I can answer this question with three words, “I don’t know.” Or should I say, “No one knows.” The last mention of the Ark of the Covenant is found in 2nd Chronicles 35:3 where we read, “Then he (King Josiah) said to the Levites who taught all Israel, who were holy to the LORD: ‘Put the HOLY ARK in the house which Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, built. It shall no longer be a burden on your shoulders.” You will recall that the Levites carried the Ark on their shoulders during their journey to the Promised Land (Canaan) but once the Temple was built by Solomon it found its home in the “holy of Holies” (see 2nd Chronicles 5:1-8). Yet ungodly kings followed the reign of Solomon and at some point, the Ark had been removed from the Temple, possibly to preserve it during the idolatrous reign of Manasseh (see 2nd Chronicles 33:7). During Josiah’s reign idolatry was abolished and the Levites faithfully carried out their service in the Temple, but this was not to last, for after his death Jehoiakim came to power in Judah and his wickedness led to God allowing King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians to invade Jerusalem (2nd Chronicles 36:1-6). The next verses tell us that “Nebuchadnezzar also carried off some of THE VESSELS OF THE HOUSE OF THE LORD TO BABYLON, and put them in his temple at Babylon.” We do not read of the Ark being taken, so we can assume it was not taken. Some believe it was possibly destroyed along with the city of Jerusalem, but we don’t read of that either so it would be mere speculation to suggest it was destroyed.

The most prominent “theory” is that the Ark was removed during the Babylonian invasion and hidden to keep it safe. This is based on a passage from the book of 2nd Maccabees 2:4-5 (which is NOT part of the Canon of Scripture!) which states that Jeremiah “following a divine revelation, ordered that the tabernacle and the ark should accompany him and…he went off to the mountain which Moses climbed to see God’s inheritance. When Jeremiah arrived there, he found a room in a cave in which he put the tent, the ark, and the altar of incense; then he blocked the entrance.” It goes on to say in verses 6-8, “Some of those who followed him came up intending to mark the path, but they could not find it. When Jeremiah heard of this, he reproved them: ‘The place is to remain unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows them mercy. Then the Lord will disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord will be seen in the cloud, just as it appeared in the time of Moses and when Solomon prayed that the Temple might be gloriously sanctified.’” Since this “theory” is based on a book that has questionable material in it and was not included in the Canon of Scripture, we should not assume this is an accurate account of the “hiding of the Ark.” Nevertheless, many Jewish Rabbis, explorers and archaeologists have seized upon this story and have been looking for the “location of the cave” for hundreds of years.

There are countless “theories” including someone burying the Ark beneath the temple mount or under the hill where Christ was crucified. One of the most popular theories is that the Ark was taken to Egypt at some point and hidden, which has led many archaeologists to perform “digs” throughout Egypt in search of the mysterious Ark (this theory even made its way to Hollywood resulting in the well-known movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark”). Wherever it is, God has chosen NOT to reveal its location and we should be content knowing that our all-wise God, who truly knows best, has His reasons for not allowing man to find it. Someday we will surely know the answer to this question but until then we should be SILENT (instead of advancing mere “theories”) since Scripture is SILENT. Perhaps it would be good to close with Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever.” Let’s not occupy our hearts with those things which God HAS NOT REVEALED; let us rather study His precious Word, meditate upon it, and fill our mind and heart with all the wonderful truths that God HAS REVEALED.  (456.1)  (DO)