Ashkelon and Samson – Extra Info
Samson was a ‘Judge’.
Samson seems to demonstrate the bad luck, which follows from a marriage with a woman who was not Jewish.
The Philistines were un-circumcised and impure.
As is known, Samson’s fate ended badly: the Philistines took him to Gaza (another Philistine stronghold), and tore his eyes out; during his arrest Samson brought down the columns of the pagan temple and killed many men and himself.
The Philistines were secure in their positions along the coast and while the Israelite kings David and Solomon partly subdued them, they would never come anywhere near to Ashkelon.
The city continued to thrive and was famous for its export of wine that is known to have been shipped as far as Germany.
About one thousand years BC, when King Saul and his sons fell in Gilboa when fighting the Philistines, David expressed his famous lamentation: “Thy beauty O Israel upon thy high places is slain…
Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.” (Samuel II 1:19-20).
Ashkelon did not know peace throughout its history.
In the 8th and 7th centuries BC, the kings of Assyria undertook war campaigns against Egypt.
Kings Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal recognized Ashkelon’s tremendous strategic relevance and made it their army base as well as a transition place for their forces.
Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, also took control of the city dominating the sea passage and, in order to suppress the inhabitants’ opposition to the occupation; he banished many of them to Babylon.
The growth of wealth and welfare came abruptly to a halt when the Babylonians (Persians from modern Iraq / Iran) appeared in the coast-region.
In 604 BCE they sacked Ashkelon, a few years before the destruction of Jerusalem (587/6 BCE).
The end of Ashkelon is described by the prophet Jeremiah, who lived around the same time.
In the year 332 BC, the army of Alexander of Macedon (The Great) came to Ashkelon via the sea and conquered it.
Ashkelon, whose name is derived from the root shekel, is first mentioned in the Egyptian “mearot writings” of the 19th century BC.
Its name appears in the hieroglyphics on pottery shards, as “Askala.”
Tablets with letters written by rulers from the 14th century BC were discovered in Egypt’s Tel Al-Amarna.
These also included clay tablets sent by the governor of Ashkelon – which was conquered by the Egyptians – to the Pharaoh.
In his letter, the governor informs the Pharaoh that he is guarding the city, that he has prepared supplies for the Egyptian army and that he is prepared to receive the Egyptian agent and fulfilled his commands.
On the other hand, in his letter to the Pharaoh, the governor of Jerusalem complains that the inhabitants of Ashkelon fed the tribes of “Havroh” – the Pharaoh’s enemies – who began to invade Canaan.
The city, then known as Asqana, is first mentioned in writings from the 20th-19th century’s b.c.e., 4000 years ago.
Though the city was loyal to Egypt at that time, it is recorded that Abdihiba, the ruler of Jerusalem, complained to Pharaoh that the people of Ashkelon helped the Habiru, Egypt’s enemy.
It was in the 13th-century b.c.e. that an open rebellion occurred against Ramses II, and in the 12th-century b.c.e. that the Philistines took the city from the Egyptians.
There are several references in the Bible relating to Ashkelon the Assyrians then followed, only to have the Egyptians regain control.
After that Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian troops subdued the city.
A letter in Aramaic from this period has been found; in it Adon, probably the king of Ashkelon, pleads for help, stating that the Babylonian king has reached Aphek.
The Persians who became masters of the city in the 4th-century b.c.e. were ousted by the Greeks.
During the Roman period Ashkelon was considered a “free and allied city,” and in the Jewish Wars (66 c.e.) the people of Ashkelon fought and defeated the Jews.
In the Talmudic period which followed, Jews lived in Ashkelon, as the remains of a synagogue of that period show.
Talmudic sources also mention Ashkelon’s orchards and a fair held there.
In the Byzantine period the city was a centre of paganism, whose population worshipped a fish-goddess, Derceto, whose image was a mermaid.
In the Crusader period Ashkelon was a refuge for Jews escaping from Jerusalem, and the Jewish community ransomed captives and bought ritual objects from the looted synagogues in Jerusalem.
The great Jewish traveller of the 12th century, Benjamin of Tudela, described it as a “large and beautiful city.” When the Muslims replaced the Christians in the 12th century the Jews moved to Jerusalem.
Modern Ashkelon is located two miles northeast of the ancient ruins.
During the War of Independence the Israeli army gained control of the area and shortly thereafter a Jewish development town known as Migdal-Ashkelon was founded.
In 1955 Ashkelon was given city status.
The city has excellent beaches, and tourism and recreation are a main source of income for its 73,000 residents.
The area of ancient Ashkelon, including the archaeological finds, has been converted into a national park.