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Shiloh's Warning

If you were to drive north from Jerusalem for about 25 miles / 40 kilometers, you might encounter a rather curious place of ruins. Although beautiful in a melancholy sort of way, it's nevertheless a desolate hilltop site which gives no indication of its ancient glory and importance. In Bible History the place was known as Shiloh.

Hills In Central Samaria After the Israelites crossed The Jordan River into the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua, The Tabernacle, with The Ark Of The Covenant inside, was established at Shiloh. The name means peaceful, or tranquil, and no doubt it was with The Lord's Presence. No place on God's beautiful earth could have been more secure.

Shiloh remained the Israelite religious and political capital with The Tabernacle there for over 300 years, from the time of Joshua about 1400 B.C. to the time of Samuel about 1100 B.C. It was there that Hannah dedicated her infant son Samuel to The Lord (1 Samuel 1:24), and where he was raised by Eli the priest (1 Samuel 2:11).

While the Israelites remained faithful and obedient to The Lord, they lived peacefully and perfectly secure. Over time however they became religiously corrupt and immoral in their society, and arrogant toward other nations from which they themselves also originated. They took far too much for granted, assuming that The Lord, Who made them great, would side with them no matter what they did - a big mistake in their time, or ours.

The end came when the Israelites were battling the Philistines at Aphek. During the first battle, the Israelites were badly beaten, with a loss of about 4,000 men. They returned to Shiloh and unlawfully removed The Ark, containing the two tablets of stone on which were written The Ten Commandments, from The Tabernacle and carried it back into battle with them, thinking that its presence would provide them with better results. They were again defeated, this time losing 30,000 men, including Eli's two corrupt sons Hophni and Phinehas who would have succeeded him, and The Ark itself. Upon hearing the news of the capture of The Ark by the Philistines, and the loss of his own two sons in battle, Eli himself died. It was a disastrous defeat that God not only permitted to happen, but actually caused to happen. The entire account is found in 1 Samuel chapter 4.

The Ark was recovered from the Philistines 7 months later (1 Samuel 6:1-2). God certainly would not have allowed its permanent loss then, or now (see Temple Mount Treasures), or in the future (e.g. Revelation 11:19), but it was taken to Kiriath Jearim instead of back to Shiloh (1 Samuel 7:1).

The Bible does not record exactly when Shiloh met its final destruction, but what is known for certain is that it was completely devastated, and remains so to this day. You can go and stand there at the very place of its ruins, although after so much time there is not much left even of them to see.

The story of Shiloh thereafter served as an object lesson to the Israelites of later times that God only remains faithful to those who remain faithful to Him. Certainly a lesson for all times.

Fact Finder: Did The Lord, through the prophet Jeremiah, use Shiloh as an example warning to the Israelites who were also going astray centuries later?
Jeremiah 7:12-15


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