From shaalah "to rest." The place at which Israel attained its state of rest, and where the Lord rested among them (Psalm 132:14). Judges (Judges 21:19) describes its position as "on the N. side of Bethel (Beitin), on the E. side of the highway that goeth up from Bethel to Shechem (Nablus), and on the S. of Lebonah." Now Seilun. The ark, which had been at Gilgal during the conquest of Canaan, was removed on the completion of the conquest to Shiloh where it remained from Joshua's closing days to Samuel's (Joshua 18:1-10; Judges 18:31; 1 Samuel 4:3). Here Joshua divided by lot the part of the western Jordan land not yet allotted (Joshua 19:51). Shiloh fell within Ephraim (Joshua 16:5-6). The animal feast of Jehovah when the daughters of Shiloh went forth in dances gave Benjamin, when threatened with extinction, the opportunity of carrying off wives (Judges 21:19-23). At a distance of 15 minutes' walk is a fountain reached through a narrow dale; it flows first into a well, thence into a reservoir, from which herds and flocks are watered.
Here the daughters of Shiloh would resort, the spectators could see their dances from the amphitheater of surrounding hills. Terraces are traceable at the sides of the rocky hills, once covered with verdure and productiveness. Though the scenery is not striking the seclusion was favorable to worship and religious study. In the rockhewn sepulchres may have been laid the remains of some of Eli's house. Here Eli judged Israel and died of grief at the capture of the ark by the Philistines. Here Hannah prayed and Samuel was reared in the tabernacle and called to the prophetic office (1 Samuel 1; 2; 3). The sin of Hophni and Phinehas caused the loss of the ark and God's forsaking of His tabernacle at Shiloh (called in spiritual sense "the house of God," though not of stone: Judges 18:31; 2 Samuel 7:6; 1 Kings 3:2), so that this became a warning beacon of God's wrath against those who sin in the face of high spiritual privileges (Jeremiah 7:12; Psalm 78:60-61).
Ahijah the prophet was here consulted by the messengers of Jeroboam's wife (1 Kings 11:29; 1 Kings 12:15; 1 Kings 14:1-2). From Shiloh came the half pagan men, with offerings for the Lord's house, who had cut themselves, and whom Ishmael slew (Jeremiah 41:5). A tell or hill, surrounded by higher hills, rises from an uneven plain, with a valley on the south side. On the hill the tabernacle would be conspicuous from all sides. On the summit of the hill are the remains of what was once a Jewish synagogue, subsequently used as a mosque.
On the lintel over the doorway, between two wreaths of flowers, is carved a vessel shaped like a Roman amphora, so closely resembling the "pot of manna," as found on coins and in the ruins of the synagogue at Capernaum, that it doubtless formed part of the original building. There is a curious excavation in the rock which may have been the actual spot where the ark rested; for its guardians would select a place sheltered from the bleak winds of the highlands. The position of the sanctuary was central for the Israelites W. of Jordan. Major Wilson says northwards the tell at Seilun slopes down to a broad shoulder, across which a level court has been cut, 77 by 412 ft.; the rock is scarped to the height of five feet, evidently the site of the tabernacle. The mosque's title, the mosque of the Eternal, points to its original occupation by Jehovah's sanctuary.
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