One of my favorite places to take students when in Israel is to the top of Tel Azekah. From there, there is a wonderful view of the lowlands (aka Shephelah) and especially of the Valley of Elah. From this vantage point one can envision the geographical setting of the battle between David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17).
The Philistines, moving eastward from Ekron and Gath, camped at Ephes Dammim between Socoh and Azekah (17: 1). The Israelites, defending the approaches to the hill country, camped on the north side of the valley (vv. 2– 3), probably east of the Philistine camp.
The encounter between David and Goliath took place in the broad valley itself, from which David took five smooth stones for his sling. Emboldened by David’s example, Saul’s troops successfully attacked the Philistines. The latter at first fled northward, on the Shaaraim road in the valley east of Azekah, and then north of Azekah; they turned west and followed the valley to the security of their cities of Gath and Ekron (v. 52).
This battle was probably one of a number that occurred between the Israelites and the Philistines in the Shephelah. For example, in the Shephelah David defended the inhabitants of Keilah against the Philistines (23: 1– 13). Thus the account of David and Goliath not only provides geographical details concerning the Valley of Elah region but also illustrates the fact that the Shephelah served as a military buffer zone between the inhabitants of the coastal plain and those of the mountains to the east.
For a description of the battle, see Rasmussen, Carl G. Zondervan Atlas of the Bible. Zondervan, 2010, p. 34.
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