From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]


Gaza, the most southern of the five chief cities of Philistia, was important as the last place of call on the road to Egypt. It was ‘the frontier city of Syria and the Desert, on the south-west, as Damascus on the north-east’ (Stanley, Sinai and Palestine , London, 1877, p. 259). Writing about the beginning of the Christian era, Strabo (xvi. ii. 30) describes it as ‘once famous, but razed by Alexander [the Great] and remaining deserted’ (καὶ μένουσα ἔρημος). The last clause can scarcely be correct, for Gaza was a strong city in the time of Jonathan the Maccabee ( 1 Maccabees 11:61 f.), and it stood a year’s siege before it was destroyed by Alexander Jannaeus in 96 b.c. (Jos. Ant . xiii, xiii. 3). This was Old Gaza (ἡ παλαιὰ Γάζα), so called by Diodorus and Porphyry (see the references in Schürer, History of the Jewish People (Eng. tr. of GJV).] II. i. [Edinburgh, 1885] 70). New Gaza (ἡ νέα Γάζα) was built by Gabinius, Governor of Syria (Jos. Ant . xiv. v. 3), apparently at some distance from the former site (Jerome, Onomast. , ed. Lagarde, Göttingen, 1870, p. 125). In the time of Claudius, Mela describes it as ‘ingens et munita admodum’ (i. 11). It is said to have been destroyed by the Jews in a.d. 65 (Jos. Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) ii. xviii. 1), but the ruin cannot have been more than partial. In the time of Eusebius and Jerome it was still a notable Greek city, where paganism stoutly resisted Christianity; and it played an important part in the time of the Crusades. To-day it is a flourishing town of 16,000 inhabitants, built on and around a hill rising 100 ft. above the plain, and separated from the sea by three miles of yellow sand-dunes. Well watered, with broad gardens, and a great olive grove stretching northwards, it drives a considerable trade with the nomadic Arabs.

Gaza is mentioned once in the NT ( Acts 8:26): ‘Arise,’ said the angel of the Lord to Philip, ‘and go toward the south (marg.[Note: margin.], at noon) unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem to Gaza: the same is desert’ (αὔτη ἐστὶν ἔρημος). It is a much-disputed point whether ‘the same’ refers to the way or to Gaza. (l) If the former interpretation, which is the ordinary one, is right, the tract which the road traversed was ‘desert’ only in a qualified sense, for the writer expressly states that in passing through it Philip came upon water, in which he baptized the eunuch. The guiding angel’s words may refer merely to the solitariness of the road, being spoken ‘to bring out Philip’s trustful obedience, where he could not foresee the end in view’ (J. V. Bartlet, Acts [Century Bible, 1901], p. 214), or simply to prepare him for the uninterrupted interview which he enjoys with the eunuch. It is always possible that ‘the same is desert’ is a remark added by the narrator himself. (2) G. A. Smith ( Historical Geography of the Holy Land (G. A. Smith) , London, 1897, p. 186ff.) and Cheyne ( Encyclopaedia Biblica , 1650) hold that ‘the same (αὔτη) refers to Gaza. The former, to whom it seems impossible to describe any route from Jerusalem to Gaza as desert, suggests that while New Gaza was built by the seashore, the road to Egypt passed the inland and at least comparatively deserted Old Gaza. This view, however, puts a strained meaning upon ‘the same,’ while Schürer (ii. i. 71) holds that the new city, to which αὕτη would naturally refer, also lay inland, probably a little distance to the south of the old. Some scholars (Beza, Hilgenfeld, Schmiedel, and others) have contended that ‘the same is desert’ is an explanatory gloss. Schmiedel suggests that it was set down in the margin by a reader who had been misled by Strabo, and then incorporated in the text.

Literature.-See, in addition to the works mentioned above, E. Robinson, Biblical Researches in Palestine , London, 1841, p. 373ff.; V. Guérin, Description géographique … de la Palestine , pt. i.: ‘Judée,’ Paris, 1869; L. Gautier, Souvenirs de Terre-Sainte , Lausanne, 1897, p. 116ff.; T. Zahn, Introd. to the NT , Eng. translation, Edinburgh, 1909, ii. 438.

