Abstract of Deist, F. E. “The Implied Message of the Reference to Shiloh in Jeremiah 7:12.”

Deist, F. E.  “The Implied Message of the Reference to Shiloh in Jeremiah 7:12.”  Journal for Semitics 5, no. 1 (1993): 57-67.

Shiloh is used by Jeremiah as a precedent and it renders his initial warning and the ensuing argument valid and conclusive, so it is crucial to grasp the implication of the reference to Shiloh in verse 12.  It is supposed to provide evidence for the deceitfulness of the priestly oracle that the people have nothing to worry about as long as they have their temple; the implication being nothing could cause them to lose the temple.  Commentators argue about which event in Shiloh is being referred to, the Philistine destruction of the eleventh century, the Assyrian destruction of the eighth century, or the loss of the Ark in the time of Samuel.

Deist argues that for Jeremiah to be understood we must ask how the people would have understood him.  He further says it isn’t obvious that the destruction of the temple is implied.  Shiloh illustrated that the people (in ths case in the southern kingdom) may be exiled from the land and the presence of God even while the sanctuary still stands.  How did Shiloh exist in the minds of the people at the time of Jeremiah?  Psalm 78 is one good reference.  It tells of how Israel deserted God, and he rejected Ephraim/Joseph and deserted his dwelling place and delivered the people, including the priests to the sword and scattering.  On the other hand, it boasts that Judah is not elected and his sanctuary built among them.  Shiloh therefore becomes a symbol of divine rejection of the northern kingdom and their chosenness.  Jeremiah turns their own tradition against them.  Like Israel, Judah’s apostasy will turn God against them: people, prophets, and priests were all implicated.  This may be why they demanded his death in Jeremiah 26:7-9.

What is the situation of Shiloh in context of the entire Old Testament?  1 Samuel 1-4 deals with the rejection of the northern kingdom and the election of the southern priestly house.  Eli and his family were rejected and Zadok in the house of Jerusalem replaced him.  Samuel does not deal with the rejection of Shiloh, only the priestly house.   Therefore readers hearing the parallel could have deduced their legitimacy an permanency was implied, but Jeremiah is suggesting otherwise.  He not only questions the permanency of the temple, but the city and the electedness of the people and the permanency of the priestly house of Zadok.

In sum, Shiloh becomes a symbol of an unfaithful people, compelling God to forsake his dwelling-place, threatens them with exile, and rejection of the priestly leadership.      Their permanency was not better than that of Eli, though the Lord told him his house would walk before the Lord forever.  (1 Sam. 2:30) The clear implication for them would have been that they were, in spite of their status as a chosen people, on the brink of being rejected by God and that God would desert Zion and its sanctuary.  I think this also adds a significant example of the violation of the Abrahamic Covenant: the people had rejected the Lord as their God, and he had rejected them as his people, both in the north and the south.  See especially Ps. 78:56-60.

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