fox, The Unauthorized Version

"When Solomon grew old his wives swayed his heart to other gods; and his heart was not wholly with Yahweh his God as his father David's had been. Solomon became a follower of Astarte, the goddess of the Sidonians."
- 1 Kings 11: 4-5

"For the Temple of Solomon, desecrated by the priests, no Hebrew prophet or initiate cared a straw. Elijah never went to it, nor Elisha, Jonah, Nahum, Amos, or any other Israelite. While the initiates were holding to the 'secret doctrine' of Moses, the people, led by their priests, were steeped in idolatry exactly the same as that of the Pagans."
- M. P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled

It should be noted that these prophets followed the Galilean tradition which adhered to a more strict interpretation of the Law than the Judeans to the south in Jerusalem.

"...All of the kings from c. 1025 to 586 B.C. in both Israel and Judah, not more than half a dozen 'did right in the sight of the Lord'. The rest 'build for themselves high places pillars, and Asherim on every high hill and under every tree....And the people continued to sacrifice and burn incense on the high places'."
- Joseph Campbell, Creative Mythology

"Some of the Hebrew inscriptions invoke a blessing by Yahweh and by his asherah, the wooden image of a goddess, a female consort for Yahweh himself. At first sight the idea that Yahweh was worshipped with a female partner by Hebrew-speakers seems unexpected, but evidence of similar worship had already been know from an inscribed pillar of the later eighth century (found in a cave near Lachish) and from papyri which were left by a colony of Jews at Elephantine in Egypt during the fifth century BC. Scripture, after all, contains a long polemic from its Deuteronomist against the worship of wooden asherah from the reign of Ahab onwards: Yahweh alone...was the view of only one group in Israel. If Solomon could partner hundreds of foreign women, why could not God have a female beside him from time to time."
- Robin Lane Fox, The Unauthorized Version

"They set up for themselves pillars and Ashe'rim on every high hill and under every green tree; and there they burned incense on all the high places, as the nations did whom the Lord carried away before them. And they did wicked things, provoking the Lord to anger, and they served idols, of which the Lord had said to them, 'You shall not do this'."
- 2 Kings 17:10-12

"The asherah, or moon tree, or tree of life, or tree of knowledge, or pomegranate tree, sometimes fig tree, was sacred to the fertility goddess. It acquired its name, asherah, 'source of life', from the resemblance of its ripe fruit...to the ultimate Source of All Life, the Mother's sacred asherah [vulva]...Yahweh's great enemy, the goddess Ashtaroth, sometime called Lilith ['Night'], was often depicted as the tree, with a tree-trunk, branches and crescent-moon head. The juice of the asherah was variously called soma, nectar, and several lesser-known names. It was believed to be the drink of the gods and to confer immortality upon all who drank it. The fruit was regarded in Egypt and elsewhere as the flesh of the Mother, so that to eat the fruit of knowledge from the tree of life was to consume the very asherah of the asherah, and to become one with the goddess and share in her resurrection."
"The Yahwist wrote his Adam-and-Eve fable around 920 BCE. There no risk of the symbolism that he used being misunderstood. Solomon's policy of religious toleration, so hateful to Yahweh's self-styled spokesmen ('prophets') had led to the establishment of asherahs, vulva-shaped shrines to the Mother, throughout Israel and Judah. The Yahwist's purpose in using the tree of knowledge imagery would have been clear even without the personal appearance of the goddess in her traditional serpent form [Leviathan]."
- William Harwood, Mythologies Last Gods: Yahweh and Jesus

(2) Waves of Invasions

After Solomon, "during the ninth century the relations between the royal houses of Tyre, Israel and Judah were still close. Ithobaal of Tyre married his daughter Jezebel to Ahab of Israel, son of Omri, and Jezebel's daughter Athalia married Joram of Judah. Since Elissa of Carthage was Ithobaal's great-granddaughter, Jezebel was her great-aunt. Phoenician builders were still helping the Israelite kings. We see their work in the time of Omri and Ahab at Samaria as well as at Megiddo, where the famous stables, once thought to be Solomon's, are now ascribed to Omri."
- Donald Harden, The Phoenicians

Shishak, Pharoah of Egypt - 930 B.C.E.
"During his reign Solomon engaged in a vast building program. Jeroboam became his most dangerous political opponent and fled to Egypt where he sought refuge in the court of Sheshonk I until Solomon's death. Heavy taxation imposed upon the people of Israel to finance the building program and political dissatisfaction under Solomon's son and heir, Rehoboam resulted in the secession under Jeroboam of the northern part of the Hebrew kingdom. Sheshonk I profited from this division and ca. 930 B.C. marched against Jerusalem. He returned to Egypt with the spoils of the temple built by Solomon, the golden shields and the treasures of the palace."
- Nina Jidejian, Byblos Through the Ages

David Rohl argues that Ramesses II, not Sheshkonk I, was the pharaoh identified as Shishak in 1 Kings. For details see A New Chronology.

