Shilo is a place that all Christians are familiar with, even though you might not realize the significance of the area. We grew up hearing about it. We know that it was important to Israel, but we might not know why. We even sang hymns about it.
What is it that makes Shilo so significant to the faith of Christians and Jews? Simply, Shilo is where the Ark of the Covenant was kept for almost four hundred years. When the Israelites came into Israel after fleeing Egypt they first stayed in Shilo. This was part of the Promised Land that was not to be divided and given to one of the 12 tribes of Israel, therefore, it was considered neutral land and appropriate as a resting place for the presence of God. As the Jews were commanded to return several times a year, it needed to be a place that did not belong to any one tribe. Thus, Shilo became the resting place for the Ark.
Shilo is also where the Prophet Samuel heard God call out his name. It was here that Samuel began his work as a prophet, living in the Tabernacle where the Ark of the Covenant dwelt.
This modern settlement no longer serves as the home to the Ark of the Covenant. It is, in fact, a little more dangerous of a place than much of Israel because it has been carved out of Palestinian Territory. It is surrounded by tall fences and walls and the children in this area travel by armored buses. When we happened on a school outing of young boys. they were accompanied by two men who were armed with military rifles. This is the life of modern Israelis in the areas of Jewish Settlements, which are under controversy.
The olive orchards of modern Shilo produce an incredible olive oil that is sold in the shop at the national park. I highly recommend that you get some while you are there. You can bring it home in your checked bag. At my house we use it for everything we cook.
Walking through this national park is great. It is literally in an area that is surrounded by nothing. There are few houses outside of the settlement houses. There is desert all around. Thus, there is a peace that is found in few places as the noises are mostly natural. In spite of the turmoil that comes from living in a settlement, there is an incredible sense of peace here where the Ark dwelt for so long.
It is quite a hike out to the sight where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, but it is well worth the journey. Along the way you will enter a theater that shows a short film on the history of the area. This film is a great way to quickly get a grasp of what happened at Shilo and why you are here.
Here the presence of God stood. Here the children of Israel returned several times every year to offer sacrifices and honor the God who had delivered them from the hands of their enemies. Here there was peace among the tribes of Israel.
Finally, the history of Shilo starts to fad when the Philistines took the Ark of the Covenant into captivity. Ultimately, King David brings the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem where it will dwell until it disappears from history, first in the Tabernacle and finally in the Temple of Solomon.
Shilo remains a part of the history of Israel and is well worth the journey to get there. Make an afternoon of it.
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