Unified Kingdom in Biblical Archeology
Israel was less disturbed by
outside powers during the time of the Unified Kingdom
than during the period of the Judges. This means that
Israel’s first three kings were unaffected by large
After 1240 BC, the Hittites were in conflict with
the migration of the Sea Peoples that brought an end to
The Hittite capital, Boghazkoi, was
Egypt did not interfere while Saul, David, and
Solomon ruled. After Rameses III (c.1195-1164), no
Egyptian king crossed the border of Israel until the
time of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son.
Pharaoh Shishak, who founded Egypt’s 22nd
Dynasty, did so in Rehoboam’s fifth year as recorded in
1 Kings 14:25-26.
Map of Unified Kingdom
Assyria would not threaten Israel for almost 100 years
after the division of Israel.
Assyria threatened Israel for the first
time under Shalmaneser III (859-824).
Prior to the Israel monarchy, there had
been only one extension of Assyrian power into the west.
Tiglath-pileser I (1116-1078) had brought his army as
far as the Mediterranean, still far north of Israel, but
he could not maintain control.
Another great individual was active in Israel during the
time of the Judge Samson.
This was Samuel, whose date is determined by the
fact that he had sons old enough to act as judges in
Beersheba (1 Sam. 8:1-2)
before Saul became king in 1050 BC.
Samuel’s birth can be placed around 1100 BC,
which would be before the Ammonite and Philistine
oppressions, and the birth of Samson.
Samuel (fig. 1) is also called a judge
(1 Sam. 7:15-17), but he
was more than that. He was a prophet
(1 Sam. 3:20), and even
acted as a priest (1 Sam.
9:12-13; 13:8-13). The prophet Jeremiah places
Samuel at the same level as Moses.
Then the LORD
said to me: “Even if Moses and Samuel were to
stand before me, my heart would not go out to this
people. Send them away from my presence! Let them go!
Jeremiah 15:1 (NIV)
Samuel is well known for correcting Israel’s religious
malpractice, restoring national morale and identity,
promoting a return to faith in God, and establishing the
new Israelite monarchy.
Battle of Aphek (1 Samuel 4)
After 20 years of
Philistine oppression Israel attempted to end it by a
direct military engagement.
encounter was at Aphek in the Sharon plain.
defeated and lost 4,000 men.
(Hophni and Phinehas) wrongly thought that the presence
of the ark at the battle front would help in a the
conflict and took the ark from Shiloh, contrary to God’s
will, and brought it the 23 miles to camp.
not bring favor with such disobedience, and again
defeat was experienced. This time 30,000 of Israel
fell, including Hophni and Phinehas; and the Ark was
of the catastrophe reached Shiloh, Eli fell from his
seat backward and died of a broken neck.
Excavations show that
the Philistines moved into Israelite territory, as far
as Shiloh, which they destroyed.
excavated by Danish archaeologists in 1926-29 and 1932
was destroyed by the Philistines during the 11th
century. This corresponds exactly with the Biblical
Man Samuel (1 Samuel 7)
Eli’s death Samuel found himself in the position of
Samuel had achieved a reputation as a prophet of
God among the people (1 Sam.
3:20) and could expect to be looked to for
It is evident from the Bible that Samuel’s efforts were
productive because 20 years later Israel had become a
vigorous nation who brought defeat on their oppressors
(1 Sam. 7:3-14).
The People Request a King (1
The people had seen how nearly they had come to disaster
under the present governmental system, and now that the
situation was improved, wanted a change.
The Philistines or another enemy might come
again. They wanted a king with an organized army
“such as all the other nations have”
(1 Sam. 8:4-6).
God told Samuel to comply with the people’s
God instructed Samuel to warn them that, along
with the king they requested, they would receive heavy
burdens in taxation.
OF SAUL (1 Samuel 9-12)
Not long after God revealed to Samuel that the tribes
would have a king, He identified who that person would
be: Saul, son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin.
Saul (fig. 3) was tall and of striking
appearance, being “without equal” in Israel
(1 Sam. 9:2).
Samuel told Saul of three confirmatory signs that
he would be king.
He would meet two men who would tell him
that the donkey’s Saul lost had been found and that his
father was now concerned about him.
He would then come upon three men, having
goats, bread, and wine, who would give him two loaves of
He would then encounter a group of
prophets playing instruments as they praised God. He
should join with this group in giving praise himself, at
which time he would experience the “Spirit of the Lord”
come upon him.
These events occurred just as Samuel had
With Israel’s first king chosen,
Samuel needed to identify him to the people.