James Strahan.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [2]

("fortified".) One of the five Philistine cities, Mentioned in the first and latest books of Scripture, and even now exceeding Jerusalem in size. It is the most southwesterly town toward Egypt, and lay on the great route between Syria and that country, being in position and strength (as its name means) the key of the line of communication. It withstood Alexander's siege with all his resources for five months. It is called Azzah  Genesis 10:19 margin;  Deuteronomy 2:23;  Jeremiah 25:20. Gaza was assigned by Joshua to Judah ( Joshua 15:47), but not occupied until afterward ( Judges 1:18; compare  Joshua 10:41), the Anakims occupying it still ( Joshua 11:22;  Joshua 13:8). The Philistines soon recovered it ( Judges 13:1;  Judges 16:1-21), and there Samson perished while destroying his captors. Solomon ruled over it ( 1 Kings 4:24).

Hezekiah gave the decisive blow to the Philistines, "even unto Gaza and the borders thereof, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city" ( 2 Kings 18:8). Amos ( Amos 1:6) threatened from God. "for three transgressions of Gaza and for four (i.e. for sin multiplied on sin,  Exodus 20:5;  Proverbs 30:15. Three and four make seven, the number implying completion of the measure of guilt) I will not turn away the punishment thereof, because they carried away captive the whole captivity (i.e. they carried all away and left none; see  2 Chronicles 21:17;  2 Chronicles 28:18) to deliver them up to Edom (the Philistines of Gaza, instead of hospitably sheltering the Jewish refugees fleeing before Sennacherib and other Assyrian, invaders, sold them as captives to their bitter foes, the Edomites; compare  Isaiah 16:4). But I will send a fire on the wall of Gaza, which shall devour the palaces thereof."

"Pharaoh" Necho fulfilled the prophecy on returning from slaying Josiah at Megiddo ( 2 Chronicles 35:20) (Grotius). Or "Pharaoh" Hophra, on his return from the unavailing attempt to save Jerusalem from Nebuchadnezzar ( Jeremiah 37:5;  Jeremiah 37:7;  Jeremiah 47:1) (Calvin) In  Zephaniah 2:4 there is a play on like sounds; Gazah Gazuwbah , "Gaza shall be forsaken." In  Zechariah 9:5 "the king shall perish from Gaza," i.e., its Persian satrap, or petty "king," subordinate to the great king of Persia, shall perish, and it shall cease to have one. Alexander having taken the city, and slain 10,000 of its inhabitants, and sold the rest as slaves, bound Betis the satrap to a chariot by thongs thrust through his soles, and dragged him round the city, as Achilles did to Hector.

In  Acts 8:26, "go toward the S. unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza which (not Gaza, but which way) is desert," refers to the portion of the road between Eleutheropolis and Gaza, which is without villages and exposed to Bedouin marauders of the desert. The words "which is desert" are the angel's words (not Luke's), to inform Philip, then in Samaria, on what route he would find the eunuch, namely, on the S. route, thinly peopled, but favorable for chariots, Robinson (2:748) found an ancient road direct from Jerusalem to Gaza through the wady Musurr, now certainly without villages.

The water in wady el Hasy was probably the scene of the eunuch's baptism. Once Gaza was the seat of a Christian church and bishop; but now of its 15,000 inhabitants only a few hundreds are Christians, the rest Muslims. The great mosque was formerly the church of John when Gaza was a Christian city. An extensive olive grove lies N. of the modern Ghuzzeh., from whence arises its manufacture and export of soap. Its trade in grain is considerable, and still is heard the "grinding" of grain with millstones such as Samson was forced to work with in his prison house at Gaza. The Tel el Muntar or "hill of the watchman," east of Gaza, is the hill to which Samson carried up the gates. It commands a lovely and striking view on every side.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [3]

