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Biblical City with Ties to King David Unearthed

July 9, 2019

by: Edgar Asher

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The archaeological excavation at Ziklag in the Judean foothills

Tuesday, 9 July 2019 | In 2015, archaeologists began an excavation in the Judean foothills in a location between Kiryat Gat and Lachish. In a tripartite cooperative between researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority and Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, the archaeologists believe they have found the Philistine town of Ziklag near Kiryat Gat.

Dozens of undamaged pottery vessels have been discovered so far at the site, and it has been determined that the vessels are at least 3,000 years old.

Ziklag is mentioned many times in the Bible in relation to David (in both 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel). According to the biblical narrative Achish, King of Gat, allowed David to find refuge in Ziklag while fleeing King Saul and from there David also departed to be anointed King in Hebron. According to Scripture, Ziklag was also the scene of a dramatic event, in which the Amalekites, desert nomads, raided and burned the town, taking women and children captive.

The name Ziklag is unusual in the dictionary of names in the land of Israel, since it is not local Canaanite-Semitic. It is in fact a Philistine name, given to the town by an alien population of immigrants from the Aegean.

Evidence of a settlement from the Philistine era has been found there, from the 11th–12th centuries BC. Spacious, massive stone structures have been uncovered containing finds typical of the Philistine civilization. Additional finds are foundation deposits, including bowls and an oil lamp—offerings laid beneath the floors of the buildings out of a belief that these would bring good fortune in the construction. Stone and metal tools were also found. Similar finds from this era were discovered in the past in excavations in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron and Gath—the cities of the lords of the Philistines.

Above the remains of the Philistine settlement was a rural settlement from the time of King David, from the early 10th century BC. This settlement came to an end in an intense fire that destroyed the buildings. Nearly one hundred complete pottery vessels were found in the various rooms. These vessels are identical to those found in the contemporary fortified Judean city of Khirbet Qeiyafa—identified as biblical Sha’arayim—in the Judean foothills. Carbon 14 tests date the site at Khirbet a-Ra’i to the time of King David.

The great range of complete vessels is testimony to the interesting everyday life during the reign of King David. Large quantities of medium and large storage jars were found during the excavation, which were used for storing oil and wine. Jugs and bowls were also found decorated in the style known as ‘red slipped and hand burnished,’ typical to the period of King David.

Following a regional archaeological study in the Judean foothills managed by Professors Garfinkel and Ganor, a picture of the region’s settlement in the early Monarchic era is emerging. The two sites, Ziklag and Sha‘arayim, are situated on the western frontier of the kingdom. They are both located on the peak of prominent hills, overlooking main routes passing between the land of the Philistines and Judea.   Khirbet Qeiyafa in the Elah Valley is located opposite Philistine Gath, and Khirbet a-Ra’i, sits opposite Ashkelon. This geographic description is reiterated in King David’s Lament, in which he mourns the death of King Saul and Jonathan in their battle against the Philistines—“Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon [2 Samuel 1:20].”

Posted on July 9, 2019

Source: (Excerpt of a press release published by Ashernet on July 8, 2019)

Photo Credit: IAA/Ashernet