In 715 b.c. Sargon II, king of Assyria, brought a heavy defeat upon Ashdod and Gath which, instigated by Egypt, sought to include Palestine, Judah, Edom, and Moab in an anti-Assryian league. It is not known whether Gath was then destroyed; but for some reason the later prophets omit it in the lists of Philistine cities (Amos 1:6-8; Zeph 2:4-6; Jer 25:20; Zech 9:5). The city drops out of history, and its very location is a matter of dispute. Scripture indicates a site in the Shephelah, not far from the border of Heb. territory and from Ekron in N Philistia. Various places have been proposed as its location, the most widely accepted being Tell es-Safi, c. twelve m. N of Ashdod, and Tell Sheikh Ahmed el-’Areini, near ’Araq el-Menshiyeh, c. fifteen m. E of Ashkelon and c. seven m. S of Tell es-Safi.
There were several other places with the name of Gath in Pal., since the culture of the vine was a major occupation in ancient Israel. Some of the Gaths, like Gath-hepher (2 Kings 14:25) and Gath-rimmon (Josh 19:45; 21:24, 25; 1 Chron 6:69), have an additional element added to the name to distinguish it from other Gaths, but often the name stands alone, and it is difficult to decide exactly which Gath is meant. Four or five Gaths are known from sources outside the Bible, for example in the Amarna Tablets.
W. F. Albright, “The Sites of Ekron, Gath, and Libnah,” AASOR, II-III (1923), 7-12; B. Mazar (Maisler), “Tell Gath,” IEJ, VI (1956), 258, 259; D. W. Thomas, Documents from Old Testament Times (1962), 59; C. F. Pfeiffer, The Biblical World (1966), 249, 250.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
(gath; Septuagint Geth, "winepress"):
One of the five chief cities of the Philistines (Jos 13:3; 1Sa 6:17). It was a walled town (2Ch 26:6) and was not taken by Joshua, and, although many conflicts took place between the Israelites and its people, it does not seem to have been captured until the time of David (1Ch 18:1). It was rendered famous as the abode of the giant Goliath whom David slew (1Sa 17:4), and other giants of the same race (2Sa 21:18-22). It was to Gath that the Ashdodites conveyed the ark when smitten with the plague, and Gath was also smitten (1Sa 5:8,9).
It was Gath where David took refuge twice when persecuted by Saul (21:10; 27:2-4). It seems to have been destroyed after being taken by David, for we find Rehoboam restoring it (2Ch 11:8). It was after this reoccupied by the Philistines, for we read that Uzziah took it and razed its walls (2Ch 26:6), but it must have been restored again, for we find Hazael of Damascus capturing it (2Ki 12:17). It seems to have been destroyed before the time of Amos (Am 6:2), and is not further mentioned in the Old Testament or Macc, except in Mic 1:10, where it is referred to in the proverb, "Tell it not in Gath" (compare 2Sa 1:20). Since its destruction occurred, probably, in the middle of the 8th century BC, it is easy to understand why the site has been lost so that it can be fixed only conjecturally. Several sites have been suggested by different explorers and writers, such as: Tell es Safi, Beit Jibrin, Khurbet Jeladiyeh, Khurbet Abu Geith, Jennata and Yebna (see PEFS, 1871, 91; 1875, 42, 144, 194; 1880, 170-71, 211-23; 1886, 200-202).
Tradition in the early centuries AD fixed it at 5 Roman miles North of Eleutheropolis (Beit Jibrin, toward Lydda, which would indicate Tell es Safi as the site, but the Crusaders thought it was at Jamnia (Yebna), where they erected the castle of Ibelin, but the consensus of opinion in modern times fixes upon Tell es Safi as the site, as is to be gathered from the references cited in PEFS above. The Biblical notices of Gath would indicate a place in the Philistine plain or the Shephelah, which was fortified, presumably in a strong position on the border of the Philistine country toward the territory of Judah or Dan. Tell es Safi fits into these conditions fairly well, but without other proof this is not decisive. It is described in SWP, II, 240, as a position of strength on a narrow ridge, with precipitous cliffs on the North and West, connected with the hills by a narrow neck, so that it is thrust out like a bastion, a position easily fortified.
In 1144 Fulke of Anjou erected here a castle called Blanchegarde (Alba Specula). The writer on "Gath and Its Worthies" in PEFS, 1886, 200-204, connects the name Safi with that of the giant Saph (2Sa 21:18), regarding him as a native of Gath, but the most direct evidence from early tradition connecting Tell es Safi with Gath is found in a manuscript said to be in the library of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which informs us that Catherocastrum was situated on a mountain called Telesaphion or Telesaphy, which is clearly Tell es Safi. Catherocastrum must be the Latin for "camp of Gath" (PEFS, 1906, 305).