Joshua 18:1: The Tabernacle Moved to Shiloh

Verse 1:[1] And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together (Josh. 19:51; 21:2; 22:9; Jer. 7:12) at Shiloh, and (Judg. 18:31; 1 Sam. 1:3, 24; 4:3, 4) set up the tabernacle of the congregation there. And the land was subdued before them.

[All the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, etc.] Unto this council appointed by Joshua resorted all that were representing the whole people; namely, the High Priest, priests, nobles, etc. (Serarius out of Montanus). Question 1: When was this done? Responses: 1. In the fourteenth year after the entrance into the land; for seven years were consumed in waging war, and just so many in distribution (Kimchi in Masius, Munster, Rabbis in Bonfrerius). That reproof whereby Joshua severely condemns the idleness of the tribes sufficiently shows that there had been inactivity for a long time after the beginning of the division, namely, for nearly seven years, before they proceeded to cast lots at Shiloh. Evidently the people, wearied by protracted war, since they appeared safe to themselves, with the children of Judah and the children of Joseph established on both sides, like unto garrisons, gave themselves to leisure; and they considered that common life in their standing camps preferable to enduring again new vexations for the sake of their peculiar possessions, by driving their enemies from their habitations. And their inactivity was being fostered by a thousand conveniences, which all had acquired for themselves in so long-lasting a station. Therefore, Joshua prudently thought that these camps had to be moved, or rather to be broken up, and that there was to be a pushing of each unto their own possessions (Masius). 2. But to me so long a delay is not satisfying: For why would Joshua delay the casting of lots for so long? why would he hold the Tribes in inactivity for so many years, which in chapter 22 he sent home after the casting of lots was complete? Add that many maintain that Joshua died before the fourteenth year. Neither is that reproof of Joshua an obstacle, etc. He was able to chide them, even if only one year of delay had intervened (Bonfrerius). Question 2: Why was the Tabernacle removed from Gilgal? Response: Since the greatest part of Canaan was occupied, it was fitting to proceed from the first vestibule of Canaan to the interior parts of the kingdom, so that by the presence of the Divine the whole country might be sanctified and blessed, and so that there might be easier access to it from all the tribes on all sides (Serarius). Question 3: But why was the Tabernacle carried off to Shiloh? This was done by divine oracle (Masius, Serarius, Bonfrerius). For the place of the Tabernacle was to be determined by the election of God, Deuteronomy 12 (Bonfrerius, Serarius). Nevertheless, some reasons why this place might be chosen above others do appear (Serarius). 1. God willed to honor both the children of Joseph and the children of Judah (which Tribes God had honored with the privileges of the first-born[2]) with His presence, as it were, the one after the other (Masius). 2. Shiloh was distant from Jerusalem by only two leagues, or hours[3] (Lapide, similarly Serarius, Bonfrerius). Therefore, it is advantageously moved more closely to Jerusalem, in which place it was ultimately going to remain (Masius, Serarius). 3. This place was both pleasant and safe, since it was lifted up exceedingly high (Masius), and was surrounded by the most powerful tribes of Judah and Joseph (Serarius). 4. It was fitting that the Ark be in the tribe of the Leader (Lapide), to whom this, as being the foremost blessing and dignity, ought to be granted (Serarius). Question 4: Whether the camps of the Israelties were transferred with the Tabernacle to Shiloh? Response: Masius is doubtful, but in such a way that he rather affirms it; and that rightly. For this is affirmed by the Rabbis, Josephus in his Antiquities 5, Cajetan, and Tostatus. It is proven out of verse 9, they returned to Joshua to the camps at Shiloh. Add that the more lengthy stay at Gilgal had given great occasion idleness: Therefore, Joshua most prudently decided to cut off that opportunity, and to change the place (Serarius out of Masius). If the camps were advanced to Shiloh with the Ark, the Religion of the people was certainly to be commended, to which the Sanctuary of God and Divine worship are the chief concerns. For then human affairs ultimately succeed, when Divine matters have preceded (Masius). Note, moreover, that the Ark remained in Shiloh for about three hundred and fifty years (Lapide, Bonfrerius).

[The Tabernacle of testimony, אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֑ד[4]] So called, either because there the assembly of the people was held (Drusius); or, because God met with them there, according to Exodus 25:22.[5] Thus, in Job 30:23, the grave is called בֵית מוֹעֵד, the house of meeting, where all assemble; and, in Isaiah 14:13, heaven is called the mount of assembly,[6] because this is the most prominent mountain, and desired in the prayers of all (Masius, Drusius).

Set up the tabernacle of the congregation there, by God’s appointment, as is manifest from Deuteronomy 12:5, etc.; Jeremiah 7:12. Hither it was removed from Gilgal, partly for the honour and conveniency of Joshua, that he being of the tribe of Ephraim, and seating himself there, might have the opportunity of consulting with God as oft as he desired and needed; and partly for the conveniency of all the tribes, that, being in the heart and centre of them, they might more easily resort to it from all places. Here the tabernacle continued for above three hundred years, even till Samuel’s days, 1 Samuel 1:3.

