Archaeologists working on the site of the Temple Mount in Old Jerusalem discovered evidence of the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 587/586 BC when both the city and the Temple were basically destroyed.
The siege recorded in several books of Bible tells how King Nebuchadnezzar also took tens of thousands of Jews into captivity.
According to the team, made up of archaeologists from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC) and Israel’s Haifa University, they discovered several evidences of the attack including a layer of ash indicating a massive burning and more importantly Scythian arrowheads that were used by Babylonian soldiers.
Since the Babylonian arrowheads were mixed in with the ash it is strong evidence the burning was associated with Babylon’s attack on Jerusalem.
They also found evidence of houses being left in shambles which again would be expected after the city was taken.
In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, UNC professor Shimon Gibson stated:
“They (Scythian arrowheads) were fairly commonplace in this period and are known to be used by the Babylonian warriors. Together, this evidence points to the historical conquest of the city by Babylon because the only major destruction we have in Jerusalem for this period is the conquest of 587/586 BCE.”
In a record of the event recorded in 2 Kings 25, we are told that one of Nebuchadnezzar’s commanders, Nebuzaradan, burned down the palace, the temple and other major governmental buildings along with houses after they breached Jerusalem’s walls.
He was also responsible for carting off the Jews into captivity. According to the passage, the Babylonians only left behind the poor to manage vineyards and grow crops.
The destruction of the Temple led to the building of a second Temple under Ezra and it was this second temple, that underwent major renovations under King Herod, that Jesus visited.
But the passage in 2 Kings 25 also highlights one of the major mysteries of the Bible — what happened to the Ark of the Covenant?
Jeremiah’s description is quite detailed and even lists the spoons, pots and pans.
But there is one item that is strangely missing from all three lists — the Ark of the Covenant. It was the most important piece of furniture in the Temple and the very reason for the Temple’s existence.
The gold-plated ark was about 4′ x 2.5′ in size. It had a solid gold mercy seat on top on which were placed two winged Cherubim, also made of gold. The Spirit of God rested between the two Cherubim, essentially serving as God’s throne on earth.
The fact that all three writers do not include the Ark of the Covenant indicates it was not taken as booty. This is further confirmed by Ezra who returned to Jerusalem from the captivity to rebuild the second temple. He brought with him all the Temple items hauled off by Nebuchadnezzar and again there is no mention of the Ark of the Covenant (Ezra 1:7-11).
The Holy of Holies of the second temple sat empty until it was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans.
We have no idea what happened to the Ark of the Covenant. The last mention is from around 620 AD when King Josiah placed it in the temple after it had been removed by a previous king, probably Manasseh, who used the temple to worship other gods (2 Chronicles 35:3).
So sometime between 620 BC and the Babylonian siege of 586 BC, the Ark of the Covenant was removed. Many believe the Jews probably hid it sometime before the walls were breached. Who hid it and where is still a mystery?