a city of the Philistines, made by Joshua part of the tribe of Judah. It was one of the five principalities of the Philistines, situated toward the southern extremity of the promised land,  1 Samuel 6:17 , between Raphia and Askelon. The advantageous situation of Gaza was the cause of the numerous revolutions which it underwent. It first of all belonged to the Philistines, and then to the Hebrews. It recovered its liberty in the reigns of Jotham and Ahaz, and was reconquered by Hezekiah,  2 Kings 18:8 . It was subject to the Chaldeans, who conquered Syria and Phenicia. Afterward, it fell into the hands of the Persians. It must have been a place of considerable strength. For two months it baffled all the efforts of Alexander the Great, who was repeatedly repulsed and wounded in the siege; which he afterward revenged in a most infamous manner on the person of the gallant defender Betis, whom, while yet alive, having ordered his ankles to be bored, he dragged round the walls, tied to his chariot wheels, in the barbarous parade of imitating the less savage treatment of the corpse of Hector by Achilles.

Dr. Wittman gives the following description of his visit to Gaza: "In pursuing our route toward this place, the view became still more interesting and agreeable: the groves of olive trees extending from the place where we had halted to the town, in front of which a fine avenue of these trees was planted. Gaza is situated on an eminence, and is rendered picturesque by the number of fine minarets which rise majestically above the buildings, and by the beautiful date trees which are interspersed. The suburbs of Gaza are composed of wretched mud huts; but within side the town the buildings make a much better appearance than those we had generally met with in Syria. The streets are of a moderate breadth. Many fragments of statues, columns, &c, of marble were seen in the walls and buildings in different parts of the town. The suburbs and environs of Gaza are rendered infinitely agreeable by a number of large gardens, cultivated with the nicest care, which lie in a direction north and south of the town; while others of the same description run to a considerable distance westward. These gardens are filled with a great variety of choice fruit trees, such as the fig, the mulberry, the pomegranate, the apricot, the peach, and the almond; together with a few lemon and orange trees. The numerous plantations of olive and date trees which are interspersed contribute greatly to the picturesque effect of the scene exhibited by the surrounding plains. These, on our arrival, were overspread with flowers, the variegated colours of which displayed every tint and every hue. Among these were the chrysanthemum, scarlet ranunculus, lupin, pheasant-eye, tulip, china-aster, dwarf-iris, lintel, daisy, &c, all of them growing wild and abundantly, with the exception of the lupin, which was cultivated in patches, regularly ploughed and sowed, with a view to collect the seeds, which the inhabitants employ at their meals, more especially to thicken their ragouts. The few corn fields, which lay at a distance, displayed the promise of a rich golden harvest; and the view of the sea, distant about a league, tended to diversify still more the animated features of this luxuriant scene." This and similar descriptions of modern travellers, which are occasionally introduced into this work, are given both as interesting in themselves, and to show that relics of the ancient beauty and fertility of the Holy Land are still to be found in many parts of it.

Holman Bible Dictionary [4]

 1 Samuel 6:17

While the site is especially associated with the Philistines, many other groups have inhabited it throughout history. That history extends from a period prior to the arrival of the Philistines, a period when the Avvim occupied the village ( Deuteronomy 2:23 ), on down to the present. The inhabitants of Gaza at times were referred to as the Gazites or Gazathites ( Judges 16:2 ).

Gaza's important role in ancient history was due to its strategic location on the major coastal plain highway which connected Egypt with the rest of the Ancient Near East. Because of its strategic location, Gaza witnessed the passage of numerous caravans and armies and often got caught in the middle of the political struggles of the Ancient Near East. This is reflected in a brief review of the highlights of Gaza's history. According to the records of Thutmose III, Thutmose captured Gaza on his first campaign to Palestine and made it a major Egyptian center. The Amarna Letters identify Gaza as the district headquarters for Egyptian holdings in southern Palestine. For Solomon, Gaza was the major center on the southern border of his kingdom which ran “from Tiphsah even to Azzah (Gaza)” ( 1 Kings 4:24 ).

