Horn of the Stone Altar Discovered at Shiloh

And the height of the mizbayach hearth shall be 4 amot, with 4 horns projecting upward from the hearth: 4 amot. Ezekiel 43:15 (The Israel Bible™)

Dr. Scott Stripling (Courtesy)

The archaeological dig at Shiloh in Samaria has produced yet another wonder straight out of the Bible: stone horns from the altar that once stood in front of the Tabernacle.

Archeologists and volunteers from the Associates for Biblical Research in Texas, a Christian organization that brings together Biblical research and archaeology to mutually advance both disciplines, led by Dr. Scott Stripling, provost at The Bible Seminary in Katy (Houston) Texas, made the discovery. Dr. Stripling served as a field supervisor of the Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project from 2005 to 2010 before moving on to lead the dig at Khirbet el-Maqatir from 2013 to 2017. Stripling moved his team ten miles north to Shiloh in 2017. 

In addition to its significant archaeological relevance, Shiloh is important for being mentioned in the Bible as being the site of the Jewish Tabernacle for 369 years. Dr. Stripling supports this claim though some archaeologists disagree. The claim is difficult to prove since the Tabernacle was a portable structure and had few elements that would remain intact to this day. 

Three altar horns were discovered during ABR’s excavations at Shiloh, Israel this season. Horn one: 38 cm long and 23.5 cm wide (15” x 9.25”). One of the few elements that would stand against the sands of time was the stone horn-shaped edge of an altar the researchers believe dates to the Iron Age (1200–586 BCE ). The horns were an essential part of the altar and used in the Temple service.

Slaughter the bull before Hashem, at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and take some of the bull’s blood and put it on the horns of the mizbayach with your finger; then pour out the rest of the blood at the base of the mizbayach. Exodus 29:11-12

The horns also the means of obtaining sanctuary, though this was not always effective. Yoav attempted to use this as a means of obtaining sanctuary from King Solomon but was struck down anyway by order of the king.

When the news reached Yoav, he fled to the Tent of Hashem and grasped the horns of the mizbayach—for Yoav had sided with Adoniyahu, though he had not sided with Avshalom… So Benaiah son of Yehoyada went up and struck him down. And he was buried at his home in the wilderness. I Kings 2:28-34

The horns were also described as an essential element of the soon-to-be Third Temple.

And the height of the mizbayach hearth shall be 4 amot, with 4 horns projecting upward from the hearth: 4 amot. Ezekiel 43:15

According to Biblical accounts, the Tabernacle stood in Shiloh until the First Temple was built in Jerusalem. The age of the find is significant as archeologists have discovered a change of cultures in the region, transitioning in the period between 1200 BCE – 1000 BCE from a Canaanite culture to the Tribes of Israel and the Philistines.

Last year, the team uncovered a ceramic pomegranate, a motif that has been found at other sites connected with the priests. Dr. Stripling believes the ceramic ornament fitted with hooks hung from the hen of the priestly garments as described in the Bible. 

On its hem make pomegranates of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, all around the hem, with bells of gold between them all around:a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, all around the hem of the robe. Exodus 28:33-34

“The pomegranate is a sacred motif,” he said. “The only sites in Israel where we have found pomegranates like this one have been Levitical sites.”

They also discovered many pithoi, a Greek term for large clay containers commonly used among the civilizations that bordered the Mediterranean Sea in the Neolithic, the Bronze Age and the succeeding Iron Age for storing fluids and grains. In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Dr. Stripling theorized that the pithoi were used to store the tithes that were brought to the tabernacle.

“The artifacts and materials we have found are consistent with the Tabernacle but the Tabernacle itself was made of animal skins,” Stripling explained. “Very little of the Tabernacle would remain for us to find.”

“I can tell with 100 percent certainty that there were Israelites in Shiloh because of the many indicators we have,” Dr. Stripling told Breaking Israel News. “The pottery shows that they were there when the Bible says they were there. I cannot yet say that I have 100 percent archaeological evidence the Jewish Tabernacle stood at Shiloh. We do find many reasons to seek confirmation of the Biblical text. There are indications, like the large amount of animal bones that are consistent with the Biblical sacrificial system, and the large east-west walls we are excavating.”