“And the whole earth, the heavens and the ends of the world, the sea and the dry land are the kingdom of God. He judgeth. And He hath given the earth to the King to be subject unto him, that he may judge those who do evil, and those who do good he may reward them with good. For the Spirit of God resteth in the heart of the king, and His hands are in his mind, and His knowledge is in his understanding.” (from the Kebra Negast translated by Miguel Brooks, Red Sea Press, 1995 – All quotes on this page come from this translation.)
To trace the history of the Ark’s arrival in Ithiopia it is important to begin with the visit of Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, to King Solomon. This is mentioned in the Bible: 1 Kings 18-19 and 2 Chronicles 9
Iyesus the Christ also speaks of the Queen’s visit in Matthew 12:42: “The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it; for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here”
The Kebra Negast (“Glory of Kings“) is an Ithiopian Holy book which details the fullness of the Queen’s visit and tells how she came to bear Solomon a man-child, Bayna-Lehkem, (son of the wise man). This is an excerpt from Solomon’s parting words to the Queen of Sheba: “Whilst I was sleeping with thee I saw many visions in a dream, and it seemed as if a sun had risen upon Israel but it snatched itself away and flew off and lighted up the country of Ethiopia; maybe that country shall be blessed through thee; God knoweth. As for thee, observe what I have told thee, so that thou mayest worship God with all thy heart and perform his will.”
When Bayna-Lehkem (Menelik) was grown, he set off to Jerusalem to visit King Solomon, his father. He looked so much like him that he was mistaken for the King when he arrived in Gaza. King Solomon wanted Bayna-Lehkem to remain in Israel and become heir to the throne as his only other son, Rehoboam, was only 6 years old. Beyna-Lehkem, though, was determined to return to Ithiopia as he had promised his mother that he would. Therefore King Solomon made him King over Ithiopia and sent him home along with the first born children of the nobles and of the elders of Israel. Thus Bayna-Lehkem was anointed King David II. Led by Azariah the son of Zadok the priest, the children of the nobles who were sent away with King David (Menelik), conspired to take the Ark of the Covenant with them to Ithiopia. Azariah is guided by the Angel of the Lord who tells him how to remove the Ark. Thus the Ark of the Covenant came to Ithiopia where it rests to this day.
The descendants of these nobles are mentioned by Alvares in his narrative of the Portuguese Embassy to Ethiopia in 1520: “I said that I should relate what I heard of the officers that Solomon gave to his son (who was called Meilech) when he sent him from Jerusalem to Ethiopia to his mother the Queen Sabba. I heard say that to this day these officers or offices are alive in the families of those that came, because they go in succession from father to son. They say first that when Solomon sent his son to the Queen Sabba, his mother, he gave him officers for his house; and he gave an office from each of the twelve tribes, such as chamberlains, heralds, overseers, masters of horse, trumpeters, chief guards, cooks, and other officers necessary for the house of a great King or lord, and that these offices are still in those families descended from them.” – from the book “The Prester John of the Indies volume II“, CF Beckinhgam & GWB Huntingford, published for the Hakluyt Society by Cambridge University Press 1961
When Solomon discovered that the Ark had been taken he chased Menelik’s party into Egypt. Here he heard reports of the amazing powers that the Ark had given its guardians and realised that he would never be able to catch up with them. He was totally grief stricken but the Spirit of Prophesy came to him with these words: “Why art thou sorrowful? For this happened by the Will of God. And Zion hath not been given to an alien… but to thy firstborn son who shall sit upon the throne of David thy father.”
“For God swore unto David in truth, and he repenteth not, that of the fruit of his body He would make to sit upon his throne forever, in the Tabernacle of His Covenant, the holy Zion. And I will set him above the kings of the earth, and His throne shall be like the days of heaven and like the ordinance of the moon forever. And He Who sitteth upon the throne of the Godhead in the heavens shall rule the living and the dead in the flesh forever.”
“And angels and men shall serve Him, and every tongue shall praise Him, and every knee shall bow to Him in the heavens and upon the earth. Comfort thyself with this word and get back to thy house, and let not thy heart be sad.” (from the Kebra Negast)
Emperor Iyasu visits the Ark
“In the sixth month of the Year of Creation 7191, the Emperor Iyasu rode through the hills of northern Abyssinia toward the holy city of Aksum. […]
The emperor enters the sanctuary for a second time and commands the priests who carry the Ark of Zion to bring it to him. They obey but the Ark is locked in a chest, and each of its seven seals can be opened only with its own key and in its own way. The keys are brought, and as the priests begin the task of unlocking each of the seals with the key made for it, they start with the first, and the chronicle describes how they open in turn the second, the third, the fourth, the fifth and the sixth. When they come to the seventh, however, they struggle, but in vain. The seal cannot be opened.
There seems to be nothing they can do, and so they bring the chest to the emperor with the seventh seal still in place. When they stand before him, the seal opens by itself. Everyone who sees it unlocked is astonished, and the chronicle insists that the miracle has occurred through the will of the God of the Ark of Zion, who resides above the Ark, because He knows that the emperor is pure in spirit and devoted to the Orthodox faith. As God Himself said in the Holy Scripture: ‘If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Raise yourself”, and it will raise itself, and if you say to this sycamore tree, “Uproot yourself, and plant yourself in the sea”. It will happen just as you have said.’
The God of the Ark of Zion therefore allows the king to live, even though he looks at the Ark and speaks to it directly, as the scribe Esdras had once looked at it and spoken to it. The Ark even speaks to Iyasu in return, offering advice and granting him wisdom and wise counsel, teaching him how to govern the earth and inherit the celestial world of eternal life. Iyasu then places his soul and his body in the care of the Ark, that it might keep him from any evil, and he bids it farewell. At the main door of the church, the emperor confirms the ancient privileges of the Ark and restores to it all the lands that have been stolen from it.” – from “The Ark of the Covenant” by Roderick Grierson and Stuart Munro-Hay
As it says in Revelation 5:5 “And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose its seven seals.”
HIS IMPERIAL MAJESTY EMPEROR HAILE SELASSIE
KINGS OF KINGS, LORDS OF LORDS
CONQUERING LION OF THE TRIBE OF JUDAH
ELECT OF GOD
is the only one found worthy to open the seven seals in this time.
Every church in Ithiopia has a replica of the ark known as a tabot. This is used in religious ceremonies such as Timqat in January. The real ark is kept in a chapel next to the St. Mary of Zion church built by Haile Selassie in Aksum. It never leaves this building and is guarded day and night by the guardian of the Ark, Gebra Michael. Although reluctant to answer any questions, he does say: “It performs miracles. And it is in itself…miracle. It is miracle made real.” – from “The Sign and the Seal” by Graham Hancock, Mandarin paperbacks 1993