From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Holman Bible Dictionary [1]

The location in southern Palestine put Ashkelon under considerable Egyptian influence throughout much of its history. The first mention of the city was in the nineteenth century B.C. Execration Texts, where a curse on the ruler and his supporters was written on pottery, then smashed, symbolizing breaking his power. A fifteenth century B.C. papyrus speaks of Ashkelon's loyalty to Egypt, and the fourteenth century Amarna Letters confirm that relationship with the ruler Widia claiming submission to the Pharaoh, although the ruler of Jerusalem claimed that Ashkelon had given supplies to the “Apiru. In this period the goddess Astarte was worshiped here by the Canaanites. The city revolted from Egypt and was subsequently sacked by Ramses II (1282 B.C.). Later that same century Pharaoh Merneptah captured the city.

The Old Testament record concerns the city after it had come under Philistine control. It was ruled by a ruler or seren supported by a military aristocracy. Joshua had not taken Ashkelon in the conquest of the land (  Joshua 13:3 ), but it was included in the territory designated for Judah. It appears that Judah did take the city ( Judges 1:18 ), but it belonged to the Philistines in the Samson account ( Judges 14:19 ) and under Saul and David ( 1 Samuel 6:17;  2 Samuel 1:20 ). Ashkelon subsequently was independent or under the control of Assyria, Egypt, Babylon, and Tyre.  Amos 1:8 and   Jeremiah 47:5 ,  Jeremiah 47:7 refer to Ashkelon and her evils. With the coming of the Greeks, Ashkelon became a Hellenistic center of culture and learning. During the Maccabean Period the city flourished and apparently did not have hostilities with the Jews (  1 Maccabees 10:36;  1 Maccabees 11:60 ). In fact, many Jews lived there. Rome granted the status “free allied city” in 104 B.C. A tradition was known in Christian circles that Herod the Great was born in Ashkelon, the son of a temple slave of Apollo. Herod did have family and friends there and gave the city some beautiful buildings, built a palace there, and left the city to his sister, Salome, at his death. The city was attacked by the Jews in the first Roman Revolt (66 A.D.) but survived and was faithful to Rome. It later became a Christian city, conquered by the Moslems in the seventh century, taken by the Crusaders, retaken by Saladin in 1187, and ultimately systematically destroyed by the Mameluke Beibars in 1270.

One of the earliest modern attempts at archaeology in Palestine took place in Ashkelon in 1815 when Lady Hester Stanhope did some digging and uncovered a huge statue of Zeus which subsequently she ordered destroyed (some say to avoid charges of stealing antiquities, others say to discover hidden treasure). Serious work was begun by John Garstang and the Palestine Exploration Society. The site has provided excellent materials of the Philistine period and especially was productive of Hellenistic and Roman occupation. George W. Knight

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [2]

Askelon, Ascalon. One of the five Philistine lords' cities ( Joshua 13:3;  1 Samuel 6:17). Remote in the S. on the coast of the Mediterranean, so less brought into contact with the Jews; omitted in the towns allotted to Judah (Joshua 15; but compare  Judges 1:18). Gaza was still more S., but on the main road from Egypt to Palestine. Samson slew thirty of the Ashkelonites, took their spoil, and gave change of raiment unto them of Timhath who expounded his riddle ( Judges 14:19). Later, the temple and lake of Derceto (with a female head and bust and fish's fail, like Dagon), the Syrian Venus, stood near it. Here Julian cruelly persecuted the Christians. Its name still appears in our "eschalot" or" shallot," an onion for which it was famous, as for its figs, olives, etc. Within the walls, of which the ruins still stand, Richard I held his court in the crusades.

After the brilliant battle here the crusaders would have taken the city, but for Count Raymond's jealousy; and for long Ashkelon was a thorn to the Christian kingdom. The Mahometans call it "the bride of Syria." In the Sam. version of  Genesis 20:1-2;  Genesis 26:1, Ashkelon stands instead of Gerar; and curiously tradition in Origen's time pointed out wells there as those dug by Isaac. The city stands on the very shore of the Mediterranean, its walls were along the ridge of rock sweeping round inland in continuation of the shore cliffs. Conder (Pal. Expl., July, 1875) thinks that the Ashkelon of the Bible, of Herod, and of the crusaders, is one and the same town on the seashore, distinguished from another early Christian inland Ashkelon by the title Ascalon Maiumas. Maiumas, "watering place," applies not to a port only, but to any place abounding in water. But Ashkelon and its port town of Maiumas were distinct, as a bishop of each signed the acts of the Council of Constantinople, A.D. 536. The present Ashkelon is the Maiumas of Ascalon; the original Ashkelon was probably inland, and is now buried in sand. (Pusey.)

