Shiloh in the Old Testament

Shiloh (1)

The Messianic interpretation is evaded by translated "until he (Judah) shall come to Shiloh," Judah leading in the march (Num. 2:3-9; 10:14); and when Israel came to Shiloh they pitched the tabernacle there (Josh. 18:1-10), and Judah's principality ceased.

But the town Shiloh did not exist in Jacob's time, and Judah did not lose the preeminence there; nor indeed did Judah, but Moses and Aaron, lead Israel in the wilderness. Shiloh means the Peacemaker, "the Prince of peace" (Isa. 9:6), from shaalah "to be at peace." Solomon (= peaceful) typically (Ps. 72), Messiah antitypically, fulfils the prophecy (Gesenius, Keil, etc.).

The ancient versions, however, almost unanimously translated "He to whom, it belongs," "He whose right it is": Ezek. 21:27 (Septuagint, Aqu., Symm., Syriac, Saad., Onk., Targum Jer., all except Vulgate and Pseudo Jon.). The letter yod (the i in Shiloh) is made an objection to this latter translation, but many Hebrew manuscripts and all Samaritan manuscripts are without the yod, which probably did not appear until the tenth century.

The reading without the yod being the harder reading is the less likely to be spurious; the copyists would more probably insert than omit it. However, (as sh for the relative pronoun 'asher(HSN-834) is unknown in the Pentateuch, and "it (huw') is due," namely, the sceptre, would be needed), "the Peacemaker" is best, and so our Hebrew text requires as it has the yod. "Abraham rejoiced to see Messiah's day, he saw it and was glad" (John 8:56); Jacob naturally expresses the same sure anticipation.

The taxing (Luke 2:1,2) on the eve of Jesus' birth definitely marked the passing of the sceptre (the tribal authority and royal prominence) and of the lawgiver (the Sanhedrin expounders of the law, literally, the ruler's staff, mechoqyeeq; Num. 21:18) from Judah, which virtually had begun some time before, and which was consummated only at Jerusalem's overthrow by Rome. The Herods, though Rome's creatures, exercised a quasi-native sovereignty in Judah just before and after Jesus' birth.

After Archelaus a Roman procurator for the first time was sent there. Keil's view however is probably preferable: "the sceptre shall not depart from Judah ... until Shiloh come," i.e. shall NEVER depart. "Until" ('ad kiy) is not exclusive (Ps. 110:1); "and (until) to Him shall the willing obedience (as of a son yiqhath: Prov. 30:17) of the peoples be."

Judah should bear the sceptre with "lion" courage until in the future Shiloh, sprung from Judah, the willing obedience of the nations came to Him, and His rule over the tribes was widened into the peaceful government of the world. Balaam refers to this prophecy of Jacob (Num. 24:17; Isa. 11:1-9; Zec. 9:10; Eph. 2:14; Rev. 5:5). "From between his feet" is explained by the versions, "from his posterity." Rather it is the ruler's staff resting between his feet when he sat, and inclining toward himself. When he spoke in public assemblies he held it in his hand (Keil).

Shiloh (2)

From shaalah "to rest." The place at which Israel attained its state of rest, and where the Lord rested among them (Ps. 132:14). Judges (Judg. 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 (Josh. 18:1-10; Judg. 18:31; 1 Sam. 4:3). Here Joshua divided by lot the part of the western Jordan land not yet allotted (Josh. 19:51). Shiloh fell within Ephraim (Josh. 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 (Judg. 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 Sam. 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: Judg. 18:31; 2 Sam. 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 (Jer. 7:12; Ps. 78:60,61). Ahijah the prophet was here consulted by the messengers of Jeroboam's wife (1 Kings 11:29; 12:15; 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 (Jer. 41:5).


International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, which is in the public domain (with minor edits).