The Ark Passes Over the Jordan, James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836 - 1902)

Could the Ark Described at Edessa Be the Biblical Ark of the Covenant?

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The year was 165 AD, and the location was the Edessan necropolis at Sogmatar, in what was then northern Syria. In this year King Wa'el of Edessa had an inscription carved upon the sacred hill of Sogmatar, which said:

In Sebat of the year 476 (of the Seleucid era) ... we set up this pillar (netsib) on this blessed mountain and erected a seat (kersa) for the one who maintains it. The governor will be a budar ... and he will give the seat to the one who is going to maintain it ... If he withholds the seat or the pillar is ruined, god will be the judge.

Before we come onto the meaning of this inscription, lets first look at the hill of Sogmatar. It is the central focus of the Edessan royal necropolis, which lies in a very remote location in the barren rolling hills to the southeast of Edessa (modern Sanlurfa in Turkey). And the strange thing about this man-made hill, is that it is the same size and shape as Silbury Hill in England. Why and how this similarity arose, is open to speculation.

Figure 1.  The identical man-made hills of Silbury and Sogmatar. (Photo credit: Ralph Ellis)

Figure 1.  The identical man-made hills of Silbury and Sogmatar. (Photo credit: Ralph Ellis)

Pillars and Thrones

It was upon this man-made hill at Sogmatar, that this inscription was found. But what does it mean? The translation by Han Drijvers mentions a netsib bun 'pillar'. But Steven Ross in his analysis of Roman Edessa calls this same pillar a betyl-omphalos stone. Now this is interesting, for it implies that the Edessan netsib bun 'pillar' was the same as a Judaic matseb-ah hbum. The latter is a term that refers to both a pillar and to a small pyramid (a small conical stone, an omphalos stone).

The most famous matseb was the ‘pillar of Jacob’ that Jacob anointed with oils when he was at Haran in northern Syria, as narrated in Genesis 28:18. This ritual appears to be very similar to the anointing of Hindu lingams, which are also basted with oils in exactly the same fashion. So the Syrian netsib and the Judaic matseb must have been small conical stones basted with oils. So was Jacob venerating a Hindu lingam? Possibly, but since the Hindu lingam is often basted with a Minoan rhyton, it would appear that this ritual has travelled from west to east rather than vice versa . And the most likely conduit for this transfer of veneration and ritual, would be the Indian campaigns of Alexander the Great - especially as the Greeks were also closely identified with a similar matseb omphalos stone, as we shall see.

Figure 2. A Hindu lingam, basted with oils, in exactly the same fashion as Jacob's Pillar (Jacob's small conical stone).

Figure 2. A Hindu lingam, basted with oils, in exactly the same fashion as Jacob's Pillar (Jacob's small conical stone). (Photo Credit: Lotus Sculptures )

Thus the Sogmatar inscription mentions a small omphalos stone, but it also mentions a seat. But it is highly likely that the Syriac kersa 'seat' was actually derived from the Judaic korsa aork, which refers more to a royal throne than to a common seat. But what type of throne was this? Was it a throne for a king, or a throne of the gods? And where might we find a sacred stone and a divine throne in close proximity to each other? The answer can be seen in the throne of Apollo, who is often depicted sitting on a sacred stone. Remarkably, we not only see this stone on Greek coinage, but it is now in the Delphi museum (although this is a very ancient copy of the original).

Figure 3. Left: A Greek coin of Seleucus III showing Apollo seated upon the sacred omphalos stone of Delphi. Right: This stone (or an ancient copy of this stone) still exists at Delphi. (Photo credit: Ralph Ellis.)

Figure 3. Left: A Greek coin of Seleucus III showing Apollo seated upon the sacred omphalos stone of Delphi. Right: This stone (or an ancient copy of this stone) still exists at Delphi. (Photo credit: Ralph Ellis.)

So the netsib-matseb conical-stone and the kersa-korsa throne were intimately related objects - they were both thrones of the gods. But it was not just the Greeks who had a sacred stone that was also a throne, so too did the Israelites.

The Ark

So when might we encounter a sacred stone within Judaism that was intimately connected to a seat or a throne? For the answer, we only need to turn to the Book of Exodus which says:

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Comments

I think this article is just more proof that there is no god and that he is the product of Human imagination, now don't just go off the nut and condemn me as a fruitcake just really think about it, if God is the creator of the heavens and earth and everything in them why would he be so fixated on Gold, and what would it really mean to him? after all he could make as much of it as he wanted, no I think the gold fixation is a concept of mankind

The Bible talks about gold being so pure in heaven it is almost transparent. If God be God, why can he not like gold. Do you not like paintings you create from your own hands? (eg)

Good point LJ but if I could just snap my fingers and make one I think they would soon lose their attraction, and I wouldn't be ordering everyone else to make them for me
the whole bases for my non belief in ANY god is that none of them make any sense to me whatsoever, just take the ten commandments there isn't one of them that "God" doesn't break himself how con you believe in something like that?

can sorry

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