"In the fifth year of king Rehoboam...Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem: And he took away the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king's house; he even took away all."
- 1 Kings 14: 25-6

"...The Pharaoh had surrounded Jerusalem but...had never actually entered it; instead he had been 'bought off with the treasures of Solomon's temple and palace. These treasures...would have consisted [mainly] of...public and royal donations dedicated to Yahweh. Such items, normally quite precious and made of silver and gold, were not stored in the Holly of Holies but rather in the outer precincts of the Temple in special treasuries that were always mentioned in the Old Testament conjointly with the treasuries of the king's house."
- Graham Hancock, The Sign and the Seal

"Occasionally, these treasuries were depleted either by foreign invaders or by the kings themselves when they were in need of funds. The treasuries thus constantly oscillated between a state of affluence and want...The invasion of Shishak [had], therefore, nothing to do with the Temple sanctums, and it would be entirely inaccurate to associate [it] with the disappearance of the Ark."
- Menahem Haran, Temples and Temple Service in Ancient Israel (1978)

The Phoenicians - c. 830 B.C.E.
"And Chemosh said to me 'Go take Nebo from Israel.' I went by night and attacked it from daybreak to noon. I took it and killed all: 7,000 men, boys, women, girls and maidservants, because I had devoted it to destruction for Astarte-Chemosh. I carried off thence the [vases?] of Yahweh and dragged them before Chemosh."
- Mesha's stele in Moabite c. 830 BC

Jehoash, King of Israel - 726 B.C.E.
"And Jehoash king of Israel took Amaziah king of Judah...at Bethshemesh, and came to Jerusalem, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem...And he took all the gold and silver, and all the vessels that were found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasuries of the king's house."
- 2 Kings 14:12-14

"Jehoash did not even enter the Temple's outer sanctum, certainly not the inner one...The phrase 'the house of the Lord' mentioned in connection with Jehoash...is simply a shortened form of 'the treasuries of the house of the Lord'. This may be seen from the fact that the 'treasuries of the king's house' which are always contiguously mentioned with the 'treasuries of the house of the Lord' are also mentioned."
- Menahem Haran, Temples and Temple Service in Ancient Israel (1978)

(3) Disaster Averted During Hezekiah

"Hezekiah began in 715 BCE for 29 years and his son began in 686 BCE for 55 years ending in 631 BCE. This is of course the old Bible chronology which gives the new age start of 747 BCE for Jotham and ends with the first of Cyrus II in 576 BCE. Josephus gives Persia a total reign of 246 years which ended when Alexander conquered it in 330 BCE. There is little doubt that the structure is not absolutely precise but on the whole made to reflect a true structure."
- Falk Koenemann, Aachen Technical University

According to Immanuel Velikovsky, the Temple of Jerusalem contained a brazen serpent (Neshusshatan from Nachash, "serpent" and athan, referring to the monstrous nature of the beast) which was destroyed by Hezekiah. The serpent was the great god of Phoenicia and Carthage.

King Hezekiah (c. 725 BC):

"Cut down the asherah: and he broke into pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had burned incense to it; it was called Nehushtan."
- 2 Kings 18:4

"Hezekiah went up into the house of the Lord, and...prayed unto the Lord, saying, O lord of Hosts, God of Israel, that dwellest between the cherubim [the Ark], thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth."
- Isaiah 37:14-16

After this, the Ark of the Covenant is no longer mentioned in the Old Testament and disappears into obscurity.

The Assyrians - 722 B.C.E.
"The northern kingdom of Israel came to an end in 722 BC with the capture of its capital, Samaria, by the Assyrians."
- Bible Lands

"In c. 722 the might of the Assyrians destroyed the northern kingdom, resettled its territory with their own colonists, deported some of the Israelites beyond the Euphrates and left the survivors to migrate south to Judah and Jerusalem. The Assyrians took no interest in Israel's prophets of total doom or in those who had broadcast the voice of Yahweh alone. From recently translated texts we know what Israelites meant to them: not prophets but drivers. We now have the royal horse lists of a contemporary Assyrian king, which show Israelites from the northern kingdom as very high officers in the horse units of the Assyrian army. They were not riders: they were drivers of chariots, a skill in Israel which was internationally famous, at least since the age of Ahab."
- Robin Lane Fox, The Unauthorized Version

"I besieged and conquered Samaria, led away as booty 27,000 inhabitants, forming from among them a regiment of fifty chariots"
- from Assyrian annals

"These became the ten lost tribes of Israel. how only Judah and its little ally Benjamin remained in the southern kingdom, though the Kingdom of Judah, with its capital in Jerusalem, had long been subject to Assyrian control, as contemporary records show."
- John Romer, Testament

"The southern kingdom of Judah was also forced to submit to the might of the Assyrians, and although Hezekiah (715-686 BC) rebelled against the Assyrian king Sennacherib in 704 BC, the attempt was a disaster. In 701 BC Sennacherib swept into Judah and destroyed many cities..."
- Bible Lands

In answer to Hezekiah's prayer when the Assyrians surrounded Jerusalem:

"The angel of the Lord went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed."
- Isaiah 37:36-7

