According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, German and Israeli archaeologists recently discovered a 1700-year-old stone bearing an inscription of the name of a city believed to be the possible location of an ancient biblical town. The inscription in Greek refers to the city of Elusa (Halutza in Hebrew) and was discovered during excavations in Halutza National Park in the Negev desert. The inscription mentions several Caesars of the tetrarchy which indicates a date around 300 AD. The recent press release indicated "The name of the city of Elusa appears in a number of historical documents and contexts, including the Madaba mosaic map, the Nessana papyri, and other historical references. However, this is the first time that the name of the city has been discovered in the site itself.” The city is one of two main potential locations for the biblical city of Ziklag.
Byzantine Church Also Discovered
The city of Elusa was most likely founded towards the end of the 4th century BC and was an important station along the ancient Incense Road between Petra and Gaza. The city continued to develop over the years and reached its peak in the Byzantine period in the fourth to mid-sixth centuries AD. Dr. Tali Erickson-Gini, an archaeologist who worked on the project said “Elusa was also an important station on the route used by Christian pilgrims on their way to and from Santa Katarina in southern Sinai and as such was visited by many foreign travelers. The site appears to have gone out of existence by the end of the seventh century AD.” Interestingly, the team also discovered a Byzantine church and a bathhouse near the area where the inscription was found. The church is about 130 feet long and has three aisles. Its vault was apparently originally decorated with an ornate glass mosaic. Dr. Erickson-Gini commented that the discovery is “a real blessing for the research of our country.”
Relevant Scripture Passages
While the later connections to Christianity – evidenced by the Byzantine church that was discovered – are important, this discovery also helps to validate the historicity and reliability of the Bible in general. The city of Ziklag is mentioned in the biblical books of Genesis, Joshua, and Samuel. In the Book of Joshua Ziklag appears both as a town belonging to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:31) and as a town belonging to the tribe of Simeon (Joshua 19:5). King David is believed to have been given the town by a Philistine king named Achish (1 Samuel 27:1-12) and used the city as a base of operations for carrying out clandestine raids against the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites. Thus, future research at this site that may substantiate its identification as the ancient city of Ziklag will prove very valuable. As I often say, whenever I hear of new archaeological research that validates the Bible, I cannot help but think of Jesus’ words that stones would cry out (Luke 19:37-40) in witness to Him! Once again, the artifacts of the ancient world cry out to us concerning the real people, real places, and real history of the Bible!