Jeremiah sees disaster in Egypt

Jer 44-45   Jeremiah prophesies to the Israelites living in the cities of Migdol, Tahpanhes and Memphis in the Nile Delta and to those living in the southern part of Egypt. He warns them not to worship foreign gods, or they will suffer the same fate as the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

But they will not listen, and continue to offer sacrifices to the ‘Queen of Heaven’ (probably the Egyptian goddess Isis, or possibly the goddess Ashtoreth).


A sphynx at Memphis, Egypt  (Mit Rahina Museum)

A sphynx at Memphis, Egypt  (Mit Rahina Museum)


The Lost Ark of the Covenant

For centuries, debate has raged over what happened to the sacred Ark of the Covenant following the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. The Bible records that the Ark was placed in the newly completed Temple by King Solomon in 961 BC (see 1 Kings 8:6). But no reference is made to the Ark after the fall of Jerusalem in 587BC, and many assume that it was carried off to Babylon with other treasures from the Temple. Amongst other theories concerning the whereabouts of the ‘Lost Ark’, many Ethiopians claim that the Ark was taken to Aksum in Ethiopia by Menelik, a son of King Solomon by the Queen of Sheba (see the feature on The Queen of Sheba).

The Bible states that, following the conquest of Jerusalem in 587BC, Jeremiah was put under the care of Gedaliah, the new Babylonian governor of Judah. A few months later, Gedaliah was murdered by Jewish resistance fighters, who escaped to Egypt, taking Jeremiah and all the remaining Judaeans with them.

These Judaeans who settled in Egypt are the ‘Jewish kinsmen’ to whom the letters at the beginning of the apocryphal Second Book of the Maccabees were sent four hundred years later in 188 BC (see 2 Maccabees 1:1-2:18).

These apocryphal letters also record that, before Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem in 587 BC, Jeremiah took the Ark of the Covenant and the Tent of the LORD’s presence from the Temple and hid them in an unmarked cave on Mount Nebo. This was the mountain from which Moses had looked out over the ‘promised land’ shortly before his death (see 2 Maccabees 2:4-8, Deuteronomy 34:1-6) and the feature on Mt Nebo).


Sacred ark in the Temple of Horus at Edfu, Egypt

A Sacred ark in the Temple of Horus at Edfu, Egypt
The Ark of the Covenant would have been built in a similar style


Jeremiah’s sojourn in Egypt is commemorated at the Coptic Othodox Monastery of Jeremiah, founded in the 6th century AD and destroyed in the 10th century. The remains of the monastery can be visited today at Saqqarah – the necropolis for the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis. Treasures from the Monastery of Jeremiah can be seen in the Coptic Museum in Cairo.

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