Today at Khirbet al-Ra’i a press conference was held that announced the identification of the site as Ziklag.
See: Researchers ‘ We Have Found Biblical Ziklag’
This was the first article that I saw, but many more have been released. A quick google search for Ziklag will bring up multiple sites.
I am familiar with Khirbet al-Ra’i as I have spent the last two weeks digging there as a volunteer with Dr. Garfinkel. It would have been nice to still have been there for the announcement.
In the press conference it was mentioned that there have been a dozen or more sites identified as Ziklag over the years. However, each of them are missing crucial elements for the identification.
About 4-5 years ago I had done a little research into Ziklag after a friend asked me what sites I would want to visit in Israel if I went with just a small group of people who had visited Israel before. At that time it was interesting to see all the sites that had been proposed. Each of the sites were missing something in the identification and to me most of them were in the wrong geographic place.
Earlier this year I decided to go on another dig with my friend Luke and one of the things that intrigued me was that the site was possibly Ziklag. This of course prompted more thought and research as to what was required for an identification.
One of the requirements was the pattern of occupation which included a transition from a Philistine site to a Judean site. Also, occupation after the return from the Babylonian captivity. The site has all of these requirements and these are detailed in many of the articles released today.
Another requirement was evidence of being burnt in the 10th Century B.C. This has also been found. There was a rich destruction level that has been carbon dated to the right time period. The pottery found in the destruction level is mainly Judean.
In the map above you can see that Khirbet al-Ra’i is located close to Lachish and is south of the proposed location for Gath. The site is along the border between Judah and Philistia.
The map above is representative of many maps that show the proposed location of Ziklag. To me Ziklag is too far south and too far away from Gath in most of them.
Then David said to Achish, “If I have found favor in your eyes, let a place be given me in one of the country towns, that I may dwell there. For why should your servant dwell in the royal city with you?” So that day Achish gave him Ziklag. Therefore Ziklag has belonged to the kings of Judah to this day. And the number of the days that David lived in the country of the Philistines was a year and four months.
I Samuel 27: 5-7 ESV
Most of the previously proposed locations of Ziklag have been closer to Gaza or Ashkelon and would probably have been in their control instead of Gath.
Here is a map from the ESV Study Bible that shows a possible route of the return of David from Aphek to Ziklag.
Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fireand taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great. They killed no one, but carried them off and went their way. And when David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with fire, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive.
I Samuel 30:1-3 ESV
You can see in the text above that David and his men arrived at Ziklag on the third day of their journey back from Aphek. This limits how far south Ziklag can be. With an average days journey being about 30 km the distance would be around 60-90 km. The distance from Aphek to Khirbet al-Ra’i is a little over 70 km. The distance to the proposed sites of Ziklag in the south is usually around 100 km which would have required travel of more than three days.
David and his men must have also arrived early on the third day as they almost immediately begin to chase after the Amalekites.
So David set out, and the six hundred men who were with him, and they came to the brook Besor, where those who were left behind stayed. But David pursued, he and four hundred men. Two hundred stayed behind, who were too exhausted to cross the brook Besor.
I Samuel 30:9-10 ESV
As David and his men set out they would have been moving much quicker than before as they would now be tracking down the enemy. However, they must have started quite far away from the brook Besor if a large number of men were exhausted by the time they arrived there. Many of the previously proposed sites for Ziklag are not far north of the brook Besor.
I have more thoughts as to why Ziklag must be closer to Gath, including David’s concern about Achish finding out about this activities. However, I am very tired from jet lag tonight and must get this posted.
Thanks for the information and thoughts. I was at Jan-Feb dig this year so was looking for updates about this summer’s work.
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