Gaza was often affected by the political struggles and turnovers that took place during the Assyrian and Babylonian periods. Tiglath-pileser III collected tribute from Gaza during his military campaign against Israel and Syria about 734 B.C. Hezekiah “smote the Philistines, even unto Gaza” as he tried to re-establish Judah's independence ( 2 Kings 18:8 ) about 705-704 B.C. Sennacherib reinforced his control of Gaza as a vassal state as he invaded Judah in 701 B.C. Pharaoh Neco conquered Gaza about 609 B.C. and made it an Egyptian holding, but it remained in Egyptian hands for only a few years. Sometime after 605 B.C. the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar conquered Gaza and made it a part of his empire.

In addition to the biblical references sighted above, Gaza is mentioned in other biblical accounts. Many of Samson's encounters with the Philistines apparently took place in or near Gaza ( Judges 16:1-3 ,Judges 16:1-3, 16:21 ). Amos charged that along with the city of Tyre, in Phoenicia, Gaza engaged in slave trade with the Edomites ( Amos 1:6-10 ). Gaza's role as a major site on the coastal plain highway during the New Testament period is reflected in the story of the Ethiopian eunuch ( Acts 8:26-40 ). While both biblical and extra-biblical sources attest to Gaza's lengthy history, the site has never had a thorough archaeological excavation. A work of that nature is virtually impossible because the remains of the biblical town are buried presumably under the modern city. See Philistines.

LaMoine DeVries

Morrish Bible Dictionary [5]

1. One of the five royal cities of the Philistines. We read of it as early as  Genesis 10:19 as a border of the Canaanites. The Anakim dwelt there, but Judah was able to take Gaza and the coasts thereof.   Joshua 11:22;  Judges 1:18 . In the time of Samson, however, the Philistines were in possession, and he was made a prisoner there.  Judges 16:21 . It was held afterwards by Solomon,  1 Kings 4:24 (where it is called AZZAH, as it is also in   Deuteronomy 2:23 and   Jeremiah 25:20 ); but had to be taken again by Hezekiah.  2 Kings 18:8 . It was afterwards smitten by Pharaoh.  Jeremiah 47:1,5 . Having been a stronghold of the Philistines, woes were pronounced against it by the prophets.  Amos 1:6,7;  Zephaniah 2:4;  Zechariah 9:5 .

Gaza was the S.W. frontier town of Palestine, and did a large trade with the caravans to and from Egypt. It was taken by Cambyses, the Ptolemies, and by Alexander the Great, and was held in the twelfth century by the Knights Templars. Gaza is now under Palestinian rule. It is situate at 31 30' N, 34 28' E .  Acts 8:26 signifies that the way from Jerusalem to Gaza was desert. This is supposed to refer to the road through Hebron, for after leaving that city it is comparatively desert.

2. City of Ephraim,   1 Chronicles 7:28; but here many MSS read Ayyah.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [6]

GAZA . A city of the Philistine Pentapolis. It is referred to in Genesis (  Genesis 10:19 ) as a border city of the Canaanites, and in   Joshua 10:41 as a limit of the South country conquered by Joshua; a refuge of the Anakim (  Joshua 11:22 ), theoretically assigned to Judah (  Joshua 15:47 ). Samson was here shut in by the Philistines, and escaped by carrying away the gates (  Judges 16:1-3 ); he was, however; brought back here in captivity after being betrayed by Delilah, and here he destroyed himself and the Philistines by pulling down the temple (  Judges 16:21-30 ). Gaza was never for long in Israelite hands. It withstood Alexander for five months (b.c. 332). In b.c. 96 it was razed to the ground, and in b.c. 57 rebuilt on a new site, the previous site being distinguished as ‘Old’ or ‘Desert’ Gaza (cf.   Acts 8:26 ). It was successively in Greek, Byzantine Christian (a.d. 402), Muslim (635), and Crusader hands; it was finally lost by the Franks in 1244. A Crusaders’ church remains in the town, now a mosque. It is now a city of about 16,000 inhabitants, and bears the name Ghuzzeh .