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [3]

The ancient town of Ashkelon has passed on its name to successive settlements on the same site down to the present day. It is situated in the south of Palestine on the Mediterranean coast, and in Old Testament times was one of the ‘five cities of the Philistines’. It was the Philistines’ only port ( Joshua 13:3;  Amos 1:8;  Jeremiah 47:7).

At the time of Joshua’s invasion of Canaan, the Israelites captured Ashkelon ( Judges 1:18), but the Philistines soon regained it. It remained one of their important towns during the time of their hostility to Israel prior to the reign of David ( Judges 14:19;  1 Samuel 6:17-18). After David broke their power, the Philistines lived alongside the Israelites without any major conflicts.

Though in many ways subservient to Israelite rulers, Ashkelon and neighbouring towns were still regarded as belonging to the Philistines. At times they suffered from the attacks of various invaders ( Jeremiah 47:5;  Zephaniah 2:4). In spite of this interference, Ashkelon was still standing in New Testament times. It was well known as the birthplace of Herod the Great, and benefited from his building projects. (See also Philistia .)

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [4]

ASHKELON (Greek Ascalon ). A city of the Philistine Pentapolis. It is mentioned several times in the Tell el-Amarna correspondence. According to   Joshua 13:3 , it was left unconquered; but the interpolated passage,   Judges 1:18 , enumerates it among the places captured by Israel. It is doubtful whether Samson took the spoil with which he paid his wages (  Judges 14:19 ) from this city, which is two days’ journey from Timnath, or from a similarly styled village, much nearer at hand, now possibly represented in name by Khurbet ‘Askalan , near Tell Zakariya . It is referred to in the story of the return of the ark (  1 Samuel 6:17 ), and in David’s lament (  2 Samuel 1:20 ), and with the other Philistine cities is made an object of denunciation by various prophets. Here Jonathan Maccabæus was honourably received ( 1Ma 10:86; 1Ma 11:60 ), and it was the birthplace of Herod the Great. It was captured by the Crusaders, but recaptured by the Muslims after the battle of Hattin. Extensive remains of ancient buildings still exist on the site, which retains the name of ‘Askalan  : numerous fragments of statues etc., are found by the natives from time to time.

R. A. S. Macalister.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [5]

Ashkelon ( Ăsh'Ke-L Ŏn ), and Askelon ( Ăs'Ke-L Ŏn ), Migration. One of the five cities of the Philistines by the sea and ten miles north of Gaza; taken by Judah,  Judges 1:18; visited by Samson;  Judges 14:19; and its destruction predicted in  Jeremiah 47:5;  Jeremiah 47:7;  Amos 1:8;  Zechariah 9:5;  Zephaniah 2:7. Ashkelon was the seat of worship of the Philistine goddess Astarte, whose temple was plundered by the Scythians, b.c. 625; was the birthplace of Herod the Great. Ashkelon is noticed in the Tel-el-Amarna tablets, 1480-1450 B. C, as worshippers of Dagon

Smith's Bible Dictionary [6]

Ash'kelon. Apocrypha As'Calon (Migration). One of the five cities of the Philistines,  Joshua 13:3;  1 Samuel 6:17, a seaport on the Mediterranean, 10 miles north of Gaza. Samson went down from Timnath to Ashkelon.  Judges 14:19.

In the post-biblical times, Ashkelon rose to considerable importance. Near the town were the temple and sacred lake of Derceto, the Syrian Venus. The soil around was remarkable for its fertility. Ashkelon played a memorable part in the struggles of the Crusades.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [7]

 Joshua 13:3 1 Samuel 6:17 Judges 1:18 2 Samuel 1:20 Jeremiah 25:20 47:5,7Egypt

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [8]

