In the book of Samuel, a young David must flee from his father-in-law, King Saul, who becomes obsessed by his fear that David wishes to usurp his throne. David at one point seeks refuge in Ziklag, which scholars several years ago identified with an archaeological site southwest of Jerusalem known as Khirbet al-Ra’i. But Zachary Thomas and Chris McKinney have recently presented a competing theory, as Parker Blackwell explains:
According to the Hebrew Bible, Ziklag was a small city gifted to David by King Achish of Gath during David’s flight from King Saul. Biblical accounts tell that from Ziklag, David raided the towns of the northern Negev, suffered attacks from the Amalekites, and restored great wealth to the people of Judah (1Samuel 27–30). Ziklag was also the place where David received the news of Saul and [his son] Jonathan’s demise [at the hands of the Philistines] (2Samuel 1:17).
Thomas and McKinney argue . . . that Khirbet al-Ra’i cannot be ancient Ziklag because the site’s major phases of occupation do not coincide with the biblical account. Moreover, they posit that the biblical authors listed Ziklag among the cities of the northern Negev or the Beersheba Basin, and that it was not a city in the Shephelah, [the low, rolling hill between Jerusalem and the coastal plain], where Khirbet al-Ra’i is located (Joshua 19:1–10).
Instead, Thomas and McKinney argue that the little-known site of Tell esh-Shari’a, located in the northern Negev, halfway between Gaza and Beersheba, is a much better candidate for biblical Ziklag. Archaeological evidence from Tell esh-Shari’a suggests continuous occupation from the Middle Bronze Age to the early Roman period. Additionally, written records that describe Ziklag’s location—ranging from the Greek historian Eusebius’s Onomasticon to the travel logs of a 17th-century explorer—place the city about fifteen miles east of Gaza, which aligns much more closely with the geographic location given in the biblical account.