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ASHDOD ăsh’ dŏd, ASHDODITES ăsh’ dŏd īts, ASHDOTHITES (KJV, Josh 13:3) ăsh dŏ thīts (אַשְׁדֹּ֨וד, meaning possibly fortress; Apoc. and NT form ̓Άζωτος, G111). One of the five important Philistine cities (cf. 1 Sam 6:17), located on or near the Mediterranean Sea, W of Jerusalem.

Ashdod was the farthest N of the three of these Philistine cities which were on or near the coast, being inland about three m. and about ten m. N of Ashkelon. Actually, by NT times there may have been two towns by the name of Azotus, for Josephus speaks of a coastal (Antiq. XIII. xv. 4) and an inland town by this name (Antiq. xiv. iv. 4; War I. vii. 7). Thus, at least in Christian times, there should prob. be distinguished a coastal Azotus (παράλιος ̓Άζωτος) from an inland one (μεσόγειος A).

In the time of Israel’s conquest of the land of Canaan under Joshua, Ashdod was inhabited by the ancient Anakim people (Josh 11:22) and was assigned to the tribe of Judah (15:46, 47) along with other Philistine towns (Ekron, Gaza, Josh 15:45-47; and Gath, Josh 11:22). However, Judah did not actually occupy it at that early time, since Joshua 13:1-3 indicates that the Philistines were still in possession of the area.

In the Israelite-Philistine struggles at the time of Eli the priest (1 Sam 1-4), Ashdod figured prominently as the place to which the victorious Philistines took the Israelite Ark of the covenant (ch. 5). When the image of their heathen god Dagon in his temple at Ashdod was humiliated before the Ark of the Lord, and many of the people died of serious illness, the captured sacred Ark was sent to other Philistine cities (5:1-12). After further suffering from the plague, the rulers of Ashdod and the other Philistine cities (Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron) sent the Ark back to Israel with a trespass offering of gold (6:1-18).

Ashdod does not seem to have been controlled by Judah until the days of Uzziah (c. 783-742 b.c.) when according to 2 Chronicles 26:6, this king of Judah, in fighting against the Philistines, conquered the city. Amos (c. 760-745 b.c.) no doubt included these events in his prophecy against Ashdod (Amos 1:8; 3:9).

Ashdod a little later had independence again for during the Assyrian hegemony, according to Assyrian annals, the town is said to have revolted in the time of Sargon II (721-705 b.c.). This uprising evidently took place about 711. According to his annals Sargon II ordered Azuri, the local king of Ashdod, deposed, and he set up a younger brother, Ahimiti, in his place. Then when the local townspeople whom Sargon calls Hittites (cf. the name Heth in the early history of Gen 27:46), under a self-appointed Gr. named Iamani (i.e., Ionian) or Iadna, continued the revolt, the Assyrian ruler marched on Ashdod, conquered it, and punished it and Gath and Ashdudimmu (meaning Ashdod by the Sea, a place which became more important later than inland Ashdod; cf. remarks above on two Ashdods in Christian times). Iamani, the Gr., fled to the territory of Musru which was under Ethiopia’s control. Ethiopia then surrendered the Gr. to the Assyrians. Thus Ashdod and the surrounding territory became Assyrian (ANET, 286). It was in the light of this background that Isaiah 20:1-6 warns Judah against getting involved with Ashdod, because Ethiopia would not support the cause against Assyria.

Information about Azotus (as Ashdod was known from the Intertestamental Period on) under the Egyp. Ptolemaic and Syrian Seleucid kingdoms is meager, with the first diadochian (i.e., successors of Alexander the Great) periods, however, prob. being alluded to through superscriptions (Heb. in Gr. letters) on two Ashdod coins (see Schürer, II, i, 77). Evidence from the Books of the Maccabees in which there are frequent references to the Azotus district (1 Macc 14:34; 16:10), shows that the area succumbed to Jewish power, e.g. Judas destroyed its altars and images (1 Macc 5:68) and Jonathan burned the temple of Dagon and the city with fire (1 Macc 10:84; 11:4). Josephus relates that Azotus belonged to the Jewish region in the time of Alexander Jannaeus (c. 104-78 b.c.) (Antiq. XIII. xv. 4).

Subsequently Pompey rebuilt and repopulated Azotus and other cities of the whole area (Jos. Antiq. XIV. v. 4; War I. viii. 4), and later it was under Herod the Great’s control, who then willed it to his sister Salome (Jos. War II. vi. 3; Antiq. XVII. ii. 2; xi. 1); she in turn prob. willed it to the Empress Livia, the wife of Augustus (Jos. Antiq. XVIII. ii. 2; War II. ix. 2). There seems to have been a considerable Jewish population there in the 1st cent. a.d., because Vespasian placed a garrison there in the Jewish War before the fall of Jerusalem (Jos. War IV. iii. 2).

The only NT reference to Azotus is in Acts 8:40 where it is said Philip started his preaching mission up the coast to Caesarea.


E. Schürer, A History of the Jewish People, sec. div., vol. I (1891), 76-79; F. M. Abel, Géographie de la Palestine, II (1938), 253, 254; J. B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (1955), 284-308.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

One of the five chief cities of the Philistines. The name means stronghold or fortress, and its strength may be inferred by the fact that Psammetik I, of Egypt, besieged it for many years (Herodotus says 29). Some of the Anakim were found there in the days of Joshua (Jos 11:22), and the inhabitants were too strong for the Israelites at that time. It was among the towns assigned to Judah, but was not occupied by her (Jos 13:3; 15:46,47). It was still independent in the days of Samuel, when, after the defeat of the Israelites, the ark was taken to the house of Dagon in Ashdod (1Sa 5:1,2). We have no account of its being occupied even by David, although he defeated the Philistines many times, and we have no definite knowledge of its coming into the hands of Judah until the time of Uzziah (2Ch 26:6).

Ashdod, like the other Philistine towns, came under the authority of the Assyrian monarchs, and we have mention of it in their records. It revolted against Sargon in 711 BC, and deposed the Assyrian governor, Akhimiti, who had been appointed by him in 720. Sargon at once dispatched a force to subdue the rebels and the city was severely punished. This is referred to by Isaiah (Isa 20:1). Amos had prophesied such a calamity some years before (1:8), and Jeremiah refers to "the remnant of Ashdod" as though it had continued weak until his day (Jer 25:20). Zephaniah (Ze 2:4) refers to the desolation of Ashdod and Zechariah to its degraded condition (Zec 9:6). It continued to be inhabited, however, for we find the Jews intermarried with them after the return from Babylon (Ne 13:23,24). In the Maccabean period we are told that Judas and Jonathan both took it and purified it of idolatry (1 Macc 5:68; 10:84). In these passages it is called Azotus, as it is also in the New Testament (Ac 8:40). In the 4th century AD it became the seat of a bishopric. It had been restored in the time of Herod, by the Roman general Gabinius, and was presented to Salome, the sister of Herod, by the emperor Augustus. It is now a small village about 18 miles Northeast of Gaza.

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