(Heb. Ashkelon', אִשְׁקְלוֹן , prob. Migration [the usual form would be אִשְׁקָל , Ashkal; Rodiger (in Gesenius, Thes. p. 1476) suggests that the uncommon termination is a Philistine form]; Sept. and Josephus, Ηα῾᾿Σκάλων ; Auth. Vers. "Askelon," in  Judges 1:18;  1 Samuel 6:17;  2 Samuel 1:20; the Ascalon of the Greeks and Romans and mediaeval writers), a city of the Philistines, and the seat of one of their five states ( Judges 14:19;  1 Samuel 6:17;  2 Samuel 1:20), but less often mentioned, and apparently less known to the Jews than the other four. This, doubtless, arose from its remote situation, alone, of all the Philistine towns, on the extreme edge of the shore of the Mediterranean ( Jeremiah 47:7), and also well down to the south. Gaza, indeed, was still farther south, but then it was on the main road from Egypt to the centre and north of Palestine, while Ashkelon lay considerably to the left. The site fully bears out the above inference; but some indications of the fact may be traced, even in the scanty notices of Ashkelon which occur in the Bible. Thus, the name is omitted from the list in Joshua 15 of the Philistine towns falling to the lot of Judah (but comp. Joseph. Ant. v, 1, 22, where it is specified), although Ekron, Ashdod, and Gaza are all named; and considerable uncertainty rests over its mention in Judges i, 18'(see Bertheau in Exeg. Handb. in loc.). Samson went down from Timnath to Ashkelon, when he slew the thirty men and took their spoil, as if to a remote place whence his exploit was not likely to be heard of; and the only other mention of it in the historical books is in the formulistic passages,  Joshua 13:3, and  1 Samuel 6:17, and in the casual notices of Judges 2:28;  1 Maccabees 10:86;  1 Maccabees 11:60;  1 Maccabees 12:33. The other Philistine cities are each distinguished by some special occurrence or fact connected with it, but except the one exploit of Samson, Ashkelon is to us no more than a name. In the poetical passage  2 Samuel 1:20, it is named among heathen foes. The inhabitants were called Ashkelonites (Heb. Ash. Keloni', אִשְׁקְלוֹנִי , Sept. Ἀσκαλωνίτης , Auth. Vers. "Eshkalonites,"  Joshua 13:3).

It was a port on the Mediterranean coast between Gaza and Jamnia (Joseph. War, 4:11, 5), 12 geogr. miles N. of the former, 10 S. by W. from Ashdod, and 37 W.S.W. from Jerusalem (comp. Reland, Palest. p. 443). Ashkelon was assigned to the tribe of Judah ( Joshua 13:13; comp.  Judges 1:18); but it was never for any length of time in possession of the Israelites (comp.  1 Kings 4:24). It is farther mentioned in the denunciations of the prophets ( Jeremiah 25:20;  Jeremiah 47:5;  Jeremiah 47:7;  Amos 1:8;  Zephaniah 2:4;  Zephaniah 2:7;  Zechariah 9:5). The part of the country in which it stood abounded in aromatic plants (Plin. 12:51), and especially onions (shallots, Ascalonice, Plin. 19:32; Strabo, 16:759; Athen. ii, 68; Theophr. Plant. 7: 4; Dioscor. i, 124; Colum. 12:10), and vines (Alex. Trall. 8:3). The soil around the town was remarkable for its fertility; the wine of Ashkelon was celebrated, and the Al-henna plant flourished better than in any other place except Canopus (Kenrick, p. 28). It was also celebrated for its cypresses, for figs, olives, and pomegranates, and for its bees, which gave their name to a valley in the neighborhood (Ibn Batuta in Ritter, Palastina, 88). It was well fortified (Joseph. War, iii, 21; comp. Mela, i, 11), and early became the seat of the worship of Derceto (Diod. Sic. ii, 4), the Syrian Venus, whose temple was plundered by the Scythians (Herod. i, 105). She represented the passive principle of nature, and was worshipped under the. form of a fish with a woman's head (comp. Ovid, Fast. ii, 406). (See Atergatis). "

The sacred doves of Venus still fill with their cooings the luxuriant gardens which grow in the sandy hollow within the ruined walls" (Stanley, p. 257). After the time of Alexander, Ashkelon shared the lot of Phoenicia and Judaea, being tributary sometimes to Egypt (Joseph. Ant. 12: 4, 5), and at other times to Syria ( 1 Maccabees 10:86;  1 Maccabees 11:60;  1 Maccabees 12:33). Herod the Great was born at Ashkelon, and although the city did not belong to his dominion, he adorned it with fountains, baths, and colonnades (War, i, 21, 11); and after his death Salome, his sister, resided in a palace at Ashkelon which Caesar bestowed upon her (Ant. 17:11, 5). It suffered much in the Jewish war with the Romans (War, ii, 18, 5; iii, 2, 1-3); for its inhabitants were noted for their dislike of the Jews, of whom they slew 2500 who dwelt there (ii, 18, 5; iii, 2, 1). After this Ashkelon again revived, and in the Middle Ages was noted not only as a stronghold, but as a wealthy and important town (Will. Tyr. 17:21). In the fourth century it was the see of a bishop, but in the seventh century it fell into the hands of the Saracens. Abulfeda (Tab. Syr.) speaks of it as one of the famous strongholds of Mohammedanism; and the Orientals call it the Bride of Syria (Schultens, Index Geogr. s.v.; Edrisi, ed. Jaubert, i, 340). It shared with Gaza an infamous reputation for the steadfastness of its heathenism and for the cruelties there practised on Christians by Julian (Reland, p. 588, 590). As a sea-port merely it never could have enjoyed much advantage, the coast being sandy and difficult of access. There is no bay or shelter for ships, but a small harbor toward the east advanced a little way into the town, and anciently bore, like that of Gaza, the name of Majumas (Kenrick, p. 28). In the time of Origen some wells of remarkable shape were shown near the town which were believed to be those dug by Isaac, or, at any rate, to be of the time of the patriarchs.

