Socoh, in the David & Goliath Narrative

Our recent posts have included aerial photos of Azekah and Khirbet-Qeiyaffa (Elah Fortress), both of which are in the Valley of Elah. (Some suggest that Khirbet-Qeiyaffa may turn out to be the biblical Ephes Dammim.)

Another site mentioned in the biblical record and featured in today’s post Socoh. 1 Sam. 17 includes this site as the geographical setting is provided for the battle between the Philistines and the Israelites, when David killed Goliath. The text reads:

Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle; and they were gathered at Socoh which belongs to Judah, and they camped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim.  Saul and the men of Israel were gathered and camped in the valley of Elah, and drew up in battle array to encounter the Philistines.  The Philistines stood on the mountain on one side while Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with the valley between them. (1 Sam. 17:1-3)

Our photo shows tel Socoh in center (look to the left and above the horizontal road that dissects the field in center).

Aerial of Socoh in Elah Valley. Scene of Philistine-Israel Battle of 1 Sam. 17. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

If you note the tiny tree-line above tel Socoh, across the road, this is the brook from which David selected five smooth stones, one of which he used to slay Goliath.

In the distance (just right of wing brace at top) you can see tel Azekah. For 40 days this valley rang out with the threatening voice of loud-mouth Goliath, until the shepherd David rose to the challenge, prompted by this faith in the God of Israel.

Socoh (also spelled Sochoh and Soco) had earlier been assigned to the territory of Judah (Josh. 15:35). Later it was fortified by Solomons’ son King Rehoboam (2 Chron. 11:7).  Later still, in the days of King Kezekiah, Socoh was among the cities of the Shephelah listed in 2 Chron. 28:18 as raided and conquered by the Philistines.  Apparently Socho had been an administrative center during Hezekiah’s reign as indicated by the numerous stamped jar handles with the seal of Socoh.

Click on image for higher resolution.

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2 Responses to Socoh, in the David & Goliath Narrative

  1. lukechandler says:

    Thanks for the post and the excellent photo. I’d like to make a brief comment on Khirbet Qeiyafa’s identification.

    Dr. Yusef Garfinkel, Dr. David Adams, Dr. Michael Hasel and Mr. Saar Ganor of the IAA (members Kh. Qeiyafa’s excavation staff) have identified Khirbet Qeiyafa as the biblical Shaaraim. (1 Sam. 17:52) “Shaaraim” is the Hebrew word for “two gates” – and Khirbet Qeiyafa is the only city in that period and region that has two gates. (The gate was the a weak point, so cities typically had one.) The name Shaaraim matches a unique feature of the Qeiyafa site. This identification is not universally accepted but to my knowledge there is no widely-acknowledged counterargument at this time.

    “Efes-dammim” translates along the line of “the bloody border” – which may indicate a region rather than a specific settlement. Perhaps an allusion to frequent conflict in this border region?

    There is not 100% certainty on either of these so other explanations cannot be ruled out, but the Shaaraim ID appears to be the strongest match for Qeiyafa in lieu of some other yet-to-be-discovered evidence.

    Thanks again for your posts and pics!

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