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ASHKELON (ăsh'kĕ-lŏn). One of the five chief cities of the Philistines, located on the seacoast about twelve miles (twenty km.) NE of Gaza. It was taken by the tribe of Judah shortly after the death of Joshua (Judg.1.18), but was retaken by the Philistines and remained in their hands through much of the OT period. In the eighth century b.c. Amos denounced the city for its complicity with Phoenicia and Edom in their warfare on Israel (Amos.1.6-Amos.1.8). Zephaniah, writing in the dark days before the captivity of Judah (Zeph.2.4, Zeph.2.7) and looking far into the future, saw the restoration of Judah and the Jews occupying the desolate ruins of Ashkelon. Zechariah, writing about 518 b.c., prophesied that Ashkelon would see the destruction of Tyre and then that Ashkelon itself would be destroyed (Zech.9.5). Apparently it was rebuilt, for Herod the Great was born there and Roman ruins have been found. During the Crusades, it came to life again, and Richard Coeur de Lion held court there. Later the town reverted to the Saracens.

Archaeological remains are sparse: a ruined and overgrown Byzantine church, a quadrangle with some preserved columns and foundation walls of an odeum (tiered council chamber) attributed to Herod the Great by the excavators, some statues belonging to the façade of the odeum, and a third-century a.d. painted tomb. The oldest evidence of occupation here is from the area near the beach and dates to c. 2000 b.c.


J. Garstang and W. J. Phythian-Adams, “Excavations at Ascalon,” PEQ (1920-1924); W. F. Stinespring, “Ashkelon,” IDB, 1 (1961), 252-254.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

ask’-ke-lon, esh’-ka-lon, as’-ke-lon (the King James Version Eshkalon, (Eshkalonites; Jos 13:3); Askelon, (Jud 1:18; 1Sa 6:17; 2Sa 1:20); ’ashqelon; modern Askelan): A maritime town between Jaffa and Gaza, one of the five chief cities of the Philistines. The Ashkelonites are mentioned by Joshua (Jos 13:3), and the city was taken by the tribe of Judah (Jud 1:18). One of the golden tumors (the King James Version "emerods") sent back with the ark by the Philistines was from Ashkelon (1Sa 6:17).

David couples Ashkelon with Gath in his lament over Saul and Jonathan (2Sa 1:20) indicating its importance, and it is joined with Gaza, Ashdod and Ekron in the denunciations of Amos (1:7,8). It is referred to in a similar way by Jeremiah (Jer 25:20; 47:5,7). Zephaniah (2:4,7) speaks of the desolation of Ashkelon and Zechariah announces the fear of Ashkelon on the destruction of Tyre (9:5).

The city is mentioned in the Tell el-Amarna Letters, and a certain Yitia is referred to as king. It revolted against Rameses II and was subdued, and we have mention of it as being under the rule of Assyria. Tiglath-pileser III names it among his tributaries, and its king, Mitinti, is said to have lost his reason when he heard of the fall of Damascus in 732 BC. It revolted in the reign of Sennacherib and was punished, and remained tributary to Assyria until the decay of that power. In Maccabean times we learn of its capture by Jonathan (1 Macc 10:86; 11:60, the Revised Version (British and American) "Ascalon"). Herod the Great was born there (BJ, III, ii, 1 ff). In the 4th century AD it was the seat of a bishopric. It became subject to the Moslems in the 7th century and was taken by the Crusaders. It was taken in 1187 by Saladin, who dismantled it in 1191 to make it useless to Richard of England, into whose hands it was expected to fall. Richard restored it the next year but it was again destroyed by Saladin. It was an important fortress because of its vicinity to the trade route between Syria and Egypt.

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