This ancient town appears by name in 12 verses of Scripture (Joshua 15:31; 19:5; 1 Samuel 27:6; 30:1; 30:14; 30:26; 2 Samuel 1:1; 4:10; 1 Chronicles 4:30; 12:1; 12:20; Nehemiah 11:28).
During his absence with his army to join the Philistine expedition against the Israelites (1 Samuel 29:11), Ziklag was destroyed by the Amalekites (1 Sam. 30:1-2), whom David, however, pursued and utterly routed, returning all the captives (1 Samuel 30:26-31).
Two days after his return from this expedition, David received tidings of the disastrous battle of Gilboa and of the death of King Saul (2 Samuel 1:1-16). He now left Ziklag and returned to Hebron, along with his two wives, Ahinoam and Abigail, and his band of 600 men.
The exact location of Ziklag is uncertain today, although various archaeological ruins have been suggested. Ziklag was given to the Tribe of Simeon in the southern portion of Judah’s inheritance (Joshua 19:5). The Bible indicates that the city of Hormah was located between Chesil and Ziklag (Joshua 15:30) and between Bethul and Ziklag (1 Chronicles 4:30)—Chesil, Bethul and Bethuel may be different names for the same place.
Currently, most scholars identify Tell Sera as the site of Ziklag (aka Tel Sera, Tel Sera', Tell esh-Shari'a, Tell esh-Shari'ah, Tell esh-Sharia). It is located west of modern Rahat, Israel, between Beersheba (Be'er Sheva) and Gaza. [sources: Jeffrey A. Blakely, “The Location of Medieval/Pre-Modern and Biblical Ziklag,” Palestine Exploration Quarterly, 139:1 (2007), pp. 21-26. / Horton Harris, “The Location of Ziklag: A Review of the Candidate Sites, Based on Biblical, Topographical and Archaeological Evidence,” Palestine Exploration Quarterly, 143:2 (2011), pp. 119–133.]
In 2019, Israeli archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel announced that he is 90% sure that the ruins of Ziklag are at Tel a-Rai (aka Khirbet a-Ra‘i and Khirbet al-Ra’i) in Israel, located between Kiryat Gat and Lachish. Radiocarbon dating agrees the town was active in the early 10th century B.C. (at the time of David), and there is evidence of a massive fire. Numerous artifacts characteristic of the Philistines and Judeans have been found there, including pottery of various types. This suggests that it was both a Judean and Philistine city. See: Alex Winston, “Philistine Refuge of King David Said to Have Been Found,” The Jerusalem Post (July 8, 2019).
Some prominent archaeologists have objected to Garfinkel’s identification of Ziklag. Tel Aviv University Professor Israel Finkelstein stated,
“Geographically, the story of David at Ziklag seems to require a site located in the territory of Gath, as close as possible to the desert fringe. Khirbet a-Ra‘i is located too far from the desert fringe, in the heartland of the Shephelah. …Most important, in Joshua 15:21, Ziklag is listed among the towns of the Negev, rather than of the Shephelah. This too does not fit the location of Khirbet a-Ra‘i.”
—Amanda Borschel-Dan, “As archaeologists say they’ve found King David’s city of refuge, a debate begins,” The Times of Israel (July 8, 2019).
Some believe Ziklag is at Tel Zayit (aka Tell Zayit, Kirbat Zeita al Kharab, and Khirbet Zeitah el-Kharab) [source: Ron E. Tappy, “The 1998 Preliminary Survey of Khirbet Zeitah el-Kharab (Tel Zayit) in the Shephelah of Judah,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, Number 319 (2000), pp. 7-36.]
Some have also suggested that Ziklag is located at 'Asluj, a heap of ruins south of Beersheba.