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Leviticus 16:15

"He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull's blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it.

What did the high priest do with the sacrificial blood on the day of atonement behind the curtain when the Ark of the Covenant was not available?

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Was there anything behind the curtain of the Second Temple?

In the second temple, built by Zerubbabel, and in the more elaborate temple of Herod, there was no Ark in the Most Holy. At the time of Jesus' death, the curtain that separated the Holy from the Most Holy was ripped in two, so the priests carrying their work in the Holy place could see that there was no Ark. The Ark represented God's presence with them.

Jeremiah foretold a time when the ark of the covenant would be no more, but that it would not be missed and God's worshipers would experience no hardship because of not having it. Instead, Jerusalem itself will be called the throne of Jehovah.

Jeremiah 3:16-17 (NASB)

16 And it shall be in those days when you become numerous and are fruitful in the land,” declares the Lord, “they will no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’ And it will not come to mind, nor will they remember it, nor miss it, nor will it be made again. 17 At that time they will call Jerusalem ‘The Throne of the Lord,’ and all the nations will assemble at it, at Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord; and they will no longer follow the stubbornness of their evil heart.

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    How does this answer the question?
    – Dottard
    Nov 28 '20 at 21:48
  • Dottard : Correct, neither does your answer, but then not all question answerable. Just when and under what circumstances the ark of the covenant disappeared is not known. Apparently, the Babylonians did not capture it when they pillaged and destroyed the temple, for the Ark is not listed among the temple articles carried off. (2 Kings 25:13-17; Ezra 1:7-11) And what did the priest do on the Day of Atonement? Whatever he did, it was acceptable to God until the curtain was ripped in two. Mt 27:51; 23:38 Jeremiah prophesied that it will not be missed.Jer.3:16-17 Nov 29 '20 at 17:04
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We do not know on what the High Priest sprinkled the blood on the annual day of atonement, except that it was NOT on the Ark of the Covenant because that was removed and never recovered just before the Babylonian Captivity. Just what happened to the Ark is disputed but according to the non-canonical work of 2 Maccabees (see appendix) the prophet Jeremiah hid the Ark before the Babylonian captivity to prevent it being captured.

What we do know, is that behind the curtain of the second temple, there was no Ark of the Covenant. Whether there was an empty table or nothing at all is unknown.

The famous arch of Titus depicts various temple furnishing, especially the Menorah, being deported but there is no reference to the Ark amongst such records.

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APPENDIX - 2 Macc 2:4-8 (RSV)

It was also in the writing that the prophet, having received an oracle, ordered that the tent and the ark should follow with him, and that he went out to the mountain where Moses had gone up and had seen the inheritance of God. And Jeremiah came and found a cave, and he brought there the tent and the ark and the altar of incense, and he sealed up the entrance. Some of those who followed him came up to mark the way, but could not find it. When Jeremiah learned of it, he rebuked them and declared: "The place shall be unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows his mercy. And then the Lord will disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord and the cloud will appear, as they were shown in the case of Moses, and as Solomon asked that the place should be specially consecrated."

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