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Ziklag was a town in the Negeb (or Negev) Desert in the southern (Negev means south) part of the land of Israel (see Bible Places). The territory was assigned to Judah (and later Simeon) at the division of the Promised Land in the time of Joshua (see Tribal Lands). It was occupied by the Philistines when David, with those loyal to him, fled from Saul. Achish, the Philistine king, accepted the fugitives, not out of friendship, but in the knowledge of what a dangerous enemy David could be if forced to fight, and gave him Ziklag as a place to live. David remained in Ziklag for about a year and four months.

Saul and David David In Ziklag

When it became all too apparent that Saul was sooner or later going to kill him if he remained within reach, David chose to flee into the land of the Philistines:

"And David said in his heart, "I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul; there is nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines; then Saul will despair of seeking me any longer within the borders of Israel, and I shall escape out of his hand." So David arose and went over, he and the six hundred men who were with him, to Achish the son of Maoch, king of Gath. And David dwelt with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, and David with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel, and Abigail of Carmel, Nabals widow. And when it was told Saul that David had fled to Gath, he sought for him no more. 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 dwelt in the country of the Philistines was a year and four months." (1 Samuel 27:1-7 RSV)

David's time there was not however without difficulty. While he was away, the Amalekites attacked and looted the city:

"So David set out with his men early in the morning, to return to the land of the Philistines. But the Philistines went up to Jezreel. Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid upon the Negeb and upon Ziklag. They had overcome Ziklag, and burned it with fire, and 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." (1 Samuel 29:11 - 30:1-3 RSV)

With the help of The Lord, David recovered all of the captives:

"And David inquired of The Lord, "Shall I pursue after this band? Shall I overtake them?" He answered him, "Pursue; for you shall surely overtake and shall surely rescue." (1 Samuel 30:8 RSV)

"David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken; and David rescued his two wives. Nothing was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that had been taken; David brought back all." (1 Samuel 30:18-19 RSV)

Two days later, David got word of that Saul had been killed in battle, along with his son Jonathan:

"After the death of Saul, when David had returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag; and on the third day, behold, a man came from Saul's camp, with his clothes rent and earth upon his head. And when he came to David, he fell to the ground and did obeisance. David said to him, "Where do you come from?" And he said to him, "I have escaped from the camp of Israel." And David said to him, "How did it go? Tell me." And he answered, "The people have fled from the battle, and many of the people also have fallen and are dead; and Saul and his son Jonathan are also dead." (2 Samuel 1:1-4 RSV)

With Saul, David's pursuer, dead, David returned to Hebron, where he was appointed the new king of Judah:

"After this David inquired of The Lord, "Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?" And The Lord said to him, "Go up." David said, "To which shall I go up?" And He said, "To Hebron." So David went up there, and his two wives also, Ahinoam of Jezreel, and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. And David brought up his men who were with him, every one with his household; and they dwelt in the towns of Hebron. And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah." (2 Samuel 2:1-4 RSV)

Fact Finder: How long did David remain in Hebron before he moved his throne to Jerusalem?
2 Samuel 2:11, 1 Kings 2:11

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