For the second consecutive year, the Assemblies of God (AG), through the office of the Center for Holy Lands Studies (CHLS), has worked hand in hand with the Associates for Biblical Research (ABR), in excavating a riveting biblical site of great importance, Tel Shiloh, the first capital of the 12 tribes of Israel.
Located in the hill country of Ephraim, Shiloh appears multiple times in the Old Testament narrative beginning in Joshua 18, after Joshua’s conquest of the Land of Israel, where Eleazer set the Tabernacle to rest in its final location after 40 years of travel throughout the wilderness.
From Shiloh Joshua distributes the Tribal allotments given to the children of Israel. From this point, Shiloh becomes the holiest site in Israel. This is visible throughout the generations as displayed in the book of Judges through the opening chapters of the Samuel (a period that the Hebrew Bible states is 369 years), where every male was required make pilgrimage to in order to “appear before the Lord” (Deuteronomy 16:16) three times a year.
During the Life of Samuel, who was being raised and trained by the High Priest Eli at Shiloh, the Ark of the Covenant was lost in battle against the Philistines (1 Samuel 4) and the importance of site would diminish, possibly even being destroyed by the Philistines.1 Upon the Ark’s return to Israel, Shiloh would no longer serve as Israel’s capital, as the Ark and the Tent of Meeting would be placed in the King Saul’s capital of Gibeon, a Levite city located in his own tribe’s (Benjamin) allotment (just as the Ark was placed in Shiloh during Joshua’s time as the city was located in his tribe’s — Ephraim — allotment).
2018 was the first year that the AG and CHLS began investigating possible locations where opportunities would be granted to college students, pastors, and anyone interested in uncovering and experiencing the Bible from an archaeological “hands-on” approach.
After sending experts to participate at various archaeological sites in the land of Israel, the AG settled on Tel Shiloh. Following an incredible season at Tel Shiloh, the AG and CHLS knew they were “home” and instantly became eager to become more involved.
The AG, through CHLS, is now a full consortium member for the site’s third season of excavations. As a consortium member, the AG and CHLS gain access and full recognition in publication of the excavation results as well as authorization to publicize the finds and results of the annual excavations. This year’s team consisted of five students from three AG universities, led by Mark Jenkins of Evangel University and Jeremy Stein of the Center for Holy Lands Studies. The team carried out excavations through the course of four weeks.
“It is a truly amazing experience,” stated Annette Afful, an AG Theological Seminary (AGTS) Ph.D. candidate. “I never once in my wildest dreams thought that I would not only be literally holding the world of the Bible in my hands, but that I would actually be the one who was pulling it straight out of the ground and seeing what it is for the first time in thousands of years. It’s an incredible experience that I can easily say I have never had anything like before in my years of biblical studies.”
The team was also joined by Jay Herndon, the secretary treasurer of the Northern California and Nevada district, and his wife Terri. Herndon, chose to spend part of his sabbatical period growing his biblical knowledge through this archaeological excavation.
The excavations at Shiloh are under the direction of Dr. Scott Stripling, an AGTS graduate as well as a teacher for the Center for Holy Lands Studies trips to Israel.
Stripling’s approach is simple: “Although we’re not expecting to find the Tabernacle . . . the material culture, storage jars, large storage rooms, large bone deposits, clay pomegranates2 — all of this appears to build a case that the Bible’s account of Shiloh is accurate, and therefore builds a stronger case for the Bible as a reliable historical source . . . This adds an incredible level of excitement to why we dig here, because in our eyes, we dig the Bible!”
“One of the misnomers of archaeology is that its purpose is to prove what is assumed, however the reality is far different,” states Amy Flattery, director of the Center for Holy Lands Studies. “Archeology does not endeavor to prove — in the case of Shiloh — the historical truth of the Bible. Instead its purpose is to simply uncover and shed light on the evidence and realisms of the ancients who walked before us. Yet, one of the most amazing things about digging in lands of the Bible is that oftentimes the evidence and realisms uncovered becomes a type of ‘accidental reality’ as the truths of the Bible are nonetheless revealed.”
A prime example is the clay pomegranate unearthed in the 2018 season. The clay pomegranate is hollow and fits the biblical description, in both its shape and size, of the pomegranates that were hung on a priest’s coat. This appears to be similar to and has been compared with a gold bell, which some identify as a pomegranate, found by archaeologist Eli Shukron in the city of David. Both finds are believed to connect each site with the priestly system, a reality that speaks loudly for the biblical historicity of the claim of the tabernacle’s presence at Shiloh.
The Assemblies of God is honored to be a part of this dynamic interdenominational, evangelically run excavation. All who have an interest in “digging the Bible” are invited to contact the Center for Holy Lands studies (firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-700-2457) to find out how to get involved and enrich their understanding of God’s Word through a life-changing experience. The dates for the 2020 season will be Sunday, May 17, to Saturday, June 13. Participants can choose to be involved in the excavation for one to four weeks.
More information about the 2019 dig season will be released this summer. To view on-site interviews conducted with the Assemblies of God, ABR and CHLS staff during the excavations, click here and here.
1This proposal was originally that of W. F. Albright, one of the fathers of modern archaeology, however many modern scholars debate this hypothesis, while many older commentaries and traditions align with Albright’s proposal.
2Named “One of the top finds of 2018 in Time Magazine’s “Top Archaeological discoveries in Israel of 2018.”
Source: AG News