Archaeologists find lost biblical city of Ziklag where King David took refuge

Once again, archaeologists in Israel have found ruins of an ancient city that confirms a biblical story, this time one involving King David and his refuge in Ziklag.

Ziklag is a former Philistine settlement that up to now had been lost to history as researchers have suggested at least 12 sites as possible locations.

But the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority, and Macquarie University in Sydney collaborated under the leadership of Hebrew University Professor Yosef Garfinkel to look for the actual site and found it in central Israel.

“The name Ziklag is unusual in the lexicon of names in the Land of Israel, since it is not local Canaanite-Semitic,” Garfinkel said in a statement. “It is a Philistine name, given to the town by an alien population of immigrants from the Aegean.”

Indeed, recent archaeological discoveries in the ancient city of Ashkelon, along with a DNA study, reveals that the Philistines originated from Europe, but these genetic links disappeared over a short period of time due to relations with native peoples.

One of their settlements, Ziklag, played a key role as portrayed in the Bible, which The Jerusalem Post helpfully explained:

Ziklag is mentioned several times in the Bible, most famously in the Book of Samuel, when the young David was granted refuge from King Saul by the Philistine King Achish of Gat. David was awarded Ziklag as a vassal state, under the protection of Achish, and he used it as a base for raids against the Geshurites, the Girzites and the Amalekites. According to the Book of Samuel, the city was destroyed by the Amalekites and the population was enslaved. After King Saul was killed in battle with the Philistines, David left Ziklag and traveled to Hebron to be anointed king of Israel.

So, David created his own settlement in Ziklag, which is why archaeologists have been looking for signs of a dual culture existing on the sites they excavate.

Only this time, they actually found such evidence. The original part of Ziklag is clearly a Philistine settlement dating back to the 12th century BC, but the team also found a rural settlement close by that dates back to the time of David in the 10 century BC along with pottery that would have been made in the same time period.

“Nearly one hundred complete pottery vessels were found in the various rooms,” the Israel Antiquities Authority said. “The great range of complete vessels is testimony to the interesting everyday life during the reign of King David. Large quantities of storage jars were found during the excavation — medium and large — which were used for storing oil and wine.”

Image via The Jerusalem Post

In short, David and his followers lived alongside the Philistines.

“That was the composition of the population,” Garfinkel told Haaretz. “I estimate that it had no more than 5,000 residents, about 2,000 in the cities and 2,000 in the villages and another thousand Bedouin, nomads. This is the realistic picture I see of the Kingdom of David. Later King Rehoboam would fortify Lachish and the kingdom would grow a little more.”

And that’s pretty interesting considering this is the same David who slew Goliath, the most notorious Philistine mentioned in the Bible. The fact that the Philistines would later grant David refuge after he killed one of their own makes them a very forgiving people.

Image via Wikimedia

And as more evidence that the site may be Ziklag, there are clear signs of destruction.

“This settlement came to an end in an intense fire that destroyed the buildings,” the Israel Antiquities Authority said.

Evidence of a fire destroying the dual settlements matches biblical accounts of a raid.

David rose up early, he and his men, to depart in the morning, to return into the land of the Philistines… it came to pass, when David and his men were come to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had made a raid upon the South, and upon Ziklag … and had taken captive the women and all that were therein, both small and great.

~ 1 Samuel 29:11-30.2

But there are detractors who still don’t believe Ziklag has been found.

“It’s very hard to accept,” Bar-Ilan University Professor Aren Maier said. “References to this site in the biblical texts are consistently much more south, relating to the Negev, the tribe of Shimon, or the southern border of Judah. Just because you have Philistine finds and then 10th century B.C.E. destruction, that does not make it Ziklag.”

“If he had an inscription saying that that was Ziklag, all would agree; as he doesn’t, the biblical geography is the key to the identification. And finally, not every archaeological site is mentioned in the Bible. This might be an unknown site.”

That could be the case, but for the time being, this site is the closest match to Ziklag ever found and more information will likely be forthcoming as excavations continue. Then Maier may very well get the proof demanded.

David would go on to become king of the united tribes of Israel after the death of his nemesis King Saul, and he had the Philistines to thank for it for showing him great kindness when they did not have to do so. If this site is Ziklag, another mystery from the Bible has been solved and adds more credibility to the other biblical stories about David’s life.

It truly is fascinating what archaeologists are digging up today.

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Featured Image: Israel Antiquities Authority/Jerusalem Post

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