Flavius Josephus

The Antiquities of the Jews


Ark in Armenia
After this, the ark rested on the top of a certain mountain in Armenia; which, when Noah understood, he opened it; and seeing a small piece of land about it, he continued quiet, and conceived some cheerful hopes of deliverance.

Ark still there to this day
However, the Armenians call this place, (GREEK) (16) The Place of Descent; for the ark being saved in that place, its remains are shown there by the inhabitants to this day.

Ark still there, witnesses
Now all the writers of barbarian histories make mention of this flood, and of this ark; among whom is Berosus the Chaldean. For when he is describing the circumstances of the flood, he goes on thus: "It is said there is still some part of this ship in Armenia, at the mountain of the Cordyaeans; and that some people carry off pieces of the bitumen, which they take away, and use chiefly as amulets for the averting of mischiefs." Hieronymus the Egyptian also, who wrote the Phoenician Antiquities, and Mnaseas, and a great many more, make mention of the same. Nay, Nicolaus of Damascus, in his ninety-sixth book, hath a particular relation about them; where he speaks thus: "There is a great mountain in Armenia, over Minyas, called Baris, upon which it is reported that many who fled at the time of the Deluge were saved; and that one who was carried in an ark came on shore upon the top of it; and that the remains of the timber were a great while preserved. This might be the man about whom Moses the legislator of the Jews wrote."

The enemies take the Ark
About this time it was that the Philistines made war against the Israelites, and pitched their camp at the city Aphek. Now when the Israelites had expected them a little while, the very next day they joined battle, and the Philistines were conquerors, and slew above four thousand of the Hebrews, and pursued the rest of their multitude to their camp. 2 So the Hebrews being afraid of the worst, sent to the senate, and to the high priest, and desired that they would bring the ark of God, that by putting themselves in array, when it was present with them, they might be too hard for their enemies, as not reflecting that he who had condemned them to endure these calamities was greater than the ark, and for whose sake it was that this ark came to be honored. So the ark came, and the sons of the high priest with it, having received a charge from their father, that if they pretended to survive the taking of the ark, they should come no more into his presence, for Phineas officiated already as high priest, his father having resigned his office to him, by reason of his great age. So the Hebrews were full of courage, as supposing that, by the coming of the ark, they should be too hard for their enemies: their enemies also were greatly concerned, and were afraid of the ark's coming to the Israelites: however, the upshot did not prove agreeable to the expectation of both sides, but when the battle was joined, that victory which the Hebrews expected was gained by the Philistines, and that defeat the Philistines were afraid of fell to the lot of the Israelites, and thereby they found that they had put their trust in the ark in vain, for they were presently beaten as soon as they came to a close fight with their enemies, and lost about thirty thousand men, among whom were the sons of the high priest; but the ark was carried away by the enemies. 3 When the news of this defeat came to Shiloh, with that of the captivity of the ark, (for a certain young man, a Benjamite, who was in the action, came as a messenger thither,) the whole city was full of lamentations. And Eli, the high priest, who sat upon a high throne at one of the gates, heard their mournful cries, and supposed that some strange thing had befallen his family. So he sent for the young man; and when he understood what had happened in the battle, he was not much uneasy as to his sons, or what was told him withal about the army, as having beforehand known by Divine revelation that those things would happen, and having himself declared them beforehand, - for what sad things come unexpectedly they distress men the most; but as soon as [he heard] the ark was carried captive by their enemies, he was very much grieved at it, because it fell out quite differently from what he expected; so he fell down from his throne and died, having in all lived ninety-eight years, and of them retained the government forty. 4 On the same day his son Phineas's wife died also, as not able to survive the misfortune of her husband; for they told her of her husband's death as she was in labor. However, she bare a son at seven months, who lived, and to whom they gave the name of Icabod, which name signifies disgrace, - and this because the army received a disgrace at this thee. 5 Now Eli was the first of the family of Ithamar, the other son of Aaron, that had the government; for the family of Eleazar officiated as high priest at first, the son still receiving that honor from the father which Eleazar bequeathed to his son Phineas; after whom Abiezer his son took the honor, and delivered it to his son, whose name was Bukki, from whom his son Ozi received it; after whom Eli, of whom we have been speaking, had the priesthood, and so he and his posterity until the thee of Solomon's reign; but then the posterity of Eleazar reassumed it.

