1 Sam 5:6-9 Fearing that the onset of disease is the result of divine retribution, the people of Ashdod send the Ark to Gath (see 4 on Map 53). But the inhabitants of Gath also get tumours.
1 Sam 5:10-12 So the Ark is moved on again to Ekron (see 5 on Map 53). However, the plague spreads further, possibly carried by rats (see 1 Samuel 6:5).
A reconstructed Philistine house at Revadim (Ekron) ( אבישי טייכר )
Ekron was originally a Canaanite settlement located on the border between the territories of Judah and Dan (see Joshua 15:11, 45 & 19:43). It became the most northerly of the five Philistine kingdoms that remained unconquered after the Israelites invaded Canaan in c.1406BC (see Judges 1:19).
After the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines at the Battle of Ebenezer in c.1024BC, it was initially taken to Ashdod, and then moved via Gaza to Ekron (see 1 Samuel 4:11 & 5:1-12). The Philistines also, presumably, took other captured treasures from the Tent of the Lord’s Presence to Ekron, including the portable ‘four-horned’ altars and the bronze ceremonial washing stand. After a deadly outbreak of tumours, the Philistines of Ekron returned the Ark on an ox-cart to the Israelites at Beth Shemesh (see 1 Samuel 6:1-16).
Ekron was on the disputed border between Israel and Philistia, and changed hands on many occasions. During the time of Samuel it fell briefly into Israelite hands (see 1 Samuel 7:14), but was recaptured by the Philistines during the reign of King Saul (see 1 Samuel 17:52). It was later brought under Israelite subjugation by King David in c.1000BC (see 2 Samuel 5:17-25 & 8:1), but had returned to Philistine control by the time of the prophet Amos in c.750BC (see Amos 1:8).
Elijah predicted the death of King Ahaziah of Israel in 851BC because he had consulted the Canaanite god of Ekron, Baal-Zebub (the ‘Lord of the flies’). In New Testament times, the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Baal-Zebub or ‘Beelzebub’ (see Matthew 12:24-29).
Ekron was beseiged by Sargon II of Assyria in 712BC, and was finally conquered by the Assyrian King Sennacherib in 702BC (see 2 Kings 18:13). It was probably destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon around 605BC (see 2 Kings 24:10).
Philistine pottery drinking bowl
from Tel Mikne (Hanay)
Remains of the Canaanite, Israelite and Philistine cities of Ekron have been found at Tel Mikne on the edge of the coastal plain 22 miles / 35 km west of Jerusalem and 5 miles / 8 km north of the site of Gath. Excavations have uncovered Mycenaean bell-shaped bowls (which the Philistines probably brought with them from the Pelaponnese or Crete), many Philistine iron artefacts (see Judges 1:19) including an ivory-handled knife for killing sacrificial animals, and several ‘four-horned’ altars similar to those used in Judah (see Exodus 27:1-8, 30:1-6 & 37:25-28). Three small bronze wheels discovered in the remains of a large temple building are similar to those described on the portable mechonot (ceremonial washing or ‘laver’ stands) used in Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem (see Exodus 30:17-21 & 1 Kings 7:27-33).
Other remains include over a hundred olive oil presses, a storage jar inscribed “for Baal”, and the remains of an Assyrian temple with a dedication plaque to its builder – Achish, “ruler of Ekron”. These archaeological treasures are now on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The Revadim Archaeological Museum near Ekron also houses a small collection of finds from the local area.