R. A. S. Macalister.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [7]

Gaza ( Gâ'Zah ), Hebrew Azzah, Strong. The chief of the five cities of the Philistines, 60 miles southwest of Jerusalem, 3 miles from the Mediterranean, now called Ghŭzzeh. Gaza was peopled by the descendants of Ham,  Genesis 10:19; by the Anakim,  Joshua 11:22; given to Judah,  Joshua 15:47; the scene of Samson's exploits,  Judges 16:1-31; under Solomon's rule and called Azzah,  1 Kings 4:24; smitten by Egypt,  Jeremiah 47:1;  Jeremiah 47:5; prophesied against,  Amos 1:6-7;  Zephaniah 2:4;  Zechariah 9:5; noticed in New Testament only in  Acts 8:26; a chief stronghold of paganism and the worship of the god Dagon. The town is now without walls or gates, but is in the midst of olive-orchards and has about 20,000 inhabitants.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [8]

 Deuteronomy 2:23 1 Kings 4:24 Jeremiah 25:20 Genesis 10:19 Joshua 15:47 Deuteronomy 2:23 Joshua 13:2,3 Joshua 15:47 Judges 1:18 1 Samuel 6:17 Judges 16:1-3 Judges 16:21-30 Jeremiah 25:20 47:5 Amos 1:6,7 Zephaniah 2:4 Acts 8:26Samson

It is noticed on monuments as early as B.C. 1600. Its small port is now called el-Mineh.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [9]

The town of Gaza, on the Mediterranean coastal plain, was one of the ‘five cities of the Philistines’. The other four were Gath, Ashdod, Ashkelon and Ekron ( Joshua 13:3;  1 Samuel 6:17-18).

Gaza features in a number of Old Testament stories, among them those concerning Samson ( Judges 16:1-3;  Judges 16:21-30). (For a map of the region and details of the Old Testament history of Gaza see Philistia .) The sole New Testament reference to the town is in the story of Philip’s meeting with an African official whom he led to faith in Christ ( Acts 8:26-38). The present-day town of Gaza has been built on or beside the ruins of the old town.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [10]

Another city in the land of the Philistines. This was given by Joshua to Judah. ( Joshua 15:47)

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [11]

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [12]

(Heb. Azzah', עִזָּה , Strong, q.d. Fortress or Valentia, or fem. Of Goat, Sept. and other Greek writers Γάζα , sometimes confounded with Gazara [q.v.]; "Azzah" in Deuteronomy 1 ii,23), a city remarkable for its early importance and continuous existence, lying along the Mediterranean sea-coast, in latitude 31 ° 29', longitude 34 ° 29' (Robinson), on the great thoroughfare between the head of the Persian Gulf and Hebron, as well as between Egypt and Palestine, of which it was indeed the frontier town (Arrian, Exp. Alex. 2:26). It is chiefly noted as having been one of the cities of the Philistine pentarchy ( Joshua 15:47). It is mentioned in  Genesis 10:19, as one of the border-cities of the Canaanites. Its earliest inhabitants of whom we find any mention, though probably not the aborigines, are the Avim, who appear to have lived in a semi-nomad state, roving over the neighboring plain and desert. They were attacked and driven northward by "the Caphtorim, who came forth out of Caphtor, and they dwelt in their stead" ( Deuteronomy 2:23, with  Joshua 13:2-3; see Keil's note on the latter passage). The Caphtorim and Philistines were identical, or at least different families of the same tribe who afterwards amalgamated and formed the powerful nation of whom we read so much in the Bible (comp.  Deuteronomy 2:23;  Amos 9:7;  Genesis 10:14;  Jeremiah 47:4). (See Caphtorim); (See Philistines).

