Glimpses of Israel - Ashdod

by Joseph Hunting

The history of Ashdod spans more than three millennia. It was one of the principal cities of the Philistines and was the centre for the worship of the fish god Dagon. Indeed, it was to Dagon that the Philistines made a great sacrifice when they finally captured Samson. And it was to Ashdod that the Philistines took the Ark of God when they defeated the Israelites in battle.

There was constant war between Ashdod and the Israelites until the city was captured by King Uzziah. During the period of Greek influence in Palestine the city became known as Azotus and it retained that name through the Roman occupation. The New Testament records that Philip passed through Azotus after his encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch.

During the passing of the centuries the desolation and neglect of the Holy Land together with the shifting sand dunes along the Mediterranean coast blotted out any trace of the ancient city.

As with so many other Biblical places that sprang into life after the rebirth of Israel, Ashdod was rebuilt on its ancient site, fulfilling Ezekiel's prophecy, "I will settle you after your old estates, and do better unto you than at your beginnings." (36:11).

The rapid transformation of Ashdod from sandy waste land to a busy oil terminal and modern port installation is in keeping with the rest of the transformation that has swept Israel during its brief period of statehood.