I remember reading somewhere that the High Priest would remove the Ark of the covenant from the Holy of Holies during an evil king’s reign and then return it during a righteous Kings reign. 2 Chronicles chapter 29 hints at this. Was this a common practice? If so, would that indicate a “hiding” place somewhere other than the Temple itself?
I heard Israel’s last righteous king Josiah had the Ark returned to the Temple during his reign as well, yet I haven’t found the supporting scripture. These items are not listed as part of the inventory given of what the Babylonians carried off. Could these items have been hidden and not destroyed with the temple?
While 2 Chron 29 mentions implements from the altar that had been removed, there is no specific reference to the Ark. Personally I don’t think the Ark was moved because unless God wanted it moved, any one who touched it risked death. Later King Josiah had the Temple restored and consecrated for use, but again there’s no mention of the Ark in the account.
There is a Jewish tradition that Jeremiah was instructed by God to hide the Ark in advance of the Babylonian conquest so that Nebuchadnezzar wouldn’t get it, and that’s the last time it was seen.
Some believe that a group of priests took it to Elephantine Island, which sits in the Middle of the Nile River, about 650BC, (the remnants of a Jewish Temple have been found there) and then to Ethiopia where it rests today in a Coptic Church. Others say it’s hidden in Mt. Nebo in Jordan. Still others believe its in a secret chamber underneath the Temple mount. But it’s clear it wasn’t destroyed, and wasn’t taken to Babylon. To this day, no one has offered any conclusive proof that its location has been discovered.