Saul Dies – 1055 B.C. & Aphek

I knew that Saul wouldn’t be cool, messing with the evil spirits.  He should know they can only cause problems.  Besides, he knew that they are Your enemies.

Turkish fort at Aphek/Antipatris.
The site of Antipatris was known as Aphek in Old Testament times. It is the place where the Philistines were encamped when they took the ark of the covenant from the Israelites who had camped at nearby Ebenezer (1 Saml 4:1).

Antipatris was built by Herod the Great and named in honor of his father.

Herod was also a lover of his father, if any other person ever was so; for he made a monument for his father, even that city which he built in the finest plain that was in his kingdom, and which had rivers and trees in abundance, and named it Antipatris.

He also built a wall around a citadel that lay above Jericho, and was a very strong and very fine building, and dedicated it to his mother, and called it Cypros. (Jewish Wars 1:417).

Because Aphek/Antipatris sat on a major south-north and west-east routes, it was dominated by many nations. The dominant feature of the site today is the Turkish fort. Inside are the excavated ruins of buildings from Canaanite to Herodian/Roman times.

David Gathers His Mighty Men

The Philistines gathered to Aphek and the Israelites by a fountain in Jezreel.  The princes of the Philistines asked what the Hebrews were doing there.  And Achish said that was David, the servant of King Saul and he had been with him for years and there was  no reason why he couldn’t be there.

The Philistines then told him to send him back to his homestead because he didn’t trust David to fight with them, thinking he would turn and rebel against them.  He then said, Is not this David, of whom they sang one to another in dances, saying, Saul slew his thousands, and David his ten thousands?

“Then Achish called David, and said unto him, Surely, as the LORD liveth, thou hast been upright, and thy going out and thy coming in with me in the host is good in my sight: for I have not found evil in thee since the day of thy coming unto me unto this day: nevertheless the lords favor thee not. 

Wherefore now return, and go in peace, that thou displease not the lords of the Philistines.

And David said unto Achish, But what have I done?  And what hast thou found in thy servant so long as I have been with thee unto this day, that I may not go fight against the enemies of my lord the king? 

And Achish answered and said to David, I know that thou art good in my sight, as an angel of God: notwithstanding the princes of the Philistines have said, He shall not go up with us to the battle” (1 Sam 29:6-10).

David was then told to leave in the morning, so they went to the land of the Philistines and the Philistines went to Jezreel.

The Yarkon River at Aphek-Antipatris.
Aphek/Antipatris is known by the modern name Ras el-Ain because it is located at the source of the Yarkon River which flows a few miles into the Mediterranean.

When a plot was raised against Paul while he was in the Fortress of Antonia in Jerusalem, he was sent by night to Antipatris.

The next day he was escorted to Caesarea.

” Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul, and brought him by night to Antipatris.

32 On the morrow they left the horsemen to go with him, and returned to the castle:

33 Who, when they came to Caesarea and delivered the epistle to the governor, presented Paul also before him” (Acts 23:31-33).

From Jerusalem to Antipatris is about 30 miles. From there to Caesarea is an additional 27 miles.

Paul would remain in custody at Caesarea for two years.

“And it came to pass, when David and his men were come to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the south, and Ziklag, and smitten Ziklag, and burned it with fire;

And had taken the women captives, that were therein: they slew not any, either great or small, but carried them away, and went on their way “(1 Sam 30:1-2).

When David got there he saw that not only the town was burnt and the animals were missing, but his wives, Ahinoam and Abigain, had been captured.  The people wept until they were so distraught they couldn’t weep anymore and talked about stoning David.

“David then told Abiathar to bring him the ephod, and David enquired at God, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop?  Shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all” (1 Sam 30:8).

David and his 600 men went to the brook Besor, and 200 of them stayed because they were so faint to fight.  They found an Egyptian in the field and brought him to David, who fed him and gave him water. 

“And David said him, To whom belongest thou?  And whence art thou?  And he said, I am a young man of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite; and my master left me, because three days alone I fell sick. 

We made an invasion upon the south of the Cherethites, and upon the coast which belongeth to Judah, and upon the south of Caleb; and we burned Ziklag with fire.

Located in the Sharon Plain, on the outskirts of Petah Tikva, at the headwaters of the Yarkon River, Aphek was among the earliest (fortified) royal Canaanite cities.

It guarded the Aphek Pass of the Via Maris.

This is the place where the Israelite’s suffered one of the most devastating defeats – the loss of the Ark of the Covenant, to the Philistines.

Paul was taken here on the way to Caesarea, according to the Acts of the Apostles.

And David said to him, Canst thou bring me down to this company?  And he said, Swear unto me by God, that thou wilt neither kill me, nor deliver me into the hands of my master, and I will bring thee down to this company” (1 Sam 30:13-15).

David and his men arrived to where the Amalekites were eating, drinking, and dancing to celebrate their victories.  And David smote them from that night until the next night, and only 400 men on camels managed to escape the slaughter.

David retrieved all the belongings the Amalekites had taken, as well as everything they had.

David then went back to the brook Besor where the 200 were at.  David was a fair leader and was going to share the spoil with all 600 of his men. Yet, some of the men, the 400, which were seen as wicked or men or Belial, argued that they didn’t deserve any of the spoil.

“Then said David, Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the LORD hath given us, who hath preserved us, and delivered the company that came against us into our hand. 

From the Chalcolithic Period to the Ottoman Period the place that was previously known as Tell Ras el-‘Ain, and later known as Tel Aphek-Antipatris was continuously inhabited.

