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JOPPA jŏp’ ə (יָפֹֽו, יָפֹ֔וא, ̓Ιόππη, G2673, the beautiful city). KJV JAPHO, jā fō (
Joppa was the seaport for Jerusalem c. thirty-five m. NW of that Israelite capital. It was the only natural harbor on the Mediterranean between Egypt and OT Acco (NT Ptolemais). A rocky cape projected into the sea and, since its elevation was about 125 ft. above the sea, it made an ideal military and commercial site. Reefs formed a rough semicircle c. 300 ft. to 400 ft. off the shore but boats could enter from the N. Nearby were sandy beaches where shallow craft could come ashore. Two good springs supplied the city with water. The land around the city was very fertile. The site today is known as Jaffa, and is a suburb of Tel Aviv.
The first historic reference to Joppa is in the list of Palestinian cities captured by Thutmose III, 1472 b.c. Joppa remained one of the key Egyp. administrative cities in Pal. from that time until the Israelite invasion. It is mentioned twice in the Tell el-Amarna letters. It was then allied with Jerusalem. In the Papyrus Anastasi I of the 13th cent. b.c., Joppa was described as surrounded by beautiful gardens, and her craftsmen were specialists in working metals, wood and leather. At the time of Joshua’s conquest, the city was assigned to the tribe of Dan (
The next reference to Joppa is
favored the city, for he changed its name from Yapho to Joppa, a new name that honored the daughter of the Gr. god of the Winds. Alexander, also, established a mint in Joppa.
After, Alexander’s death, the city was fought over by his successors on several occasions. In 301 b.c., Ptolemy took the city. Joppa remained Egyp. until 197 b.c., when it became a part of the Seleucid empire. Joppa had a brief but complex military history in the Maccabean period. At Joppa, Epiphanes landed his army with plans to enforce the Hellenization of Jerusalem, where later he plundered the temple. Judas later burned the harbor, but the city was too strong to be captured. Jonathan, however, did capture it, although he soon lost it. Simon finally made it an all-Jewish city. After Pompey captured Pal. in 63 b.c., he declared Joppa a free city. Julius Caesar returned it to the Jews in 47 b.c., but Herod the Great captured the city in 37 b.c. when he established his reign. Because of the city’s continued hatred of him, Herod built a magnificent new port at Caesarea, c. forty m. N of Joppa.
Joppa was one of the earliest cities to have a Christian congregation. Its most famous member was Tabitha, or Dorcas. She was the church’s best social worker, and was raised from the dead by Peter (
Joppa was one of the centers of the first Jewish revolt, and it was destroyed in the early days of the war by the Syrian proconsul, Cestius Gallus. The citizens refortified the site, but it was again destroyed. It was then replaced by a Rom. army camp in a.d. 68. Some of the Rom. coins struck in honor of the Roman’s victory over the Jews portray the destruction of the Jewish fleet at Joppa.
S. Tolkowsky, The Gateway of Palestine—a History of Jaffa (1925); F. M. Abel, Géographie de la Palestine (1933).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
1. Ancient Notices:
"The gate of Joppa" is mentioned in the Tell el-Amarna Letters (214, 32 f; compare 178, 20), as guarded by an Egyptian officer for Amenhotep IV. It was conquered by Thothmes III, and old Egyptian records speak of the excellence of its gardens and fruit trees. Sennacherib claims to have taken Jonathas after a siege (Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek, 2, 93). To Jonathas, the Chronicler tells us, the cedars of Lebanon were brought in floats for transportation to Jerusalem by the workmen of the king of Tyre (
2. Biblical References:
The city does not appear in the history as Philistine, so we may, perhaps, infer that it was held by the Phoenicians, the great seamen of those days. It was doubtless a Phoenician ship that Jonah found here, bound for Tarshish, when he fled from the presence of the Lord (
3. History from Maccabean Times:
The men of Joppa, having treacherously drowned some 200 Jews, Judas Maccabeus fell upon the town "and set the haven on fire by night, and burned the boats, and put to the sword those that had fled thither" (2 Macc 12:3 ff). Jonathan took the city, in which Apollonius had placed a garrison (1 Macc 11:47 ff). It was not easy to hold, and some years later it was captured again by Simon, who garrisoned the place, completed the harbor and raised the fortifications (1 Macc 12:36 f; 13:11; 14:5-34). It is recorded as part of Simon’s glory that he took it "for a haven, and made it an entrance for the isles of the sea," the Jews thus possessing for the first time a seaport through which commerce might be fully developed. It was taken by Pompey and joined to the province of Syria (Ant., XIV, iv, 4; BJ, I, vii, 7). Caesar restored it to the Jews under Hyrcanus (Ant., XIV, x, 6). It was among the cities given by Antony to Cleopatra (XV, iv, 1). Caesar added it to the kingdom of Herod (vii. 3; BJ, I, xx, 3), and at his death it passed to Archelaus (Ant., XVII, xi, 4; BJ, II, vi, 3). At his deposition it was attached to the Roman province. The inhabitants were now zealous Jews, and in the Roman wars it suffered heavily. After a massacre by Cestius Gallus, in which 8,400 of the people perished, it was left desolate. Thus it became a resort of the enemies of Rome, who turned pirates, and preyed upon the shipping in the neighboring waters. The place was promptly captured and destroyed by Vespasian. The people took to their boats, but a terrific storm burst upon them, dashing their frail craft to pieces on the rocks, so that vast numbers perished (BJ, III, ix, 2-4). At a later time it was the seat of a bishopric. During the Crusades it had a checkered history, being taken, now by the Christians, now by the Moslems. It was captured by the French under Kleber in 1799. It was fortified by the English, and afterward extended by the Turks (Baedeker, Palestine, 130).
The modern Yafa is built on a rocky mound 116 ft. high, at the edge of the sea. A reef of rocks runs parallel to the shore a short distance out. It may be rounded in calm weather by lighter vessels, and it affords a certain amount of protection. There is a gap in the reef through which the boats pass that meet the steamers calling here. In time of storm the passage is dangerous. On one of these rocks Perseus is said to have rescued the chained Andromeda from the dragon. Yafa is a prosperous town, profiting much by the annual streams of pilgrims who pass through it on their way to visit the holy places in Palestine. A good trade is done with Egypt, Syria and Constantinople. Soap, sesame, wheat and oranges are the chief exports. The famous gardens and orange groves of Jaffa form one of the main sights of interest. The Christians and the Moslems have rival traditions as to the site of the house of Simon the tanner. The remains of the house of Tabitha are also pointed out. From Jaffa to Jerusalem the first railway in Palestine was built.