Long before King David took Jerusalem in battle from the Jebusites and established it as the capital 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 Showbread, the Altar of Incense and the Golden Lamp stand for hundreds of years.
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, 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.
See you in Israel!