by Jonathan Gray
what may be history's greatest archaeological find
Only 18 inches'
clearance. That's all he had. American amateur archaeologist Ron Wyatt
lay on his stomach, inching forward with nothing but the flashlight
in his hand.
With the Arab boy's
reaction throbbing in his head, Ron purposely looked at his watch. It
was 2.00 pm, Wednesday, January 6, 1982.
Under the rocks
The beam of light
shone forward over the massive pile of rocks. Something shiny under
a gap in the rocks caught his eye.
He began to move the rocks one at a time. It was slow, tedious work.
And just under the rocks were planks of dry-rotted wood. And beneath
them some dry-rotted remains of animal skins. When he touched them,
the skins turned to powder.
The animal skins were laid over a gold-veneered table with a raised
molding around its side. The molding comprised an alternating pattern
of bells and pomegranates.
His heart raced. In a moment, the truth flashed into his brain. This
was one of the lost items of furniture from Solomon's Temple!
The space was so cramped here, he could not uncover the whole table.
But for a long time he examined it closely. Ultimately Ron Wyatt concluded
that this was the legendary Table of Shewbread described in the biblicalscroll
of Leviticus... and fashioned in 1446 BC.
There were several other objects in the chamber, as well.
With adrenalin racing
through his veins and with mounting anticipation, Ron scanned the chamber
to see what else he could see, which wasn't much.
He shone his torch
around over the stones and then up to the ceiling. Ahead, something
caught his interest. It was a crack in the ceiling, on which a black
substance was deposited.
Slowly and painfully,
he crawled over the rocks to the other end of the chamber.
There he saw a stone
case extending through the rocks. It was a thin-walled case, similar
to those used in ancient times tostore objects.
It had a flat top.
This stone lid was within four to five inches of the ceiling. And it
was cracked completely in two. The smaller section of the cover was
moved aside, creating an opening into the stone case.
He could not look
inside because the top was too close to the ceiling. Yet he knew what
was inside. The cracked part of the lid where it was open, was directly
below the crack in the ceiling. And the black substance had fallen from
the crack into the case. He knew this, because some of it had splashed
onto the lid.
Three of those involved
in that dig under the streets of Jerusalem have also been with me on
other expeditions. My own expeditions in Israel were vindication expeditions.
One of the men involved,
Bob Murrell, has helped on the Ark of the Covenant dig three times.
Although Bob and Ron have not always agreed on methodology, still there
is one thing about this project that Bob would not dispute. He has seen
enough evidence to be certain that the Ark of the Covenant is down there.
And since then,
so have I.
Report to Israeli
Ron made several
more trips into the chamber. Eventually he reported to the authorities
what he had found.
Perhaps not able
to believe what Ron told them, or perhaps recognizing the problems that
could arise were it made known, his superiors told him not to tell anyone
about this discovery.
Alas, it was too
late for that, since Ron had already told a few people, he confessed.
Realizing that "what
is done is done", they then ordered him not to reveal any more
details than he had already revealed. For this reason, we cannot be
as specific as we would wish, in relation to what follows.
Some time later,
Ron was able to present something from the excavation to the authorities.
What he presented convinced them that he had indeed found some items
from the First Temple.
item was a beautiful ivory head of the priestly scepter from Solomon's
Temple. The Jewish Testament refers to the artifact as a pomegranite.
Written on the pomegranite is an inscription in Hebrew.
When the existence
of the artifact became known, Biblical Archaeology Review termed
it "the only surviving relic from the Solomonic Temple" (Jan/Feb
It is now on display
at the Israel museum and is labelled a "sensational" discovery.
tries to enter
Dan Bahat was a
Doctor of Archaeology. Bright, keen and well-read. He also lectured
at the Hebrew University. And he had written a book or two.
This was the year
1989. Dan was in charge of the Jerusalem district this year.
It is reported that
one morning Dan headed toward the dig. He had on some old gear. An outfit
that could get torn or dirty and it wouldn’t matter.
He pushed aside
the barrier and peered in.
"A piece of
cake," he decided. "Scared? Scared of what? Today I shall
see the Holy Ark."