Samuel did so at Mizpah, the site of the victory
over the Philistines, an event still fresh in Israel’s
Samuel summoned representatives of all the
tribes to meet with him there. He did not tell them who
God had already chosen but proceeded to make inquiry,
probably by the Urim and Thummim, as though no prior
information had been given.
Saul was now summoned, seen to be kingly in
stature, and accepted with shouts of approval by those
It is one thing to be approved by
representatives, but another to be accepted by the
people at large.
The people had to give their voluntary
acceptance, and Saul was still quite unknown to them.
There was a need that Saul have public exposure before
acceptance could be expected.
There was also no capital, palace, staff, or
governmental machinery in place.
Saul needed an opportunity to prove himself so
that he would be accepted, before the unification of the
tribes and the establishment of the government could be
Such an opportunity arose soon. The Ammonites,
under King Nahash, now attacked the city of
Jabesh-gilead across the Jordan
(1 Sam. 11:1-15).
The inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead sent for
help from all the tribes.
Their appeal came to Saul’s attention and
he immediately saw it as both a responsibility for him
and the opportunity he needed.
He butchered a yoke of oxen and sent
pieces to all the tribes. Messengers taking them
declared that all who did not respond to Jabesh-gilead’s
call by joining Saul would have their own oxen treated
in similar fashion.
The response was excellent. A total of
30,000 presented themselves from Judah, and 300,000 from
the other tribes.
From this group Saul formed three armies,
which he led against the Ammonites, winning a decisive
The result was as Saul desired. The
Israelites now accepted him as king. The formal ceremony
was conducted at Gilgal, with Samuel leading the
Saul was crowned as Israel’s first king.
The date was c. 1050 BC, Saul would rule for 40 years
(Acts 13:21) from 1050 –
THE RULE OF SAUL
government Saul established would be simple.
There would have been no time for Saul to plan,
and the people would not want an elaborate government.
It would not be easy to impose controls, when the
people had never had them.
Though Samuel had warned that taxes would come,
it was apparent that time and education would be
necessary before the people would accept them.
The capital Saul established was at
Gibeah, identified as Tell el-Ful, located at the
northern outskirts of present-day Jerusalem.
The site was excavated by W.F. Albright and was
the royal residence of Saul (1
Sam. 11:4; 15:34; 22:6).
The site revealed 12
levels of history. Including an Israelite town referred
to in Judg 19, 20
where it was destroyed
Saul’s stronghold was
erected in 1015 BC. The outer citadel walls, 170 by 155
feet, were 8 to 10 feet thick. The citadel is composed
of two stories with a stone staircase. The casemented
walls and separately bonded towers are unique to this
Among the objects
found were grinding stones, spinning wheels, cooking
pots, burnished ware, and a gaming board. Storage bins
for oil, wine, and grain, still holding their contents
when excavated, were also found in the royal palace.
The palace itself was of simple design.
Excavation has revealed that it was more of a fortress
than a residence (fig. 4).
The remains of this fortress were destroyed in
the 1960’s by King Hussein of Jordan who began building
a palace on the site.
God’s First Rejection of Saul
(1 Samuel 13-14)
first rejection of Saul came after renewed conflict with
the Philistines, which occurred at Michmash. The
Philistines had been quiet since their defeat at Mizpah,
but now only two years after Saul’s inauguration they
again entered the land and encamped at Michmash, just
four miles northeast of Gibeah, the capital of Israel.
Michmash is present day Mukhmas (fig. 5), on the
northern ridge of Wadi Suweinit, east of Bethel on the
way to Jericho.
The Arab village of Mukhmas preserves the name of
the biblical city of Michmash. The town sits next to
“the pass” mentioned twice in the Bible.
Michmash was settled throughout the period of the
monarchy, as it was mentioned in the account of Saul and
Jonathan and later in a prophecy of Isaiah.
Philistines had come to avenge a victory by Jonathan
over one of their garrisons stationed at Geba
(1 Sam. 13:2-3). Their
forces included 3,000 chariots, 6,000 horsemen, and foot
Saul assembled a force at Gilgal and waited for
Samuel to come and offer sacrifice prior to the battle.
It was at this point that Saul committed the sin
that prompted the first rejection by God.
Having waited seven days Saul became impatient
and assumed the priestly office, which in turn
demonstrated that he had a proud, self-sufficient,
God still gave Saul victory in the battle, mainly
through his son Jonathan.
Accompanied only by his armor bearer,
Jonathan crossed from Geba on the south of Wadi Suweinit
(fig. 6) to Michmash on the north, descending and
climbing steep ridges en route, where he attacked and
defeated an entire Philistine garrison
(1 Sam. 14: 1-14).
