Following the description of the places where public altars were established during biblical times that appeared in the Mishnah (112b), Rav Dimi quotes Rabbi Yehudah haNassi as teaching that there were three places where the Shekhinah– the Holy Spirit of God – rested on the Jewish people, in Shiloh, in Nov and Givon, and in the permanent Temple in Jerusalem.
Four places are mentioned in Rav Dimi’s teaching, and, in fact, the Ein Ya’akov‘s version of the Gemara is that there were four places where the Shekhinah rested on the Jewish people. Nevertheless, Rashi explains that Nov and Givon are viewed as a single period when private altars were permitted, separating between the two periods of Shiloh and the Temple when private altars were forbidden.
The Maharsha grapples with the fact that there were other places where the Tabernacle stood – in the desert for 39 years and in Gilgal for an additional 14 years while the land was being conquered and divided between the tribes. He explains that outside the Land of Israel was not seen as a place where the Shekhinah truly rested. During the 14 years of capturing and dividing the land, the aron – the Holy Ark – did not permanently rest in the Tabernacle, so that was not counted, either. Based on the passage in Sefer Yirmiyahu (7:12), it was only after the establishment of the Tabernacle in a semi-permanent place in Shiloh that the Shekhinah was seen as “coming to rest” among the people.
The city of Shiloh, which was located in the Tribe of Efraim (see Sefer Shoftim, or Judges 21:19) is about 22 miles north of Jerusalem on the ancient mountain ridge road that traversed the country from north to south, just under ten miles south of Shekhem.