(4) The Wickedness of Manasseh

"From the book of Deuteronomy to 2 Kings, [an] underlying unity was decisively shown by Martin Noth in 1943. It is his elegant theory which presented us with a single author, writing the bulk of these books in the age of exile during the mid sixth century BC (the Deuternonomist, or D)."
"From Omri to Jeho, over fifty years, D picked and chose, distorted the timing and imposed his own bias: from Ahab's death to Jehu's glory, his narrative is highly untrustworthy. These errors are all the more telling because he had the royal chronicles of the Kings' reigns, primary sources which could have given him a framework of royal deeds. He also had the Elijah stories, with their tales of crimes as black as the murder of Naboth [by Jezebel]."
- Robin Lane Fox, The Unauthorized Version

"...Before the exile there existed in written form parts of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings to 2 Kings 23: 25a. Originally, the material from Genesis to 1 Kings 10 had told the story of Israel from Abraham to David and Solomon. The second version had added 1 Kings 11 to 23: 25a, and had also edited Joshua to 2 Kings to make this, in fact, a separate work with a distinctive viewpoint: disobedience brings disaster, and kings must be faithful to the law of Moses."
- John Rogerson and Philip Davies, The Old Testament World

Regarding Manasseh (son of Hezekiah), who ruled from 687-642 B.C.E.:

"He did much that was evil in the sight of the Lord after the abominations of the heathen...For he...reared up altars for Baal...and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them. and he built altars in the house of the Lord...for all the host of heaven...And he made his son pass through the fire, and...used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the Lord to provoke him to anger...And he set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the house, of which the Lord said to David and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever."
- 2 Kings 21:2-7

"...The graven image of the grove' was in fact a 'carved image of asherah', an arboreal pagan deity...The 'houses' in which Yahweh had said that he would put his 'name for ever' was the Holy of Holies of the Temple - the debir, the dense golden cell that Solomon had 'designed...to contain the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh'."
"The most likely scenario...was that he [Manasseh] would have ordered the Levites to remove the Ark from the Temple before he installed his 'asherah' in the inner sanctum."
- Graham Hancock, The Sign and the Seal

"At Jerusalem...the Bible says there were temples for the gods of the Moabites, the Ammonites and several Phoenician deities too, including a shrine to Moloch in the Vale of Hinnom where human sacrifices were made - 'passed through the fire', as the Bible says. Some of Josiah's [King of Judah, grandson of Manasseh] predecessors are described as having thus sacrificed their children to gain a victory."
- John Romer, Testament

(5) The Cleansing of Josiah

The first biblical reference to the Book of Moses was "with the discovery of the manuscript of Deuteronomy in Jerusalem...by King Josiah [Manasseh's grandson], after he ordered the temple cleansed and cleared..."
- Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

"Hilkiah the priest found a book of the law of the Lord given by Moses...[Hilkiah] said to Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord...And Shaphan read it before the king. And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the law, that he rent his clothes...great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out upon us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do after all that is written in this book."
- 2 Chronicles 34:14-21

"...Heirs of the northern prophets came south with a basic text of such a law, composed before 750 BC: it is this 'law' or torah, to which Hosea alludes at that date. After the north's catastrophe in 722, its heirs expounded it in Jerusalem and attracted interest from individual members of the Temple priesthood."
- Robin Lane Fox, The Unauthorized Version

In 628 B.C.E., "the King, having verified the authenticity of the work through a prophetess named Huldah, implemented its requirements. This involved a wholesale destruction of temples and images devoted to gods other than Yahweh."
- Ninian Smart, The Religious Experience of Mankind

"And he brought out the grove [asherah] from the house of the Lord, right out of Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it in the brook Kidron, and stamped it to small powder, and cast the powder thereof on the common burying ground."
- 2 Kings 23:6

"Towards the end of the seventh century BC the young King Josiah tried to purge Jerusalem of the old fertility worship. Among his acts of desecration was the defilement of Topheth 'which is in the valley of the sons of Hinnom, that no one might burn his son or his daughter as an offering to Molech' (II Kings 23;10).
"Jeremiah also speaks of this Molech cult when he says of the wayward people of Jerusalem: 'They built the high places of Baal in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech..." (Jeremiah 32:35)
- John M. Allegro, The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross

"...Provincial shrines and cultic centers were closed down on Josiah's orders, and worship confined exclusively to the Jerusalem Temple."
- Magnus Magnusson, BC - The Archaeology of the Bible Lands

"And when you have increased and become many in the land, then - it is Yahweh who speaks - no one will eve say again 'Where is the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh?' There will be no thought of it, no memory of it, no regret for it, no making of another."
- Jeremiah 3:16-17
(composed by Jeremiah himself around 626 BC)

"This verse follows upon words of consolation and itself contains a message of consolation and mercy. What the prophet promises here is that in the good days to come there will no longer be any need for the Ark - implying that its absence should no longer cause any grief. These words would, of course, be devoid of any significance if the Ark [had] still...been inside the Temple at the time."
- Menahem Haran, Temples and Temple Service in Ancient Israel (1978)

By 622 BC:

"Josiah removed all the abominations throughout the territories belonging to the sons of Israel...And he set the priests in their charges, and...said unto the Levites that taught all Israel, which were holy unto the Lord, 'Put the Holy Ark in the house which Solomon the son of David king of Israel did build; it shall not be a burden upon your shoulders."
- 2 Chronicles 34:33; 2 Chronicles 35:2-3

