1 Samuel 30

The Amalekite Raid on David's City of Ziklag


The Amalekites had made a raid upon the Negev . . . and had struck Ziklag and burned it (30:1).

There are several proposed sites for the location of Ziklag, but Tel Sera (Tell Sheri’a, Tell esh-Sharia) is the choice of many biblical scholars and archaeologists. Tel Sera is located about 24 miles (40 km) south of Gath. The tell is horseshoe-shaped with steep slopes on all sides except on the west. The area of the summit is 4–5 acres (1.6–2.0 ha).

Destruction Layers

When David and his men came to the city, behold, it had been burned with fire (30:3).

It is not uncommon for archaeologists to discover evidence of destruction by fire. Destruction layers are sometimes marked by ruined jars of carbonized foodstuffs, particularly cereals and legumes. Such grains were often stored in closed ceramic containers. The heat of the burning building could carbonize such grains, but not completely burn them up, resulting in remains like those seen in this photo. These carbonized seeds were recovered from the Lower Fortress Supply Store Building at Chavushtepe in eastern Turkey.

Nahal Besor

So David went with his six hundred men, and they came to the Nahal Besor (30:9).

The Nahal Besor is a stream that runs along the south side of the Negev. It is around 50 miles (80 km) in length and thus one of the longest waterways in the Negev. It eventually crosses the coastal plain to the west and empties into the Mediterranean near Gaza. Regarding the translation here of “Nahal Besor,” the most common English rendering is “brook Besor” (thus KJV, NASB, ESV), but this can connote a small stream, when in fact the Besor is a significant drainage system. The Nahal Besor is about 12 miles (20 km) from Ziklag if one takes a route due south.

A Wide Place

They were spread abroad over all the ground, eating and drinking and dancing (30:16).

It is not stated how far south David traveled before he came upon the Amalekite camp. Elusa, pictured here, is about 7 miles (11 km) south of the Nahal Besor. It is located at the crossroads of a couple of desert routes, making it likely that the Amalekites would have at least passed by here, even if they did not stop here. The land in this region is fairly flat, the kind of place where a large group could easily spread out.

Attacking the Camp

David struck them from the twilight until the evening of the next day (30:17).

This relief depicts an Assyrian soldier setting fire to an Arab tent after killing its two occupants. Behind the Assyrian soldier is a camel over which is sprawled the figure of another enemy. Although this relief is a few centuries later than the time of David, the scene with tents, camel, and dead enemies likely bears some resemblance to this episode in David’s life. This relief comes from the palace of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh.

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