1 Sam 1:1-18 During the time of Elon’s judgeship (c.1097 - c.1088BC) and before the seventy year period of Philistine rule in Israel (c.1081 - c.1012BC), Elkanah and his wife Hannah are living at Ramah in the hill country of Ephraim (near modern-day Ramallah) (see Map 51 and the feature on Ramah).
Every year they go to the religious festival at Shiloh where the Ark of the Covenant is kept in the Tent of Meeting (see Joshua 18:1). Hannah is childless, so she prays to the LORD that she will conceive.
1 Sam 1:19-28 Some time later, in c.1094BC, Samuel is born at Ramah. As a young child, he is taken to the sanctuary at Shiloh and set aside to serve the LORD, possibly as a ‘Nazirite’ (see Numbers 6:1-21 and Map 51).
Shiloh from Eli ( עדירל )
The sanctuary at Shiloh – located at Khirbet Seilun between Bethel (Beitin) and Shechem (Nablus) – became the home of the sacred Ark of the Covenant soon after the Israelites’ conquest of Canaan in c.1406 BC (see Joshua 18:1). The top of the hill of Shiloh was levelled to form a flat rectangular platform upon which the Ark of the Covenant could be erected within the Tabernacle – the ‘Tent of the LORD’s presence’ (see Exodus 25:8-8). The sacred precinct was enclosed within an outer ‘temenos’ wall, excavated by Finkelstein in the 1980s. The sanctuary at Shiloh became the site of an annual religious festival during the time of the Judges (see Judges 21:19).
By the time Elkanah and his wife Hannah went each year to offer a sacrifice at Shiloh (see 1 Samuel 1:3), the simple tented enclosure had been replaced by a more permanent structure with doors (see 1 Samuel 1:9). Here, their son Samuel grew up under the care of the priest, Eli (see 1 Samuel 1:24-27). While Samuel became the leader of the Israelites and the last of the ‘Judges’, his lifetime also marked the destruction of the sanctuary at Shiloh. This probably followed the defeat of the Israelites at the Battle of Ebenezer, when the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines following a disastrous move by the Israelites (see 1 Samuel 4:1-11 & Jeremiah 7:12-14).
The priesthood transferred from Shiloh to Nob, just north of Jerusalem on the road to Anathoth (see Isaiah 10:32 & Jeremiah 11:32). Here, David was given the consecrated bread and recovered the sword of Goliath of Gath (see 1 Samuel 21:1-9), and Saul killed the priests for assisting David (see 1 Samuel 22:9-19).
The site of Shiloh was re-developed durng the reign of Jeroboam I when it was the home of Ahijah the prophet (see 1 Kings 14:1-4). Shiloh then probably continued to exist through the Divided Monarchy period.
Excavations to the south of the mound in 2006 revealed the remains of a mosaic floor from a large Byzantine church, erected near an ancient Jewish wine press. The church was built between 380AD and 420AD when Shiloh had taken on Messianic significance amongst the local Christian community (see Genesis 49:10 which refers to the coming of ‘Shiloh’ as a messianic figure).
Star of David on the mosaic
floor of the Byzantine basilica
at Shiloh (zeevveez)
1 Sam 2:1-36 Samuel ministers in the sanctuary at Shiloh under the supervision of Eli the priest. Samuel grows physically and pleases "the LORD and the people” (1 Samuel 2:26) while Eli’s sons – Hophni and Phinehas – show nothing but contempt for their priestly roles.
1 Sam 3:1-21 One night, the LORD speaks to Samuel at Shiloh. He runs to Eli, thinking it is the old priest speaking; but it becomes clear that it is God himself calling Samuel. The LORD continues to reveal his word to Samuel as he grows older and “all Israel from Dan to Beersheba” recognises Samuel as "a true prophet of the LORD" (1 Samuel 3:20).
Samuel serves as a ‘judge’ of the people of Israel during the time of Philistine oppression following Samson’s death in c.1062BC (when Samuel was thirty-two), and particularly following Eli’s death in c.1024BC.