A Stone Altar Southeast of Shiloh

A large, stone-built altar has been discovered southeast of the ancient city of Shiloh. Like the altar at nearby Givat Harel, this one is about a mile from the ancient city.

Google Earth view of Shiloh and the nearby altars, from the south.

Unlike the altar at Givat Harel, this altar is not monolithic, but is built of un-worked field stones. This is in accordance with the guidelines in the Hebrew Bible for the construction of an altar built to Yahweh. “‘If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it” (Ex 20:25).
This altar is in an industrial zone that has been significantly back-filled to level the hillside. Fortunately, the altar has been protected by the construction of a large stone silo, which explains the odd setting.

Altar southeast of Shiloh, protected by a modern stone silo.

This altar is quite large. It is easy to underestimate its size looking at photos. I had no way to accurately measure the altar, but would estimate it is approximately 12×15 feet. This photo gives some idea of how large it is. Notice the car tire lying at the bottom of the silo.

View of the southeast altar, from the south.

Although this altar has clearly been identified and protected in recent years, I have been unable to find any excavation report related to it. BibleWalks identifies it as dating to the Iron Age, which seems reasonable, but no source is cited for this date. It seems certain that it dates prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC, since this seems to have effectively been the end of the construction of high places and altars throughout the land. Of course, the proximity to Shiloh, the place where the tabernacle was located for more than three centuries, is intriguing.
If you wish to visit this altar, either by Google Earth or in person, the coordinates are 32° 2’47.46″N 35°18’15.38″E.

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