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The city of Ashdod, or Azotus, is celebrated in history as having withstood the longest siege upon record, Psammetticus, king of Egypt having taken it after twenty-nine years. Ashdod, being a frontier town, was a desirable acquisition either for Egypt or Assyria, and was frequently besieged by the kings of those countries. It was reckoned a place of great trade and importance. In it was the temple of Dagon, whose image fell prostrate before the ark of the true God.
Of its former importance scarce a memorial remains. It is now an inconsiderable place, having two small gates, and in its centre a mosque with a beautiful minaret. The present village stands on a low round grassy hill, surrounded by trees. It is called Esdûd, or Asdoud.
“Near Asdoud," write Captains Irby and Mangles, “ is an antique building in the form of an open square, which we at first took to be Roman ; but as the urkish khans for the accommodation of caravans and travellers are built much in the same manner, we are rather inclined to believe it to be a very ancient khan ... The enclosed court is entered by an arched passage, within which, on each side, are piazzas, formed of five arches, two on each side of a larger one in the centre. On each side of the south entrance are chambers ; on the right, steps to ascend to the top of the building. The chamber on the left has evidently been used as a primitive christian chapel, as appears by an altar and a cross; and there is an inscription, in some eastern language, over the door. There are other arches in ruins, partly buried, closer to the village, and a marble fragment, which would appear to have once formed the capital of a Corinthian column. The natives of this place flocked round us in numbers, looking at us with wonder and astonishment, as well as (at) every thing belonging to us; after we thought they had sufficiently şurveyed us, we begged them to retire. They showed no incivility, but said they came to look at us, because
it seldom happened that Europeans arrived near this village. Some women came also, with a sick young man, apparently in a consumption, asking medical advice; we assured them we were not doctors, which they did not believe; and we luckily recollected that our Maltese interpreter had some balsam of Mecca, which the friars say is an antidote for all distempers. We gave them some accordingly, which appeared to excite much gratitude. They, however, soon returned to beg some of our hair, saying, that the smoke of christian hair, burnt while the medicine was warming, would ensure a cure of the disorder.
We could not help laughing at their superstition, but they continued to entreat us; for my part, I had little to spare, and Irby did not seem inclined to give any of his. Seeing we were averse to this latter remedy, they at length retired, and brought us some honey and bread by way of return; this we offered to pay for, but they would not accept any thing."-Irby and Mangles, pp. 179-181.
We are told that the ruins of Ashdod are now remarkable for scorpions.
“And they carried the ark of the God of Israel about (unto Gath).”—1 Samuel v. 8. “ And there went out a champion out of the camp
of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath”...-1 Samuel xvii. 4.
“ And David arose, and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath.”—1 Samuel xxi. 10.
“ Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon ; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.”2 Samuel i. 20.
“ Then Hazael king of Syria went up, and fought against Gath, and took it: and Hazael set his face to go up to Jerusalem.”—2 Kings xii. 17.
“Now ... David smote the Philistines, and subdued them, and took Gath and her towns out of the hand of the Philistines.”—1 Chronicles xviii. 1. “ And Rehoboam ... built cities for defence in Judah
He built even ... Gath,” &c.—2 Chronicles vi. 5, 8.
“And (Uzziah) went forth, and warred against the Philistines, and brake down the wall of Gath” 2 Chronicles xxvi. 6.
(Josh. xi. 22, xiii. 3; 1 Sam. vi. 17 ; 2 Sam. x. 18, xxi. 20, 22; 1 Kings ii. 39; i Chron. vii. 21, viii. 13; Amos vi. 2; Mic. i. 10.]
Gath was one of the five cities of the Philistines, whither the ark was carried from Ashdod; it is also celebrated as the residence of Goliath, and was afterwards fortified by Rehoboam. It appears early to have been destroyed, or at least to have lost its importance; the prophet Amos alludes to such an event, and Gath is not enumerated by the later prophets along with the other four cities of the Philistines. (From the times of Eusebius and Jerome) no mention of Gath or its position occurs in history, or in the accounts of Palestine; and we sought in vain for any present trace of the name throughout the whole region.
Dr. Robinson adds, that he had purposely visited two villages which were much spoken of, because he " thought perhaps traces of antiquity might be found there, from which at least a presumption might be drawn as to the site of Gath. But we found nothing to authorize “even the slightest conjecture"... "ancient Gath, for aught we know, is swept from the face of the earth.” — Robinson's Researches, vol. ii. pp. 420–422.
“ THEREFORE they sent the ark of God to Ekron. And it came to pass, as the ark of God came to Ekron, that the Ekronites cried out, saying, They have brought about the ark of the God of Israel to us, to slay us and our people. So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and said, Send away the ark of the God of Israel . . . for there was a deadly destruction throughout all the city ; the hand of God was very heavy there.”—1 Samuel v. 10, 11.
“ And the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron even unto Gath”...-1 Samuel vii. 14.
“... And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled. And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines, until thou come to the valley, and to the gates of Ekron: and the wounded of the Philistines fell down
to Shaaraim, even unto Gath, and unto Ekron.” — 1 Samuel xvii. 51, 52,
66 And Ahaziah ... was sick: and he sent messengers, and said unto them, Go, inquire of Baal-Zebub the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover of this disease. But the angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say unto them, Is it not because there is not a god in Israel
, that ye go to inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron ? Now, therefore, thus saith the Lord, Thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.' 2 Kings i. 2, 3. (See whole chapter.)
And I will turn mine hand against Ekron: and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish, saith the Lord.”—Amos i. 8.
“... Ekron shall be rooted up.”—Zephaniah ii. 4. “ Ashkelon shall see it, and fear; Gaza also shall
see it, and be very sorrowful, and Ekron ; for her expectation shall be ashamed.”—Zechariah ix. (7).
[Josh. xiii. 3, xv. 11, 45; Judges i. 18; Jer. xxv. 20.]
“ We left the site of 'Ain Shems at 75 10', (and)... reached ’Akir at 11 o'clock. As we drew near, the path led through well-tilled gardens and fields of the richest soil ... covered with vegetables and fruits of great variety and high perfection ... We made a mid-day halt of several hours, beneath some trees fully exposed to the wind, on the north of the village. Our fears of a day of oppressive heat were more than verified. There was a slight haze before the sun ; and the wind was blowing strongly from the north-west directly from the adjacent sea; yet it seemed charged with a glow as if it came from a scorched desert
“’Akir ... is of considerable size; but in the village itself we could perceive nothing to distinguish it from other modern villages of the plain. Like them it is built of unburnt bricks or mud, and exhibits to the eye of the traveller no marks of antiquity .
(This) may be accounted for by the circumstance, that probably the ancient town, like the modern villages of the plain, and like much of the present Gaza, was built only of unburnt bricks. Esdûd, as to the identity of which with Ashdod, no one doubts, has in like manner no remains of antiquity; and ancient Gath, for aught we know, is swept from the face of the earth ..
“ There seems no reason for doubt, that ’Akir answers to the ancient Ekron ... The position corresponds to all we know of Ekron. That city was the northernmost of the five cities of the lords of the Philistines; and was situated upon the northern border of Judah ; while the other four cities lay within the territory of that tribe. The ancient Ekron was at first assigned
1 Josh. xiii. 3, xv. 11, 47.