Some Archaeologists Think They Have Found the Biblical City Where David Hid from Saul. Others Disagree

July 10 2019

According to the book of Samuel, David took refuge in the Philistine city of Ziklag while on the run from King Saul. While experts have proposed various sites as the city’s locations, none has yielded convincing evidence—that is, until Yosef Garfinkle, one of Israel’s leading archaeologists, made some unexpected discoveries while excavating Khirbet a-Ra’i. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:

After seven seasons of digging, [Garfinkle’s] team found evidence of a Philistine-era settlement from the 12th–11th centuries BCE, under layers of a rural settlement dating to the early 10th century BCE, generally considered the Davidic era. Among the findings were massive stone structures and typical Philistine cultural artifacts, including pottery in foundation deposits—good-luck offerings laid beneath a building’s flooring. Some of the olive pits and other organic objects found in the deposits were sent for carbon dating, which confirmed their contexts, said the archaeologists.

Given the location of the excavations in the Judean foothills, Philistine artifacts, along with the carbon-14 dating, have all pointed the archaeologists toward identifying the site as [Ziklag]. The town is first mentioned in the Bible in the book of Joshua, in which it is apportioned to the tribe of Judah. Later, it is given to the tribe of Simeon. In the book of Samuel, David and 600 of his men and their families settled in for fourteen months at the Philistine city under the patronage of the Philistine King Achish of Gat, . . . and used it as a base to raid neighboring peoples, whom he and his men slaughtered.

[But] not all the experts are convinced that this is Ziklag. Indeed, the Bar Ilan University professor Aren Maeir . . . is adamant that it is not. . . . There is one verse in the book of Joshua in which Ziklag (along with Beersheba and other southern settlements) is apportioned to the tribe of Judah (15:31), which would make the newly proposed location possible. Indeed, much of Philistia lies in Judah’s allotment. In Joshua 19:5, however, it is allocated to the tribe of Simeon, which was given Judah’s southern portion [far from Ziklag].

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Hebrew Bible, King David, King Saul


What Donald Trump Gets Right about Israel and the Arabs

Oct. 17 2019

With a brisk history of American policy toward the Jewish state, Michael Doran highlights the failure of those who have seen a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict as paramount to U.S. interests, and the success of those who have instead made a clear-eyed assessment of Middle Eastern geopolitics. Too often, writes Doran, “Israel’s conflict with the Arabs has functioned as a screen onto which outsiders project their own psychodramas”: a skewed perspective that led to the failed Oslo Accords and to the misguided condemnations of American moves like the relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem. (Free registration required.)

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month


Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, US-Israel relations