travelling & touring:with Burzil Dube
THIS week’s topic was meant to dwell on the reopening of the country’s tourism facilities whose charges had started to be a subject for debate.
Most of the hospitality amenities were abruptly closed down due to the Covid-19 pandemic whose ripple effects are still being felt the world over.
However, the topic will have to wait for another day as one Enock Crocodylus Ngwenya is among those who are still engrossed with the history of the Yemeni-Jews, also known as BaLemba tribe.
He wanted to know more on whether there is some form of relationship between the biblical Ark of the Covenant and Ngoma Lungundu which are both claimed ownership by the BaLemba tribe.
By the way, he is also a devout Catholic and your guess is good as mine.
Ngwenya, a deputy headmaster at a Hwange primary school, has always been handy on assisting this column with vital information on Nambya cultural norms among other related nitty-gritties.
Yours truly has in the past written extensively about how the Nambya tribe migrated during the 16th century from Great Zimbabwe from where they headed and finally settled in the then Wankie.
However, it is yet to be established if the Nambya tribe was available when Lemba artisans displayed their building prowess during construction of the massive and magnificent Dzimbahwe stonework structure.
So is it true that the revered ark is in Zimbabwe?
Let us now delve into details through an overview of the holy scriptures as yours truly briefly takes to the proverbial pulpit in an endevour to establish how the Ark of the Covenant came into being.
The Book of Exodus in the Bible tells us that God instructed Moses to construct an ark that was to act as a storage place of the Ten Commandments tablets.
The instruction was made during the Israelites’ flight from Egypt on their way to the holy promised land of Canaan where they were to live in peace and harmony.
According to those in the know, Canaan was said to be situated in what today encompasses Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan as well as southern portions of Syria and Lebanon.
Some of the items, which were reported to be in the ark include a golden pot that had manna and Aaron’s rod.
As for the ark’s specifications, most of the details are found in the Book of Exodus and it was made according to dimensions supplied to Moses by God.
All this happened when Moses spent a record 40 days and nights in Mount Sinai patiently waiting for God to give him a set of rules universally known as The Ten Commandments.
These rules were for the Israelites, who are now known as Jews, to strictly abide by them until eternity.
However, during their 40-year voyage to Canaan, the ark was specifically carried by a selected number of priests and whenever the Jews camped it was placed in some sacred tent known as tabernacle.
No one was allowed to look inside the ark as death would certainly befall that particular individual.
The Ark of the Covenant was made of shittim wood and this type of tree is mainly found in the Sinai desert and River Jordan valley.
This specific ark proved to be a powerful weapon in times of warfare as it made the Jews to be unconquerable against any form of adversary
The most prominent mystical performance of the ark was when the Jews were crossing Jordan River as well as the fall of Jericho city.
Despite its mystical aptitude, the ark is said to have disappeared when the holy city of Jerusalem was attacked by the Philistines and in the process it was part of the captured paraphernalia.
However, the Philistines were forced to return it after some mysterious disease befell them while instant death met those who dared to look inside the ark.
It later passed through the hands of several Jewish kings among them Saul, David and Solomon.
Around 587 BC, Jerusalem was destroyed and most of the artefacts were seized by the invading army.
No one really knows on what happened to The Ark of the Covenant, which was safely kept in the then Jerusalem temple.
Hence, various theories have been written even up to this day including the one by BaLemba tribe whose claim to the ark continues to send tongues wagging in some circles.
Yours truly is still among the incredulous lot and it had to take one Ndabezinhle Mfandaedza, a BaLemba of the Zhou totem, to provide me with the necessary archival documentation concerning the ark’s whereabouts.
After thorough gleaning of documents supplied by Mfandaedza, a Beitbridge-based businessman, there is, however, some form of mystery in terms of The Ark of the Covenant’s whereabouts.
Here we go.
As earlier stated in previous Travel and Touring articles, the BaLemba are part and parcel of the Jewish tribe whose migration from the Middle East is well documented by various scholars.
DNA tests conducted by the particular scholars indicated that their genes were of Semitic origin and traced to the Middle East in a move also supported by some Jewish researchers.
However, what is rather interesting is that the Lemba tribe during Old Testament times were of a priestly clan and are believed to have been the ark’s custodians.
Following the destruction of Jerusalem during the Old Testament era, various Israelite tribes were later scattered to various countries.
There is a possibility that the BaLemba were among those who managed to flee to safety with the cultic ark as well.
They found sanctuary in Yemen from where after sometime decided to migrate southwards through Egypt and in their voyage some selected priestly elders were carrying a feature that symbolised an ark.
As the ark played an important role during the Israelites’ flight from Egypt to the promised land of Canaan, the Lemba tribe also carried a similar structure whose prowess was more or less of the Ark of the Covenant.
This type of ark, which is known in the BaLemba lingo as Ngoma Lungundu, meaning a “drum that thunders”, was carried by the tribe’s selected priests all the way to Mberengwa where they finally settled.
No tribe is reported to have ever dared the Lemba whenever the Ngoma Lungundu was part of their procession due to its godly supernatural powers.
However, while researchers are somehow in unison that this particular artefact’s operations were similar to the biblical Israelite ark, there is, however, scepticism that this could have been a replica of The Ark of the Covenant.
To cut the story shorter, when the Lemba finally settled in the then Belingwe, Ngoma Lungundu was hidden in one of the caves in the revered Dumbwe Mountains in Mberengwa.
It was later discovered in 2007 by Professor Tudor Parfitt, an esteemed explorer and religious scholar, who in consultation with the BaLemba traditionalists, later moved the relic to the Zimbabwe Museum of Human Sciences.
That is where the more than 700-year-old artefact is currently kept.
Parfitt is among some of the scholars, who believe that the biblical ark was regularly destroyed and rebuilt and made the journey from Yemen to Southern Africa.
However, there are some within BaLemba who do not subscribe to the notion that Ngoma Lungundu is the biblical Ark of the Covenant.
Their contention is that it was destroyed during the fierce Jerusalem battle.
On the other hand, they continue to revere Ngoma Lungundu, which they are proud to associate it with the biblical ark which was given to Moses at Mount Sinai.
As they have proven to be of Semitic background, yours truly could be left with no option, but to forego my scepticism.
The findings by Parfitt bear testimony that indeed they could be some truth concerning the location of the actual ark.
Till we meet in the next article.
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