Geba is identified with Modern Jeba,
located opposite Michmash.
Southwest of Michmash is the modern Arab
village of Jaba, which is the biblical site of Geba.
Because of the present day occupation the site has not
The hill country is deeply cut by deep
canyons (wadis). These restrict traffic to the ridges
above the wadis, making passage difficult. One exception
to this is the pass in the Wadi Suweinit - a broad place
in the canyon where passage is easy.
The pass is mentioned in connection with
Jonathan’s attack on the Philistines
(1 Sam 14).
Saul almost defeated his own cause in the course
of the victory.
He foolishly imposed a restriction on the
men of his army, forbidding any to eat food for one day
(1 Sam. 14:24-46).
Saul apparently hoped to give more
incentive and time to pursue the enemy, but what
happened was he deprived his men of badly needed
nourishment for the chase.
Further, Saul nearly took the life of his
son because of the order. Jonathan, who had not heard
the command, did eat; and Saul, believing his word must
be maintained even at the cost of his son, would have
killed him but for the pleas of the people.
God’s Second Rejection of Saul
(1 Samuel 15)
second instance of disobedience came with Saul’s battle
with the Amalekites about 20 years later.
During the intervening years, Saul’s military was
active. He fought the countries of Moab, Ammon, Edom,
and Zobah, besides the continuing struggle with the
Then came the Amalekite battle. Samuel gave Saul
specific instruction regarding it. Saul was to initiate
this encounter as a retaliatory measure for the hit and
run raids on Israel by Amalek years before, during the
wilderness journey (Exod.
17:8-14), and to completely destroy the people
and all their livestock.
Saul carried out the task and obeyed in slaying
all the people and their animals. He disobeyed, however,
in sparing King Agag and some of the finest sheep and
When Samuel asked the reason, Saul
explained that the animals were for sacrifice. Samuel
replied that God desired obedience more than sacrifice.
Samuel rebuked Saul and told him for a second time that
God had rejected him as the head of Israel.
Samuel then killed King Agag with his own
hands (fig. 7).
Saul failed in the sight of God. He
would not obey God’s commands. God had not given His
people a king to act according to his own will, but to
be God’s intermediary. Saul, having started well, was
affected by his role as chief, and forgot that God was
the supreme Head. It may be assumed, too, that these two
crucial occasions were not the only instances of
disobedience on his part, but rather were
representative of many others and of a general
SAUL AND DAVID
(1 Samuel 16-20)
With Saul rejected God instructed
Samuel regarding procedures in locating the next king.
Samuel was to go to Bethlehem and anoint there a
son of Jesse. Samuel went to Bethlehem and had Jesse
bring his sons before him. Seven were brought, but each
was refused by God. David, the eighth and youngest, had
been left to care for the family’s sheep. Samuel
insisted that he be brought, and God indicated him to be
As the father and brothers watched, Samuel then
anointed David, who was probably about fifteen years
old, as Israel’s second king.
Depression came upon Saul, prompted
by God’s rejection.
A person was sought as court musician, whose
music might sooth Saul during his depression. In God’s
providence, the one chosen was David, who was skilled
with the harp.
Saul became jealous. David, who was at first a
favorite of the king, soon experienced this jealousy as
the people came to give him higher praise than the king.
Saul became angry, to the point of insanity, and twice
tried to strike David with his spear.
Saul was also paranoid, thinking himself to be
persecuted by all around him. At one time this tendency
led to the slaughter of 85 innocent priests
(1 Sam. 22:7-19).
Such a man could not command the respect of his
people. Actions so abnormal and frequent would have
become widely known, with people losing confidence.
David’s rise to
God’s blessing David’s prominence quickly rose in the
land with the following opportunities.
The first was being made court musician to Saul.
David must have displayed military ability for
Saul as well, for he was also made a royal armor bearer
(1 Sam. 16:21).
The next opportunity was David’s victory over the
Philistine giant, Goliath (1
The Philistines had attempted to enter
Israel through the Elah Valley, a natural approach into
the mountains of Judah. They assembled for battle
between Shochoh and Azekah.
This places the battle about four miles
south of Beth-shemesh or 17 miles southwest of Jerusalem
in modern Wadi es-Sant.
Saul led his army to meet them, while
David for some reason was at home. For 40 days Goliath,
a Philistine over nine feet tall, dared any Israelite to
meet him in personal combat to decide the whole contest.
No one would accept the challenge.
David came to the camp at the end of the
40 days on a mission for his father, to inquire about
the welfare of three of his brothers who were soldiers.