On "the eighteenth year of his reign...having completed a lengthy nationwide purge...he returned to Jerusalem and issued orders 'to repair the house of the Lord his God'.
"The repairs had been duly carried out by 'carpenters and builders and masons'. The great mystery, however, was that the Levites had been unable to comply with Josiah's request that they should 'put the Holy Ark in the house which Solomon the son of David king of Israel did build'."
- Graham Hancock, The Sign and the Seal

The Babylonian Captivity

(1) Destruction by Nebuchadnezzar

The Babylonians - 598 B.C.E.
"The troops of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched on Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. Nebuchadnezzar...himself came to attack the city while his troops were besieging it. Then Jehoaichin king of Judah surrendered to the king of Babylon, he, his mother, his officers, his nobles and his eunuchs, and the king of Babylon took them prisoner. This was the eighth year of King Nebuchadnezzar. The latter carried off all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king's house, and cut in pieces all the golden furnishings that Solomon king of Israel had made for the sanctuary of Yahweh."
- 2 Kings 24:10-13

"The Hebrew word that the translators of the Jerusalem Bible had rendered as 'sanctuary' was...hekal and its precise meaning was 'outer sanctum'....This meant that the 'sanctuary of Yahweh' spoiled by Nebuchadnezzar had not been the Holy of Holies in which the Ark had stood but rather the antechamber to that sacred place. The Holy of Holies itself, the inner sanctum - had been known in ancient Hebrew as the debir..."
- Graham Hancock, The Sign and the Seal

The other furnishings looted by Nebuchadnezzar included:

"...The lamp stands, five on the right and five on the left in front of the debir, of pure gold; the floral work, the lamps, the extinguishers of gold; the basins, knives, sprinkling bowls, incense boats, censers, of pure gold; the door sockets for the inner shrine - that is, the Holy of Holies - and for the hekal, of gold."
- 1 Kings 7:49-50

"...It had been the normal practice of the Babylonians at this time to seize the principal idols or cult-objects of the peoples they had conquered and to transport them back to Babylon to place in their own temple before the statue of their god Marduk. The Ark would have been an ideal candidate for this sort of treatment. Yet it had not even been stripped of its gold, let along carried off intact. Indeed neither it nor the cherubim had been mentioned at all."
"The logical conclusion is that the Ark and the gold-covered cherubim were no longer in the debir in 598 BC when the first Babylonian invasion took place - and, indeed, that the walls, floor and ceiling of the debir had also been stripped of their gold prior to that date."
- Graham Hancock, The Sign and the Seal

"...Jerusalem fell, in the summer of 586, or 587 as some scholars opine. This time Nebuchadnezzar showed no mercy. The city was burned to the ground. The walls were torn down, leaving only the stumps of the foundations of the towers...and the Temple with its sacred Ark of the Covenant was looted and utterly destroyed."
- Magnus Magnusson, BC - The Archaeology of the Bible Lands

"Nebuzaradan, commander of the guard, an officer of the king of Babylon...burned down the Temple of Yahweh, the royal palace and all the houses in Jerusalem. The troops who accompanied the commander of the guard...broke up the bronze pillars from the Temple of Yahweh, the wheeled stands and the bronze Sea that were in the Temple of Yahweh, and took the bronze away to Babylon. They took the ash containers, the scoops, the knives, the incense boats, and all the bronze furnishings used in worship. The commander of the guard took the censers and the sprinkling bowls, everything that was make of gold and everything made of silver. As regard the two pillars, the one Sea and the wheeled stands...there was no reckoning the weight in bronze in all these objects."
- 2 Kings 25:1-3

During this time old cultic shrines at Beth-el and Hebron were also destroyed.

"Once again, and significantly, the Ark of the Covenant was not included - and nor was the gold that Solomon had used to line the Holy of Holies and to overlay the great cherubim that had stood within that sacred place."
- Graham Hancock, The Sign and the Seal

"According to a list which now stands on our book of Jeremiah (52:28-30), 4,600 people were exiled in all, only 832 in 587. The lower figures are probably nearer the truth: Babylonian colonists were not settled in Jerusalem's surrounds, and the land was not emptied of former inhabitants."
- Robin Lane Fox, The Unauthorized Version

"The prophet Jeremiah...warned by an oracle [of the impending destruction of the Temple of Solomon], gave instructions for the tabernacle and the ark to go with him when he set out for the mountain which Moses had climbed to survey God's heritage. On his arrival Jeremiah found a cave dwelling, into which he brought the tabernacle, the Ark and the altar of incense, afterwards blocking up the entrance."
- 2 Maccabees 2:1, 4-5
[compiled somewhere between 100 B.C.E. and 70 C.E.]

