After a long delay between Part One and this due in large part to limited access to my library as a result of our recent move, I am presenting the second part of the study on Ethiopia in prophecy, and in this part we will deal with the specifics of Ethiopia, in particular the connection with the Ark of the Covenant. In my readings of Holy Scripture, I see this as playing a significant role in end-times events, which I will show as we progress. Before beginning however, I have a couple of opening observations I wish to share with you.
First, and foremost, whether or not you agree or disagree with what I am presenting here poses no issues or problems, as what I will be sharing is a personal belief and conviction on my part. It is not something on which one's Christianity is contingent upon agreeing with, nor is it a cardinal doctrine of faith that will force one to be branded a heretic for accepting or rejecting it. Therefore, there is no condemnation from either God nor myself if you happen to see this differently. Nonetheless, I do hope it will be something you will see of interest and I hope you will examine it with an open mind.
Secondly, I want to address a common fallacy that many Christians fall into when it comes to this sort of subject matter. Some people, although definitely Christians and sincere in their faith, often seem to have the impression that if it is not mentioned specifically in Holy Scriptures, then it isn't important or cannot be true. I want to first state up-front that I believe passionately in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Holy Scripture, as it is God's Word and as such everything in it is completely true. However, there are two clarifications I wish to make. There are some things that are mentioned in Scripture that are often overlooked as minutia, but in reality they are there for a reason and lend credence to the authenticity of their reality. We will be showing some of that in this study. Secondly, it must also be understood that the Holy Scriptures were never meant to be a general history of the world, although the history they do present is 100% accurate because God is a God of truth. Rather, the Holy Bible is a record of God's testimony of redemption of mankind, and as such often that plan of redemption takes place within the context of actual historical events. This is why subjects such as the Ark of the Covenant are often only mentioned as they relate to the divine plan of redemption, but there is always more to the story. Just because the Scriptural relevancy of the story ends doesn't mean the story itself ends, and indeed, often some of these things make a repeat appearance in Scripture later on. The Ark itself, for example, no longer plays a role in our redemption, as Christ and His sacrifice on the Cross took care of that aspect, but as you will see the Ark takes on a different role as the end-times scenario begins to play out. This is why it is important to see small, seemingly insignificant details in Scripture in a totally different light in many cases, for the plan of God is often right there in front of our noses, but it may not be the time for it to be fully revealed. The future role of Ethiopia is one of those small details that fits this, and as events of prophetic significance unfold on a daily basis with increasing frequency, some of those seemingly minor footnotes in Holy Scripture are now leaping off the page at us, and scholarship is taking them more seriously. Henceforth, now we have the foundation of this study.
Let us now begin talking about the role of Ethiopia in regard to the Ark of the Covenant, and there are a couple of important traditions we will examine largely from the Ethiopians themselves.
A. King Solomon, The Queen of Sheba, and King Menelik
Sometime around the 9th century AD, an Ethiopian document called the Kebra Nagast (Ge'ez language meaning "The Glory of Kings") came into existence that more or less provided documentary support for the Solomonic origins of the Ethiopian crown, and it is this book that touches on a pivotal tradition of that heritage - the first Ethiopic king, Menelik I, as the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
Holy Scripture spends little time talking about the visit of the Queen to Solomon's court, although in I Kings 10 it is documented. The Queen was enamoured of Solomon's wisdom and wealth, and sought to see for herself this great leader of the ancient world and to seek his counsel. The Kebra Nagast takes that story and elaborates upon it, filling in what I believe are some details of that visit. First, how did the Queen know of Solomon? Well, according to the Kebra Nagast, an Ethiopian merchant who served as advisor to the Queen, Tamrin, was one of the main suppliers of material for building Solomon's Temple, and as it is written in the book Tamrin gained the confidence of Solomon himself as a trusted friend and advisor. When he returned home, Tamrin told his Queen about Solomon, relating to her his great reputation as a leader