When he realized the situation, he volunteered to meet
the giant. Saul at first doubted the wisdom of this but
seeing David’s faith let him go.
David refused normal armor and took only
weapons to which he was accustomed, a sling and five
suitable stones. Goliath met him, covered with armor
from head to foot with a shield-bearer before him. When
Goliath first saw David approaching, he disdained him,
thinking himself humiliated by such an unlikely
opponent. David, however, came not in his own strength,
but in the name of the God of Israel.
One stone was all that David needed. It
struck Goliath in the one vulnerable place, his
forehead, and he fell to the ground dead. David quickly
ran to him and, using Goliath’s own sword cut off his
head (fig. 8). A victory was won for Saul and Israel.
News of such an achievement spread rapidly
among the people. Soon David found himself known and
honored (l Sam. 18:1-7).
The people sang his praises, and Saul himself now
rewarded him by making him commander of the army.
About this time, Jonathan, Saul’s eldest son,
developed a deep friendship with David. The mutual
respect and love between the two lasted for the
remainder of their lives. As army commander, David
continued to achieve outstanding success, adding to his
growing reputation throughout the land.
David was being given higher honor than Saul, and Saul’s
emotional weakness showed itself by intense jealousy,
where he attempted to kill David.
The first attempts were direct. Saul tried twice
to kill David with his spear (1
Sam. 18:8-11). These attempts came as David
continued to play the harp for the king.
Second, as a seeming reward for David’s service,
Saul promised him Michal, his daughter, as wife. But he
asked David to supply a hundred Philistine foreskins as
dowry, hoping that David would be killed in acquiring
them. David, however, delivered two hundred safely
(1 Sam. 18:20-27).
Saul next attempted to work through his servants,
commanding that they take David’s life, but Jonathan
intervened to have the order changed
(1 Sam. 19:1-7).
Next, another victory by David over the
Philistines prompted a further direct attack by Saul to
strike David with the spear, but once more David avoided
the king’s effort.
Saul quickly ordered servants to follow David to
his home and kill him, but Michal worked against her
father by letting David down from an outside window
(1 Sam. 19:8-17).
David fled from the palace and came
to Samuel at Ramah about two miles north of Gibeah.
Saul sent three different companies of men there
to seize David so that Saul could have him executed.
When all three failed, Saul himself went.
When Saul found David in the company of Samuel he
did not apprehend him but fell into despair and lay all
night in a deep stupor (1 Sam.
These repeated attempts to take
David’s life made David realize that living any longer
at the palace was too hazardous.
Though Saul had been shamed at Ramah, there was
good reason to believe that he would soon forget and try
After a feast that David did not attend Jonathan,
regretfully but faithfully, brought word to David. Both
agreed that David would have to leave the palace area,
and they parted with great emotion. David began the life
of a fugitive (fig. 9).
SAUL’S LAST YEARS
The greater part of Saul’s reign
had elapsed by this time. David’s fugitive experiences
lasted four or five years at the most. What years did
remain for Saul were spent in frustration and wasted
At one time Saul cruelly took the lives of 85
defenseless priests in retaliation for an imagined act
of disloyalty (1 Sam.
David fled from Saul, Israel lost her ablest military
leader. The Philistines had been kept in check as long
as David led Israel’s forces against them, but Saul had
no one of equal ability to replace him. After David’s
departure, nothing is heard from the Philistines for a
time, but their thrusts into the land gradually became
more pronounced, as revealed by two particular
One occurred when fugitive David went to the
town of Keilah, located well within the hill country of
Judah southwest of Bethlehem, to assist in withstanding
a Philistine attack there. On this occasion, Saul did
not attempt to defend territory, belonging to him (1
Sam. 23:1- 5).
Identified as Khirbet Qila, six miles east
of modern Beit Guvrin, 18 miles southwest of Jerusalem,
three miles south of Adullam.
One of the Amarna tablets (fig. 10)
originates from Keilah and reads as follows:
“To the king, my Lord, my God and Sun, thus speaks
Shuwardata, your servant, the dust under your feet. At
the feet of my Lord, the king, my God and Sun, I have
prostrated myself seven times seven times . The king, my
Lord, has sent me to do battle with Keilah. After the
fighting there is peace. My city has been preserved for
me. Why has Abdu-Heba asked of the people of Keilah to
accept silver and stand behind him? The king, my Lord,
ought to know, that Abdu-Heba [ruler of Jerusalem] has
conquered my city. Moreover, may the king, my Lord,
examine me. If I have taken one man, one ox or one ass
from him, then he is in the right. Moreover, Labayu [ruler
of Shechem] who conquered our cities has died and
Abdu-Heba is a second Labayu taking our cities. May the
king judge his servant according to his deeds. He will
do nothing until the king conveys his will to his
The other was an instance when Saul did quickly
pull back from pursuit of David on being informed of a
Philistine inroad into the country, and apparently he
did make a defense (1 Sam.
