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King Saul, David & Goliath*

Valley of Elah viewed from the top of Tel Azeka Photo: Wilson44691

Learn about the ancient city of Gilgal and the significance it played in King Saul’s downfall. Known around the world as one of the greatest battles of all time, journey through the Valley of Elah where David fought and defeated the giant Goliath. From the valley floor, travel up a rocky pass via 4×4 Jeep to see the valley from a different vantage point and explore the ancient fortress of Quirbet Kieafa.


Gilgal is the name of one or more places in the Bible mentioned 39 times, in particular in the Book of Joshua, as the place where the Israelites camped after crossing the Jordan River (Joshua 4:19 – 5:12). The Hebrew term Gilgal most likely means “circle of stones”. Its name appears in Koine Greek on the Madaba Map.

Gilgal Argaman near Argaman in Jordan Valley, was discovered by Adam Zertal
Photo: Adam Zartal אדם זרטל

David and Goliath

Goliath is described in the Book of Samuel as a Philistine giant defeated by the young David in single combat. The story signified King Saul’s unfitness to rule, as Saul himself should have fought for Israel.

David hoists the severed head of Goliath as illustrated by Gustave Doré (1866)
Public Domain


David is described in the Bible as the third king of the United Monarchy of Israel and Judah, becoming king after Ish-bosheth. In the Books of Samuel, David is a young shepherd, a musician who killed the enemy champion Goliath. He becomes a favorite of King Saul and a close friend of Saul’s son Jonathan. Worried that David is trying to take his throne, Saul turns on David. After Saul and Jonathan are killed in battle, David is anointed as King. David conquers Jerusalem, taking the Ark of the Covenant into the city.

Saul threatening David, by José Leonardo
Public Domain

Quirbet Kieafa

Khirbet Qeiyafa is the site of an ancient fortress city overlooking the Elah Valley and dated to the first half of the 10th century BCE. A number of archaeologists, mainly Yosef Garfinkel and Saar Ganor, have claimed that it might be the biblical city of Sha’arayim, because of the two gates discovered on the site and that the large building at the center is an administrative building dating to the reign of King David.

Qeiyafa city wall
Photo: Skyview Photography Ltd

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