This is partly about how I've become more skeptical of my past support of it being in Aksum.
1: Contents of The Ark
Hebrews 9:4 indicated that in addition to The Tablets, The Ark also contained the Rod of Aaron, and the Jar of Manna. This is often viewed as a contradiction because of 1 Kings 8:9.
There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when Yahuah made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.II Chronicles 5:10 says the same thing. However these verses are set at the consecration of Solomon's Temple, after The Ark had been captured for awhile by The Philistines. They may have taken the other objects in there but didn't see any value in broken stone tablets.
Hebrews 9 is referring to the Time of Moses. Exodus 16:33-34 says the Pot of Manna was placed before Yahuah and before the Testimony. That could be consistent with in the same container, The Ark. Numbers 17:10 says the same about Aaron's Rod.
Deuteronomy 31:25-26 adds a Scroll, presumably the first Torah Scroll, though one that timeline wise wouldn't have included Deuteronomy, into the Ark. Why would Hebrews 9 leave that out? Hebrews hardly contradicts more being in there, it's likely the writer was more drawing on verses set at an earlier point in the timeline of the wondering.
2. Was it in The Temple in the days of Hezekiah?
In Kings the last clear reference to The Ark is during the reign of Solomon. In Chronicles this is also true save one verse from the Reign of Josiah which implies it had already left but that it might be possible to get it back..... More on that later.
But 2 Kings 19:15 is often cited as proof that it was there in the time of Hezekiah, because he "prayed before Yahuah, and said, O Yahuah God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubim". And they assume this term must always refer to the Cherubim on The Mercy Seat.
But Solomon's Temple had some things The Tabernacle didn't. One of those was it's own larger pair of Cherubim in the of The Holy of Holies, placed there already before The Ark was brought into it. This is recorded in 1 Kings 6 starting in verse 23 (The Ark was brought to The Temple in chapter 8) and 2 Chronicles 3 starting in verse 10 (The Ark was brought there in chapter 5).
And it also could just be a poetic title of Yahuah based on his dwelling between the actual living Cherubim in his Heavenly Throne Room.
So it could have been there at that time. But we have no direct proof it was.
3. Could Shishak have taken it?
Once one accepts there is no proof of it still being there later. It becomes easy to conclude the most logical option is Shishak took it. The movie Raiders of The Lost Ark is based on this assumption. And as I said before a belief it could be in Egypt might be key to some End Times deceptions.
On my Revised Chronology blog I talk about Shishak a lot, to some degree I've changed my mind about him over it's history. In one post (at the time I'm first writing this the most recent on the Shishak tag, dated November 4th 2016 though I've edited it since then) I pointed out overlooked aspects of the Chronicles account that showed no battle was fought, Rehoboam was convinced by a Prophet to willingly hand over tribute.
To me that makes it unlikely The Ark was removed then, Rehoboam would have stripped The Temple of all the purely decorative Gold. But they wouldn't have handed over The Ark. The Prophet's words were obeyed to avoid something that tragic.
4. What do I think of 2 Maccabees?
If that story is true The Ark was hidden in a cave on Mt Sinai/Horeb. Which I've argued recently could be in Yemen but I'm not going all in on that. I certainly view it as in Arabia, east of the Gulf of Aqaba. But I've grown more skeptical of Jabal el Laws.
However I have argued against giving credence to the Deutercanonical books. So I don't think that's what happened.
5. Where do I think The Ark is?
The Bible tells us, in the Book named for the premise that it is Revealing mysteries to us. In The Book of Revelation chapter 11, after the 7th Trumpet is sounded in it's very last verse.
And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.Now I know the counter argument, "The Tabernacle was modeled after The Temple in Heaven, so this is just what The Ark copied". But you see what makes The Ark different is it's the one thing that wasn't an exact replica, it's there in place of the Four Living Cherubim.
This is the fate of The Ark being reveled to The World at the time The Beast is setting up his deception which I think may include a counterfeit. Michael Rood who supports the Ron Wyatt theory I debunked, sees The Ark as possibly relevant to the Covenant of Daniel 9. If there is an end times significance to the 70th Week, I think he's right but for the wrong reason.
5a. When did it leave Earth for Heaven?
Ezekiel 10 describes when Yahuah's divine presence left Solomon's Temple shortly before the fall to Nebuchadnezzar., and it's been noted how that presence never returned to The Second. Though The New Testament supports it having some Holy Spirit presence till Pentecost, via John 4. I think what only The First Temple had was The Word/Logos, while the second had only the Spirit.
The account of it's leaving makes reference to the Cherubim. Maybe Yahuah took The Ark with him?
6. What about Jeremiah 3:16
And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith Yahuah, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of Yahuah: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more.My Mercy Seat post refuted seeing The Mercy Seat in verse 17.
