Altar found at Shiloh—but let’s not get carried away

Archaeologists digging at the ancient site of Shiloh have uncovered an altar. Shiloh is known in the Bible as an early Israelite shrine that housed the Ark of the Covenant (1 Sam 1–4). It’s perhaps best known as the place where Samuel first encountered Yahweh in a night vision, during the priesthood of Eli and his corrupt sons, Hophni and Phinehas (1 Sam 3).

The site of Shiloh

The altar is small, measuring 60 x 60 cm wide, and 40 cm tall. Excavators say it was found in an installation dating to the Byzantine period, but claim the altar shows signs of having been used much earlier. What these signs are is not specified in the announcement by Israel National News (click HERE to read it). However, the archaeologists claim it dates to the Iron Age (1200–539 BC). This is a fairly vague statement. So given there is not much detail here, we should be very cautious about claiming to have found an altar mentioned in the Bible—especially one at a site which housed the Ark of the Covenant (calling Indiana Jones!). We need many more details about the altar, and a better knowledge of the stratigraphy of Shiloh before we make any definitive conclusions about this discovery.

So let’s wait and see what details surface over the next while to fill in the picture. Whatever these details turn out to be, this is certainly another exciting find.  But let’s not get carried away by hype.