And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled themselves together at Shiloh, and set up the Tabernacle there, and the land was subdued before them. (Joshua 18:1)
When Joshua brought the children of Israel across the Jordan River he was really leading a new nation, born in Egypt and Sinai but forged for 40 years in the furnace of the desert.
Their journey had started hundreds of years earlier when Jacob's sons, grazing their flocks near Shechem (Nablus), sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt. Their descendants returned to the same area in Samaria bearing Joseph's body for burial in Shechem. They chose the nearby village of Shiloh as the resting place for the Tabernacle which housed altars, the menorah, the ark of the Covenant and more.
Ruins of Shiloh (circa 1910, Library of Congress)
There the Tabernacle would remain for almost 400 years, the place for pilgrimages and sacrifices. In Shiloh, Joshua drew lots to divide up the land among the Israelite tribes. Eli the High Priest officiated.
A woman named Hannah came to Shiloh to pray for a son and promised he would serve the Lord if he was born. Samuel was born to Hannah. He served in the Tabernacle and was the prophet who anointed Saul and then David as kings. David shifted his capital first to Hebron and then to Jerusalem.
Archaeologists today have little doubt that the area known as Sailun was the location of biblical Shiloh. Evidence
of early synagogues, churches and mosques can be found there.
In the Talmudic period and the Middle Ages, Shiloh was a destination for pilgrims.
We recently discovered online an antique book, "A Month in Palestine and Syria, April 1891," posted by the New Boston Fine and Rare Books. The book includes a travelogue and several dozen photographs of tourists and pilgrims. They also visited Shiloh.
Unfortunately, the antique book shop does not know the name of the photographer or author. We would welcome suggestions from our readers.
Today, religious pilgrims are usually found in the south, in a place called Jerusalem, but those visiting Shiloh, located in the Binyamin district of Samaria, can see new and exciting excavations of the Tabernacle site and meet a vibrant community of Israeli families. The temple in the main photograph is now closed.