The Ark and the false god Dagon
When the Philistines had taken the ark of the Hebrews captive, as I said a little before, they carried it to the city of Ashdod, and put it by their own god, who was called Dagon,  as one of their spoils; but when they went into his temple the next morning to worship their god, they found him paying the same worship to the ark, for he lay along, as having fallen down from the basis whereon he had stood: so they took him up, and set him on his basis again, and were much troubled at what had happened; and as they frequently came to Dagon and found him still lying along, in a posture of adoration to the ark, they were in very great distress and confusion.

Plagues on Ashdod because of the Ark
At length God sent a very destructive disease upon the city and country of Ashdod, for they died of the dysentery or flux, a sore distemper, that brought death upon them very suddenly; for before the soul could, as usual in easy deaths, be well loosed from the body, they brought up their entrails, and vomited up what they had eaten, and what was entirely corrupted by the disease. And as to the fruits of their country, a great multitude of mice arose out of the earth and hurt them, and spared neither the plants nor the fruits.

Plagues on many cities caused by the Ark
This desire of the people of Ashdod was not disagreeable to those of Askelon, so they granted them that favor. But when they had gotten the ark, they were in the same miserable condition; for the ark carried along with it the disasters that the people of Ashdod had suffered, to those who received it from them. Those of Askelon also sent it away from themselves to others: nor did it stay among those others neither; for since they were pursued by the same disasters, they still sent it to the neighboring cities; so that the ark went round, after this manner, to the five cities of the Philistines, as though it exacted these disasters as a tribute to be paid it for its coming among them.

The Ark returns to the Israelites
When those that had experienced these miseries were tired out with them, and when those that heard of them were taught thereby not to admit the ark among them, since they paid so dear a tribute for it, at length they sought for some contrivance and method how they might get free from it: so the governors of the five cities, Gath, and Ekron, and Askelon, as also of Gaza, and Ashclod, met together, and considered what was fit to be done; and at first they thought proper to send the ark back to its own people, as allowing that God had avenged its cause; that the miseries they had undergone came along with it, and that these were sent on their cities upon its account, and together with it. However, there were those that said they should not do so, nor suffer themselves to be deluded, as ascribing the cause of their miseries to it, because it could not have such power and force upon them; for, had God had such a regard to it, it would not have been delivered into the hands of men. So they exhorted them to be quiet, and to take patiently what had befallen them, and to suppose there was no other cause of it but nature, which, at certain revolutions of time, produces such mutations in the bodies of men, in the earth, in plants, and in all things that grow out of the earth. But the counsel that prevailed over those already described, was that of certain men, who were believed to have distinguished themselves in former times for their understanding and prudence, and who, in their present circumstances, seemed above all the rest to speak properly. These men said it was not right either to send the ark away, or to retain it, but to dedicate five golden images, one for every city, as a thank-offering to God, on account of his having taken care of their preservation, and having kept them alive when their lives were likely to be taken away by such distempers as they were not able to bear up against. They also would have them make five golden mice like to those that devoured and destroyed their country to put them in a bag, and lay them upon the ark; to make them a new cart also for it, and to yoke milch kine to it but to shut up their calves, and keep them from them, lest, by following after them, they should prove a hinderance to their dams, and that the dams might return the faster out of a desire of those calves; then to drive these milch kine that carried the ark, and leave it at a place where three ways met, and So leave it to the kine to go along which of those ways they pleased; that in case they went the way to the Hebrews, and ascended to their country, they should suppose that the ark was the cause of their misfortunes; but if they turned into another road, they said, "We will pursue after it, and conclude that it has no such force in it." 3 So they determined that these men spake well; and they immediately confirmed their opinion by doing accordingly. And when they had done as has been already described, they brought the cart to a place where three ways met, and left it there and went their ways; but the kine went the right way, and as if some persons had driven them, while the rulers of the Philistines followed after them, as desirous to know where they would stand still, and to whom they would go. Now there was a certain village of the tribe of Judah, the name of which was Bethshemesh, and to that village did the kine go; and though there was a great and good plain before them to proceed in, they went no farther, but stopped the cart there. This was a sight to those of that village, and they were very glad; for it being then summer-time, and all the inhabitants being then in the fields gathering in their fruits, they left off the labors of their hands for joy, as soon as they saw the ark, and ran to the cart, and taking the ark down, and the vessel that had the images in it, and the mice, they set them upon a certain rock which was in the plain; and when they had offered a splendid sacrifice to God, and feasted, they offered the cart and the kine as a burnt-offering: and when the lords of the Philistines saw this, they returned back.

