The ark of the covenant was the central piece of furniture in the Jewish Temple. Inside the chest were the Ten Commandments (the covenant) and on top was the mercy seat with the two gold cherubim. But why doesn’t anyone know what happened to the ark?
Many biblical scholars contend the ark was destroyed in Jerusalem during the Babylonian captivity in 586 B.C. Others suggest the ark was taken away by Nebuchadnezzar and then destroyed. Indeed, Jeremiah wrote about its loss and future non-existence: (Jer 3:16) “Then it shall come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those days,” says the Lord, “that they will say no more, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’ It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it, nor shall it be made anymore.
The non-canonical book of 2 Maccabees (from the Apocrypha) reports that just prior to the Babylonian invasion, 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 (at Mt. Nebo - Deu 32:49). When Jeremiah arrived there, he found a room in a cave in which he put . . . the ark . . . and . . . then he blocked up the entrance” (2:4-5).
Another theory concerning the whereabouts of the lost ark includes it being hidden beneath the temple mount in Jerusalem, having been buried there before Nebuchadnezzar could steal it away. Unfortunately, the temple mount is now home to the Dome of the Rock, an Islamic holy site, and the local Muslim community refuses to allow any archeological excavations.
Other theories include that the ark was stowed away in Saint Mary of Zion's Church in Aksum, an ancient city of Ethiopia. According to tradition, the ark came to Ethiopia with Menelik I after he visited his father King Solomon. Only the guardian monk may view the ark. This lack of accessibility, and questions about the account as a whole, have led scholars to express doubt about the legitimacy of the claim. A doubtful Irish tradition maintains that the ark is buried under the Hill of Tara in Ireland. Some scholars believe that this is the source of the Irish “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow” legend. The movie "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” tells of an attempt to prevent the ark from falling into the hands of the Nazis who would harness its power for evil. It eventually ends up as a secret U.S. government archive. At any rate, perhaps God chose for it never to be found, knowing our propensity to worship relics.
But Revelation 11:19 tells us where the ark of the covenant is: Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail. Here we see that God’s mercy through Christ is still being offered and that He will be faithful to His promise of forgiveness. Maybe that’s what you need today. That would be a greater discovery than the ark itself!