1) I was impressed by NG’s animation of Solomon’s Holy of Holies because it suggested a solution to a problem I have struggled with, namely those gorgeous, huge, carved doors that Solomon installed. See, Solomon’s Holy of Holies was exactly twice the size of the Tabernacle’s, about 30 feet cubed as opposed to the Tabernacle’s 15 feet cubed. In the Tabernacle, the innermost covering of the Ark of the Covenant (which may have been seal skin, the translation is unsure) was hung behind the other curtains at the entrance to the Holy of Holies. This made the entire entrance curtain very thick and heavy. But Solomon had doors! Still, traditions talk about the curtains and how they material matched the clothes of the High Priest and his secondaries. Presumably the innermost covering was still hung with these curtains. This would not be a problem if the curtain were in the doorway, as it was in Herod’s temple; but we also know that Solomon installed two HUGE golden cherubim with their wings outstretched over the place where the Ark sat. According to tradition, these cherubim were so huge that they crowded the Ark forward so that the golden poles poked into the curtain. If the curtain was directly behind the doors then presumably the poles would have interfered with the doors being shut, so they would have had to have been left open. However, the Most Holy Place was so large, it is hard to picture this. The solution given by NG’s animation has the curtain surrounding the Ark in the very center of the Holy of Holies. Though it definitely is not the way Herod’s Temple was, it could indeed hav He been the way Solomon’s was constructed. The only problem I now see is that the curtain would have been about five times as large as the Tabernacle’s and there wouldn’t have been enough of the seal-skin inner covering from the Ark to line the inside. Solomon could have just had seal-skins hung and left a place for the covering of the Ark. The king did things like that all the time, cf the giant cherubim above, also the ten tables of showbread and ten candlesticks as opposed to one…. Now we only have to deal with the problem of what happened to those gorgeous doors. They appear to have vanished early on, so perhaps Shishak took them. Wood was rare in Egypt and they would certainly have appeared to have been a treasure of the Temple to him! And if Shishak took them, then the curtain probably was moved to the doorway at that point.
2) The fate of the Ark. NG mentions the extra-Biblical reference that it was “in its place,” i.e. directly under the Holy of Holies, implying that it was hidden there against Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion. Tradition holds that Solomon excavated vast chambers under the temple. People continue to speculate that the Ark is and always has been there. I don’t buy it. First of all, if the Ark of the Covenant was under the Temple, why didn’t Ezra bring it up and put it in Nehemiah’s Temple? Second, the reference actually says that Josiah buried the Ark in its place. Even if Josiah really did bury the Ark there, he didn’t do it against Nebuchadnezzar, he was dead before Nebuchadnezzar assumed the thone and all evidence points to a friendship between Josiah and Nebuchadnezzar’s father, Nabopolassar. At the beginning of his reign, Josiah had great reason to fear an invasion from Assyria (he deliberately provoked them by tossing their idols out of the city), but Nabopolassar took care of that problem for him and Assyria never appeared. So if Josiah had buried the Ark, why didn’t he just dig it back up again when the threat disappeared?
3) Elephantine and Ethiopia (more later)
4) Jeremiah’s silence Ezekiel’s witness and Mount Nebo in Jordan. NG over and over mentions the last Biblical reference to the Ark of the Covenant but it never actually says what it is! This reference is from II Chronicles 35:3, where Josiah finished the remodeling of the Temple and then he told the “Levites” to bring the Ark back because it was too heavy a burden for them to carry any more. He further instructs them to take their place in the Temple and to minister there as priests. These are huge clues as to who these Levites were. The only Aaronic priests banned from the Temple were the sons of Zadok, who lived in Anathoth. That’s right, Jeremiah was one of them. They were the eldest surviving line of Aaron and had kept their own shrine, dubious as to the legitimacy of the current High Priest and as to the Temple itself. Is it possible that they had shielded the Ark in Anathoth since Shishak’s invasion? They certainly took up their place in the Temple immediately following this, as Jeremiah’s cousin, Zephaniah, eventually became Second Priest and Zephaniah’s brother became a member of the Temple’s House of Prophets. But a further look at Jewish records tells us that Jeremiah worked under Josiah, compiling and editing the Scriptures, including II Chronicles. He mentions the Ark here, but never again. Why not? (More later)