"It was hidden in a cave on the mountain from which Moses viewed the Promised Land before his death, and the entrance was walled up. Afterwards, Jeremiah's companions were unable to retrace their route, so that the site of the cave was lost." [See also the Talmud, Yoma 52b, 53b]
- George Sassoon and Rodney Dale, The Manna Machine

"In the opinion of the scholars who produced the authoritative English translation of the Jerusalem Bible...Jeremiah's supposed expedition to hide the Ark was nothing more than an inspirational fable devised by the author of the second book of Maccabees as part of a deliberate attempt to re-awaken the interest of expatriate Jews in the national homeland."
"Outside of the Talmud, the Mishnah, the Apocalypse of Baruch, the second book of Maccabees, and various rather colorful legends, there is nothing of any substance in Jewish tradition concerning the whereabouts of the Ark of the Covenant."
- Graham Hancock, The Sign and the Seal

(2) Ezekiel's Visions

Ezekiel's Temple
1. Inner Sanctuary
2. Sacrificial Altar
3. Bronze Sea
See the Temple of Solomon for the prototype of Ezekiel's design.

"Ezekiel compared the Southern Kingdom (including Jerusalem and the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin) and the Northern Kingdom (including the other ten tribes, and called "Israel") to prostitutes because of their idol worship that led to their destruction (Ezekiel 23). However, when the Hebrews were brought back to Jerusalem, Ezekiel felt that all the twelve tribes of Israel would be united with a new Temple in Jersualem (this vision given in Ezekiel 40-48), with priests from the sons of Zadok of the tribe of Levi and with no foreigner able to enter the sanctuary of the Temple, a strict Hebrew belief, probably from Ezekiel being a priest. "
- "Bible Notes - Ezekiel"

Insofar as Ezekiel was concerned, "the Jews had disobeyed he divine laws and statues and profaned holy things including the Temple itself - the Temple where His glory dwelt in the Holy of Holies. The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple represented a death, whilst the expected new City and the rebuilt Temple would be a resurrection, a rebirth with the stain of guilt removed."
In one vision, Ezekiel was transported to the inner gate of the Temple. There he "saw images of pagan worship to the gods Tammus, Baal and Adonis before being taken to a door of the court..."
- Christopher Knight & Robert Lomas, The Hiram Key: Pharaohs, Freemasons and the Discovery of the Secret Scrolls of Jesus

"Then said he [a fiery Spirit] to me, 'Son of man, dig in the wall'; and when I dug in the wall, lo, there was a door. And he said to me, 'Go in, and see the vile abominations that they are committing here.'
So I went in and saw; and there, portrayed upon the wall round about, were all kinds of creeping things, and loathsome beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel. And before them stood seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, with Ja-azani'ah the son of Shaphan standing among them. Each had his censer in his hand, and the smoke of the cloud of incense went up.
Then he said to me, 'Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, every man in his room of pictures? For they say, "The LORD does not see us, the LORD has forsaken the land".'"
- Ezekiel 8:812

"Through it he sees mural paintings containing pictures of 'creeping things' and other mythological scenes, motifs which seem to point to syncretistic practices of Egyptian provenance. Seventy elders are engaged in secret mysteries with censers in their hands."
- Peake's Commentary on the Bible

"Ezekiel is outraged by the Egyptianesque images on the walls, naming the principal culprit as King Josiah, who in the middle of the previous century had had the Temple repaired and the walls redecorated."
- Christopher Knight & Robert Lomas, The Hiram Key: Pharaohs, Freemasons and the Discovery of the Secret Scrolls of Jesus

(3) The Exiles Return

The Persians - 520 B.C.E.
"After Babylon and Assyria conquered the lands of Judah (Jahvists) and Israel (Adonists), all seemed lost. Then, Persia, the world's first Indo-European nation, conquered Babylon. They rebuilt many Temples of their subjects, including the famed rebuilding of the Temple at Jerusalem.
"It was at this time that the Perisan religion (Zarathustranism) with its doctrines of angels, demons, heaven, hell, Last Judgement, Resurrection and Messiah, under the Farsee (Pharisee?) priesthood, came to influence Judaism so strongly."
- Paul Trejo (pet@netcom.com)
(See Ancient Traditions of the Messiah for more details on the influence of Zoroasterism.)

"After the destruction of Jerusalem, there were further deportations, and only the poorest and least influential of its inhabitants were left to pick over the ruins. However, the Babylonian empire soon crumbled, and Judah fell into the comparatively enlightened hands of King Cyrus of Persia, who made funds available for the Temple to be rebuilt, and encouraged the Jews to return. However, neither effort was very successful. Nearly seventy years elapsed before the second Temple was completed, and the Jews of Babylon showed no great desire to return home. The pattern of Jewish life had been set; like many Jews today, the exiles found life outside the homeland more agreeable and profitable, and though they were prepared to make substantial donations towards rebuilding, they would not consider returning to live in the homeland. It was at this time that spoken Hebrew started to decline, to be replaced by Aramaic, otherwise called Chaldaic, the language of Babylon and of the Zohar."
- George Sassoon and Rodney Dale, The Manna Machine

"Throughout the years of Persian rule (c. 520-331 BC) Jews had their Temple, whose cult and priesthood mediated between the people and their God. According to the book of the law, this cult was acceptable in only one place..."
"Our book of Ezra (398 BC) describes how its hero came down to Jerusalem from the Persian court with a royal letter of support, some splendid gifts for its Temple and a copy of the law of Moses which he read to the assembled Jews. In this book we find for the first time an appeal to 'what is written' (Nehemiah 8:13-15, which was originally part of Ezra's book)."
"What exactly was this law of Moses which Ezra brought? Traditionally, it is thought to be the entire Pentateuch, or first five books of the Bible, from Genesis to Deuteronomy, more or less as we now know it. At some point, therefore, between c. 540 and 400 BC an unknown editor had amalgamated written traditions and worked older and respected tests into our single body of narrative and law."
- Robin Lane Fox, The Unauthorized Version

(4) The Mysterious Disappearance of the Ark

In the Old Testament, the last reference to the existence of the Ark of the Covenant is during the reign of Hezekiah. After the Babylonian captivity, the Temple was rebuilt on the same foundation by Zerubbabel and the practice of animal sacrifices reinstituted, but the Bible is silent about the fate of the Ark itself.