23:27-28). The particular place of Philistine
penetration this time is not indicated.
The decisive and final battle for
Saul with the Philistines came at Mount Gilboa
(1 Sam. 28:1-25; 31:1-13).
The Philistines first gathered at Aphek, the site
of their important victory over Israel 65 years earlier.
They marched in force through the Esdraelon Valley and
encamped at Shunem near Mount Gilboa. Saul moved to meet
them and took up quarters in that mountain.
Identified with modern Solem in the
territory of Issachar at the eastern foot of “Little
Hermon” (hill of Moreh, Judg.
Fearing the coming battle, Saul sought
information on its outcome from God, but was not
answered “by dreams, or Urim or prophets”
(1 Sam. 28:6).
Saul longed to consult Samuel, who was now
dead (1 Sam. 25:1), and
in desperation broke God’s law
(Lev. 20:27) by visiting a witch who lived at
Endor (1 Sam. 28:7-25).
Through what was apparently a resulting
supernatural appearance of Samuel, at which the witch
herself was terrified, Saul was warned of defeat.
The battle took place, and the prediction came
true (1 Sam. 31:1-13).
Israel was defeated, and Saul’s three sons (Jonathan,
Abinadab, and Melchi-shua) were killed.
Saul was wounded and not wanting to be captured
alive fell on his own sword (fig. 11).
The Philistines found the four bodies of the
royal family and hung them for public viewing on the
wall in the nearby city of Bethshan.
DAVID AS FUGITIVE
When David left Gibeah he went
first to Nob, where Ahimelech served as high priest at
Here David received some of the sacred bread for
food, Goliath’s sword for a weapon, and an indication
through Ahimelech of God’s will
(1 Sam. 1:3-9; 22:10-15).
With a few personal servants, David
went to the Philistine city of Gath to attempt a foreign
alliance. However, he was recognized by the servants of
King Achish, and had to escape quickly.
David then returned to Israel and
took up residence in a cave near Adullam, where be
began gathering a force of men. Since he was within 10
miles of his home in Bethlehem, he was near enough for
his father and brothers to visit him.
Identified with modern Tell esh-Sheikh Madhkur,
Adullam iss about nine miles east of Gath, halfway
between Gath and Bethlehem.
This place proved to be the perfect place for
David to hide in his flight from Saul.
1 Samuel 22 says
that David hid in the “cave of Adullam.” Today there
are many caves at the site. It is not clear which one or
ones David used, as many have been used and modified in
the years since.
Somehow David was able to make known his need for
volunteers. 400 responded, men described as in
distress, in debt, and discontented
(1 Sam. 22: 1-2; 1 Chron.
the band assembled, David again tried foreign alliance,
this time moving east to Moab. He took his parents with
him now, fearing reprisals against them by Saul. For
some reason, however, Gad, a prophet who had joined
David’s band, soon counseled him to leave this country;
and David moved once more back to Judah, this time to an
area called “the forest of Hereth,” unknown today.
At Hereth, Abiathar son of Ahimelech, fleeing from Saul,
came to David (1 Sam.
22:20-23). The time was soon after Saul’s
slaughter of the 85 priests of Nob, from which Abiathar
Abiathar was high priest now, since his father
had just been killed. He brought the priestly ephod with
him, including the Urim and Thummim for divine inquiry.
It was not long before David had opportunity to
put this divine means of inquiry to use. He learned that
the Philistines were preying on the inhabitants of
Keilah, and desiring to make friends wherever possible
and wanting to help these people, he sought God’s will
as to giving them assistance (1
Sam. 23:1-13). The answer to the inquiry was
affirmative, and David came to the relief of Keilah and
helped defeat the Philistines. In spite of the help
given further inquiry revealed that the people of Keilah
would now turn him over to Saul if he remained, so he
At this point David moved
southward, to the region of Ziph and Maon below Hebron.
Ziph, identified with modern Tell Zif, is three
and one-half miles southeast of Keilah.
Maon, identified with Khirbet Ma’in, is five
miles south of Ziph.
Here Saul made his first attempt to seize David,
for the Ziphites had informed him of David’s presence.
Saul was unsuccessful and had to return to Gibeah
fight Philistines (1 Sam.
then moved east to En-gedi on the shore of the Dead Sea
(fig. 13 & 14) where Saul again pursued him after the
Philistine encounter (1 Sam.
