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Ark of the Covenant Discovery, part 5


The Promise

As I explained in an earlier issue, Ron has never heard God speak audibly - he just prays about what he should do and then sometimes receives an impression.  By now, he had been excavating for such a long time, he was beginning to wonder if he was wasting his time and had misinterpreted what he was supposed to do.  He as usual prayed and asked to know what to do before he scheduled the December 1981, trip. Although he still heard no audible voice, a promise came into his mind that he would find the Ark of the Covenant on that trip. He believed with all his heart that it was a true promise from the One who could make such a promise and keep it.  But things couldn't have looked worse, as Danny and Ronny were both very sick, and Ron was probably equally as sick but far more persistent or stubborn, because he stayed to keep working. Working alone without the boys, he needed someone help with the excavation.

When excavating over the years, he had hired locals to help, mostly with the above-ground work, such as hauling off debris.  Each time they opened their excavation and worked, they had to completely restore the above-ground area before they left.  This was a condition set by the Garden Tomb proprietors of their being allowed to continue.  They had moved tons of earth and debris over the years which required local assistance in hauling it off.

He had met one young local whom he had discovered was very honest and trustworthy, and he began to use him in the actual excavation when Ronny and Danny weren't available.  Those of you who have read our account of the Cave of Machpelah excavation have already been introduced to this young Arab man, whom we called "James" to protect he and his family's identity.  His family owns the land which contains the burial cave in Hebron we believe to be the true Cave of Machpelah.  In addition to earning Ron's trust, James was small and slender - perfect for squeezing through the tight tunnels of the excavation.  It was James that Ron hired to assist him when Danny and Ronny left to return to the states.

Exploring Every "Nook and Cranny"

Ron and the boys had explored most of the tunnels over the last year, but there were always more.  Ron's plan this trip was to leave no possibility unexplored.  He and James crawled through the vast system of tunnels, now much larger and extensive because of the passages they had opened up and the walls they had chiseled through.  Ron would decide where to go next, then he and James would follow that tunnel.  If and when they found a small opening, Ron would enlarge it enough for James to crawl through, and he would carefully check it out and report to Ron everything that he saw.

They followed one particularly difficult passageway which took them through a "chimney" which extended straight up.  Then a tight tunnel which was so small that Ron had to exhale in order to squiggle through.  He had to stop to take a breath and when he inhaled, the tunnel was so tight be couldn't fill his lungs completely.  When they got through, Ron saw a very small opening in the wall of the tunnel they were now in.

Directly in front of it was a stalactite about 16 inches long which almost appeared to be guarding the tiny hole.  He knocked the stalactite off (and ended up bringing it home where we still have it today). Peering through the tiny hole, he could see nothing.  So he enlarged it enough to peer in.  All he could see with the aid of his flashlight shining through the hole, was a chamber completely full of rocks (all larger than a fist size) with about 18 inches of clearance between the rocks and the ceiling of the cave.  It didn't look promising at all, but he was leaving nothing unexplored.  So he enlarged it enough for James to crawl through.

"What's in There?...What's in There?"

Almost as soon as James crawled through the tiny opening, he frantically came tumbling back out, shaking and shouting "What's in there? What's in there? I'm not going back in there!!" Ron saw in his eyes sheer, complete and utter terror - yet, James said he had seen nothing!  Whatever he experienced was real, for he left not only that chamber, but the entire cave system, never to return.

It was James' reaction which sparked hesitant excitement in Ron - he would have never given that chamber another look if not for James' terror.  Now alone in this vast cave system, he took his hammer and chisel and enlarged the hole, crawling through.  With only about 18 inches clearance, he had to lie on his stomach with nothing but his flashlight in his hand for light.  Expectant after what happened to James, he looked at his watch - it was 2:00 pm Wednesday, January 6, 1982.

Shining his flashlight down through the massive pile of large rocks, his eye caught a glimpse of something shiny.  He began slowly removing the rocks one at a time and discovered some dry-rotted wooden timbers just beneath the rocks, and then some dry-rotted remains of animals skins that turned to powder when he moved them. The animals skins were covering a gold veneered table with a raised molding around the side which consisted of an alternating pattern of a bell and a pomegranate.  It only took him a moment to realize that at the least, this WAS an object from the first temple!  But he was in such a confined space, he couldn't uncover the entire table. He later concluded after closer examination, that this was the Table of Shewbread.

The Discovery of the Earthquake Crack in the Ceiling

With adrenaline flowing through his veins and great anticipation, he looked around to see what else he could see, which wasn't much. He shined his flashlight around the open area and then up to the ceiling. There, he saw something that caught his eye - it was a crack in the ceiling with a black substance within the crack.  Crawling slowly and painfully over the rocks to the rear of the chamber, he saw a stone case extending through the rocks.  It had a flat stone top which was cracked completely in half, with the smaller section moved aside, creating an opening into the stone case. But the top was too near the ceiling for him to look inside.  He knew the ark was inside the stone case.  The crack in the ceiling was directly above the open part of the lid, and the black substance had fallen from the crack onto and into the stone case.  It was at this time, as Ron recalls, that the realization of what had happened here dawned on him.  He then passed out.  When he realized that the crack in the ceiling was the end of the crack he had found in the elevated cross hole many feet above him, and the black substance was blood which had fallen through the crack and into the stone case, he KNEW the Ark was in the stone case.  But the most overwhelming realization was that Christ's blood had actually fallen onto the Mercy Seat or top of the Ark of the Covenant!

