Shiloh: A Mysterious Message

From the book The Former Prophets
By Gerald Flurry

The city of Shiloh occupies an important place in the former prophets. It was where Hannah uttered her magnificent prophecy in 1 Samuel 2. It was where she brought Samuel in order to dedicate him to God. It was where Samuel began to serve God after receiving such a wonderful foundation from his mother, and where God appeared to that young man (1 Samuel 3:21).

What is interesting is that Jesus Christ is also called “Shiloh” in prophecy.

Genesis 49:10 makes a strange statement that really puzzles the commentaries: “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.”

“Until Shiloh come” is clearly referring to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. But nowhere else in the Bible is Christ referred to as Shiloh. Shiloh is a city, yet here it refers to Christ. How do you explain that? The commentaries think it simply doesn’t make sense: Why call the Messiah Shiloh?

The history of this special place, recorded in the former prophets, gives a sobering and inspiring answer.

Here is an example illustrating why biblical scholars don’t understand the Bible as they should. They often fail to dig into the Bible for an answer to the difficult questions. Instead, they just rely on their human reasoning instead of God’s reasoning! They don’t let the Bible interpret the Bible. That prevents them from getting the depth they should have.

There is a scepter that won’t depart from Judah; that is speaking of the Jewish rule on the throne of David. There is also a lawgiver from Judah in this end time—until Shiloh come, “and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.”

Look again at the prophecy in Genesis 49:10. It reads, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” From verse 1 of Genesis 49, we can understand that this entire passage is for the “last days”—the time we are living in now. So, in the last days, God said there would be a scepter, or a ruler on David’s throne, at the same time there is a lawgiver, who has a message about David’s throne.

Concerning the scepter promise, we have always believed it refers to a kingly line that would rule from the time of David right up to the Second Coming of the Messiah. The scepter also refers to the promise of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Verse 10 refers to a lawgiver from between Judah’s feet. The Companion Bible says this lawgiver comes “from between his feet,” which means he is to come from Judah’s descendants.

There is to be a scepter and a lawgiver in the “last days.” The lawgiver is a Jew who is here when Christ returns.

This is the same twofold covenant referred to in Jeremiah 33:17-18: “For thus saith the Lord; David shall never want [or lack] a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel [the scepter promise]; Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man [the lawgiver] before me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually [a type of spiritual sacrifices].” (Jeremiah’s book is for this end time—Jeremiah 30:1-9.)

The kingly line of the tribe of Judah continues to this day. God said in Genesis 49:10 that a lawgiver would parallel that scepter promise, which continues until Christ returns.

Traditionally, we have believed this lawgiver to be Christ. In principle, that is true. Christ always gives the law. He is the source. But notice, the scripture says this lawgiver would not depart from Judah’s feet “until Shiloh [Christ] come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” Would it make sense to read that Jesus would not depart from Judah’s feet until Jesus come?

Shiloh refers to Christ, so this “lawgiver” must refer to another individual. God has always worked through one man at a time. Again, Jeremiah 33:18 says that God would choose one man to fulfill this commission. Since this prophecy about the lawgiver was not revealed to me until after Mr. Armstrong died, it specifically refers to my office today.

Mr. Armstrong had to establish God’s law and government. He was the Elijah who restored all things just before Christ’s return (Matthew 17:10-11). I have continued the same law and government he taught. No other church can truthfully make that claim!

Mr. Armstrong and I each have been used to fill the role of lawgiver to God’s Church and the world. So today, where is the human lawgiver descended from David and the tribe of Judah? Who administers the same law that Christ will teach when He returns to sit on that throne of David? Those are questions you must be able to answer!

This man will be teaching about the scepter—the kingly line, or David’s throne, and the promise of salvation through Jesus Christ. It is the same throne that is about to be taken over by Jesus Christ forever (Luke 1:30-33).

In these last days, the kingly line, David’s throne, is not governed by God’s law. But the Church is ruled by Christ—that great Lawgiver, the King of kings who shall rule on David’s throne forever.

The use of “Shiloh” in Genesis 49:10 is a coded word. Clearly, God wants us to learn more about Shiloh.