The Seuclid Greeks - 168 B.C.E.
In the desecration of the Temple in 168 B.C.E., there is no mention of the Ark of the Covenant.
"Antiokhos [a successor of Alexander] was initially successful in occupying Jerusalem. He entered the inner sanctuary of the Temple, removed the sculpture of a male and female kherub [cherub] copulating, and replaced it with the 'desolation-inducing sacrilege', a statue of Olympian Zeus. The copulating kherubs he paraded through the streets of Jerusalem in a cage, sneering, 'You used to say that this nation was not serving idols. Now see what we found and what they were worshipping'."
- William Harwood, Mythologies Last Gods: Yahweh and Jesus

The Romans - 70 168 C.E.
"...When the Temple was sacked in A.D. 70 [by the Romans], the Ark, it is said, contained only stones and some badger skins dyed purple."
- David Conway, Ritual Magic

"There is no report that the Ark was carried away or destroyed or hidden. There is not even any comment such as "And then the Ark disappeared and we do not know what happened to it' or 'And no one knows where it is to this day'. The most important object in the world, in the biblical view, simply ceases to be in the story."
- Richard Eliot Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible?

A Hidden History in Ethiopia?

(1) The Jewish Temple at Elephantine

"Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? saith the Lord."
- Amos 9:7 [whose ministry lasted from 783 to 743 BC)

"By the eighth century BC, when Amos was prophesying, was it not conceivable that there could already have been a flow of Hebrew migrants southward though Egypt and into the highlands of Abyssinia?
"...The Kebra Nagast ('Glory of Kings')...dated from the thirteenth century AD and had originally been written in Ge'ez. It contained the earliest-surviving version on the story...about the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, the birth of their son Menelik ['the son of the wise one'], and the eventual abduction of the Ark of the covenant from the First temple in Jerusalem."
According to an Ethiopian monk, who was reputedly the guardian of the Ark of the Covenant, "...It was Azarius [son of Zadok the High Priest of Israel], not Menelik, who stole the Ark of the Covenant from its place in the Holy of holies in the Temple....And it was thus that it was brought to Ethiopia, to the sacred city [Axum]...and here it has remained ever since."

Of all the many traditions that I had encountered in that country [Ethiopia], by far the purest and most convincing had indicated that the Ark of the Covenant had been brought first of all to Lake Tana, where it had been concealed on the island of Tana Kirkos...The relic had remained on the island for eight hundred years before it had finally been taken to Axum at the time of Ethiopia's conversion to Christianity. Since that conversion had occurred around AD 330, the implication of the strong folk memory preserved on Tana Kirkos was that the Ark must have arrived in Ethiopia in 470 BC or thereabouts - in other words about five hundred years after Solomon, Menelik and the Queen of Sheba."
- Graham Hancock, The Sign and the Seal

"There is a land of sailing ships [or whirring wings - locusts?], a land beyond the rivers of Cush [Ethiopia] which sends its envoys by the Nile, journeying on the waters in vessels of reed. Go, swift messengers, go to a people tall and smooth-skinned [or bronzed], to a people dreaded near and far, a nation strong and proud, whose land is scoured [criss-crossed] by rivers."
- Isaiah 18:1-2
(whose lifespan almost certainly extended into the reign of Manasseh)

"The town of Aswan was a border town, built beside the granite cataract over which the Nile followed northwards into Egypt. For thousands of years, priests of the Temple of Khnum on the little island of Elephantine, had measure the annual rise of the river waters, to gauge the flood on which Pharaoh's yearly harvest was dependent. Beyond Aswan was Nubia with its wild tribes and desert nomads while to the north the land of Egypt lay under Persian domination." Documents found in the present century have given vivd glimpses into the life of the Jewish colony at Aswan..."
- John Romer, Testament

Elephantine was the site of a ruined Jewish Temple that, in "in the considered opinion of the scholars...must have been built by the year 650 BC....Archaeologists have concluded that its dimensions were ninety feet long by thirty feet wide. In old measurements this is, of course sixty cubits by twenty cubits. Interestingly, the Bible gives exactly the same measurements for Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem.....The Elephantine Temple was roofed with cedarwood; so was Solomon's."
"Animal sacrifice was routinely practiced at the Elephantine Temple - including the all-important sacrifice of a lamb as the opening rite of Passover week. This highly significant since it indicates that the Jewish community must have migrated to Elephantine before the reforms of King Josiah (640-609 BC). Those reforms conclusively banned sacrifice at any location other than the Jerusalem Temple (a ban that was subsequently respected even by the exiles during the captivity in Babylon)."
"...The Elephantine Jews clearly thought that Yahweh resided physically in their temple: a number of papyri speak of him - in no uncertain terms - as 'dwelling' there. In ancient Israel (and during the wanderings in the wilderness) Yahweh was believed to reside wherever the Ark was; indeed this belief only really changed after the loss of the Ark had been recognized."
- Graham Hancock, The Sign and the Seal