24: 1- 22).
En-gedi is still called by the same name, after a
fresh flowing spring. It is 16 miles straight east from
Ziph. En Gedi is the largest oasis along the western
shore of the Dead Sea.
The springs and year-round temperate climate
provide the perfect conditions for agriculture.
Solomon compared his lover to “a cluster of
henna blossoms from the vineyards of En Gedi,” an
indication of the beauty and fertility of the site
Josephus praised En Gedi for its palm trees and
En Gedi means literally “the spring of the kid
(goat).” Evidence exists that young ibex have
always lived near the springs of En Gedi. One time when
David was fleeing from King Saul, the pursuers searched
the “Crags of the Ibex” in the vicinity of En
It was here that David spared Saul’s life for the
first time. Saul had entered a cave where David was
hiding, and David could have killed him, but instead he
merely cut off part of Saul’s clothing for evidence of
When Saul learned of David’s gracious sparing of
his life Saul repented and asked for David’s continued
David next moved back again to the
region of Maon. Now he sought food for his men from a
wealthy landholder named Nabal, who lived near his camp
(1 Sam. 25:2-42).
David believed that he had a right to ask for
assistance, since his men had been giving protection to
Nabal’s flocks (1 Sam. 25:7,
Nabal would not provide the food so David
prepared to punish him.
Nabal’s wife, Abigail, intervened to supply the
needed food. Nabal died ten days later. David then took
Abigail as his own wife.
Not long after, the Ziphites once
more tried to gain Saul’s favor by telling him of
David’s hiding place (1 Sam.
26: 1- 25).
Saul came, and for a second time David spared his
life when he could have killed him.
David, accompanied by Abishai, went to where Saul
slept under the guard of Abner and the army, and took
away Saul’s own spear and jug of water.
Once again, Saul repented and promised not to
pursue David any longer.
the second instance of sparing Saul’s life, David went
once more to the foreign area of the Philistines, for he
feared that he could not always escape these attempts by
David again offered his services to Achish, king
Achish accepted David this time, no doubt
persuaded that David was a refugee from Saul, and also
by the 600 men David now led, a military unit that
Achish could use.
Achish gave David the city of Ziklag (fig. 15),
south in Philistine territory, as a base of operations.
Ziklag was listed as one of the 29 towns
in Negev and was assigned to the tribe of Simeon
(Josh 15:31; 19:5). The
Philistines now apparently controlled it during King
Ziklag is identified with Tell Sera. The
site is situated midway between Beersheba and Gaza.
About five acres at the summit, the tell is horseshoe
shaped with steep slopes on all sides except on the west
Pretending to serve Achish as a good mercenary,
David attacked southern tribes that had been perennial
enemies of Israel, particularly the Geshurites, Gezrites,
and Amalekites. David let Achish believe that he was
distressing southern Judah, thus maintaining standing
with him while he distributed booty among cities of
southern Judah (1 Sam.
30:26-31) to keep their favor toward the day when
he would need support in becoming their king.
After 16 months of this activity
(1 Sam. 27: 7), the
final Philistine battle with Saul drew near, and David
found himself in difficulty. David apparently had
committed himself to Achish to a degree where he could
not remain uninvolved without endangering his own
position. He must have been relieved when other
Philistines objected to his presence and was thus sent
home to Ziklag.
Catastrophe met David on his return
to Ziklag. The Amalekites, perhaps in retaliation for
David’s earlier raids, had attacked the town and taken
his wives and the wives of all his men, besides much
David’s men now came near mutiny. It may be that
they had earlier disagreed with David regarding the
whole Philistine idea, and so blamed him here for this.
David was quick to act. He set out in pursuit of
the captors. Learning the location of the Amalekites
from a captured Egyptian, who had been left behind
because of illness, David stormed the camp and recovered
both wives and booty. This alleviated the wounded
feelings of the men, and peace was restored.
The booty he took exceeded what had been lost,
and there was even enough to distribute elsewhere. He
did so in 13 listed Judean towns, where he had received
friendly assistance in recent months, and whose
friendship he wished to maintain in view of his coming
kingship (1 Sam. 30:26-31).
It was on the third day after
returning from this pursuit that he received word of
Israel’s tragic defeat at Mount Gilboa and the death of
Saul and his sons.
The news was brought by one who had escaped the
slaughter and who now thought he might obtain favor from
Israel’s next king by claiming to have killed the prior
one. He said that Saul, realizing that the battle was
lost and that the enemy was pressing hard upon him, had
called to the young man and asked that he kill him,
which the young man (who was an Amalekite) said he had
done. He carried Saul’s crown and bracelet as evidence
to support his story.