Shiloh’s History

Shiloh is 30 miles north of Jerusalem. While the Israelites were conquering the Promised Land, the ark of the covenant was set up in Gilgal—but once they finally subdued the Canaanites, they moved the ark to Shiloh. “And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there. And the land was subdued before them” (Joshua 18:1).

Because it hosted the ark of the covenant, which symbolized God’s presence, Shiloh was the spiritual headquarters of the nation. Unger’s Bible Dictionary calls it “the site of Israel’s early sanctuary in the time of the judges,” and says, “It was the focal point of Israel’s tribal organization before the establishment of the kingdom.”

Again, it was there that God began working with young Samuel. “And the Lord appeared again in Shiloh: for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord” (1 Samuel 3:21). This was the second time God appeared to Samuel in Shiloh (also in verse 10). Somehow, Samuel had to have seen at least a little sliver of God—two times! How impressive! I’m sure we would drop dead if God appeared to us that way! This man must have had quite a message, as did his mother. God used them in a powerful way.

I have recorded four television programs from Shiloh. I was probably more stirred there than any other place I’ve been, just thinking, as I walked among the ruins there, that God appeared to Samuel right here.

Today, however, that site is strewn everywhere with ruins—massive, glistening white boulders. Why? Because God destroyed it. Those ruins tell a tragic story. They serve as a reminder of the glory of ancient Israel when they did obey God—and when they did not. It is quite a sight and contains quite a lesson for us.

The Message of Shiloh

One of the most dramatic events in the Bible is recorded in 1 Samuel 4. The Israelites went out to battle against the Philistines, and 4,000 Israelites were killed. That defeat showed them that God was not with them.

The Israelites returned to their home base in Shiloh, which housed the ark of the covenant. Without consulting God, they decided to grab the ark from Shiloh and bring it with them into battle, as if that physical object would save them. In the ensuing battle, they ended up losing 30,000 men, and the Philistines seized the ark! That was absolutely crushing to them.

Unger’s Bible Dictionary says, “Shiloh was destroyed … presumably at the hands of the Philistines when the ark was carried away (1 Samuel 4).”

Shiloh was desolate, and the ark was gone. That was truly depressing for Samuel to witness. “The overthrow of Shiloh marked a turning point in the history of that period,” Unger’s continues. That watershed event marked a big change in Israel. And after the Philistines brought the ark back, it was never set up again in Shiloh.

The author of Psalm 78 related some of Shiloh’s history. “For they provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven images. When God heard this, he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel: So that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men” (verses 58-60). God placed that tent there Himself! He had a vested interest in Shiloh. Through Samuel and others, God placed that tent there, with the ark and the truth of God, so Israel could be blessed and set an example for the world! But Israel didn’t cooperate with God, and it doesn’t today.

“And delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy’s hand. He gave his people over also unto the sword; and was wroth with his inheritance” (verses 61-62). Shiloh was God’s glory and His strength! Israel manifested that strength by obeying God and having Him empower them. When they stopped, He became full of wrath.

This history illuminates an important end-time prophecy given by the Prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah knew all about Shiloh and why it was destroyed. He prophesied that, in this end time, all Israel would be destroyed like Shiloh!

Jeremiah’s Prophecy

Remember, the book of Jeremiah is primarily for this end time (e.g. Jeremiah 30:1-9, 24; 23:20). His personal message only went to Judah anciently, but his book is addressed to the nations of Israel today.

In Jeremiah 7, the prophet speaks about corruption in the temple. This is an end-time prophecy about God’s spiritual temple today—His Church. That corruption has infected this last era of God’s Church, the Laodicean Church today (request a free copy of Malachi’s Message for more explanation). In verse 4, he warns against people saying, “The temple of the Lordor, as we heard it, “The Church! You can’t leave God’s Church.” God practically mocks people who say that! Verse 11 says that God saw His house in this end time become “a den of robbers”!

“But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel” (verse 12). “My place” is the sanctuary—even the holy of holies where God was! God had to destroy Shiloh, despite all the rich history of Samuel there.

“Then come to present yourselves before me in this house, which belongs to me, thinking you are now quite safe—safe to go on with all these abominable practices!” (verse 10; Moffatt translation). The people in Shiloh thought they could continue their abominable practices and God would keep blessing them—yet look at Shiloh today! There is nothing left of it! We need to remember that history and take heed! All of God’s people need to know about Shiloh. There is a lesson there that we must learn.

