Do Tel…a visit to Shiloh

Then the whole congregation of the sons of Israel assembled themselves at Shiloh, and set up the tent of meeting there; and the land was subdued before them. (Jos 18:1 NAS)

Tel Shiloh or Khirbet Sielun is the fabled spot where the biblical Tabernacle once stood, at least until its destruction in days of Samuel. In modern times, the site is located in the West Bank and, with the discovery of the Tel, has become something of a pawn in the political struggle over this area.

Of course, searching for evidence of a 3,000 year-old tabernacle , or even guessing where it might have stood, is in essence a game of speculation. This isn’t an Indiana Jones movie. Archeology and science can’t fully confirm the biblical story, but these disciplines can give us some tantalizing clues. Excavations of the site have revealed that the area was initially settled in the Middle Bronze period (around 1650 BC) and expanded gradually until its destruction by the Philistines [according to the biblical account] around 1050 BC.   Evidence suggests the city was rebuilt during the era of the Israelite monarchy, and also later occupied in the Roman, Byzantine, and Muslim periods. In the 1980s, Israeli archeologist Finkelstein uncovered the remains of burned bones, suggesting a sacrificial cultic system was in place at the site.

One of the Byzantine churches found on the site contained a mosaic inscription that reads:

Our Lord J.C. [Jesus Christ] have pity on Shiloh and its inhabitants. Amen.”


Archeologists have suggested several possibilities for the location of the Tabernacle, including the etched bedrock of the Northern Plateau. Still, we’ll never know for sure.

I even got to peak in the remains of a muslim structure that was built from and on the ruins of older religious buildings.

Khirbet Sielun has become a major attraction for evangelical visitors from the around the world ( I ran into one such group). In recent years, tourism has been really encouraged, hence the new shop, eating area, and plethora of informative (and not so informative) signs. The Migdal Ha-Ro’eh or “the Tower of the Seeing Prophet” was also recently erected on the site (*winces painfully*), complete with a movie reenacting the biblical account for eager viewers.  As with many such highly politicized, heavily government-funded archeological projects, the interesting stuff seems to get a bit lost in the rush to push a specific narrative.

Still, this off-the-beaten path site is definitely worth seeing.


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