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Destination Spotlight: Shiloh

by | Oct 27, 2021 | Destination spotlight

The Israelites had left oppression in Egypt and were in the Sinai Peninsula. At God’s command, Moses directed the building of a tabernacle, or tent, which would hold the Ark of the Covenant and other sacred objects. The Ark and Tabernacle were portable, set up when God’s people stopped at a place in the wilderness, then taken down and moved to their next stop. This pattern would continue for 40 years until the people of God entered the Promised Land. After the conquest of Canaan, Joshua ordered the Tabernacle to be moved to a permanent site in Shiloh, where he oversaw the division of the land among the twelve tribes. Shiloh became the center of Jewish worship, the first capital.

Ancient Shiloh
Our good friend, Pastor John Reynolds, reported in to us recently. He was excited to tell us about visiting his son Aaron, who had worked with an excavation team in Shiloh during the summer. Aaron was working towards a master’s degree in biblical archaeology through Crown College Seminary, Powell, TN. His dig team was mostly American, but virtually every day they were joined by volunteer diggers from around the world.
Workers from Spain, Canada, Ireland, and Denmark were part of this season’s team. Of course, they had local specialists on their team as well: a representative from the Temple Mount Sifting Project, an artifact conservator, and ceramic specialists who visited and reviewed their pottery finds. The project, now entering its third year, is overseen by Associates for Biblical Research.

Pastor Reynolds writes, “I learned that on an archaeological dig, it is great to find small things – coins, weapons, pottery, bones, etc. – all the things that help date the level on which they are found. However, they [the dig leaders] are looking for big things like rooms, houses, meeting places, walls, gates, etc. The place Aaron and I were working was thought to be the main entrance to the city during then Roman Era. That was pretty exciting. We will not know until the excavation continues next summer. I look forward to learning if that is indeed the spot. It was a thrill to have my hands in the dirt at the location where the Tabernacle rested for the first 369 years the Hebrew people were in the Promised Land.”

The Bible tells us that the Tabernacle remained in Shiloh for over three centuries, during the period of the Judges. Eventually, with the building of the First Temple in Jerusalem, the Tabernacle was moved there. However, until the death of the High Priest Eli, Shiloh was the center of Jewish worship and the main pilgrimage site for the Children of Israel. Three times each year, faithful pilgrims of the twelve tribes traveled to Shiloh, bringing festival offerings.

With the Tabernacle now in Jerusalem, Shiloh declined as a pilgrimage site. Philistines attacked and destroyed the town. Eventually, Romans and Christians took over the mostly-deserted spot. Later, Muslims conquered the area. Shiloh became just another small hilltop town. In the 1920s and 30s, European archaeologists began to explore and work in the area. Others followed, but it was not until excavations in 2006 uncovered several mosaic floors and Greek inscriptions that once and for all identified the site as the ancient village of Shiloh. Since then, a great deal of attention has been devoted to uncovering the past and developing the area.

The Western Wall in Jerusalem- remains of the last Temple
On October 10, 2018, I had the pleasure of visiting Shiloh, which is located only 28 miles (45 km) north of Jerusalem on Route 60. Although it is still an active archaeological site, there is already much to see and do there. The site offers tours, a unique sound and light experience, several craft workshops, a museum and observation tower, an excellent film about the site, and an information center with a cafe and a small gift shop.
Because of its hilltop location, Shiloh offers a spectacular panoramic view for miles and miles around. One of my favorites of the new buildings on the site is the HaRoeh Tower. Situated on the top of Shiloh Hill, the tower offers a unique film shown on a huge screen that alternates from being opaque to translucent so that the historical reenactments of the film are at times superimposed on the actual distant contemporary landscape. On the floor below, there is a small museum with artifacts from the various digs on the site.

Special annual events that take place at Shiloh have their roots there as well. We know that Eli was the last of the high priests to serve at Shiloh. The book of Samuel tells us that Eli’s wife Hannah entered the Tabernacle and prayed for God to give her a child. After the birth of her son, Samuel, she reentered the Tabernacle, this time to offer a prayer of thanksgiving. When he was old enough, Hanna turned him over to Eli to be raised in the service of the Lord. Samuel would grow up to become one of Israel’s great prophets. Today, a special women’s prayer and music festival, “Hannah’s Prayer,” is held each year at Shiloh, around the time of Rosh Hashanah.

Thanks to the archaeologists and developers of the site, we can visit the very place where Joshua, Hannah, Eli and Samuel changed history. Whether you visit Shiloh as a tourist or sign up to work on the archaeological dig, you will be moved by this special site.

-Nick Mancino, President of Journeys Unlimited

Nicholas Mancino has been serving the church through travel for over 50 years, having begun his ministry in travel in the 1960s. He is the cofounder and president of Journeys Unlimited, where he’s helped thousands of fellow Christians encounter the Spirit and bask in Christian fellowship while traveling to the Holy Land and beyond. You can reach Nick with your inquiries by email at nmancino@groupist.com or at 800-486-8359

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