posted on Jun, 19 2020 @ 05:00 PM
Shiloh was the location of the ark of the Lord and the associated sanctuary during the time of Judges.
The priest Eli was warned (1 Samuel ch3) that his own house at least would be destroyed. This warning began to be fulfilled when the Philistines
invaded in the next chapter. As far as we can tell, the Israelites had no commander in that battle. The Lord chose not to send a prophet to appoint
one, and the elders of Israel did not appoint one. Instead, they called for the ark to be brought from Shiloh. This device was based on a
misunderstanding. When the Lord is present with his people, the function of the ark is to be the sign of his presence, but the Lord is not controlled
by human action. Bringing the ark onto the battlefield does not, in itself, bring the Lord onto the battlefield.
Israel was defeated, the ark was captured, and Eli died when he heard the news. We don’t need to follow the ark through the various wanderings. The
important point is that it found a resting-place, for the moment in Kiriath-jearim, on the western side of the hill-country. The townspeople took it
to the house of Abinadab (the local priest?) and consecrated his son Eleazar to take charge of it (ch7 v1).
But what happened to the rest of the sanctuary? Later Jeremiah warns Jerusalem about suffering the fate of Shiloh; “I will do to the house which is
called by my name… as I did at Shiloh” (Jeremiah ch7 v14). The most natural explanation is that it was destroyed by the Philistines in these wars.
Surely that was part of the import of the warning given to Eli?
The modern consensus, as illustrated by Wiki, is that we don’t know what happened to Shiloh and when it happened. But that consensus is obtained by
disregarding various references in the books of Samuel to the descendants of Eli. If we collect these references together and trace the family lines,
we may see the dim outlines of a story in which the sanctuary itself is destroyed, but contents and people survived by scattering.
Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were killed in the battle. Phinehas had a son called Ahitub, known only as the ancestor of several lines of
descent from Eli.
Ahijah, son of Ahitub,, was present at one of Saul’s battles (ch16), with Urim and Thummim and also (confusingly) with the ark. This appears to deny
the loss of the ark, but he could have collected it from Kiriath-jearim.
David found Ahimelech, son of Ahitub, in a sanctuary at Nob, continuing the ritual of offering the shewbread (ch21). The ritual of shewbread belongs
to the presence of the Lord, and therefore to the ark. So this is not just “a priestly sanctuary” but THE priestly sanctuary, living in exile from
Shiloh (and therefore indirect evidence that Shiloh has been destroyed). This implies that the tabernacle, or some form of tabernacle, and at least
some of the vessels had found refuge there. On the orders of Saul, that community of priests was destroyed in turn, for the crime of helping David.
Abiathar, son of Ahimelech, reported the news to David and stayed with him (ch22 vv20-33).
Did anything else manage to escape from Nob? We may be able to pick up this trail in Chronicles. When David brought the ark into Jerusalem, “he left
Zadok the priest and his brethren the priests before the tabernacle of the Lord in the high place that was at Gibeon” (1 Chronicles ch16 v19). Zadok
is named as another son of Ahitub (1 Chronicles ch18 v16). The implication is that the tabernacle found refuge again in Gibeon before being moved on
We’ve seen that the ark and the tabernacle, with its vessels, went off in different directions after the Philistine attacks, and fell into the hands
of two sets of custodians. This could be the clue explaining the presence of two sets of priests in David’s Jerusalem, the family of Zadok and the
family of Abiathar.
It was David who brought the ark of the Lord into Jerusalem, initially providing his own tent as a covering (2 Samuel ch6). My working assumption is
that Abiathar came in to Jerusalem as David’s favourite priest, and newly appointed custodian of the ark, while Zadok had slightly less prestige at
the time as custodian of the tabernacle. David’s reign sees the two families in subdued rivalry. They were both resident in Jerusalem during such
episodes as the rebellion of Absolom.
Their relative positions were reversed on the dramatic day when David was lying on his deathbed, and his eldest son Adonijah tried to proclaim himself
the new king of Israel (1 Kings ch1). Abiathar was with Adonijah on that day. I think his place in the plot was that he was going to anoint the new
On the orders of the alerted David, Solomon was publicly proclaimed as his successor, and anointed by Zadok. Adonijah and his confederates survived
for a few days, until Adonijah made a tactless request which showed that his ambitions had not subsided. Then Solomon took strong action, which
included sending Abiathar away from Jerusalem. His life was protected by his former services to David. Zadok took his place as custodian of the
Abiathar’s expulsion was “fulfilling the word of the Lord which he had spoken concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh” (1 Kings ch2 v27), though
that comment ignores the claim that Zadok was also a descendant of Eli. In fact the main genealogy of the priesthood (1 Chronicles ch6 vv1-15) ignores
Eli altogether as a disgraced man. Zadok is given as the son of Ahitub who was the son of Amariah. But my confidence in that genealogy is a little
weakened by the fact that the sequence Amariah-Ahitub-Zadok appears twice over.
At the inauguration of Solomon’s Temple, the ark and the tabernacle were both brought into it. The genealogy just quoted says that Johanan, four
generations down from Zadok, “served as priest in the house that Solomon built”. Although Solomon puts himself at the centre of the inauguration
and the priests are pushed into the background, the line of Zadok would continue to hold the leading place in the priesthood. Thus the different
elements of the sanctuary at Shiloh have been recombined.
That is how we get from Shiloh to the Temple.