"Manasseh's reign was accompanied by much bloodshed and it may be surmised that priests as well as prophets opposed his paganisation. Some of the priests fled to Egypt, joined the Jewish garrison at Elephantine [mercenaries in the pay of the Egyptians], and there...erected the Temple."
- Bezalel Porten, Archives from Elephantine

"From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, even the daughter of my dispersed shall bring mine offering."
- Zephaniah 3:10
(written sometime between 640 and 622 BC)

"Raphael Hadane, [a Falasha priest] said that the Jewish Temple built by his forefathers 'at Aswan' had been exempted from a great destruction that had been inflicted upon Egyptian temples by a 'foreign king'.
"In 525 BC a foreign king did invade Egypt and did indeed destroy many temples. His name was Cambyses and he was the ruler of the expansionist Persian Empire that had been founded by his father Cyrus the Great."
- Graham Hancock, The Sign and the Seal

"When Cambyses came into Egypt he found this [Jewish] Temple built. they [the Persians] knocked down all the temples of the gods of Egypt, but not one did any damage to this Temple"
- Elephantine Papyri [Bezalel Porten, Archives from Elepantine]

"Defeating the Egyptians, he treated them cruelly, and defiled the temple of their god Ammon. Then he took into his heart to go south and attack 'the long-lived Ethiopians'."
- Zecharia Sitchin, The Stairway to Heaven

"His spies went to Ethiopia, under the pretense of carrying presents to the king, but in reality to take note of all they saw, and especially to observe whether there was really what is called 'The Table of the Sun' in Ethiopia..."
- Herodotus, History, Book III

Two centuries later, Alexander the Great conquered Egypt and went south to Karnak. "Alexander selected a small escort and a few companions for an expedition even farther south" where, according to the recorders of his adventures, he visited a queen called Candace who showed him the secret "of the wonderful cave where the gods congregate."
"In the 1820s European explorers penetrating southward, into the Sudan, reported the existence of ancient monuments (including sharp-angled pyramids) at a site on the Nile river called Meroe. A Royal Prussian expedition uncovered impressive archaeological remains during excavations in the years 1842-44. Between 1912 and 1914, others uncovered sacred sites; the hieroglyphic inscriptions indicated one of them was called the Sun Temple - perhaps the very place where the spies of Cambyses observed the 'Table of the Sun'. Further excavations in this century the piecing together of archaeological finds, and the continued decipherment of the inscriptions, have established that there indeed existed in that land a Nubian kingdom in the first millennium BC; it was the biblical Land of Kush."
"The hieroglyphic inscriptions revealed, that at the very beginning of the Nubian kingdom, it was ruled by a wise and benevolent queen. Her name was Candace."
- Zecharia Sitchin, The Stairway to Heaven

(2) Hebrew Migrants Into Abyssinia?

"The Persians remained in power in Egypt until very close to the end of the fifth century BC. During this period the Jews on Elephantine co-operated closely with them. It was after their protection had been effectively removed that the Jewish Temple on that island was finally destroyed."
- Graham Hancock, The Sign and the Seal

"...Unlike the returning exiles at Jerusalem, the Jews of Aswan mixed freely with their neighbors. They happily married outside their faith, though they kept distinctively Jewish names and recognized David's City as the spiritual center of their faith. But they were not intimidated by Jerusalem and dared to petition the High Priest, asking for permission to rebuild their local temple of Jehovah at Aswan which had been burned down in a riot, when the priests of Khnum discovered the Jews sacrificing a ram which was Khnum's sacred animal. It is clear, too, that this was a full-blown temple and not just a simple meeting-house. The letter-writer understood very well the scandal that his request would cause to the orthodox in Jerusalem, for whom there could be but one Temple. So, in his letter, he concedes that worshippers at Aswan will no longer sacrifice animals upon its temple altar."
"The destroyed Aswan temple had been a substantial building of stone, with bronze doors and fittings of silver and gold....Biblical histories of Israel relate that there had been several temples of Jehovah outside Jerusalem in more ancient times, just as both archaeology and the Old Testament testify that there were also many pagan shrines in Israel and even in Jerusalem. Two hundred years after the request from Elephantine, a son of a Jerusalem High Priest opened another temple of Jehovah in the land of Egypt!"
- John Romer, Testament

"Hadane also reported that his people especially venerated the island of Tana Kirkos [Ethiopia] - the same island to which I was told the Ark had been brought in the fifth century BC. Moreover, Memhir Fisseha, the Christian priest whom I interviewed on that island, told me that the Ark had been kept there 'inside a tent' for eight hundred years before being taken to Axum."
- Graham Hancock, The Sign and the Seal