But I also saw recently someone argue that because no one could enter the Holy of Holies in Ancient Israel, even the beginning of the condition described as ending here hasn't happened yet. That is a massive abuse of the text, the intent here is clearly to allude to the Pilgrimage Festivals. Under the New Testament we no longer need to go to Jerusalem or Shiloh or Bethel to observe those Feasts, because now WE are God's Temple and Tabernacle. Wherever we gather He is there. So I agree with the face value reading that this means the purpose of the Ark is served, it has one last function when the 7th Trumpet sounds and that is it.
7. Were there two Ark of the Covenants?
The last and most shocking issue I shall cover.
In Exodus it is clear that the first Tablets, which God made directly and which were broken. Were placed in The Ark made of Gold that has The Mercy Seat as it's lid. And that Ark was made by Bazael.
Deuteronomy 10 says God had Moses on his own make another Ark of only Wood and place the second set of Tablets inside them. Some see this as a contradiction and evidence of the Documentary Hypothesis. But it's perfectly consistent if one considers that God wanted a second humbler Ark to be made for some reason.
The Ark with the Broken Tablets is the only one with a "Mercy Seat". And thus the one associated with the Yom Kippur Sin Offering in Leviticus 16. That Ark had the broken Tablets, therefor the Atonement in question can be viewed as the Atonement for the breaking of that Covenant.
Deuteronomy 10 is a reference back to when the Second Set of Tablets were first made around Exodus 33-34, so it's not saying this Ark wasn't made till near the end of the wandering. Interestingly at that same time Exodus describes a separate Tent of Meeting outside the Camp when the Mishkan hasn't been made yet. Numbers 11 and 12 also seem to refer to this tend outside The Camp. Could it be a humbler Tabernacle for a humbler Ark? In 1 Chronicles 17:5 Yahuah says he went from Tent to Tent and from one Mishkan to another.
This Link discuses the possibly of there being more then one Tent of Meeting.
Attempts to figure this mystery out by saying something like the Ark of Yahuah is the Golden one and the Ark of God is the Wooden one won't bear out, both are used interchangeably of the Ark the Philisintes captured. Still 1 Samuel 14:18 says Ark of God, viewing that as the Wooden Ark perhaps works best with how in general the Golden Ark is depicted as never leaving Kirijath-Jearim during this time.
Talmudic tradition actually says there were two Arks. Rashi's assessment that the Wooden one was the only one used in battle except when The Philsitines took it as a punishment I'm not sure will bear out. Though it might agree with the theory that the Wooden Ark became the Drum of Thunder of The Lemba tribe.
In my post on Bethel The House of God I attempted to explain why Judges 20:26-27 placed The Ark in Bethel when other verses say it was in Shiloh all that time. If there were two Arks then we have a possibly simpler answer. In this passage it is called the Ark of the Covenant of God.
Aven(Also rendered On) and Bethaven are used in The Bible of two locations. On/Heliopolis in Egypt. And a place near Bethel in Joshua 7:2, but also seems to be used as a synonym for Bethel in Hosea and Amos after Bethel became home to Jeroboam's Idol. Samuel 14:18-23 possibly also links The Ark of God with Bethaven.
I recently argued that Zion, Which is The City of David is Bethlehem, not Jebus as popularly assumed. One area where my argument gets difficult is the time frame from when David Brings The Ark to Zion after becoming sole ruler, to Solomon placing it is his Temple. There being Two Arks could solve some of that.
Now I return to that verse from the time of Josiah. 2 Chronicles 35:3.
"Put the holy ark in the house which Solomon the son of David king of Israel did build; it shall not be a burden upon your shoulders: serve now Yahuah your God, and his people Israel"I notice that he didn't say "did Build for it". Maybe the Ark in question here was never previously in Solomon's Temple?
I think the Ark of Gold with The Mercy Seat as it's Lid is what had those other objects placed in it. And that it was kept in The Tabernacle with the other Holy Relics built for The Tabernacle. And as such it was at Shiloh all through The Judges period, and then got taken by The Philistines and wound up at Kirithjearim. When it was separate from The Tabernacle of Meeting, the Tabernacle had no Ark while it was at Nob and then Gibeon.
I think the Ark of Wood was in Bethel all through the Judges period and still so down into the Reign of Saul and even the start of David's Reign.
During the reigns of David and the start of Solomon's reign I'm not always sure which Ark is where. He originally brought the Ark from Kirithjearim to Zion, but may have brought the other there after taking it to Mt Moriah after he purchased it.
The Ark of Gold was the one Solomon originally placed in The Temple. And perhaps the other was placed in the Tabernacle of David in Zion when he moved the Daughter of Pharaoh out of there. And later that Wooden Ark was the one mentioned in 2 Chronicles 35.
7a. Which one do I think was taken to Heaven?
Very likely both.
If one is still on Earth it's the Wooden lesser one. But it might have had a Counterfeit Mercy Seat, designed to look like a Throne placed on it. Maybe it's in Aksum, and had been on Tana Kirikos and at Elephantine.