The time of the conquest of Gaza by the Philistines is not known. It must have been long before Abraham's time, for they were then firmly established in the country, and possessed of great power ( Genesis 21:32). Gaza was from the first their principal stronghold. Joshua smote the Canaanites as far Gaza ( Joshua 10:41), but spared the Anakim (giants) that dwelt there ( Joshua 11:21-22). In the division of the land, Gaza fell to the lot of Judah ( Joshua 15:47), and was taken by him with the coast thereof ( Judges 1:18), but its inhabitants ("Gazites,"  Judges 16:2; "Gazathites,"  Joshua 13:3) were not exterminated ( Judges 3:3). Gaza was one of the five Philistine cities which gave each a golden emerod as a trespass-offering to the Lord ( 1 Samuel 6:17). Gaza is celebrated for the exploit recorded of Samson ( Judges 16:1-3), who "took the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts, and went away with them, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of a hill that is before Hebron." The Philistines afterwards took Samson, and put out his eyes, and brought him to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass, and he did grind in the prison-house: the, however, pulled down the temple of Dagon, god of the Philistines, asnd slew, toget her with himself, "all the lords of the Philistines," besides men and women ( Judges 16:21-30). Solomon's kingdom extended as far as Gaza ( 1 Kings 4:24). But the place always appears as a Philistine city in Scripture ( Judges 3:3;  Judges 16:1;  1 Samuel 6:17;  2 Kings 18:8). Hezekiah smote the Philistines as far as Gaza ( 2 Kings 18:8). Gaza fell into the hands of the Egyptians, probably Pharaoh- Necho, as a diversion of Nebuchadnezzar in his designs against Jerusalem (Jar. 47:1), an event to which has been incorrectly referred (Rawlson, Herod. 1:411) the statement of Herofotun (2:159) respecting the capture of Cadytis by the Egyptians. (See Jerusalem).

During this period of Jewish history, it seems that some facts concerning the connection of Gaza with the invasion of Sennacheerib may be added from the inscriptions found at Nineveh (Layard's Nineveh and Babylon, page 144). (See Cuneiform Inscriptions). The prophets speak in severe terms against it ( Jeremiah 25:20;  Jeremiah 47:5;  Amos 1:6-7;  Zephaniah 2:4;  Zechariah 9:5). After the destruction of Tyre it sustained a siege of two (Quint. Curt. 4:6, 7, says five) months against Alexander the Great (Josephus, Ans. 11:8, 4), a fact that illustrates the propriety of its name and its military, importance. As Van de Velde says (page 187), it was the key of the country. So vigorously was it then defended by the forces under the command of the eunuch Batis, and of such massive strength were its walls, that the engineers of Alexander's army found themselves completely baffled in their attempts to effect a breach. They emere obliged to erect an enormous mound 250 feet in height, and about a quarter of a mile in width, on the south side; of the town; and even with this advantage, and the use also of the engines that had bean employed at the siege of Tyre, the besiegers were frequently repulsed, and Alexander bimself sustained no slight bodily injury. It was at last carried by escalade, and the garrison put to the sword. The town itself was not destroved, but most of the inhabitants that remained were sold into slavery, and a fresh Arab population settled in their stead (Arrian, 2:27). What had happened in thee times of the Pharaohs (Jar. 47:1) and Cambyses (Pomp. Mel. 1:11) happened again in the struggles between the Ptolemies and the Seleucidae (Polybius, 5:68; 16:40). Jonathan Maccabus ( 1 Maccabees 11:61) destroyed its, suburbs; Simon Maccalaeus ( 1 Maccabees 13:43) took the city itself, though not without extraordinary efforts. Alexander Jannaeus spent a year (B.C. cir. 96) in besieging it and punishing its inhabitants (Josephus, Ant. 13:13, 3). The place was rebuilt by Gabinius (Josephus, Ant. 14:5, 3).

It was among the cities given by Augustus to Herod (Josephus, Ant. 15:7, 3), after whose death it was united to the province of Syria (Josephus, Ant. 17:11, 4). It was near Gaza on the road from Jerusalem to that place that Philip baptized the eunuch "of great authority under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians" ( Acts 8:26 sq.). As Gaza lay some distance from the sea (Arrian, 2:26), it had a port on the sea (? Γαζαίων Λιμήν , Ptol. 5:16) called Γάζα Πρὸς Θάλασσαν , "Gaza on the sea;" called also Majuma ( Μαιούμας ) , which Constantine called Constantia, from the name of his son, giving it, at the same time, municipal rights. Julian took away this name, and ordered it to be called the port of Gaza. Subsequent emperors restored the name and the privileges of the place. It was afterwards called the sea-coast of Gaza. Further particulars may be read in Reland (Palaestina, page 791 sq.), where mention is made, from Pausanias, of something like a parallel to the feat of Samson; and where, as well as in Kuis Ö l (in loc.) and in Winer (Realworterbuch in voc.), explanatory circumstances may be found of the words in  Acts 8:26 "Gaza, which is desert;" an expression that appears to refer rather to the road ( Ὁδός ) from Jerusalem in that direction than to Gaza itself (see Robinson, Researches, 2:640).

