Various Facts Respecting Places Where the Tabernacle Was Built or Located

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Dr. J. W. Dawson, in his “Modern Science in Bible Lands,” gives the following facts with regard to the location and present appearance of the mountain near which the Tabernacle was built.

“The actual position of Mount Sinai has been a subject of keen controversy, which may be reduced to two questions: 1st, Was Mount Sinai in the peninsula of that name or elsewhere? 2d, Which of the mountains of the peninsula was the Mount of the Law? As to the first of these questions, the claims of the peninsula are supported by an overwhelming mass of tradition and of authority, ancient and modern.

“If this question be considered as settled, then it remains to inquire which of the mountain summits of that group of hills in the southern end of the peninsula, which seems to be designated in the Bible by the general name of Horeb, should be regarded as the veritable ‘Mount of the Law?’ Five of the mountain summits of this region have laid claim to this distinction; and their relative merits the explorers [those of the English Ordnance Survey] test by seven criteria which must be fulfilled by the actual mountain. These are: (1) A mountain overlooking a plain on which the millions of Israel could be assembled. (2) Space for the people to ‘remove and stand afar off’ when the voice of the Lord was heard, and yet to hear that voice. (3) A defined peak distinctly visible from the plain. (4) A mountain so precipitous that the people might be said to stand under it and to touch its base. (5) A mountain capable of being isolated by boundaries. (6) A mountain with springs and streams of water in its vicinity. (7) Pasturage to maintain the flocks of the people for a year.

“By these criteria the surveyors reject two of the mountains, Jebel el Ejmeh and Jebel Ummalawi, as destitute of sufficient water

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and pasturage. Jebel Katharina, whose claims arise from a statement of Josephus that Sinai was the highest mountain of the district, which this peak actually is, with the exception of a neighboring summit twenty-five feet higher, they reject because of the fact that it is not visible from any plain suitable for the encampment of the Israelites. Mount Serbal has in modern times had some advocates; but the surveyors allege in opposition to these that they do not find, as has been stated, the Sinaitic inscriptions more plentiful there than elsewhere, that the traces of early Christian occupancy do not point to it any more than early tradition, and that it does not meet the topographical requirements in presenting a defined peak, convenient camping-ground, or a sufficient amount of pasturage.

“There only remains the long-established and venerated Jebel Musa—the orthodox Sinai; and this, in a remarkable and conspicuous manner, fulfils the required conditions, and, besides, illustrates the narrative itself in unexpected ways. This mountain has, however, two dominant peaks, that of Jebel Musa proper, 7,363 feet in height, and that of Ras Sufsafeh, 6,937 feet high; and of these the explorers do not hesitate at once to prefer the latter. This peak or ridge is described as almost isolated, as descending precipitously to the great plain of the district, Er Rahah, which is capable of accommodating two millions of persons in full view of the peak, and has ample camping ground for the whole host in its tributary valleys. Further, it is so completely separated from the neighboring mountains that a short and quite intelligible description would define its limits, which could be easily marked out.

“Another remarkable feature is, that we have here the brook descending out of the mount referred to in Exodus (Ch. 32:20), and, besides this, five other perennial streams in addition to many good springs. The country is by no means desert, but supplies much pasturage; and when irrigated and attended to, forms good gardens, and is indeed one of the best and most fertile spots of the whole peninsula. The explorers show that the statements of some hasty travelers who have given a different view are quite incorrect, and also that there is reason to believe that there was greater rainfall and more verdure in ancient times than at present in this part of the country. They further indicate the Wady Shreick, in which is the stream descending from the mount, as the probable place of the making and destruction of the golden calf, and a hill known as Jebel Moneijeh, the mount of conference, as the probable site of the Tabernacle. They think it not improbable that while Ras Sufsafeh was

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the Mount of the Law, the retirement of Moses during his sojourn on the mount may have been behind the peak, in the recesses of Jebel Musa, which thus might properly bear his name.”


Colonel Sir Charles Wilson thus describes the present ruins of Shiloh, in “Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement” for 1873, pp. 37, 38:

“The ruins of Seilun (Shiloh) cover the surface of a ‘tell,’ or mound, on a spur which lies between two valleys, that unite about a quarter of a mile above Khan Lubban, and thence run to the sea. The existing remains are those of a fellahin village, with few earlier foundations, possibly of the date of the Crusades. The walls are built with old materials, but none of the fragments of columns mentioned by some travelers can now be seen. On the summit are a few heavy foundations, perhaps those of a keep, and on the southern side is a building with a heavy sloping buttress. The rock is exposed over nearly the whole surface, so that little can be expected from excavation. Northwards, the ‘tell’ slopes down to a broad shoulder across which a sort of level court, 77 feet wide and 412 feet long, has been cut out. The rock is in places scarped to a height of five feet, and along the sides are several excavations and a few small cisterns. The level portion of the rock is covered by a few inches of soil. It is not improbable that the place was thus prepared to receive the Tabernacle, which, according to Rabbinical traditions, was a structure of low stone walls, with the tent stretched over the top. At any rate, there is no other level space on the ‘tell’ sufficiently large to receive a tent of the dimensions of the Tabernacle.

“The spring of Seilun is in a small valley which joins the main one a short distance northeast of the ruins. The supply, which is small, after running a few yards through a subterranean channel, was formerly led into a rock-hewn reservoir, but now runs to waste.”

