A recent discovery at Tel Shiloh may support biblical accounts of the presence of the Tabernacle in the city. According to Joshua 18:1, “And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled themselves together at Shiloh, and set up the Tent of Meeting there; and the land was subdued before them.”
The Tent of Meeting, or Tabernacle, served as a portable house of worship in the desert and after the conquest, until the permanent Temple was built by King Solomon in Jerusalem some 400 years later. Shiloh was the center of political and religious life for nearly 370 years.
Since, in accordance with the instructions God gave Moses in the book of Exodus, the Tabernacle was built of wood, fabric and animal skins, there isn’t much that would have survived the test of time. However, according to a report in Israel Hayom, archaeologists have found holes hewn into stone at the northern end of the Tel Shiloh archaeological site, which would have once anchored wooden poles. Based on their location, it seems likely that these were used to house the posts of the Tabernacle. The findings will be presented at a conference of the Shiloh Association to be held later this week at the site in the Samaria region.
Scholars differ over where the likely location of the Tabernacle would have been within Shiloh. Among them, Israel Finkelstein believes the Tabernacle would have been located at the summit of the Tel, but Asher Kaufman prefers Charles Wilson’s earlier suggestion of the spot just north of the summit. The latter location seems more suitable both in terms of location and size. Archaeologists have been searching diligently for years for some kind of evidence.
It seems their efforts have paid off. In addition to the divots in the stone, remains of several structures dating back to the times of Joshua and King David were found. These contained mosaic floors with geometric designs, some earthenware vessels and three taboun-style clay ovens. Hananya Hizmi, staff officer for archeology in the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria, explained, “This is not something that was common in private residences and therefore we do not believe these structures served as family dwellings.” All of this would support the northern plain as the likely location of the Tabernacle at Shiloh, as Wilson, and later Kaufman, have suggested.
Earlier this year, a broken vase and ash remains of a tremendous fire were uncovered, further supporting scholarly opinion that the Shiloh site was ultimately destroyed by the Philistines after the battle of Even Ha’Ezer, near present-day Afek. 1 Samuel records how the two sons of Eli, the high priest, fell in battle against the Philistines as they accompanied the Ark of the Covenant to the battlefield. Eli himself died upon hearing the news of their deaths and the capture of the Ark. The text, however, neglects to report the destruction of Shiloh itself. Later verses in Psalms and Jeremiah indicate that it was destroyed by the Philistines, but do not specify when. The remains date to the period of the battle.
The findings in Shiloh are not limited to the academic world alone. “These most recent findings in Shiloh confirm what we have long known, that the history of the Jewish people and the Land of Israel are intimately connected”, explained Sondra Baras, Director of CFOIC Heartland. “We can trace our beginnings to Judea and Samaria through the Bible and modern archaeology just confirms it for us. Today, we have come back to live and develop the hilltops and biblical sites, including Shiloh, that formed the cradle of Jewish civilization.”