Men struck dead by touching the Ark
But now it was that the wrath of God overtook them, and struck seventy persons of the village of Bethshemesh dead, who, not being priests, and so not worthy to touch the ark, had approached to it. Those of that village wept for these that had thus suffered, and made such a lamentation as was naturally to be expected on so great a misfortune that was sent from God; and every one mourned for his own relation.

The Ark is delivered to Abinadab, the Levite
In this city lived one Abinadab, by birth a Levite, and who was greatly commended for his righteous and religious course of life; so they brought the ark to his house, as to a place fit for God himself to abide in, since therein did inhabit a righteous man. His sons also ministered to the Divine service at the ark, and were the principal curators of it for twenty years; for so many years it continued in Kirjathjearim, having been but four months with the Philistines.

Uzzah touches the Ark and dies
But as they were come to the threshing-floor of Chidon, a place so called, Uzzah was slain by the anger of God; for as the oxen shook the ark, he stretched out his hand, and would needs take hold of it. Now, because he was not a priest (7) and yet touched the ark, God struck him dead. Hereupon both the king and the people were displeased at the death of Uzzah; and the place where he died is still called the Breach of Uzzah unto this day.

Obededom abundantly blessed by having the Ark at his home
So David was afraid; and supposing that if he received the ark to himself into the city, he might suffer in the like manner as Uzzah had suffered, who, upon his bare putting out his hand to the ark, died in the manner already mentioned, he did not receive it to himself into the city, but he took it aside unto a certain place belonging to a righteous man, whose name was Obededom, who was by his family a Levite, and deposited the ark with him; and it remained there three entire months. This augmented the house of Obededom, and conferred many blessings upon it. And when the king heard what had befallen Obededom, how he was become, of a poor man in a low estate, exceeding happy, and the object of envy to all those that saw or inquired after his house, he took courage, and, hoping that he should meet with no misfortune thereby, he transferred the ark to his own house;

David's seplecher and treasure
He was buried by his son Solomon, in Jerusalem, with great magnificence, and with all the other funeral pomp which kings used to be buried with; moreover, he had great and immense wealth buried with him, the vastness of which may be easily conjectured at by what I shall now say; for a thousand and three hundred years afterward Hyrcanus the high priest, when he was besieged by Antiochus, that was called the Pious, the son of Demetrius, and was desirous of giving him money to get him to raise the siege and draw off his army, and having no other method of compassing the money, opened one room of David's sepulcher, and took out three thousand talents, and gave part of that sum to Antiochus; and by this means caused the siege to be raised, as we have informed the reader elsewhere. Nay, after him, and that many years, Herod the king opened another room, and took away a great deal of money, and yet neither of them came at the coffins of the kings themselves, for their bodies were buried under the earth so artfully, that they did not appear to even those that entered into their monuments. But so much shall suffice us to have said concerning these matters.

Noah's Ark
But when Monobazus was grown old, and saw that he had but a little time to live, he had a mind to come to the sight of his son before he died. So he sent for him, and embraced him after the most affectionate manner, and bestowed on him the country called Carra; it was a soil that bare amomum in great plenty: there are also in it the remains of that ark, wherein it is related that Noah escaped the deluge, and where they are still shown to such as are desirous to see them.

Part 3