Dan pulled out his
flashlight and headed in. He had not got three steps toward the tunnel
system. Suddenly his legs and back didn’t work. He fell to the
Dan lay on a bed
for two weeks… in agony. Two weeks to think. Two weeks to re-live
each second. Two weeks to wonder...
believe it," he kept mumbling to himself. "Whatever happened?"
A well educated
man, Dan Bahat knew well the story of the Ark. Certainly, there was
no doubt something had happened to him. Thank God, at least he was alive.
Some time later,
while visiting the United States, Dan would meet Ron Wyatt again. And
they would recall the episode. "You know, Mr. Wyatt," he is
reported to have said, "I’ve never had trouble with my back
before. And I’ve never had trouble with my back since."
After that, he gave
up any idea of going in to view the Ark of the Covenant.
So now the Antiquities
officer with whom Ron was liaising permitted Ron to continue his work
alone. And for a considerable time, knowledge of the find would be kept
more or less secret.
By the time of the
final visit into the chamber, the stones, rotted timbers and skins had
been largely cleared away, and even the stone case that surrounded the
Ark itself was removed.
At last Ron was
able to make a video of all the furniture. For the moment this remains
in the cave. Nevertheless I believe the time may be near when this video
footage will be released for all to see.
the excavation hole was sealed.
In recent days,
I have been asked, "How do the Israeli authorities react to the
I shall speak frankly.
From the information I am able to acquire, it is evident that the authorities
do not know how to handle this discovery.
They have a right
to be nervous. And I can think of two reasons. The first is political.
Some time ago, a
permit was granted to some Israelis to undertake an excavation under
the Temple Mount. After a short while, it was reported that workmen
had been seen lugging crates into the excavation tunnel.
This aroused the
curiosity of the authorities. They sent men in to investigate. It was
found that the tunnel penetrated to a spot close under the Dome of the
Rock... and high explosives were being set in position, presumably to
blow up the place.
you didn’t know, the Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock,
together named the Haram al-Sharif, comprise the third most important
place for the Moslem people.1
Just think what
sabotage of that site could do! It might well provoke an Islamic Jihad,
a "holy war".
The Israeli government
desires to maintain good relations with the Arabs. It does not want
to disturb the peace with the Arabs.
There are extremists
who believe the Dome of the Rock sits illegally on the old Temple Mount.
That does not make them extremists. However, it is reported that these
men would feel quite safe in provoking a war just to get the mount —
if they knew they had the Ark of the Covenant "on their side".
It is remembered
that during the period of the ancient Judges, before Solomon’s
Temple was built, the Israelites would take the Ark with them into battle.
And they were victorious.
Well, not always.
It depended, we are told, upon their faithfulness to their Lord. There
was nothing inherent in the Ark itself that brought them victory. Their
help came from the Lord.
are some modern religious extremists who would not hesitate to provoke
a war in order to secure the old Temple site and build a Third Temple
— if they could lay their hands on the Ark, believing its very
possession would render them victorious.
One can understand
why the Arabs are set on thwarting any future archaeological efforts
in this vicinity. As a matter of fact, they have sunk some deep concrete
pillars around the southern wall to prevent further digs.
When Ron provided
some evidence of the discovery to the authorities, they devised a plan
to "test" the water, so to speak. They sought to determine
public reaction to a possible announcement of the discovery of the Ark
of the Covenant and to a possible building of a new Temple.
The result was a
bloody clash and many deaths.
The morning of Monday,
October 8, 1990, would go down in history as the "Temple Mount
massacre". An ultra-conservative Zionist group known as the Temple
Mount Faithful marched up to the Moghrabi Gate, holding aloft a large
banner which bore a Star of David and an inscription in Hebrew which
MOUNT - THE SYMBOL OF OUR PEOPLE IS IN THE HANDS OF OUR ENEMIES.
hoped to enter through the gate to the Temple Mount itself, march to
the Dome of the Rock and there lay a cornerstone for a proposed Third
This had been the
location of the First and Second Temples, of course.
To the Arabs also,
the Temple Mount is a site of tremendous importance. It has been a special
place to Moslems ever since work began on the Dome of the Rock in the
seventh century AD.
The situation was
loaded with political dynamite.
In almost no time,
an estimated 5,000 militant Arabs amassed inside the walls of the Temple
Mount, armed with stones to hurl down upon the approaching marchers.