Besides the ordinary road fronc Jerusalem by Ramleh to Gaza, there was another, more favorable for carriages ( Acts 8:28), further to the south, through Hebron, and thence through a district comparatively without towns, and much exposed to the incursions of people from the desert. The matter is discussed by Raumer in one of his Beitrasge, incorporated in the last edition of his Pal Ä Stina; also by Robinson in the Appendix to his second volume. The latter writer suggests a very probable place for the baptism, viz., at the water in the Wady El-Hasy, between Eleutheropolis and Gaza, not far from the old sites of Lachish and Eglon. The legendary scene of the baptism is at Beit-Sur, between Jerusalem and Hebron: the tradition having arisen apparently from the opinion that Philip himself was traveling southwards from Jerusalem. But there is no need to, suppose that he went to Jerusalem at all. Lange (Apost. Zeitalt. 2:109) gives a spiritual sense to the word Ἔρημος . About A.D. 65 Gaza was laid in ruins by the Jews, in revenge for the massacre of their brethren in Caesarea (Josephus, War, 2:18, 1). It soon recovered again; and it was one of the chief cities of Syria during the reigns of Titus and Adrian (see Smith's Dict. of Class. Geogr. s.v.). Though Christianity was early introduced into Gaza, the city long remained a stronghold of idolatry. In the beginning of the 5th century its bishop received authority to demolish its temples and build a large Christian church (Sozomen, H.E. 2:5). In A.D. 6304 Gaza was taken by the Moslems, and its splendid church turned into a mosque (Elmakin, Hist. Saracen. chapter 2, page 20). From this period it gradually declined under the blight of Islamism, and the Crusaders found it deserted. They built a castle on the mill, which became the nucleus of a new town (William of Tyre, 17:12). In the 12th century we find the place garrisoned by the Knights Templars. It finally fell into the hands of Saladin, A.D. 1170, after the disastrous battle of Hattin.

The modern town is called Ghuzzeh, and contains about 15,000 inhabitants. It resembles a cluster of large villages. The principal one stands on the flat top of a low hill, and has some good stone houses, though now much dilapidated. The others lie on the plain below; their houses are mean mud hovels, and their lanes narrow and filthy. The hill appears to be composed in a great measure of the accumulated ruins of successive cities. We can see fragments of massive walls, and pieces of columns cropping up everywhere from the rubbish. Traces of ruins have been discovered at various places among the sandhills to the west, which are supposed to be those of primeval Gaza. The great mosque crowns the hill, and can be distinguished in the distance by its tall minaret and pointed roof. The town has no walls or defences of any kind. Its inhabitants have been long known as a fierce and lawless set of fanatics. Between Gaza and the sea there is a broad belt completely covered with mounds of drifting sand. A mile east of the town a long ridge of low hills runs parallel to the coastline. Between the sand and the hills, the ground is very fertile, and supplies the town with abundance of the choicest fruit and vegetables. The climate of the place is almost tropical, but it has deep wells of excellent water. There are a few palm-trees in the town, and its fruit orchards are very productive. But the chief feature of the neighborhood is the wide-spread olive-grove to the N. and N.E. Hence arises a considerable manufacture of soap, which Ghuzzeh exports in large quantities. It has also an active trade in corn. For a full account of nearly all that has been written concerning the topographical and historical relations of Gaza, see Ritter's Erdkunde, 16:45-60. Among the travelers who have described the place we may mention especially Robinson (Biblical Researches, 2:375 sq.) and Van de Velde (Syria and Palestine, 2:179-188); also Thomson (Land and Book, 2:331 sq.). The last writer speaks of the great extent of corn-land near Gaza, and of the sound of mill-stones in the city. Even now its bazaars are better than those of. Jerusalem. "Those travelling towards Egypt naturally lay in here a stock of provisions and necessaries for the desert, while those coming from Egypt arrive at Gaza exhausted, and must of course supply themselves anew" (Robinson, 2:378). The place is often meantioned in the TaImud (Otho, Leax. Rabb. page 258). See Cellarii Notit. 2:603 sq.; Siber, De Gaza (Lips. 1715); Burscher, De Gaza sarrat. (Lips. 1767), and De Gaza derelicta (Lips. 1768).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [13]

