Tel Shiloh (Biblical City)

By the Editors of the Madain Project

Shiloh (/ˈʃaɪloʊ/; Hebrew: שִׁלוֹ ,שִׁילֹה ,שִׁלֹה, and שִׁילוֹ variably, Arabic: تل شيلا) was an ancient city in Samaria mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. It has been positively identified with modern Khirbet Seilun, a tell or archaeological mound, called in Modern Hebrew Tel Shiloh. Shiloh was the major Israelite worship centre before the first Temple was built in Jerusalem.


Mentioned in the Books of Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 1 Kings, Psalms, and Jeremiah, Shiloh is situated north of Bethel, south of Lebonah in the hill-country of Ephraim (Judg. 21:19). Long before the advent of the Israelites, Shiloh was a walled city with a religious shrine or sanctuary during Middle and Late Bronze Age Canaan. Shiloh was one of the main centers of Israelite worship during the pre-monarchic period, by virtue of the presence there of the Tent Shrine and Ark of the Covenant.

circa 870–750 BCE

According to 1 Samuel 1–3, the sanctuary at Shiloh was administered by the Aaronite high priest Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. It was under Eli and his sons that the Ark was lost to Israel in a battle with the Philistines at Aphek. Jeremiah used the example of Shiloh to warn the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem what Yahweh Elohim will do to the "place where I caused my name to dwell," warning them that their holy city, Jerusalem, like Shiloh, could fall under divine judgment.

Notable Structures

circa 870–750 BCE

Jameh al-Yatim
The Jamia el Yeteim is a low building of stone, roughly squared, with a door on the north. It has a mihrab on the south, and is divided into two aisles, being rather longer east and west than north and south. There is an outer stairway to the roof. South of this is a small birkeh with steps to it". Today, the al-Yatim Mosque (Jami’ al-Yatim) stands at the heart of the site on top of the remains of a Byzantine Church. The mosque was used by the residents of Qaryut until the end of the 1970s. The remains of another mosque, Jami’ al-Sittin (Mosque of the Sixty) – is located in the entrance to the parking lot across from the present-day visitors’ center.

circa 350 CE

Byzantine Era Basilica
Byzantine basilica at Khirbat e Seilun, located near the Masjid al-Yatim (Mosque of the Orphans). This indicates an interesting development as the shift from identifying biblical Shiloh’s location here at Shiloh instead of Nabi Samwil in the Crusader period. Shiloh appears to have been recognized by the Jews, albeit with no evidence of any religious rituals, while in the Byzantine period, the place was recognized as a sacred place of worship with clear official backing, perhaps versus the Samaritans.

circa 350 CE

Muslim Era Olive Oil Press
The olive oil press unearthed during a recent (2015 CE) excavation headed by archaeologist Dr. Ofer Gat. A large stock of charred olive pits was found near the press, along with shards from terra-cotta candles and light cones characteristic of that period. The press, found during excavations, was dated to the early Muslim period of conquest from the 7th to the 10th century CE. While the press has not been excavated to completion yet, the large structure is already apparent and it is clear it was used as a public olive press.

circa 350 CE

At least two winepresses are known from Tel Shiloh, one (winepress A) in the monastic complex adjancent to the Byzantine basilica and another (winepress B) near the modern parking lot. One of these two winepresses, the smaller one (winepress A) adjacent to the church, dates back to the sixth century CE and the larger (winepress B) dates back to the Roman era probably first century CE.

circa 500-600 CE

Water Infrastructure
The Roman or Byzantine era cistern and open pool, carved in stone, where rainfall was collected.The excess water flowed from the cistern in to the pool through a connecting pipe. The cistern was once part of the church compound, and the pool was outside it. A set of steps lead down to the watern on the northern side and a plastered wall was added on the southern side. The pool drains the pine grove and indicates the size of the city of Shiloh during the Byzantine period. Today the ancient pool has been converted to an ecological pool which uses the roots of hydrophonic plants to purify "greywater".

circa 500-600 CE

Synagogue of the Divine Presence
The synagogue of the Dome of the Divine presence, also known as the Jameh Sittin, is located south of the Tel Shilo site on a knoll, from which one can view all of the Shilo valley, the road to Jerusalem, and the mountain chain of Ba'al Hatzor. The outer walls slope inward and reach a height of two meters, giving the building an appearance similar to the Tent of Assembly. Around the entrance are embellishments unique to Jewish buildings, such as olive branches and urns.

circa 500-600 CE

Tabernacle Site
During the period between capturing the Land and building the Temple, thousands of years ago in the days when Joshua divided the land among the 12 tribes, the Tabernacle resided in Shilo. There is great topographical similarity between this location and the location of the Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. both are enclosed by steep descents into valleys, with high hills surrounding the valleys; the southern approach is more gradual.


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