“A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp.” (1 Samuel 17:4)
Last week, Holy Land Digs visited the valley where David defeated the Philistine champion. And this week, we’ll take a look at the Philistine town where Goliath came from.
Gath in the Bible
First mentioned in the Book of Joshua, the Bible names Gath as one of five Philistine cities – “Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron” (13:3). As the Israelites conquered the area under Joshua’s command, Gath proved to be among the last Philistine holdouts.
Most of us know Gath as the hometown of Goliath. As young David, still a shepherd, visited his soldier brothers in the Valley of Elah (our site last week), he faced a sight the Israelite army had grown used to. “Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it” (1 Samuel 14:23). We know how that story ends, with David defeating Gath’s finest.
But did you know Gath played an important role in David’s life after his battle with Goliath? Forced to flee King Saul, David hides in Gath. There, King Achish has heard of him, saying “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands?” (1 Samuel 21:11). Then David, who feared these people from Gath who had been the Israelites’ enemies, “pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman” (v. 13).
David escaped harm in Gath that time, and would soon return to the city with 600 of his own soldiers and found refuge there, as “Saul was told that David had fled to Gath, he no longer searched for him” (1 Samuel 27:4).
Gath appears at other points in the Bible, but today appears as an archaeological site in the Holy Land. Situated between the Israeli cities of Ashkelon and Beit Shemesh, Tel Tzafit is both an Israeli national park and the site of archaeological explorations for the past 25 years.
Archaeologists have uncovered every layer of Philistine culture as they’ve dug, telling the story of Israel’s biblical enemies. A Philistine temple has been discovered, as well as evidence of a major earthquake. And in 2018, archaeologists found the above donkey bones which proved to be the earliest example of a bridle used for an animal in the Near East. Archaeologists will continue to unearth the biblical history of Gath, and those of us who stand for Israel and love the Holy Land will continue to follow their findings!
Tags: Archaeology Bible David Gath Goliath History Holy Land Digs