Join ABR in our new excavations at Biblical Shiloh in 2017! Maybe YOU can help us find evidence for the location of the Tabernacle, which dwelt in Shiloh for more than two centuries.
More information will be posted in the coming days. Inquiries may be sent to: Henry B. Smith Jr, Administrative Director. (Updated 4/20/2016).
History of the Site
Ancient Shiloh was first established in the Middle Bronze (MB) II period, around 1650 B.C. It was expanded in MB III, around 1500 B.C. and was continuously occupied until the middle of Iron Age I (around 1050 B.C.) when it was destroyed by the Philistines (See I Samuel 4). It was rebuilt in Iron II (980-587 B.C.) and was occupied through Early Roman times. The Byzantines and Crusaders also built structures there. Most importantly, it was the center of Israelite worship for at least 300 years. The tabernacle was erected at Shiloh and may have been later replaced by a more permanent structure. The city is in the territory of Ephraim, Joshua’s tribe.
History of Excavations
Shiloh was excavated for three seasons by a Danish team between 1926 and 1932 and again in 1963. Israel Finkelstein worked the site from 1981-84. Although a minimalist, Finkelstein confirmed the presence of “proto-Israelites” from the time of the Conquest through the period of the Judges. A very large deposit of burned cultic bones was uncovered, confirming a sacrificial system. Like at Maqatir, the Israelites built their houses against the MB wall. After Finkelstein, the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria (KAMAT) renewed sporadic excavations at Shiloh in 1988. To date, the Bronze Age gate has not been found, but there was a glacis (fortification slope) and fortified wall that surrounded the site, which no doubt will eventually lead to the gate.
Specifics of ABR Excavation
There are four candidate locations for the tabernacle. One of these is the northern sector, which ABR would be excavating.
There are several areas of disagreement between Finkelstein’s findings and the biblical record. The ABR excavation at Shiloh would shed light on these important issues.
1. Finkelstein claims that the cultic center had to be on the top of the tell because this was the Canaanite tradition. In his view, if there were Israelites at Shiloh, they did not arrive until the 13th century B.C. or later. This, of course, contradicts biblical chronology based on 1 Kings 6:1. The ABR excavation at Shiloh has the potential to refute these false claims. For example, if remains of the tabernacle and associated buildings are found in a clear Late Bronze (LB) [1485-1173 B.C.] context, it would be an obvious synchronism between the archaeological data and the biblical text.
2. Finkelstein declined to excavate the summit of the tell because he presupposed that there was only shallow soil above bedrock. KAMAT probes have indicated that he was incorrect, but full excavation will be required to substantiate or refute his claim. His Minimalist presuppositions that there was no Israelite Tabernacle at Shiloh led him to bypass this important area for excavation. The ABR excavation at Shiloh will ultimately test this controversial hypothesis.
3. Finkelstein asserts that the massive LB bone deposit was from the site’s Canaanite inhabitants. This contradicts the biblical references from Joshua to Jeremiah. The Israelites arrived at Shiloh around 1400 B.C., the middle of the LB period. The ABR excavation at Shiloh will present the evidence from the bone deposit in a way that does not contradict the plain reading of the biblical text.
4. In public lectures, Finkelstein has contradicted his own Final Publication at Shiloh. He now claims that there was no Iron II (980-587 B.C.) or 1st Temple Period occupation at Shiloh. This contradicts 1 Kings 11:29 and 14:2-4, and Jeremiah 7:12-14, 29:6-9, and 41:5. Finkelstein’s public comments have a greater impact on the general public’s perception of the reliability of the Bible than do his published reports. The ABR excavation at Shiloh has the potential to reveal Iron 2 remains and reinforce the reliability of the biblical text.
While Shiloh is mentioned throughout the Old Testament, there are three key verses that will inspire and guide us:
Genesis 49:10 – “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs (Shiloh) shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.” This is the second messianic prophecy in Genesis.
1 Samuel 3:21 – “The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.”
Jeremiah 7:12 – “Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling for my Name, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel.”
The third ABR excavation in the Central Highlands of Benjamin/Ephraim territory will provide the opportunity to compare the material remains from Khirbet Nisya, Khirbet el-Maqatir, and Shiloh. With the prominence of Shiloh, ABR will occupy a leadership role in interpreting and presenting the Bible and archaeology in the scholarly and popular arenas.