The Moghrabi Gate
through which the zealots planned to pass is not only a mere 150 yards
from the front porch of the Al Aqsa Mosque, it also penetrates the southern
end of the Western Wall of the mount. The exposed exterior of this wall,
known as the Wailing Wall, is most important to Jews. It is, in fact,
the single most important Jewish holy place.
This wall is actually
part of a retaining buttress built in the late first century BC by Herod
the Great, which escaped demolition by the Romans in 70 AD.
It had always been
a symbol for Jews scattered over the world.
After the Six Day
War of 1967 a large plaza was cleared in front of it and the site dedicated
as a formal place of worship. Today, Jews from all over the world gather
here to lament that they have no Temple.
However, the Israeli
authorities have banned Jewish worship on the Temple Mount itself and
restricted access above and below ground. This area remains under the
exclusive control of the Moslems.
But to continue
As the Zionist procession
attempted to enter through the Moghrabi Gate, the thousands of Arabs
began to rain down showers of stones — not only upon the demonstrating
zealots, but upon the heads of Jews praying at the Wailing Wall.
The result was catastrophic.
Eleven Israeli worshippers and eight policemen were injured, while 21
Arabs were shot dead and 125 seriously injured.
Again, on September
24, 1996, as on so many previous occasions, the simmering hostility
The government had
been employing workers to construct a new tourist tunnel in Jerusalem,
to cope with the tourist flow in theVia Dolorosa area. Workmen had been
digging secretly under the Moslem quarter, enlarging an old tunnel that
ran from the Western Wall to the Via Dolorosa.
As they were about
to break through at one end, the word got out. The excavation, you see,
was close to the Al Aqsa Mosque. A crowd of Arabs rushed to the site
and starting throwing stones.
The rioting, by
week’s end, had cost the lives of some 70 people.
So we have Jewish
extremists... angry Palestinians… and a third potentially explosive
factor... the Ark of the Covenant find.
News and World Report put it well:
In a land torn
by competing historical claims, archaeology is a weapon.2
While the authorities
(and by this I mean a handful of tight-lipped officials) know of the
Ark’s location, they have decided that the matter is too politically
volatile for them to go public. An official announcement could provoke
"premature" action by fringe groups wanting to build a new
regard this as a critical issue, in which the safety of the people must
In view of the prospect
of a negotiable peace in the Middle East, the present actions of the
government are deliberately against any disclosure of what it knows.
It was just one
week after our 1995 Israel expedition that Prime] Minister Rabin was
assassinated. And the authorities were blaming one of those disaffected
Today, the Israeli
government walks a knife edge.
Many believe that
peace is possible, although, after that assassination, upon assuming
office, Prime Minister Netanyahu promised his government would not recognize
an independent Palestinian state, would expand Jewish settlements in
the West Bank and Gaza Strip and would refuse to discuss sharing Jerusalem
as a capital.
Death ray for
to news reporter John Barala, writing from Tulsa, Oklahoma, a "death
ray" laser weapon that had been denied to American forces because
it was thought "too inhuman", was to be handed over to Israel
by the United States government.3
The weapon was identified
as the Nautilus anti-missile laser. The laser can destroy missiles in
flight with deadly accuracy. However, there are many other uses for
this laser weapon. It can be used also to immobilize and blind thousands
of combat troops in an instant.
Barala quoted Jeremy
Sackett, a veteran wire service reporter on defense topics, as saying,
"War planners foresaw a time when the mere terror of a swiftly,
silently gliding ray that melts — literally incinerates —
the human eye would panic hostile troops and rout them without firing
Dr. Vanessa Hughessen, a physicist specializing in arms-control studies
at MIT said, "The potential is there. The Nautilus represents the
ultimate combat technology. Properly engineered, it will destroy anything
in its path."4
Israel, the "holy
land" that so many of us love, is today on tenterhooks. The government
is nervous. It does not want war. Neither do most of the people, whether
Israeli or Arab.
But it is against
this background that we must view the present official attitude toward
the alleged Ark of the Covenant discovery. It is potentially the most
explosive object on earth… politically and religiously.
What the Secret
Service agent knew
I recall a conversation
I had with a gentleman who asked, "What if I were to write to the
Israeli Government and ask them about it?"
