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Glimpses of Shiloh Excavation

Glimpses of Shiloh Excavation

Shiloh is a town in the lot of Ephraim where Israel assembled under Joshua at the close of the war of conquest (Joshua 18:1). Here territory was allotted to the seven tribes who had not yet received their portions. A commission was sent out to “describe the land into seven portions”; this having been done, the inheritances were assigned by lot. Here also were assigned to the Levites their cities in the territories of the various tribes (Joshua 18-21).

Shilo Pictures and Pottery from Tim Velasco on Vimeo.

From Shiloh Reuben and Gad departed for their homes East of the Jordan; and here the tribes gathered for war against these two, having misunderstood their building of the great altar in the Jordan valley (Joshua 22). From Judges 18:31 we learn that in the period of the Judges the house of God was in Shiloh; but when the sanctuary was moved thither from Gilgal there is no indication. The maids of Shiloh were captured by the Benjamites on the occasion of a feast, while dancing in the vineyards; this having been planned by the other tribes to provide the Benjamites with wives without involving themselves in responsibility (21:21).

While the house of the Lord remained here it was a place of pilgrimage (1 Samuel 1:3). To Shiloh Samuel was brought and consecrated to God’s service (1 Samuel 1:24). The sanctuary was presided over by Eli and his wicked sons; and through Samuel the doom of their house was announced. The capture of the ark by the Philistines, the fall of Hophni and Phinehas, and the death of the aged priest and his daughter-in-law followed with startling rapidity (1 Samuel 3; 4).

The sanctuary in Shiloh is called a “temple” (1 Samuel 1:9; 3:3) with doorpost and doors (1 Samuel 1:9; 3:15). It was therefore a more durable structure than the old tent. It would appear to have been destroyed, probably by the Philistines; and we find the priests of Eli’s house at Nob, where they were massacred at Saul’s order (1 Samuel 22:11). The disaster that befell Shiloh, while we have no record of its actual occurrence, made a deep impression on the popular mind, so that the prophets could use it as an effective illustration (Psalms 78:60; Jeremiah 7:12:14; 26:6). Here the blind old prophet Ahijah was appealed to in vain by Jeroboam’s wife on behalf of her son (1 Kings 14:2,4), and it was still occupied in Jeremiah’s time (Jeremiah 41:5).

The position of Shiloh is indicated in Judges 21:19, as “on the north of Beth-el, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Beth-el to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah.” This is very explicit, and points definitely to Seilun, a ruined site on a hill at the Northeast of a little plain, about 9 miles North of Beitin (Bethel), and 3 miles Southeast of Khan el-Lubban (Lebonah), to the East of the highway to Shechem (Nablus). The path to Seilun leaves the main road at Sinjil, going eastward to Turmus `Aya, then northward across the plain. A deep valley runs to the North of the site, cutting it off from the adjoining hills, in the sides of which are rock-hewn tombs. A good spring rises higher up the valley. There are now no vineyards in the district; but indications of their ancient culture are found in the terraced slopes around.

The ruins on the hill are of comparatively modern buildings. At the foot of the hill is a mosque which is going quickly to ruin. A little distance to the Southeast is a building which seems to have been a synagogue. It is called by the natives Jami` el-`Arba`in, “mosque of the Forty.” There are many cisterns. Just over the crest of the hill to the North, on a terrace, there is cut in the rock a rough quadrangle 400 ft. by 80 ft. in dimensions. This may have been the site of “the house of the Lord” which was in Shiloh.

Source: W. Ewing “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia”. 1915.

Pinchas

I am an educator, researcher, a faculty member and an avid believer in online education. My specialties are Sacred Texts and Cultures (Second Temple period, early Judaism and nascent Christianity). I am passionate about meaning, context, and cultural transmission of ancient texts. My preoccupations with history, ancient languages and contextual interpretation often find expression in my blog posts. Every human has a pretext, every message has a context. Context changes everything! Enjoy reading.


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