To the ancient Israelites, the Ark of the Covenant was the most sacred thing on Earth. The central and paramount object of the Hebrew nation, this ornate chest was, according to the Bible, designed by God.
Measuring 44 inches long, 26 inches wide, and 26 inches high, the chest was made of acacia wood, overlaid inside and out with pure gold, and surrounded by an artistic gold border. Mounted on the solid gold cover were two golden cherubs, one at each end of the cover facing each other, with heads bowed and wings extending upward.
The Ark served as a holy archive for the safekeeping of sacred relics, including the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. As a historical and religious treasure, the Ark and its contents were absolutely priceless.
In 607 B.C., Jerusalem, the capital city of the Israelite kingdom of Judah and home of Solomon's Temple, where the Ark was housed, was besieged and overthrown by the Babylonians. In a terrible slaughter, more than a million people were killed, with the survivors driven off into captivity.
Seventy years later, when the Israelites returned to rebuild the city, the Ark of the Covenant was gone. What happened to this priceless relic has been the subject of intense speculation ever since.
It is widely believed that the Ark was hidden by the Hebrews to keep it from the Babylonians. Possible locations for its hiding place range from Mount Nebo in Egypt to Ethiopia to a cave in the heart of Judah. Yet, if the Ark was hidden, why was it not recovered when the Israelites returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple?
Others believe that the Ark was destroyed by the rampaging Babylonians. Still another explanation put forth by the faithful is that God miraculously removed the Ark for safekeeping by means of divine intervention.