My reply was, "They’ll
deny it, of course. Both the project and the man. That is how it has
to be for the time being. And it would be naive of one to expect otherwise.
In virtually every country, official denials of certain matters are
standard procedure. And in such cases, almost all personnel in the department
concerned are kept in the dark."
A classic example
of the denials policy in action was seen in April,1995, after Channel
7 Radio in Israel broke the news that Foreign Minister Shimon Peres
had met with the Pope with a proposal to place the Old City of Jerusalem
under Vatican control.
in Rome, Shmuel Hadas, and Peres himself, denied such a plan.
However, a copy
of a telegram sent by Miriam Ziv to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem,
outlining Peres’ plans, surfaced and was printed in the Hatzofe
Former Prime Minister
Yitzhak Shamir told The Jewish Press that:
is similar to Peres’ denial that there was ever a letter with
promises to Arafat about Jerusalem and later the letter surfaced.
Now this telegram was revealed. Who knows what else they are concealing
from the public?5
Indeed. So to the
gentleman who asked would the Israeli authorities admit the Ark find
if he wrote to them, my reply was, "You would probably receive
a letter that went something like this:
‘We have no
record of any archaeological permit having been issued to a Ronald Wyatt,
nor does anyone in this office know him.
If Mr. Wyatt conducted
any excavation in Jerusalem, it would have been done illegally.’”
And we smile.
Has human nature
changed? On January 17, 1883, General Gordon observed in a letter to
present-day governors, like those at the time of Christ, continue
to be corrupt and are preoccupied with political expediency.6
bumps into an official who admits that not all is being told.
Following a 2½ hour
presentation on the Ark of the Covenant to an audience in Auckland,
New Zealand, a member of the audience introduced himself to me as an
Israeli ex-Secret Service agent. He raised the subject of Rabin’s
assassination and said, "I have information that Rockefeller initiated
the act and that Israeli Secret Service men were implicated. It was
called ‘Operation Champagne’. But let me tell you this:
your lecture on the Ark of the Covenant has just filled in missing gaps
in what I already knew."
What did this man
already know? With the pressure of a crowd around us, there was no opportunity
to continue the conversation.
Attitude of religious
Many great rabbis
of the past and present have rejected, on religious grounds, any search
for the Ark.
The Ashkenazi Chief
Rabbi, Rabbi Unterman, was quoted as saying
will happen, if, as a result of the archaeological excavation, you
find the Ark of the Covenant, which Jewish tradition says is buried
in the depths of the earth?7
rabbi said that it was precisely such a discovery that he feared. Since
the children of Israel today are not "pure" from the viewpoint
of Jewish religious law, they are forbidden to touch the Ark of the
Covenant. Hence it is unthinkable to even consider excavating until
the Messiah comes!8
concern about the Ark does reflect orthodox thinking. Since the destruction
of the Second Temple, all Jews have been considered to be in a state
of ritual impurity. This condition is supposed to end only with the
coming of the Messiah.9
to archaeological work could, therefore, be expected from some Jewish
religious authorities. This still represents a potential obstacle to
bringing anything out from the cavern.
have said, "What will you do with it if you find it? Will you bring
tourists to look at it? You had better leave it closed until its time
Attempt to reveal
I have always considered
discretion and respect for a host government’s wishes to be important
in such matters.
A number of times,
Ron and I discussed the ramifications of the discovery. Unfortunately
not all have been discreet.
Over the years,
five different people lost their lives at the very time they were attempting
to interfere with or even halt the excavation.
One man stumbled
upon the discovery when he noticed the team members coming and going
from the excavation. He began to ask questions.
This man, a young
British tourist, soon found out what was going on and was determined
to learn the precise location.
As Ron entered the
hotel on this particular night, the man approached him again. "Will
you show me where is the Ark of the Covenant?" he urged.
know you," was Ron’s reply. "Why should I reveal it
But the gentleman
was not to be put off. Each day he kept pestering the archaeologist
to tell him the location.
Failing to elicit
this information, the man resorted to watching. One morning as Ron left
the hotel early, the man darted from behind his hiding place and followed
him at a distance. He found out the location.
Ecstatic, he made
his next move. He himself would tell the world.
