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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Heb. Ashkelon', אִשְׁקְלוֹן, prob. migration [the usual form would be אִשְׁקָל, Ashkal; Rodiger (in Gesenius, Thes. p. 1476) suggests that the uncommon termination is a Philistine form]; Sept. and Josephus, ηΑ῾᾿σκάλων; Auth. Vers. "Askelon," in Judges 1:18; 1 Samuel 6:17; 2 Samuel 1:20; the Ascalon of the Greeks and Romans and mediaeval writers), a city of the Philistines, and the seat of one of their five states (Judges 14:19; 1 Samuel 6:17; 2 Samuel 1:20), but less often mentioned, and apparently less known to the Jews than the other four. This, doubtless, arose from its remote situation, alone, of all the Philistine towns, on the extreme edge of the shore of the Mediterranean (Jeremiah 47:7), and also well down to the south. Gaza, indeed, was still farther south, but then it was on the main road from Egypt to the centre and north of Palestine, while Ashkelon lay considerably to the left. The site fully bears out the above inference; but some indications of the fact may be traced, even in the scanty notices of Ashkelon which occur in the Bible. Thus, the name is omitted from the list in Joshua 15 of the Philistine towns falling to the lot of Judah (but comp. Joseph. Ant. v, 1, 22, where it is specified), although Ekron, Ashdod, and Gaza are all named; and considerable uncertainty rests over its mention in Judges i, 18'(see Bertheau in Exeg. Handb. in loc.). Samson went down from Timnath to Ashkelon, when he slew the thirty men and took their spoil, as if to a remote place whence his exploit was not likely to be heard of; and the only other mention of it in the historical books is in the formulistic passages, Joshua 13:3, and 1 Samuel 6:17, and in the casual notices of Judges 2:28; 1 Maccabees 10:86; 1 Maccabees 11:60; 1 Maccabees 12:33. The other Philistine cities are each distinguished by some special occurrence or fact connected with it, but except the one exploit of Samson, Ashkelon is to us no more than a name. In the poetical passage 2 Samuel 1:20, it is named among heathen foes. The inhabitants were called Ashkelonites (Heb. Ash. keloni', אִשְׁקְלוֹנִי, Sept. Ἀσκαλωνίτης, Auth. Vers. "Eshkalonites," Joshua 13:3).
It was a port on the Mediterranean coast between Gaza and Jamnia (Joseph. War, 4:11, 5), 12 geogr. miles N. of the former, 10 S. by W. from Ashdod, and 37 W.S.W. from Jerusalem (comp. Reland, Palest. p. 443). Ashkelon was assigned to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 13:13; comp. Judges 1:18); but it was never for any length of time in possession of the Israelites (comp. 1 Kings 4:24). It is farther mentioned in the denunciations of the prophets (Jeremiah 25:20; Jeremiah 47:5; Jeremiah 47:7; Amos 1:8; Zephaniah 2:4; Zephaniah 2:7; Zechariah 9:5). The part of the country in which it stood abounded in aromatic plants (Plin. 12:51), and especially onions (shallots, ascalonice, Plin. 19:32; Strabo, 16:759; Athen. ii, 68; Theophr. Plant. 7:4; Dioscor. i, 124; Colum. 12:10), and vines (Alex. Trall. 8:3). The soil around the town was remarkable for its fertility; the wine of Ashkelon was celebrated, and the Al-henna plant flourished better than in any other place except Canopus (Kenrick, p. 28). It was also celebrated for its cypresses, for figs, olives, and pomegranates, and for its bees, which gave their name to a valley in the neighborhood (Ibn Batuta in Ritter, Palastina, 88). It was well fortified (Joseph. War, iii, 21; comp. Mela, i, 11), and early became the seat of the worship of Derceto (Diod. Sic. ii, 4), the Syrian Venus, whose temple was plundered by the Scythians (Herod. i, 105). She represented the passive principle of nature, and was worshipped under the. form of a fish with a woman's head (comp. Ovid, Fast. ii, 406). (See ATERGATIS). "