This was convincing to David, who had no reason
to doubt his testimony, and he responded by weeping and
fasting until the evening of that day. Then he returned
to see the young man once again, not to honor him, but
to order his death for having put his hand on the
anointed of God.
David’s mourning came from his heart, but was
obviously aware that this news sounded the note for him
to return to Israel.
David would have no part in bringing about Saul’s
death, but at the same time it was what he had been
waiting for since the day of his own anointing. The way
was now clear for him to return home and receive the
1966 Israeli archaeologist, Avraham Biran, has excavated
Tel Dan in the north of Israel at the foot of Mount
Hermon. On July 21, 1993, while work crews were
preparing the site for visitors, a broken fragment of
basalt stone was uncovered in secondary use in a wall.
It turned out to be a stone erected to pay tribute to a
Syrian king, and a record of his victories over Israel.
The stone mentions Kind David’s dynasty, “the
House of David” (fig. 16)
According to the Bible, the city of Dan was the
northern most city of Israel and was named after Dan,
the father of one of Israel’s twelve tribes. A
description of how the city was first taken is found in
The territory of the sons of Dan proceeded beyond them;
for the sons of Dan went up and fought with Leshem and
captured it. Then they struck it with the edge of the
sword and possessed it and settled in it; and they
called Leshem, Dan after the name of Dan their father.
Evidently, the tribe of Dan must
have lost control of the city, and later on had to
retake it, because the bible records in
Then they took what Micah had made and the priest who
had belonged to him, and came to Laish, to a people
quiet and secure, and struck them with the edge of the
sword; and they burned the city with fire.
And there was no one to deliver them, because it
was far from Sidon and they had no dealings with anyone,
and it was in the valley which is near Beth-rehob. And
they rebuilt the city and lived in it.
They called the name of the city Dan, after the name of
Dan their father who was born in Israel; however, the
name of the city formerly was Laish.
In 1994, two more fragments from
the inscription were found at Tel-Dan. The following is
a translation of the text that was found written in the
early Aramaic language, similar to script found on
pottery dating back to the ninth century B.C. In this
translation, the letters found in brackets represents a
suggested reconstruction of what the words may have
- ... my father went forward ...
he made battle at
- ... and he died, he went to
... king of [Is-]
- rael of old was in my fathers
land...Hadad appointed me king.
- And Hadad went before me ... I
embarked from seven.....
- of my kingdom... And I killed
......kin[gs] .... [cha-]
- riots and horsemen numbering
two thousand...[He (or I) killed Jeho]ram (Joram)
son of [Ahab].
- the king of Israel. [He (or
I)] killed [Ahaz]iahu son of [Jehoram kin-]
- g of the House of David. And I
- their country into...
- other [...Jehu ru-]
- led over Is[rael]
- siege upon...
Although the text doesn’t mention
the name of the king who wrote the inscription, a little
bit of detective work points to King Hazael of Syria.
First of all, since the inscription was found at
Dan, the city had to be under Syrian control at the time
it was written. According to 1
Kings 15:20 Ben-Hadad was the Syrian king to take
control of the city.
So Ben-hadad listened to King Asa and sent the
commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel,
and conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-beth-maacah and all
Chinneroth, besides all the land of Naphtali.
King Hazael (841-806 BC) is mentioned in
1 Kings 19:15.
said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness
of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint
Hazael king over Aram;
King of Aram (Syria); succeeded Ben-Hadad
Ivory inlay fragment found at Arslan Tash
bears the name Hazael (fig. 17).
Inscription on statue mentions Barhadad,
son of Hazael
So Ben-Hadad heeded King Asa, and sent his armies
against the cities of Israel. He attacked Dan.
Line 3 & 4 of the inscription mentions the name
It is possible that Hadad may refer to the
Syrian king Ben-Hadad.
It is also possible that the name Hadad
may refer to a pagan god that was worshiped by the
Line 4 states that “Hadad went before me.”
Hazael may be giving credit to his god
Hadad for victories against Israel.
This is interesting because in
1 Kings 19:15, God tells
Elijah to send Elisha to anoint Hazael as King over
Syria, as punishment for Israel’s sins. Since Hazael
worshiped Hadad, he probably thought his pagan god was
giving him victory over Israel.
said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness
of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint
Hazael king over Aram;
Hazael may also be referring to Ben-Hadad,
who was king before him.
