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The ruins of Shiloh

15 January 2013

Shiloh was an ancient capital of the Israelites. It was where the Tabernacle, or Mishkan, resided during Judges. It was the spiritual centre of Israel and yet the Bible fails to tell us directly how it came to be a heap of ruins. The Book of Samuel in its telling of the Philistine wars, says the Ark of the Covenant was captured. In a great clash at Ebenezer (King James translation) the two sons of the Judge Eli died on the battlefield. Eli, advanced in years, gave up the ghost and keeled over, at the news. All we know is that at about the same time Shiloh was destroyed, and disappears from the narrative. Why the Book of Samuel left this little bit of history out is anyone's guess – and how much other history of the period is missing is likewise a matter of guesswork. It's a pity as this is where the Bible would be most informative as far as historical chronology is concerned. However, all is not lost as in the Book of Jeremiah we learn that the Philistines were to blame and it seems reasonable to conclude that after Ebenezer they went on to sack Shiloh. The fly in the ointment might be that this was the end of the Late Bronze Age and extraordinary events in the natural world were perhaps involved. However, new excavations at Shiloh are not concerned with that but prefer to think in terms of a red layer of ash at the site as the evidence it was burnt down by the Philistines, C14 date to around 1050BC. Until the discoveries are written up and distributed to the wider public we can only wonder – but a look at the previous excavation notes from Shiloh may be illuminating. See www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/archaeological-discovery-sheds-li…

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