Shiloh is mentioned 33 times in the Old Testament. It is a biblical site that served as the religious capital of Israel from the time the Israelites entered the land until David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. Throughout scripture, Shiloh serves as an example and parable of God’s relationship and dealings with Israel. It is also used once in reference to Yeshua. Shiloh is located north of Jerusalem, in what is known today as the West Bank territories.
The Tabernacle was set up at Shiloh from when the Israelites settled the land until the Temple was built—about 300 years later (Joshua 18:1). The Ark of the Covenant was kept in the Tabernacle until it was taken captive by the Philistines during battle.
Shiloh is surrounded by small mountains, and the terrain is rugged. However, it is fascinating that in the midst of the uneven ground, there is one level plain that could hold the dimensions of the Tabernacle—about 400 feet by 77 feet. It is likely that this is the place where the Tabernacle sat.
While the Tabernacle was at Shiloh, multiple noteworthy biblical events happened: Hannah (Samuel’s mother) praying earnestly for a child, Samuel heard the Lord call him, the death of Eli when he heard the Ark of the Covenant had been captured, and the Benjamites snatching wives for themselves from the young women of Shiloh (Judges 21).
In Psalm 78:60 and Jeremiah 7:12, Shiloh is used as a symbol for how the Lord can and will remove His presence from the ungodly. Shiloh was once a place where the presence of the Lord dwelt, yet He abandoned it because the Israelites provoked Him to anger by worshiping idols.
Out of the 33 references to Shiloh in the Old Testament, one is used as a name—specifically a name for Yeshua as Messiah. In Genesis 49:10 it says “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” The word Shiloh has various interpretations such as “the sent,” “the seed,” or the “peaceable or prosperous one,” meaning the Messiah.
Before Shiloh arrives, the rule will belong to the tribe of Judah; this was fulfilled through the Davidic line of kings. Then, when Shiloh comes, the rule is transferred to Him—the King of Kings—and remains with Him to this day.
Long before King David took Jerusalem in battle from the Jebusites and established it as the Capitol of Israel, Shiloh served as the religious center from the initial conquest of Canaan and throughout the entire period of the Judges. Being the national assembly place for the people of Israel and the center of their worship, Shiloh housed the Ark of the Covenant, the Table of Show-bread, the Altar of Incense and the Golden Lamp stand for hundreds of years.
Sacred to three religions, pilgrims have been visiting the site for the past 3,060 years. And while we can find ancient ruins of Mosques and Churches on the site, it is the modern Synagogue that tells the biblical story of Israel’s past and future in this rugged and mountainous stretch of land.
Serving as the religious capital of Israel for 369 years (according to tradition), Shiloh was destroyed during the battle of Ebenezer (1 Samuel 4:1). It was a tragic defeat with 34,000 casualties, the two spiritual leaders killed (the sons of Eli), and worse of all, the Ark of the Covenant captured and taken away by the Philistines (1 Samuel 5 1). "And the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer unto Ashdod".
And though the Ark was recovered by King David and brought into its new home in Jerusalem, Shiloh was never fully restored. It was permanently destroyed by the Assyrian army and laid in ruins until a modern-day Jewish community resettled the area in 1978, making it again one of the most interesting sites in Samaria; the place where the nation of Israel was born in its own land.
What is Shiloh’s important lesson for people of faith today? It is that God is not impressed with cities, shrines or man-made articles of worship. Rather, He desires a living relationship with His children; one of love, respect and trust.
As Jeremiah mourned, "… go you now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel." And Psalm 78 recalls the tragic time when Israel "… provoked Him to anger with their high places and moved Him to jealousy with their carved images. When God heard this, He was furious, and greatly abhorred Israel, so that He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent He had placed among men, and delivered His strength into captivity, and His glory into the enemy’s hand.”
Thanks be to God who is faithful to bring about ultimate healing and restoration over time. And when you visit the beautiful site of Shiloh today, both the severity and the healing mercies of God come to the forefront and are on full display for those who seek His truth today.
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