Prof. Thomas Römer with new conclusions about the Ark of Covenant
Sackler Lecturer 2010-2011 Prof. Thomas Römer proposes a tentative reading of the biblical story of the Ark of Covenant. Findings from the excavations at Kiryat Ye’arim, contradict the biblical story of King David bringing the Ark of Covenant to Jerusalem.
Excavations at Kiryat Ye’arim, began in 2017, jointly led by Tel-Aviv University and College de France team, conclude that the site was a religious and possibly also an administrative center in the days of Jeroboam II, king of Israel (8th century BCE).
Prof. Römer and Prof. Finkelstein are almost certain that the biblical site of Kiryat Ye’arim is the hill on which now stands the Church of Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant and the convent of a French order, on the outskirts of the village of Abu Ghosh, west of Jerusalem.
Kiryat Ye’arim is mentioned in the Bible as a Judahite town situated near Jerusalem during the period of King David (11th and 10th centuries BCE). According to the First Book of Samuel (ch. 7), the Ark of the Covenant was stored at Kiryat Ye’arim for 20 years after it was returned from the Philistines, who had captured it in a battle at Eben-Haezer, yet later were smitten with disease. The text says that the ark was stored “in the house of Avinadab in the hill” before King David brought it to his new capital of Jerusalem after uniting all the tribes under his throne.
Simulation of Kiryat Ye'arim, mentioned in the Bible as the site where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. Credit: Angenis
Nevertheless, the discovery made by the team of Prof. Römer and Prof. Finkelstein shows that the site was built two centuries after King David’s Reign, under Jeroboam II, the thirteenth King of Israel, thus contradicting the biblical text of the First Book of Samuel.
Prof. Römer and Prof. Finkelstein conclusions also imply that the story of the Ark of the Covenant was written in the northern kingdom of Israel and brought to the kingdom of Judah with the refugees, who arrived there after the destruction of their kingdom in the 8th century BCE. The story found its way into the Bible, which started to be written in Jerusalem in the 7th century BCE during the reign of the King of Judah Joshia. It seems that the purpose of the story, emphasizing that King David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, was to justify the territorial ambitions of Judah, but also to help unify the Judahites and the Israelite refugees into one people by mentioning that the Ark was before at Kiryat Ye’arim.