Joshua (Yehoshûa'), who had been the military commander for some years during the latter part of the Exodus, now took over from Moses. He led the Israelites to conquer Jericho. In fact he so destroyed both the city and its population that it remained abandoned for centuries thereafter. He then went on to conquer the whole of the hill country of Canaan as far as Hazor (five miles north of the Sea of Galilee). On the way he took Shechem (now Nablus) and Shiloh. The hilltop town of Shiloh thereafter became the permanent resting place of the Ark and its Tabernacle for the next 400 years or so.

Following the death of Joshua, the tribes tended to fragment under their own separate leaders, who would come to be known as The Judges. Four tribes headed south-west, whilst the remaining eight spread over towards the coast and northwards to roughly level with Hazor. It was inevitable that they would all become involved in frequent and continuing skirmishes with various city-states or minor kingdoms in order to secure land for themselves. This turbulent state of affairs lasted until 1010 NC.

On one occasion, during the time of Samuel (Shmuél) who was the last of the great Judges, the Israelites were engaged in a fierce struggle against the Philistines around Ebenezer. Learning that the battle was going badly, Eli the High Priest ordered his two sons to take the Ark to the battle area to give heart to his countrymen. For all that, the battle was lost and both his sons were killed. The Ark was captured (10). Meanwhile Eli, who was a short plump man, had been sitting quietly on top of a stone wall awaiting the outcome when news of the defeat reached him. He was so shocked, he toppled backwards and broke his neck.

Somewhat surprisingly, after only seven months, the Philistines asked the Israelites to take back the Ark. It seemed that they had suffered from sudden and widespread sickness which they attributed to its unlawful possession. The Ark was hastily recovered and brought on a makeshift wagon to Kiriath, eight miles (13 km) west of Jerusalem where it was again rehoused in its former Tabernacle (11).