He went to a phone
box and called the media. He informed them that he would conduct a press
conference the next day, in which he was to announce "a great discovery".
The conference was scheduled for nine in the morning.
As the crew members
came in from the diggings that night, the man intercepted Ron.
he announced, "Tomorrow I shall tell the world."
do that!" exclaimed Ron. "It’s too sensitive!"
"This is something
the whole world needs to know,” he insisted.
"We are sworn
to secrecy on the location," said Ron. "Cancel your news conference."
he thundered. "I’m going to do it anyway."
That night, the
team members changed their flight booking and left early.
The press conference
was scheduled to take place in a nearby alley, a relatively secluded
The next morning,
when the journalists arrived, they found the man lying in the alley
in a pool of blood. There was a bullet hole in the back of his head.
He had been shot by a single sniper’s bullet. The lane was swarming
with mounted police, soldiers and medical units.
said the newspaper. No further explanation was given.
That was back on
April 27,1986. The situation has not changed.
for the clamp
We have noted already
that both Arabs and Israelis would prefer that some diggings didn’t
take place. This is the case whether they be religious leaders or political.
But not just leaders.
I suggested there
might be two reasons why the discovery of the Ark of the Covenant was
a hot issue. The first was political. The second is religious.
Just think of the
repercussions within Judaism if it were to be officially announced that
the Person who was crucified at Skull Hill on that historic Passover
Day in 31 AD, branded by Jewish church leaders as an impostor, had actually
spilt his blood on THEIR holy Ark of the Covenant? What would that do
(This blood factor
is a totally different angle in this controversial discovery –
a facet of the discovery that I do not have time to go into here. However,
my book Ark of the Covenant deals with this aspect of the find.)
Yes, the Jewish
people may be excited about discovering the Ark of the Covenant, since
that is the most important piece of furniture for their Temple.
But it is now claimed
that the last blood to flow onto that Ark was the blood of Jesus Christ,
a so-called impostor. Can the Israeli religionists take the blood of
animals again and sprinkle it on that Mercy Seat? They have a decision
Every Jew will be
faced with a challenge to examine his or her faith and decide whether
Yeshua is the Messiah or not. Just imagine what potential this has to
shake world Judaism!
The Israeli political
climate is so volatile that, in the eyes of some, the government’s
very survival could depend on maintaining the status quo. And for this
reason alone, there are many who would not welcome a further destabilizing
of the scene.
When the authorities
ordered the crew to seal up the entrance to the excavation tunnel leading
to the chamber, the crew knew that absolute confirmation of their story
would be impossible for the present.
My friend Bob Murrell
of Florida was among those who constructed a steel door to close off
the entrance. And several feet of earth were piled over it, to disguise
Meanwhile the government
has placed a clamp on some information concerning the discovery. And
we shall not go against the host government.
we are unable to present all collected data on this subject. We only
ask that the reader watch and wait until that time when it will be made
Certain rabbis may
have had some influence in this decision, believing that the secret
of the Ark belongs to the future time of redemption and the Messiah’s
appearance. They may fear that a premature disclosure of the facts could
possibly delay these events.
No matter how wonderful
and exciting would be the display of the items in that cave, it seems
likely that this will have to wait a while longer.
Meanwhile, the accumulated
evidence must ultimately apply public pressure to international politicians.
SHOULD THIS DISCOVERY BE KEPT UNDERGROUND FOR ANOTHER DECADE?
you enjoy this article?
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here now to email it to them.
1. Mecca and Medina are the first two.
News and World Report, October 7, 1996, p.45
John Today the Bible and You. Tulsa, Okl.: August 1996, Editorial
5. The Jewish Press, Week of April 14 to April 20,
1995; Nisan 14 5755, "Peres Tells Pope Jerusalem Should be Under
Vatican Control". Emphasis supplied
6. White, Rev. Bill A Special Place. Grantham, Lincolnshire,
England: The Stanborough Press Limited, 1989, p.16
7. Ben-Dov, Meir In the Shadow of the Temple: The Discovery
of Ancient Jerusalem. New York: Harper and Row, 1985, pp.19,20 (discussing
a different excavation project from Ron Wyatt’s)
9. Wigoder, Geoffrey (ed.) The Encyclopedia of Judaism,
pp.695 and 481-483