Ellen Lloyd - AncientPages.com - The Ark of the Covenant is one of the greatest mysteries of the Bible. Treasure hunters, historians, archaeologists have searched for the sacred ark for many years, but it hasn’t been found yet.
The Ark of the Covenant mysteriously vanished around 589-587 BC when the Babylonians destroyed the temple, built by King David’s son King Solomon, where it was placed. The Ark’s location remains an unsolved ancient mystery.
The Ark of the Covenant was built during the time of Moses in the Book of Exodus. The sacred gold-plated wooden box held the two stone tablets where the 10 Commandments were inscribed after God gave the covenant to Moses at Mount Sinai. An interesting theory suggests the Ark of the Covenant contained more items, such as the statue of the mysterious Asherah!
According to the Book of Samuel, the Ark of the Covenant was stored at Kiryat Ye’arim for 20 years after it was returned to the Israelites by the Philistines, who had captured it in battle and to their dismay were smitten with the disease.
The text also informs that the ark was stored “in the house of Abinadab in the hill” and tended by the priest Elazar before King David conveyed it to his capital in Jerusalem.
As we mentioned, known as Lady of the Sea and mother goddess, Asherah is one of the oldest deities in the Sumerian and Ugaritic pantheon.
Asherah – Chief Goddess Of The Canaanite Pantheon
Goddess Asherah was worshipped by many ancient civilizations in the Near East. In northern Syria, goddess Asherah was described as the wife of chief god El, the West Semitic counterpart of god Anu. It is said that she had as many as 70 children and among them were important gods such as Baal, Anath and Mot.
There is a Biblical connection to Asherah as well. Raphael Patai writes in his book The Hebrew Goddessthat “while it is not easy to reach a definite conclusion as to the physical shape in which Asherah was represented among the Hebrews, a careful perusal of Biblical references to the “Asherahs” seems to indicate that they carved wooden images which were set up by implanting their base into the ground.
In early times they often stood next to altars dedicated to Baal, later a “statue of Asherah” was set up in the Jerusalem Temple itself. The word Asherah in Biblical usage can refer to either to the goddess herself or to her image.”
In the Bible, we encounter descriptions of the so-called Asherah Poles.
Biblical scholars, historians, and archaeologists have long debated whether the figures found on an ancient drawing storage jar depict Yahweh and his Asherah or someone else.
The Lord commanded the people of Israel to not make Asherah poles of their own, but the Israelites disobeyed this command. It is believed that many Asherah poles were raised in honor of the mother-goddess Asherah. The purpose of the objects remains a subject of heated debate among scholars.
The whole subject becomes even more complicated due to the discovery of ancient inscriptions unearthed at Kuntillet ‘Ajrud. The inscriptions are religious in nature, invoking Yahweh, El, and Baal. What created an intense debate are the inscriptions that include the phrases “Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah” and “Yahweh of Teman and his Asherah.
So, it’s fair to say scholars still cannot agree on what or who Asherah was because in the end it depends on the interpretation of Asherah in relation to Yahweh.
Joshua passing the River Jordan with the Ark of the Covenant by Benjamin West, 1800
Were Statues Of Pagans Gods Hidden In The Ark of The Covenant?
In his book, The Invention Of God, Thomas Römer, Professor of the Hebrew Bible at the Collège de France put forward a very provoking theory suggesting the statues of God Yahweh and Asherah were deliberately hidden in the Ark of the Covenant.
Professor Römer points out that God prohibited Israelites from worshipping other gods and of course his prohibition would be pointless if there were no other gods. God only subsequently became the god of Israel, but before this happened he had to eliminate rival male and female gods, such as the mother goddess Asherah.
According to Professor Römer it is possible that the Ark of Covenant stayed much longer at Kiriath Jearim, and it was only Josiah who brought it to Jerusalem when he wanted to centralize all cultic and political activity there, and his scribes justified it by writing the story about David taking the ark. This might explain why there are no more stories about it,” since after Josiah’s reign (640-609 B.C.E.) Judah would survive less than three decades before falling to the Babylonians.
The apologetic verse in 1 Kings 8:9 states that “there was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb" (Mt Sinai). This may be an indication that the Ten Commandments had substituted something else. Could the Ten Commandants have been replaced with statues of Pagan gods?
Painting depicting King David bearing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem.
Professor Römer elaborates on this subject in his bookand he suggests that the Ark of the Covenant may have originally contained two statues representing Yahweh and Asherah. Throughout the Levant, it was common for pre-Islamic Arabs and Bedouins to carry holy chests that contained two sacred stones or the statues of two gods, that were later replaced by the Koran.
What was hidden inside the Ark of the Covenant remains a subject open to speculation? If we one day discovered the Biblical Ark we will finally know the truth.