As the Children of Israel were preparing to enter the Promised Land, Moses spoke of “the place where the Lord your God chooses to put His name.” Today, when we read that, we automatically think of Jerusalem. However, it was almost four centuries after Israel crossed over the Jordan before the Temple was built.
The Talmud (rabbinic commentary on Jewish traditions and the Hebrew Scriptures) records that the center of worship for the first 14 years was in Gilgal (Josh. 4:19–20), while they conquered and divided the land among the tribes. For the next 369 years, the tabernacle stood in Shiloh (“tranquil” or “secure”). It was here that Hannah prayed for a son (1 Sam. 1:11), and Samuel grew up under the tutelage of Eli, the high priest (vv. 24–28). It was here that Eli and his two wicked sons died after the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines (1 Sam. 4). Although the Ark was returned, it never rested again in Shiloh (Ps. 78:56–61). The Ark was recovered and kept in the house of Abinadab (1 Sam. 7:1). Was the tabernacle destroyed by the Philistines? Evidence points to the probability that the Philistines destroyed Shiloh, but the Talmud records that the tabernacle was moved to two other cities within the next 57 years, until the Temple was built by Solomon.
Besides the tabernacle courtyard, other finds have been unearthed in digs: a mosque (referred to by today’s Jewish residents as the Synagogue of Hannah’s Prayer) built over a Second Temple-period synagogue, a reconstructed Byzantine Era church, impressive mosaics, and burial caves, one of which could have been used as a dwelling place for Eli.
One of the highlights of my first trip to Israel in 1996 was standing on the Temple Mount where the Holy of Holies might have been (something a Jewish person would never do!). Visiting Shiloh recently gave me another opportunity to stand in a very holy place, where one of our volunteers took off her shoes and stood barefoot on the rocks nearest the Holy of Holies. It may be more special than we now understand. Pictures taken from the air reveal that the mountains and valleys surrounding Shiloh form yud-hey-vav-hey, the Hebrew letters spelling the unpronounceable name of God. For more information, check out David’s Web site at www.godisraelshiloh.com. If you want to visit, consider joining our Land of the Bible Experience Tour next spring.
By Charleeda Sprinkle, Assistant Editor
Photo Credit: www.bibleplaces.com
Photo Credit: Photo by Dianne Hudson
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