The Israelite Tabernacle At Shiloh -- By: Scott Stripling

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 29:3 (Fall 2016)
Article: The Israelite Tabernacle At Shiloh
Author: Scott Stripling

The Israelite Tabernacle At Shiloh

Scott Stripling

“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.” Jer 7:12

Two 20th-century excavations revealed clear evidence of cultic activity at Shiloh. Advocates for a 13th-century BC Exodus and Conquest are interested in evidence for an Israelite cultic center at Shiloh from Iron Age IA to Iron Age IB; whereas proponents for a 15th-century BC Exodus and Conquest seek evidence at Shiloh from LB IIB to Iron Age IB. According to Jos 18:1, the tabernacle was erected at Shiloh, in the tribal territory of Ephraim, immediately following the Conquest. While the tabernacle served social and political purposes, its primary purpose was as a religious cult center.1

In 2017, the Associates for Biblical Research (ABR), under my direction, will open a new excavation on the north side of the site (Field H1) that portends insight into the critical issue of the location of the famed cultic shrine.2 Four possible options exist at Shiloh for the placement of the Israelite tabernacle. Although three of these have been previously posited, here I will introduce a fourth possibility. Before discussing these proposed temenos (sacred precinct) locations, it is important to set forth a brief history of the site and the evidence for cultic activity that has been uncovered.

History Of Shiloh

The MB II period (ca. 1668–1560 BC) witnessed the establishment of a village without walls.3 According to the Hebrew Bible, the Amorites controlled the Shiloh region at the time of the Conquest (Nu 13:29 [highlands]; Jos 7:7 [Ai]; 2Sa 21:2 [Gibeon]), and this likely extended back to MB III (ca. 1560–1485 BC). During this period they constructed a massive fortification system that enclosed 17 dunams (4.25 acres).4 The MB III city suffered destruction but was quickly rebuilt, or at least resettled as a cultic center in the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1485–1173 BC). Pit deposits of bones, cultic vessels, and an abundance of pottery establish this fact. Finkelstein assigned this faunal deposit to an Israelite cleanup of the remnants of the Amorite sacrifices on the summit. Further excavation and an...

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