James R. Davila, professor at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland (with a Ph.D. from Harvard), has just released a fully-translated version of an ancient text, titled The Treatise of Vessels (Massekhet Kelim in Hebrew), in which clues to the location of many of the lost treasures from Solomon’s Temple, including the Ark of the Covenant, are listed. Originally written in Hebrew and for the first time translated fully to English, the Treatise of Vessels reads like a veritable inventory of the treasures of Solomon’s Temple that were hidden at the time of the temple’s destruction by Nebuchadnezzar and the Haldeans in the sixth century BC.
The legendary Ark of the Covenant is the gilded case that the Bible says was constructed nearly 3,000 years ago by the Israelites to hold the Ten Commandments. According to biblical text, the Ark was made of gold-plated wood and topped with two large, golden angels, sitting wing-to-wing. Its transporters used poles inserted through rings on its sides to carry the Ark around the Holy Land.
Davila notes that the new translation has revealed many parallels to the previously translated, 1,900-year-old Copper Scroll, one of the Dead Sea scrolls that differs from the others in that it was written on sheets of metal, including the locations at which various gold and silver items from the Temple were buried and hidden thousands of years ago. Precise details of the locations, however, were not revealed in the newly translated document, and the text even chastens readers that the exact locations “shall not be revealed until the day of the coming of the Messiah son of David” supposedly putting discovery of the treasures out of reach of any casual would-be treasure seeker.
According to the Treatise of the Vessels, which has been found as chapters in books dating at least as far back as the 15th century, the valuable objects stored in King Solomon’s Temple were secreted away and concealed by “a number of Levites and prophets” including five central actors known as the “five great righteous men” (they are recorded twice in the Treatise of the Vessels). Listed among the five men are “Shimmur the Levite” who is recorded first both times along with his son, Heleq. Heleq appears in the biblical books of Numbers and Joshua as the clan leader of the Gileadites (a tribe of Joseph). “Shimmur” does not appear in the Bible texts, but the Hebrew translation of the name means “watching” or “vigil” which would be an appropriate moniker for the keeper of the Ark of the Covenant.
Also cited amongst the “five great righteous men” are Hezekiah and Zechariah. Hezekiah is mentioned several times in the Bible including a notation that he was the great-grandfather of the prophet Zephaniah.
The new text suggests that some of the objects, including many gold and silver vessels, furniture, and musical instruments, were buried in the ground. Describing the objects as “the implements the earth took”, some were specifically said to have been hidden in cisterns (wells) in region.
Other objects, including silver and gold platters, were said to be “concealed and hid in a tower in the land of Babylon in a city and its name is Bagdat”, likely referring to the as-yet-undiscovered ancient ruins of the Tower of Babel.
Cherished objects such as musical instruments constructed by David, Moses, and Solomon, were listed in the document, and reported to have been “treasured up and hidden at the Spring of Zedekiah”. Included in the description of the musical instrument inventory is a lyre “which Moses hewed out at Mount Sinai from beneath the throne of glory”.
Various locations of the treasures (and Ark of the Covenant) from Solomon’s Temple have been proposed, including the Vatican, a monastery in the Holy Land, at various sites in Palestine and Babylon, and the bottom of the sea. Regardless, experts tend to agree that today it is unlikely that any substantial portion of them remains collected at any one place.