In Raiders of the Lost Ark, at the Ark opening ceremony the Nazi troops brings the Ark of the Covenant to the top of the mountain as Belloq said something before opening the Ark. Then they took the sand from the Ark and suddenly spirits coming out from the Ark and they're all killed (except Indy and Marion) by the freed-spirits which came from the Ark. Meanwhile, Indy asks Marion to keep her eyes shut. They didn't see the Ark when it was opened, so they're survived.

Here is the YouTube link of that scene:

In that scene what I don't understand is how did Indy know not to look into the Ark when it was opened?


3 Answers 3


There was a deleted scene that explained it:

A plot element involving the Ark of the Covenant was cut from the film and is only hinted at during the finale when the Ark is opened.

Basically, there were 2 rules about the Ark not mentioned in the final cut of the film:

  • If you touch the Ark, you die
  • If you look at the Ark when it is opened, you die

This is first explained in additional dialogue for the scene when Indy and Sallah visit Imam. Before translating the writings on the headpiece that give the height of the Staff of Ra, Imam warns Indy not to touch the Ark or look at it when it is opened.

Imam [Source]

The next scene involving this Ark subplot is when Sallah and Indy remove the Ark from the Well of the Souls. When Sallah first sees it he reaches out to touch it. Indy stops him before he does and reminds him of Imam's warning. Then they insert long poles through each side of the Ark to lift it out of its crypt.

Poles [Source]

Notice that nobody ever touches the Ark throughout the rest of the film until the finale.

And from the Bible (King James Version):

1 Samuel 6:19:
And he smote the men of Bethshemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the Lord, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men...

2 Samuel 6:6-7
And when they came to Nachon's threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.

  • 8
    Good answer, but I think you should move the biblical reference to the top. You could also add a reference to 2 Samuel 6:6-8, which refers to a man who died from touching the ark. As a scholar, Indiana Jones would have been familiar with the biblical passages, and wouldn't have needed a warning from an imam; perhaps that's why they cut it.
    – Kyralessa
    Sep 11, 2012 at 3:05
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    @Kyralessa - I have added the other bible verse. That Indy knew about the hints in the bible might very well be true, but it's not as "official" as a deleted scene, so I'm keeping it as "secondary" info.
    – Oliver_C
    Sep 11, 2012 at 11:43
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    How official can a deleted scene be if it was deleted?
    – Kyralessa
    Sep 25, 2015 at 19:47
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    When I first watched this (pre-teen, I think) I wondered why the soldiers who opened the ark at the end weren't immediately struck dead when they just grabbed the lid and lifted it off. Oct 14, 2015 at 20:38
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    @Kyralessa May I offer this explanation: If the deleted scene was shot before the edit, it was in the script, so that makes it canon. Also if the content of a deleted scene is still integrated into the rest of the movie the principle of economy says that the deleted scene is the explanation rather than something made up in say a different script or venue. Finally deleted scenes cannot be ignored if they are published as DVD extras or incorporated into extended edits. Sep 26, 2016 at 3:48

IIRC there was a scene near the beggining showing pictures of the Ark with priests carrying it with poles, the priests were blindfolded and around them were their enemies hit by lightning.


Indy knew not to look in the Ark, because he had a religious upbringing as hinted in The Last Crusade. His dad made him memorize and recite passages from the Bible as shown in the "Young Indy" segment. Indy also asked OSS agents if they'd ever been to Sunday school when they didn't seem to know what The Ark was. Indy explained it briefly and knew what page to turn to in the book with the picture.

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