In Jeremiah 26, God told His prophet to stand in the court of the temple and tell the people to turn from their sins. “And thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord; If ye will not hearken to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you” (verse 4). Again—this is for the end time. Somebody in God’s Church set the law before the people. Who was it? Some people would say we can’t determine that! That is ridiculous: We know who established the law of God in this end time! We know who established the government that would submit to that law: It was Herbert W. Armstrong (directed by God, of course). Nobody else did that.

“Then will I make this house [talking about the Laodiceans] like Shiloh, and will make this city [Jerusalem—a type of three modern nations of Israel] a curse to all the nations of the earth” (verse 6). That is quite a prophecy! Is this something we ought to be urgent about? Jeremiah was certainly urgent.

After Jeremiah gave this prophecy, the priests and prophets objected, and they and all the people threatened to kill him (verses 7-8). They railed against him, saying, “Why hast thou prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate without an inhabitant? And all the people were gathered against Jeremiah in the house of the Lord” (verse 9). Jeremiah didn’t have much success with them.

Somebody is likewise sending out this message today. The Laodiceans have already become like Shiloh, and the nations of Israel are rapidly heading down that same path. That is an end-time prophecy! It is a prophecy of huge cities being without an inhabitant! What a terrifying warning about our nations! Do we really believe that is about to happen? If so, we need to act on that!

Most people who believe in the Old and the New Testament think they are doing what God wants them to do. They believe they are religious the right way. They believe they’re practicing Christianity correctly. But God prophesies that our nations will end the same way Shiloh did! Our nations are beset by sins and problems that are getting continually worse: drugs, crime, family breakdowns and breakups, terrorism, addictions, pornography—on and on it goes. We talk about our nations being so great, but God calls Israel “an hypocritical nation” (Isaiah 10:6). What does God think about the way we’re living? After all, that is what our religion is all about: what we do—the way we live! How many people really understand that?

Jeremiah told them that God had sent him, and he trumpeted the warning, “Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God …” (Jeremiah 26:13). In this end time, God is sending me, backed by God’s very elect, in the same way.

You can see in verse 16 that, in this case, the princes of the world actually rescued Jeremiah from the religious people. In verse 24, another person from the world protected God’s prophet. The religious people wanted to kill Jeremiah. The princes said that he hadn’t done anything worthy of death, and they saved him this time.

We need to think about this. Here in Jeremiah 26, these princes came to his aid. But if you follow the chronology, these same princes soon began to change their story. Beginning in Jeremiah 34, Babylon attacked in a series of sieges. And by Jeremiah 37, in the third siege, the two princes Gedaliah and Jehucal—whose bullae have been excavated in Jerusalem and are on display in Armstrong Auditorium—did all they could to have Jeremiah imprisoned two times. They also appealed to the king to kill him!

When we have that level of persecution coming against us, God is going to take His people to a place of safety. I don’t know what all will happen, but Jeremiah did prophesy this about the end time. We should not be shocked when that persecution comes, because it will come. But if we do our job, we will only get stronger.

Awesome Messages

God wants us to understand more about Shiloh. There are some awesome messages there. Hannah’s prophecy was all about the beginning of the house of David and the throne that Jesus Christ is going to sit on. The ark of the covenant was once positioned there. That is where God spoke and where Israel heard His voice.

But Israel fell away from God. The nation rebelled, Shiloh was destroyed, and the ark was removed. Once it left, it never returned to that city. That is a symbol of what happens when someone who once knew God turns away from Him. Jeremiah’s prophecy uses it as a picture of what we can expect to happen to our nations very soon!

Either we learn the lesson of Shiloh, or it is prophesied that we will suffer like Shiloh!

This all makes Genesis 49:10 far more meaningful: “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” When Christ thunders back to this Earth, He will sit on David’s throne, ruling beside kings and priests of the spiritual house of David! And we are the house of David—kings and priests being exalted to show this world how to live. This world is falling apart, and we don’t have much time to get ready to educate it. We are the greatest royalty for all eternity! That is the most magnificent reward that God could give us!

Continue Reading: 6: David: A King After God’s Own Heart