gā´za ( עזּה , ‛azzāh , "strong"; Septuagint Γάζα , Gáza  ; Arabic Ghazzeh ): One of the five chief towns of Philistia and probably the oldest, situated near the coast in lat. 31 degrees 30´ and about 40 miles South of Jaffa. It is on a hill rising 60 to 200 ft. above the plain, with sand dunes between it and the sea, which is about 2 1/2 miles distant. The plain around is fertile and wells abound, and, being on the border of the desert between Syria and Egypt and lying in the track of caravans and armies passing from one to the other, it was in ancient times a place of importance. The earliest notices of it are found in the records of Egypt. Thothmes 3 refers to it in the account of his expedition to Syria in 1479 bc, and it occurs again in the records of the expedition of Seti I in 1313 bc (Breasted, History of Egypt , 285,409). It occurs also in the early catalogue of cities and tribes inhabiting Canaan in the earliest times (  Genesis 10:19 ). Joshua reached it in his conquests but did not take it ( Joshua 10:41;  Joshua 11:22 ). Judah captured it ( Judges 1:18 ) but did not hold it long, for we find it in the hands of the Philistines in the days of Samson, whose exploits have rendered it noteworthy ( Joshua 16:1-3 , 11, 30). The hill to which he carried off the gate of the city was probably the one now called el - Muntar ("watch-tower"), which lies Southeast of the city and may be referred to in  2 Kings 18:8 , "from the tower of the watchmen to the fortified city," Gaza, with the other chief towns, sent a trespass offering to Yahweh when the ark was returned ( 1 Samuel 6:17 ). Hezekiah defeated and pursued the Philistines to Gaza, but does not seem to have captured it. It was taken by Sargon in 720 bc, in his war with Egypt, since Khanun, the king of Gaza, joined the Egyptians and was captured at the battle of Raphia (Rawlinson, Ancient Monarchies , II, 142). It was probably destroyed (see  Amos 1:7 ). It was certainly dismantled by Alexander the Great in 332, when it dared to resist him. It was then exceedingly strong, verifying its name, and was most bravely defended, so that it took Alexander two months to reduce it. He put to death all the men and sold the women and children as slaves (Grote, History of Greece , XI, 467ff). It was restored, however, and we learn that Jonathan forced it to submit to him (Josephus, Ant , Xiii , v, 5; 1 Macc 11:62), and Alexander Janneus took it and massacred the inhabitants who escaped the horrors of the siege (Josephus, Ant , Xiii , xiii, 3). Pompey restored the freedom of Gaza (ibid., Xiv , iv, 4), and Gabinius rebuilt it in 57 bc (ibid., Xiv , v, 3). Gaza is mentioned only once in the New Testament ( Acts 8:26 ), in the account of Philip and the eunuch. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries ad, it became a center of Greek commerce and culture, and pagan influence was strong, while the church rounded there was struggling for existence. Many martyrs there testified to the faith, until finally, under Theodosius, Christianity gained the supremacy ( HGHL , 12th edition, 188). It fell into the hands of the Arabs in 634 ad, and became and has remained a Moslem city since the days of Saladin, who recovered it from the Crusaders in 1187, after the battle of Hattin. It is now a city of some 20,000 inhabitants, among whom are a few hundred Christians. See also Azzah .

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [14]

A Philistine town, the gates of which Samson carried off by night; situated on a mound at the edge of the desert, 5 m. from the sea, a considerable place to this day.