Jerusalem was not Israel’s first capital. Shiloh was-for at least a century.

A high plains village nearly half a mile above sea level and thirty miles north of Jerusalem, in Israel’s hill country, Shiloh was where Joshua and the Israelites pitched the tent of God, or the worship center called the tabernacle. This is where the Israelites came to offer sacrifices to God and to celebrate religious holidays.

Samuel’s infertile mother went there with her husband on just such an occasion. That’s when she asked God for a son-vowing to return the boy to full-time service for God. Samuel was born within the year, and after he was weaned from breast milk, he was brought to the Shiloh priest to serve at the worship center.

Shiloh is where Joshua divided the land of Israel among the tribes and where the Israelites met in times of crisis.

The Philistines apparently destroyed the village and worship center after routing the Israelite army, killing the priest’s two sons, and capturing Israel’s sacred chest that contained the Ten Commandments. The Philistines later returned the chest because it caused a plague wherever it went. With Shiloh gone, the chest was kept in storage until David brought it to his new capital in Jerusalem.

What’s left of Shiloh is a seven-acre mound of ruins known as Seilun. Archaeological evidence seems to support the theory that the Philistines destroyed it in about 1050 BC.

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