"The Falashas know nothing of either the Babylonian or the Jerusalem Talmud, which were composed during and after the time of the captivity. They also do not observe the Feasts of PUrim and the Dedication of the Temple [Hanukkah], which...are still solemnly kept by the Jews of our time."
- Martin Flad, The Falashas of Abyssinia (1855)

"One of the proofs of the antiquity of Judaism in Ethiopia is the extremely archaic character of Falasha religion, in which animal sacrifice of precisely the kind carried out at Elephantine plays a crucial role. This adds weight to the hypothesis that the Falashas are the 'cultural descendants' of Jewish migrant from Elephantine and therefore provides strong support for the thesis that the Ark of the Covenant may have been brought to Ethiopia from that island."
"In its heyday the Jewish Temple on Elephantine had its own well established priesthood. In the vowel-less language of the papyri these priests are referred to as KHN...Falasha priests are also called Kahen."
"One of the names given to the Jewish Temple on Elephantine was MSGD. It meant 'place of prostration'. To this day the Falashas in Ethiopia have no synagogues; neither do they have a temple; they do, however, call their simple houses of worship Mesgid."
- Graham Hancock, The Sign and the Seal

(3) The Christian Era in Ethiopia

"Christianity was introduced into Abyssinia 331 years after the birth of Christ by Abuna Salama whose former name was Frumentos or Frumentius. As that time the Ethiopian kings reigned over Axum. Before the Christian religion was known in Ethiopia half the inhabitants were Jews, who observed the Law; the other half were worshippers of Sando, the dragon."
- A History and Genealogy of the Ancient Kings

"The kingdom of the Jews shall be made an end of and the Kingdom of Christ shall be constituted...Thus hath God made of the King of Ethiopia more glory and grace and majesty than for all the other kings of the earth because of the greatness of Zion, the Ark of the Law of God."
- Kebra Nagast

"James Bruce...was a member of the Canongate Kilwinning No. 2 lodge of Edinburgh, known to be one of the oldest in Scotland, with side-orders and mystical teachings entrenched in Judaeo-Christian myth and ritual."
- Andrew Collins, From the Ashes of Angels - The Forbidden Legacy of a Fallen Race (1996) p. 12

James Bruce of Kinnaird "began to learn Ge'ez, the classical language of Ethiopia, as early as 1759." He went to Ethiopia, "he said, risking 'numberless dangers and sufferings, the least of which would have overwhelmed me but for the continual goodness and protection of Providence', in order to discover the source of the Nile. Lest any should be in any doubt that this was indeed his ambition he enshrined it conspicuously in the full title of the immense book that he later wrote: Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile in the Years 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772 and 1773."
"The mystery is this: long before he set out for Ethiopia, James Bruce knew that the Blue Nile's source had already been visited and thoroughly explored by two other Europeans: Pedro Paez and Jeronomo Lobo (both of whom were Portuguese priests who had lived in Ethiopia in the 1600s before the Fasilidas ban [that any Portuguese seeking entry into Ethiopia be beheaded] was put into effect."
- Graham Hancock, The Sign and the Seal

"In it [the first church of Saint Mary of Zion is] supposed to be preserved the Ark of the Covenant...which Menelik...is said, in their fabulous legends, to have stolen from his father Solomon on his return to Ethiopia...Some ancient copy of the Old Testament, I do believe, was deposited here...but whatever this might be, it was destroyed...by Gragn [leader of the invading Muslim forces in 1535], though pretended falsely to subsist there still. This I had from the King himself."
- James Bruce, Travels vol. III

"...A battle fought on the shores of Lake Tana on 10 February 1543...after fifteen years of unparalleled destruction and violence, ended the Muslim attempt to subdue the Christian empire of Ethiopia....The cultural damage - in terms of burnt manuscripts, icons and paintings, razed churches and looted treasures -was to cast a shadow over the civilization of the highlands for centuries to come.
"The greatest treasure of all, however, was saved: moved out of Axum by the priests only days before that city was burnt in 1535, the Ark had been taken to one of the many island-monasteries on Lake Tana. there it was kept in safety until long after Gragn's death. Then, in the mid 1600's, Emperor Fasilidas (described by Bruce as 'the greatest king that ever sat upon the Abyssinian throne') built a new cathedral of Saint Mary of Zion over the gutted ruins of the old - and there, with due ceremony, the sacred relic was at last re-installed in all its former glory."

Bruce visted Axum on the 18th and 19th of January 1770. "...On precisely those days he would have witnessed the celebration of Timkat, the most important festival of the Ethiopian Orthodox church."
According to the historian Belai Bedai in Addis Ababa, "the real reason he came was to steal our treasures, our cultural treasures. He took many precious manuscripts back to Europe. The book of Enoch, for example. Also from the imperial repository at Gondar he carried off an ancient copy of the Kebra Nagast."
- Graham Hancock, The Sign and the Seal

"While most scholars have blasted the book [Graham Hancock's The Sign and the Seal], Ephraim Isaac is more forgiving with statements like 'Indeed his lack of the knowledge of the languages and his narrow understanding of the scholarly debate have led him to make hasty, albeit interesting, judgements. Ironically, however, it is his lack of the necessary scholarly tools that makes Hancock an original thinker!'"
- John Watton

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