[And the land was subject to them] Clearly it is the same thing that was said before, the land had rest from war.[7] For that was to be mentioned anew because of the surveyors that were soon to be sent forth into all the corners of Canaan, so that they might describe all things most accurately (Masius). Hebrew: and the land,[8] that is, after the land was subjugated by them (Vatablus). Rabbi Levi Ben Gershon thus explains it, The land was now more nearly before their eyes than when their camps were in Gilgal. Which is indeed true, since Gilgal was in the extremity, but Shiloh in the interior (Masius).

And the land, or, for the land, because these words contain a reason of the former action: the particle ו/ and is oft used for for, as hath been showed.

[1] Hebrew: וַיִּקָּ֙הֲל֜וּ כָּל־עֲדַ֤ת בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ שִׁלֹ֔ה וַיַּשְׁכִּ֥ינוּ שָׁ֖ם אֶת־אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֑ד וְהָאָ֥רֶץ נִכְבְּשָׁ֖ה לִפְנֵיהֶֽם׃

[2] 1 Chronicles 5:1, 2.

[3] A league was roughly three-miles, about the distance one could walk in an hour.

[4] יָעַד signifies to appoint; מוֹעֵד, an appointed time/season, an appointed place, or a meeting.

[5] Exodus 25:22:  “And there I will meet (וְנוֹעַדְתִּי) with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.”

[6] Hebrew: בְּהַר־מוֹעֵד.

[7] Joshua 11:23; 14:15.

[8] Hebrew: וְהָאָרֶץ.

1 thought on “Joshua 18:1: The Tabernacle Moved to Shiloh

  1. Matthew Henry: ‘In the midst of the story of the dividing of the land comes in this account of the setting up of the tabernacle, which had hitherto continued in its old place in the centre of their camp; but now that three of the four squadrons that used to surround it in the wilderness were broken and diminished, those of Judah, Ephraim, and Reuben, by the removal of those tribes to their respective possessions, and that of Dan only remained entire, it was time to think of removing the tabernacle itself into a city. Many a time the priests and Levites had taken it down, carried it, and set it up again in the wilderness, according to the directions given them (Numbers 4:5, etc.); but now they must do it for good and all, not one of the stakes thereof must any more be removed, nor any of the cords thereof broken, Isaiah 33:20. Observe,

    I. The place to which the tabernacle was removed, and in which it was set up. It was Shiloh, a city in the lot of Ephraim, but lying close upon the lot of Benjamin. Doubtless God himself did some way or other direct them to this place, for he had promised to choose the place where he would make his name to dwell, Deuteronomy 12:11. It is most probable God made known his mind in this matter by the judgment of Urim. This place was pitched upon, 1. Because it was in the heart of the country, nearer the centre than Jerusalem was, and therefore the more convenient for the meeting of all Israel there from the several parts of the country; it had been in the midst of their camp in the wilderness, and therefore must now be in the midst of their nation, as that which sanctified the whole, and was the glory in the midst of them. See Psalm 46:5. 2. Because it was in the lot of that tribe of which Joshua was, who was now their chief magistrate, and it would be both for his honour and convenience and for the advantage of the country to have it near him. The testimony of Israel and the thrones of judgment do well together, Psalm 122:4, 5. 3. Some think there was an eye to the name of the place, Shiloh being the name by which the Messiah was known in dying Jacob’s prophecy (Genesis 49:10), which prophecy, no doubt, was well known among the Jews; the setting up of the tabernacle in Shiloh gave them a hint that in that Shiloh whom Jacob spoke of all the ordinances of this worldly sanctuary should have their accomplishment in a greater and more perfect tabernacle, Hebrews 9:1, 11. And Dr. Lightfoot thinks that the place where the tabernacle was set up was therefore called Shiloh, because of the peaceableness of the land at this time; as afterwards in Salem was his temple, which also signifies peaceable.

    II. The solemn manner of doing it: The whole congregation assembled together to attend the solemnity, to do honour to the ark of God, as the token of his presence, and to bid it welcome to its settlement. Every Israelite was interested in it, and therefore all testified their joy and satisfaction upon this occasion. See 2 Samuel 6:15. It is probable those tribes that were yet encamped when the tabernacle was removed to Shiloh decamped from Gilgal and pitched about Shiloh, for every true Israelite will desire to fix where God’s tabernacle fixed. Mention is made, on this occasion, of the land being subdued before them, to intimate that the country, hereabouts at least, being thoroughly reduced, they met with no opposition, nor were they apprehensive of any danger, but thought it time to make this grateful acknowledgment of God’s goodness to them in the constant series of successes with which he had blessed them. It was a good presage of a comfortable settlement to themselves in Canaan, when their first care was to see the ark well settled as soon as they had a safe place ready to settle it in. Here the ark continued about 300 years, till the sins of Eli’s house forfeited the ark, lost it and ruined Shiloh, and its ruins were long after made use of as warnings to Jerusalem. Go, see what I did to Shiloh, Jeremiah 7:12; Psalm 78:60.’

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