January 16, 2019

Is the Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia?

“Ethiopia throbs with religious fervor. On Sundays in Lalibela, Aksum and Gondar, I was alone in thousand-strong crowds of monks and nuns, hermits and business owners, energetic children and bent-double grandmothers. They wrapped themselves in white or burnt orange and poured into the churches that dot the landscape.

It is a society with a more profound spirituality than anywhere else I have been to—one where worship is woven into nearly every aspect of life. And during my trip, it became clear that this veneration of the church was born from a belief that Ethiopia has been chosen by God as the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.

There is only one man alive who has seen the alleged Ark in all its biblical glory. It is, according to Ethiopian lore, hidden in a church in Aksum—a small city in the northern highlands—and guarded by a single monk. Nobody else enters the room and only after his death will the monk leave the grounds.

The Ark itself is central to Christian and Jewish religious history. According to the Bible, Moses placed stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments into a box made of acacia wood, aka the Ark. King Solomon then built the First Temple in Jerusalem to house it, where it was venerated for hundreds of years.”

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