When he regained consciousness, it was 2:45 pm.  A mere 45 minutes had passed since he entered the chamber, yet in that short time he became the first witness to the literal fulfillment of the "type" represented by all the sacrifices made by God's people since Adam and Eve, and later specifically directed by God Himself, in the laws of the sacrificial system.  Now he knew why he and the boys had to do three years of excavation that he had sometimes felt was useless.  If they had not found first the cut-out niches, and then the elevated cross-hole with the earthquake crack, he would not have recognized what had happened here.  The promise Ron believed he had received had now been fulfilled - he DID find the Ark of the Covenant on this trip.  But he didn't even lay eyes on it.  In his frustration and complaining, he received another VERY strong impression - "I only promised that you would FIND it. It will come out when the time is right."

The condition of the chamber, completely full within 18 inches of the ceiling, made it impossible for Ron to do anything else.  He could not foresee any possible way of bringing anything out the way he entered, unless the entrance to the chamber through which the objects were originally brought in was found.  He climbed out the small hole, back through the tortuous series of tunnels and sealed the passageway with a stone. To anyone looking through the tunnel, it would appear that it came to an abrupt end.  However, the rock could easily be removed by Ron when he returned.

Ron didn't report his experience to anyone at that time.  He needed time to think and it would be a long time before his mind quit whirring with everything he had experienced.  He had expected to find the Ark and bring it out, but that now seemed impossible.  He made several more trips into the chamber, and eventually reported to the authorities what he had found.  The department of antiquities may not have fully believed his account of the discovery, or perhaps recognizing the problems that this could cause if made public, they told him not to tell anyone about his discovery.  However, it was too late for that, because Ron had already told a few people and he confessed this fact to them.  Realizing that others knew some of the details, they then ordered him not to reveal any more information than he already had revealed.  Therefore from this point on, we cannot be as specific as we have previously.

The time came when Ron provided something to the authorities from the excavation which DID convince them that he HAD at the least discovered SOME items from the first temple. [One item is the ivory pomegranate found in the Israeli museum today.  Recognized as the only item from Solomon's temple ever to be found]  Then a plan was devised by authorities to "test" the water so to speak- they wanted to carefully determine the public reaction should the announcement be made that the Ark of the Covenant HAD been discovered. The officials that Ron dealt with were serious government servants, concerned with the welfare of the people. They realized that such an announcement would most likely set off a bloody clash between the Jews who would want to rebuild the temple and the Arabs who control the temple mount.  While they did not necessarily have the religious belief that any temple would ever be rebuilt, they were well acquainted with the passion and fanaticism of those who did.  Their efforts to test public reaction to the rebuilding of a new temple resulted in much bloodshed, and many deaths.  [One stone for the new temple was set in place, causing a riot and 19 deaths.]  Until this day, it is an extremely critical issue and the Israelis will handle the situation the way they handle everything else - by a no-nonsense approach with the best interests of the people's safety foremost.  What that approach will be, we don't know and perhaps even they won't know until the time arrives.

Verifying that the Ark was in the Stone Case

Ron returned to the chamber on several occasions - one time he took a Trinkle Drill used by Orthopedic surgeons and a colonoscope used to look into the human body. He wanted to be sure the Ark was in that stone case.  He tried to drill a small hole with the Trinkle Drill but it wouldn't penetrate the stone.  So he took his star-tipped stone chisel and hammer to accomplish the job.  He would hammer the tip a little, then turn the bit, hammer then turn, over and over until he had an approximately 5/8" hole into the stone case.  The colonoscope is an optical device with a powerful light source which allows doctors to peer into the human body, and Ron had borrowed it from a doctor at the hospital where he worked.  Inserting the colonoscope through the tiny hole, he guided it downward, rotating the lens until he saw what he recognized as the bottom of the crown-molding around the top of the Mercy Seat, and then he saw the flat golden side.  Since the colonoscope doesn't allow viewing of a large area, and since he had little means to guide it other than a small latitude of rotation, he couldn't see a great deal.  But he saw enough to KNOW it was the Ark of the Covenant.

Measuring the Depth of the Earthquake Crack

Ron had one of his helpers sit by the cross hole used in the execution of Christ.  As he was in the cave below, he extended his measuring tape up through the earthquake crack in the ceiling to the crack beside the cross hole.  It measured twenty feet through solid rock.

Next Page: The Ark of the Covenant, Continued


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