Biblical Town of Ziklag May Have Been Discovered

Biblical Town of Ziklag May Have Been Discovered
Biblical Town of Ziklag May Have Been Discovered

Aerial view of Khirbet_a-Ra‘i
Photo by Emil Ajem, Israel Antiquities Authority

Researchers announced their belief that they may have uncovered the biblical town of Ziklag. Located between Kiryat Gat and Lachish in southern Israel, Khirbet a-Ra‘i has been the site of excavations since 2015. Many of the artifacts discovered show signs of being from the Philistine culture. The biblical town of Ziklag is noted in the Books of Joshua and Samuel as a Philistine town near the city of Gath (for which Kiryat Gat is named). Radiocarbon dating from the hilltop site indicates the settlement was from the early 10th century B.C.E., the time period associated with King David.

Khirbet a Ra'i excavation,Biblical town of Ziklag

Photo by Kristina Donnally,
BAS Dig Scholarship recipient 2019

The connection to Ziklag was announced by the team of researchers, led by the Israel Antiquities Authority, as well as Macquarie University of Sydney Australia, and Hebrew University. The lead archaeologists Yoseph Garfinkel, Saar Ganor, Kyle Keimer, and Gil Davis believe Khirbet a-Ra‘i is the biblical town of Ziklag. Not all archaeologists are convinced, however; the indicators could be more coincidental than proof. Also, this site may not be far enough south to align with every biblical reference.

In the biblical telling, David fled from King Saul’s threat on his life and asked King Achish of Gath for asylum. Achish granted Ziklag to the future King David. David built his resources and even raided neighboring peoples from Ziklag. While he was away with his forces, Ziklag was raided and burned by the Amalekites, who took captive all that stayed behind. David’s army chased them down, and rescued all the captives and treasure from the Amalekites. In the Book of Samuel this was referred to as “David’s Spoil”.

Khirbet a Ra'i pottery, TBiblical town of Ziklag

Photo by Kristina Donnally, BAS Dig Scholarship recipient 2019

Ziklag remained a part of King David’s realm when he became King of Judah and resided in Hebron. Ziklag was later granted to the Simeonites, then remained a part of Judah under the Divided Monarchy. It was even a location where some Hebrews may have returned after the Babylonian exile. Yet, it has been lost to history for thousands of years.

David sent some of his spoil to nearby Judean elders, in the southern mountains and the Negev,

Khirbet a Ra'i pottery,

Photo by Kristina Donnally,
BAS Dig Scholarship recipient 2019

providing some clues as to its location. Despite that, and the reference to biblical Gath, narrowing down an exact location has eluded archaeologists, and has long been a source of dispute. At least a dozen different locations have been proposed as ancient Ziklag. It remains to be seen if this latest discovery, at Khirbet a-Ra‘i , will finally put the debate to rest.



A version of this post originally appeared in Bible History Daily in July 2019

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Read about Gath, Lachish, Khirbet Qeiyafa, and Ashkelon in the BAS Library:

Excavating Philistine Gath: Have We Found Goliath’s Hometown?

An Ending and a Beginning

Newly Discovered: A Fortified City from King David’s Time

Strata: Exhibit Watch: Ashkelon Through the Ages

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