The historian Josephus records how Hazael came to power
in the following paragraph:
“God began to put fear into the
Syrian army. The Syrians began hearing things, which
were not real, the sounds of a great army of chariots
and horses. The soldiers informed Ben-Hadad that Jehoram
(Joram, king of Israel) must have sent for the king of
Egypt, his ally. Ben-Hadad also heard the sounds of
chariots echoing in his ears and he and his army fled
from battle…Ben-Hadad fled to Damascus. He became sick
after learning God had caused the defeat of his army and
not the enemy…The prophet Elisha came and spoke to
Hazael…Then Elisha began to weep, and Hazael asked him
why? Elisha told him, I weep for Israel my people, and
for the suffering they will endure at your hands. For
you will destroy their best men and their strongest
towns…Hazael asked ‘By who’s authority will I be able to
do these things?’ Elisha answered ‘God has declared that
you will be king of Syria.’ The next day Hazael spread a
thick wet cloth over the king’s face suffocating him.
Hazael then came to power.”
Lines 6,7,10 & 11 refer to Jehu
(841-814), and states that he killed Joram (Jehoram)
(852-841) son of Ahab, king of Israel, and Ahaziah (841)
son of Jehoram (Joram) (853-841), king of the House of
David, during a time when Hazael was attacking Israel.
This is also reflected in 2
Kings 9:14-27, in which the following events took
So Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi
conspired against Joram. Now Joram with all Israel was
defending Ramoth-gilead against Hazael king of Aram,
but King Joram had returned to Jezreel to be healed of
the wounds which the Arameans had inflicted on him when
he fought with Hazael king of Aram. So Jehu said, “If
this is your mind, then let no one escape or
leave the city to go tell it in Jezreel.”
Then Jehu rode in a chariot and went to Jezreel, for
Joram was lying there. Ahaziah king of Judah had come
down to see Joram.
Now the watchman was standing on the tower in Jezreel
and he saw the company of Jehu as he came, and said, “I
see a company.” And Joram said, “Take a horseman and
send him to meet them and let him say, ‘Is it peace?’ “
So a horseman went to meet him and said, “Thus says the
king, ‘Is it peace?’ “ And Jehu said, “ What have you to
do with peace? Turn behind me.” And the watchman
reported, “The messenger came to them, but he did not
Then he sent out a second horseman, who came to them and
said, “Thus says the king, ‘Is it peace?’ “ And Jehu
answered, “What have you to do with peace? Turn behind
The watchman reported, “He came even to them, and he did
not return; and the driving is like the driving of Jehu
the son of Nimshi, for he drives furiously.”
Then Joram said, “ Get ready.” And they made his chariot
ready. Joram king of Israel and Ahaziah king of Judah
went out, each in his chariot, and they went out to meet
Jehu and found him in the property of Naboth the
When Joram saw Jehu, he said, “Is it peace, Jehu?” And
he answered, “What peace, so long as the harlotries of
your mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?”
So Joram reined about and fled and said to Ahaziah, “There
is treachery, O Ahaziah!”
And Jehu drew his bow with his full strength and shot
Joram between his arms; and the arrow went through his
heart and he sank in his chariot.
Then Jehu said to Bidkar his officer, “Take
him up and cast him into the property of the field
of Naboth the Jezreelite, for I remember when you and I
were riding together after Ahab his father, that the
this oracle against him:
‘Surely I have seen yesterday the blood of Naboth and
the blood of his sons,’ says the
I will repay you in this property,’ says the
then, take and cast him into the property, according to
the word of the
When Ahaziah the king of Judah saw this, he fled
by the way of the garden house. And Jehu pursued him and
said, “ Shoot him too, in the chariot.” So they shot
him at the ascent of Gur, which is at Ibleam. But he
fled to Megiddo and died there.
Some translations of Line 6 and 7 say “I,”
instead of “He,” meaning Hazael says he killed
these two kings (Ahaziah and Joram), not Jehu.
Even though this was not true, Hazael, according
to 2 Kings 9:15, did
wound king Joram in battle. Since Joram died shortly
afterwards, Hazael probably thought it was from his
battle wounds. And since Ahaziah died at the same time,
Hazael probably assumed he was also at the battle and
died from his injuries.
Lines 7 & 8 of the Tel Dan stone
states that Israel was a divided kingdom, because it
mentions the “King of Israel” and the king of the
“House of David.” This is exactly how the bible
describes Israel as being divided after the death of
The discovery provides an
archaeological connection to the biblical references to
the ruling dynasty established by King David
approximately two centuries before the events that are
mentioned in the inscription.
It is the first mention of King David outside of
the Bible, as well as some of his descendants. The
discovery is of particular importance in the face of
those scholars who were either skeptical or denied the
historical existence of King David.
WebBible Encyclopedia online at