To the above items Major Claude R. Conder, R. E., in his “Tent Life in Palestine,” Vol I, pp. 81, 82, adds as follows:

“There is no site in the country fixed with greater certainty than that of Shiloh. The modern name Seilun preserves the most archaic form, which is found in the Bible in the ethnic Shilonite (1 Kings 11:29). The position of the ruins agrees exactly with the very definite description given in the Old Testament of the position of Shiloh.

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as ‘on the north side of Bethel (now Beitin), on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah’ (Lubbin) (Judg. 21:19). It is just here that Shiloh still stands in ruins. The scenery of the wild mountains is finer than that in Judea; the red color of the cliffs, which are of great height, is far more picturesque than the shapeless chalk mountains near Jerusalem; the fig gardens and olive groves are more luxuriant, but the crops are poor compared with the plain and round Bethlehem. A deep valley runs behind the town on the north, and in its sides are many rock-cut sepulchers.

“The vineyards of Shiloh have disappeared, though very possibly once surrounding the spring, and perhaps extending down the valley westwards, where water is also found. With the destruction of the village, desolation has spread over the barren hills around.”



So thinks Rev. W. Shaw Caldecott. See his treatise on “The Tabernacle, Its History and Structure,” pp. 53, 54:

“Four miles to the north of Jerusalem, and at the distance of a quarter of a mile to the east of the main road, is a curiously knobbed and double-topped hill, named by the Arabs Tell (or Tuleil) el-Full. The crown of this hill is thirty feet higher than Mount Zion, and Jerusalem can be plainly seen from it. On its top is a large pyramidal mound of unhewn stones, which Robinson supposes to have been originally a square tower of 40 or 50 feet, and to have been violently thrown down. No other foundations are to be seen. At the foot of the hill are ancient substructions, built of large unhewn stones in low, massive walls. These are on the south side, and adjoin the great road.

“If we take the Scriptural indications as to the site of Nob (height), this hill and these ruins fulfill all the conditions of the case.

“(a) Nob was so far regarded as belonging to Jerusalem, as one of its villages (thus involving its proximity), that David’s bringing Goliath’s head and sword to the Tabernacle at Nob was regarded as bringing them to Jerusalem (1 Sam. 17:54).

“(b) A clearer indication as to its situation is, however, gained by the record of the restoration towns and villages in which Nob is mentioned, the name occurring between those of Anathoth and Ananiah (Neh. 11:32). These two places still bear practically the

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same names, and their sites are well known. In the narrow space between Anata and Hanina stands the hill Tell el-Full, which we take to be ancient Nob.

“(c) Another indication is contained in Isaiah’s account of Sennacherib’s march on Jerusalem, the picturesque climax of which is, ‘This very day shall he halt at Nob; he shaketh his hand at the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem’ (Isa. 10:28-32). There are only two hills on the north from which the city can be seen, so as to give reality to the poet’s words. One of these is Neby Samwil, and the other is Tell el-Full.”



In Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, Art. Gibeon, J. F. Stenning says as follows:

“The identity of Gibeon with the village of El-Jib, which lies some six or seven miles northwest of Jerusalem, is practically beyond dispute. The modern village still preserves the first part of the older name, while its situation agrees in every respect with the requirements of the history of the Old Testament. Just beyond Tell el-Full (Gibeah), the main road north from Jerusalem to Beitin (Bethel) is joined by a branch road leading up from the coast. The latter forms the continuation of the most southerly of three routes which connect the Jordan valley with the Maritime Plains. * * * Now just before this road (coming up from the Jordan valley) leaves the higher ground and descends to the Shepheleh, it divides into two, the one branch leading down to the Wady Suleiman, the other running in a more southerly direction by way of the Bethhorons. Here, on this fertile, open plateau, slightly to the south of the main road, rises the hill on which the modern village of El-Jib is built, right on the frontier line which traverses the central range to the south of Bethel. It was the natural pass across Palestine, which in early times served as the political border between North and South Israel, and it was owing to its position that Gibeon acquired so much prominence in the reigns of David and Solomon. A short distance to the east of the village, at the foot of the hill, there is, further, a stone tank or reservoir of considerable size, supplied by a spring which rises in a cave higher up.”

This spring, the explorers tell us, was probably the ancient “pool of Gibeon” mentioned in 2 Sam. 2:13.

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Also, respecting the “great high place,” Smith’s Dictionary has the following:

“The most natural position for the high place of Gibeon is the twin mountain immediately south of El-Jib, so close as to be all but a part of the town, and yet quite separate and distinct. The testimony of Epiphanius, viz., that the ‘Mount of Gibeon’ was the highest round Jerusalem, by which Dean Stanley supports his conjecture (that the present Neby Samwil was the great high place), should be received with caution, standing, as it does, quite alone and belonging to an age which, though early, was marked by ignorance and by the most improbable conclusions.”

Some additional facts, as given by Rev. W. Shaw Caldecott (ibid, pp. 60-62), are as follows:

“El-Jib is built upon an isolated oblong hill standing in a plain or basin of great fertility. The northern end of the hill is covered over with old massive ruins, which have fallen down in every direction, and in which the villagers now live. Across the plain to the south is the lofty range of Neby Samwil. * * * Gibeon was one of the four towns in the division of Benjamin given as residences for the sons of Aaron (Josh. 21:17). It was thus already inhabited by priests, and this, added to its other advantages, made it, humanly speaking, a not unsuitable place for the capital of the new kingdom. No remains of (very ancient) buildings have been discovered, such as those of er-Ramah and Tell el-Full.”



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