The sacred doves of Venus still fill with their cooings the luxuriant gardens which grow in the sandy hollow within the ruined walls" (Stanley, p. 257). After the time of Alexander, Ashkelon shared the lot of Phoenicia and Judaea, being tributary sometimes to Egypt (Joseph. Ant. 12:4, 5), and at other times to Syria (1 Maccabees 10:86; 1 Maccabees 11:60; 1 Maccabees 12:33). Herod the Great was born at Ashkelon, and although the city did not belong to his dominion, he adorned it with fountains, baths, and colonnades (War, i, 21, 11); and after his death Salome, his sister, resided in a palace at Ashkelon which Caesar bestowed upon her (Ant. 17:11, 5). It suffered much in the Jewish war with the Romans (War, ii, 18, 5; iii, 2, 1-3); for its inhabitants were noted for their dislike of the Jews, of whom they slew 2500 who dwelt there (ii, 18, 5; iii, 2, 1). After this Ashkelon again revived, and in the Middle Ages was noted not only as a stronghold, but as a wealthy and important town (Will. Tyr. 17:21). In the fourth century it was the see of a bishop, but in the seventh century it fell into the hands of the Saracens. Abulfeda (Tab. Syr.) speaks of it as one of the famous strongholds of Mohammedanism; and the Orientals call it the Bride of Syria (Schultens, Index Geogr. s.v.; Edrisi, ed. Jaubert, i, 340). It shared with Gaza an infamous reputation for the steadfastness of its heathenism and for the cruelties there practised on Christians by Julian (Reland, p. 588, 590). As a sea-port merely it never could have enjoyed much advantage, the coast being sandy and difficult of access. There is no bay or shelter for ships, but a small harbor toward the east advanced a little way into the town, and anciently bore, like that of Gaza, the name of Majumas (Kenrick, p. 28). In the time of Origen some wells of remarkable shape were shown near the town which were believed to be those dug by Isaac, or, at any rate, to be of the time of the patriarchs.
In connection with this tradition may be mentioned the fact that in the Samaritan version of Genesis 20:1-2; Genesis 26:1, Ashkelon (עסקלון ) is put for the "Gerar" of the Hebrew text. The town bears a prominent part in the history of the Crusades (see Ibn Ferath, in Reinand's Extracts, p. 525). After being several times dismantled and re-fortified in the times of Saladin and Richard, its fortifications were at length totally destroyed by the Sultan Bibars A.D. 1270, and the port filled up with stones, for. fear of future attempts on the part of the Crusaders (Wilkin, Gesch. d. Kreuzziige, 7:586). This, no doubt, sealed the ruin of the place (see Cellar. Notit. ii, 600 sq.; Rosenmuller, Alterth. II, ii, 377 sq.). Sandys (Travailes, p. 151. A.D. 1610) describes it as "now a place of no note, more than that the Turke doth keep there a garrison." Fifty years after (A.D. 1660), Von Troilo found it still partially inhabited. But its desolation has long been complete, and little now remains of it but the walls, with numerous fragments of granite pillars (Arvieux, ii, 59; Joliffe, p. 270). The situation is described as strong; the thick walls, flanked with towers, were built on the top of a ridge of rock that encircles the town, and terminates at each end .in the sea (Robinson's Researches, ii, 368 note). The ground within sinks in the manner of an amphitheatre (Richardson, ii, 202204; Eli Smith, in Missionary Herald for 1827, p. 341). The place still bears the name of Askulan, and is inhabited by Arabs and Christians (Schwarz, Palest. p. 120). The modern village is a little north of the old site, and the houses are built of the fragments of the ancient city. It is situated in a cove formed by a lofty ridge rising abruptly near the shore, running up eastward, then, bending to the south, next to the west, and finally to the north-west again. The position, now surrounded with desolate ruins of its former grandeur, is still beautiful, the whole interior being planted with orchards (Thomson, Land and Book, ii, 327 sq.). (See CUNEIFORM INSCRIPTIONS).
The present site, called Asskulan, is thus described by Porter (Handbook for Syria, p. 276; comp. Conder, Tent Work, ii, 164 sq.):
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Ashkelon'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/a/ashkelon.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.