Its location was identified based on numerous Biblical, Egyptian, Assyrian, and Roman-Byzantine sources.

The Ark of the Covenant had, on numerous occasions, accompanied the Israelites into battle.

As they prepared for the first major battle against the Philistines, they sent word to Shiloh (east of Eben Ezer), that the ark was needed.

For who will hearken unto you in this matter?  But as his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike” (1 Sam 30:23-24).  And the men didn’t argue anymore.

“David also shared some of the spoil to the elders of Judah.  To his friends in Beth-el, Ramoth, Jattir, Aroer, Siphmoth, Eshtemoa, Rachal, the Jerahmeelites, and the cities of Kenites, he said, Behold a present for you of the spoil of the enemies of the LORD” (1 Sam 30:26).

“Now the Philistines fought against Israel: and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell down slain in mount Gilboa. 

And the Philistines followed hard upon Saul and upon his sons; and the Philistines slew Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Malchi-shua, Saul’s sons. 

And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was sore wounded of the archers.

Then said Saul unto his armor bearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and abuse me.  But his armor bearer would not; for he was sore afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword, and fell upon it. 

In the battle that ensued, the Israelites suffered great losses.

Reportedly, 30,000 men died.

However, that was not the only tragedy.

The Philistines, took the Ark of the Covenant, the most important symbol of the Jewish faith, to Ahdod and placed it in the temple of their god, Dagon.

The following day, they found the statue of Dagon on the ground, on its face (I Sam 5).

After yet another day, the statue was found decapitated.

The ark was then sent on to Gath and later Ekron. It was finally returned to the Israelites after seven months because of its apparent deadly effect on the inhabitants of any city to which it was sent.

After the return of the ark, it took another twenty years for the Israelites to once more believe in their god.

In the interim they had abandoned their beliefs and had accepted other gods.

And when his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise upon his sword, and died with him. 

So Saul died, and his three sons, and his armor bearer, and all his men, that same day together” (1 Sam 31:1-6).

When the men of Israel on the other side of the valley  and Jordan saw all this they fled from the cities and the Philistines moved into them. 

The next day the Philistines came to strip the dead and found Saul and his three sons so they cut off his head and took his armor. 

They then sent Saul’s head into their land to publish it in the house of idols and put his armor in the house of Ashtartoth the goddess, and fastened Saul and his son’s bodies to the wall of Beth-shan.

“And when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard of that which the Philistines had done to Saul;

All the valiant men arose, and went all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there. 

And they took their bones, and buried them” (1 Sam 31:11-13).

Aphek

Aerial view of Aphek/Antipatris
Aphek is mentioned in 1 Sam. 4:1 as the site of the Philistine camp as they prepared for battle against Israel.

This was in the last days of Eli’s tenure as High Priest and Judge of Israel.

In the New Testament this location was known as Antipatris, and is mentioned in Acts 23.

When the Roman commander Claudius Lysias became aware of an assassination plot to kill the Apostle Paul in Jerusalem, he order a military escort of Paul to Caesarea.

This was for Paul’s own protection.

The commander was thorough: two centurions were commanded to prepare 200 soldiers, 200 spearmen, and 70 horsemen.

The Roman militia departed at 9:00 PM (Acts 23:23).

On the way to Caesarea, the governor’s residence, they went through Antipatris:

“Then the soldiers, as they were commanded, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris” (v.31).

The next day the horsemen went on with Paul to his destination, whereas the soldiers returned to the barracks (v.32) at Jerusalem.

In Samuel 29:1 the Philistines used Aphek as a place to muster their troops against Israel.

Previously they had gathered at this same location just before they had routed the army of Israel.

The precise location of Aphek is somewhat problematic because the numerous places that share this or a very similar name.

Aphek is mentioned eight times in the Old Testament(nine if we include the place called Aphekah in Josh 15:53), and the scholarly consensus is that there are four distinct locations so designated:

* Josh 19:29-30 refers to a town within the tribal allotment of Asher.

* 1 Kgs 20:26,30 and 2 Kgs 13:17 speak of a town Aram (Syria), north of Israel.

* Josh 13:4 speaks of another Aphek that most likely served as the northern bor­der of the land of Canaan.

* The fourth Aphek was located in the Sharon plain. This may be the Aphek of Josh 12:18 and is most likely the Aphek of 1 Sam 4 and 29.

Tel Ras el-Ain, northeast of Joppa at the source of the Yarkon River, is assumed to be the modern location for the fourth Aphek.

Its relative proximity to Philistine territory con­firms the likelihood that this is the town in­tended in 1 Sam 29.

This Aphek is attested in Egyptian sources from the 15th century B.C. in a topographical listing of place names (possibly of the cities taken in a military cam­paign or in an itinerary from Thutmose III, as well as in an account of Amenhotep II’s second military campaign® the region.

In 1 Sam 28:4 the Philistine army was encamped at Shunem, near En Dor, the Val­ley of Jezreel and Mount Gilboa (the location of Saul’s death).

It is most likely that the reference to Aphek in chapter 29 indicates that the events of this chapter actually preceded those of 28:3-25.

Aphek would have been a natural staging area for the Philistine push northward to meet the Israelite forces at Jezreel.

In addition to being the most logical reconstruction of Philistine troop movements, such a reading does no violence to the Biblical portrayal of events in chapters 28-31.

The author evidently used a  thematic, rather than a strictly  chronological, arrangement to structure this account.