1 Sam 5:1-5 The Ark is taken by the Philistines to Ashdod, to the temple of the god Dagon (see 3 on Map 53). The image of Dagon falls on its face and the people of Ashdod are covered in tumours.
Ashdod was founded by Canaanites in the 17th century BC. About two hundred years later, it was attacked and conquered by the Philistines who invaded from Cyprus and Crete (see Deuteronomy 2:23). It became the largest and most powerful of the five Philistine kingdoms on the coast of Palestine. While Ashdod itself was located 2 miles / 3 km inland, on the important trade route from Egypt to Syria and Mesopotamia, Ashdod had its own port at Ashdod Yam (meaning ‘Ashdod-on-sea’).
Archaeological remains at Ashdod Yam (Ori)
After the Israelite invasion of Canaan in c.1406BC, Ashdod was allocated to the tribe of Judah (see Joshua 15:46), but was not conquered at that time because of the Philistine’s effective use of chariots to defend the city (see Judges 1:19). During the time of the ‘Judges’, the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines at the Battle of Ebenezer and taken to the Temple of Dagon at Ashdod (see 1 Samuel 5:1-5).
Ashdod was finally defeated and incorporated into Israel by King David in c.1000BC, though it fell under Egyptian domination again shortly after the death of King Solomon in 931 BC. King Uzziah of Judah briefly regained control over Ashdod in c.750BC (see 2 Chronicles 26:6), but the city fell to the Assyrians under Sargon II in 711BC (see Isaiah 20:1). Most of the population were deported to Assyria, while the prophet Jeremiah spoke of the ‘remnant of Ashdod’ who remained (see Jeremiah 25:20). The city was conquered by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon around 539BC and was subsequently rebuilt by the Persians. When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem from Babylon with a group of Jewish exiles in 445 BC, he expressed regret that some of the men who had returned earlier had married ‘foreign’ women from Ashdod (see Nehemiah 13:23). Ashdod was conquered once again by Alexander the Great in 332BC.
Aerial view of Ashdod Marina (Amos Meron)
The modern planned city of Ashdod was founded in 1956 on the coast of Israel, 4 miles north of ancient Ashdod (where a small Arab village was abandoned in 1948). Today, Ashdod is Israel’s largest port and a thriving industrial and commercial centre. Remains from the earlier settlement are on permanent display in The World of the Philistines at the Korin Maman Museum in Ashdod.