of unparalleled wisdom. This naturally piqued the Queen's interest, and for both diplomatic and personal reasons she decided to embark upon a personal mission to meet with King Solomon, and that is the same meeting we read in I Kings in Holy Scripture. An important facet of this to note occurs in the translation of the Kebra Nagast I am currently using for reference, which says, " And her heart inclined to go up to him, for God made her heart to desire it." (Miguel Brooks, trans. The Kebra Nagast (Lawrenceville, NJ: The Red Sea Press, 1995) p. 22). In other words, God was working a plan in this dear lady's life - not part of his redemptive plan yet for mankind in general, but a divine plan nonetheless in the life of an individual - that involved her potential conversion to the worship of Him! We call that today the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, and that is Scriptural! And, through the obedient action of the Queen the nation would later come to know the one true God, as evidenced later in Acts 8:26-38 when the Apostle and deacon St. Philip would baptize a eunuch of the court of another Ethiopian queen centuries later, Candace, whom he found reading Isaiah 53! Now, the mystery is how on earth would a court official in a far-away land like Ethiopia had gotten a copy of the Holy Scriptures had not a witness of the true God been there in the first place?? Bob Cornuke, in his book The Lost Ark of the Covenant (Nashville, Broadman and Holman, 2002) notes on pages 176-177 that the eunuch's arrival in Jerusalem was no mere accident; rather, he insinuates that the Holy Spirit sent him on a mission to identify the Messiah! And, as we will note shortly, that ties back into Isaih 18 in a profound way.
Now, the problem with the account in the Kebra Nagast is not so much in what it presents - I firmly believe that the monarchs of Ethiopia, even to the present time, are descended from Solomon and I also firmly believe the Ark is in Ethiopia today - but rather in the manner it presents them. There is a historical problem with the Kebra Nagast's scenario, in that the Ark was still in Jerusalem in the Temple at least up until the time of the reign of Manasseh a couple of centuries later, so there is no possible way Menelik had the genuine Ark in his time. The Ark disappears from the Scriptural record sometime around the reigns of Manasseh and his son Amon, both of whom are described in Scripture as wicked kings and apostates, and from that point there is no actual record of the Ark being in the Temple. Cornuke, as well as Graham Hancock in his book The Sign and the Seal (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992), record a more probable scenario of the Ark's disappearance as well as where it ended up. According to Cornuke (pp. 30-32) and Hancock, a contingent of Godly priests who were appalled at Manasseh's idolatry and wickedness spirited the Ark out of Jerusalem so that it would not be defiled, and there is strong evidence that the Ark may have been taken to Egypt. Way in the southern part of Egypt, there is a place called Elephantine Island that once had a Jewish Temple almost in proportion to the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, and although it was later destroyed sometime around 410 BC, it nonetheless demonstrates that a huge community of Israelite expatriates settled there, probably escaping the abominations of Manasseh and Amon as well as for commercial interests. Strangely, Cornuke and Hancock both record that the Ark somehow showed up on the island of Tana Kirkos on Lake Tana in Ethiopia sometime around 470 BC, but as one looks at the evidence it is of no great mystery. There had been Hebrew migration into Ethiopia, as well as probably some proselytism and intermarriage among the local tribes, since at least the 10th century BC, and some possibly earlier - escaped Hebrew slaves from prior to the Exodus come to mind also. Therefore, due to this infusion of Hebraic influence, the Ethiopians would have been receptive to the arrival of such a holy treasure as the Ark, and it would have been in good hands. It is worth noting that the early heritage of these Hebrew exiles to the Ethiopian highlands as well as the conversion of local people to the God of the Patriarchs produced a community whose descendants, the Falashas, survive to this day. Also, many of the indigenous Ethiopian Christians have this bloodline as well, which in a bit will shed light on something prophetically significant. It would make sense for the Ark to have been obscured for its own safety in a friendly, isolated area like the Ethiopian highlands, and as I see it, God may have sent it there to protect it due to something we are about to see shortly in Isaiah 18. After the Christianization of Ethiopia sometime around the 4th century AD, when the Assyrian monk St. Frumentius brought the Gospel to these people, the Christian kings of Ethiopia them moved the Ark to the city of Axum, where today it still resides in the tiny church of St. Mary of Zion.