Biblical Archaeology Review 12:1, January/February 1986

Shiloh Yields Some, But Not All, of Its Secrets

Location of Tabernacle still uncertain

By Israel Finkelstein

In the first half of the 11th century B.C., Shiloh was one of the most important sites in the central mountain ridge that runs through the Land of Israel. Here was the sacred religious center of the Israelite population of the hill country. Here the Ark of the Covenant rested within the Tabernacle for nearly a century, until the Ark itself was captured by the Philistines in the battle of Ebenezer (1 Samuel 4). Here Eli served as high priest. Here Samuel, prophet and seer, grew up and served the Lord.

Interestingly enough, Shiloh is not mentioned in the patriarchal narratives. Nor is it mentioned in Egyptian documents from the New Kingdom (15th to 12th centuries B.C.).

Shiloh first appears in the Bible in descriptions of the Israelite Settlement in Canaan and in an episode from the period of the Judges. According to the Bible, it was at Shiloh that the land was divided among the tribes (Joshua 18:10) and the Levitical cities were allotted (Joshua 21:2). Here the people gathered in times of distress (Joshua 22:12), as well as for annual religious festivities (Judges 21:19–21).

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