In connection with this tradition may be mentioned the fact that in the Samaritan version of  Genesis 20:1-2;  Genesis 26:1, Ashkelon ( עסקלון ) is put for the "Gerar" of the Hebrew text. The town bears a prominent part in the history of the Crusades (see Ibn Ferath, in Reinand's Extracts, p. 525). After being several times dismantled and re-fortified in the times of Saladin and Richard, its fortifications were at length totally destroyed by the Sultan Bibars A.D. 1270, and the port filled up with stones, for. fear of future attempts on the part of the Crusaders (Wilkin, Gesch. d. Kreuzziige, 7:586). This, no doubt, sealed the ruin of the place (see Cellar. Notit. ii, 600 sq.; Rosenmuller, Alterth. II, ii, 377 sq.). Sandys (Travailes, p. 151. A.D. 1610) describes it as "now a place of no note, more than that the Turke doth keep there a garrison." Fifty years after (A.D. 1660), Von Troilo found it still partially inhabited. But its desolation has long been complete, and little now remains of it but the walls, with numerous fragments of granite pillars (Arvieux, ii, 59; Joliffe, p. 270). The situation is described as strong; the thick walls, flanked with towers, were built on the top of a ridge of rock that encircles the town, and terminates at each end .in the sea (Robinson's Researches, ii, 368 note). The ground within sinks in the manner of an amphitheatre (Richardson, ii, 202204; Eli Smith, in Missionary Herald for 1827, p. 341). The place still bears the name of Askulan, and is inhabited by Arabs and Christians (Schwarz, Palest. p. 120). The modern village is a little north of the old site, and the houses are built of the fragments of the ancient city. It is situated in a cove formed by a lofty ridge rising abruptly near the shore, running up eastward, then, bending to the south, next to the west, and finally to the north-west again. The position, now surrounded with desolate ruins of its former grandeur, is still beautiful, the whole interior being planted with orchards (Thomson, Land and Book, ii, 327 sq.). (See Cuneiform Inscriptions).

The present site, called Asskulan, is thus described by Porter (Handbook for Syria, p. 276; comp. Conder, Tent Work, ii, 164 sq.):

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [9]

ask´ke - lon , esh´ka - lon , as´ke - lon (the King James Version Eshkalon , (Eshkalonites;  Joshua 13:3 ); Askelon , ( Judges 1:18;  1 Samuel 6:17;  2 Samuel 1:20 ); אשׁקלון , 'ashḳelōn  ; modern Askelan ): A maritime town between Jaffa and Gaza, one of the five chief cities of the Philistines. The Ashkelonites are mentioned by Joshua ( Joshua 13:3 ), and the city was taken by the tribe of Judah ( Judges 1:18 ). One of the golden tumors (the King James Version "emerods") sent back with the ark by the Philistines was from Ashkelon ( 1 Samuel 6:17 ). David couples Ashkelon with Gath in his lament over Saul and Jonathan ( 2 Samuel 1:20 ) indicating its importance, and it is joined with Gaza, Ashdod and Ekron in the denunciations of Amos ( Amos 1:7 ,  Amos 1:8 ). It is referred to in a similar way by Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 25:20;  Jeremiah 47:5 ,  Jeremiah 47:7 ). Zephaniah ( Zephaniah 2:4 ,  Zephaniah 2:7 ) speaks of the desolation of Ashkelon and Zechariah announces the fear of Ashkelon on the destruction of Tyre ( Zechariah 9:5 ). The city is mentioned in the Tell el-Amarna Letters , and a certain Yitia is referred to as king. It revolted against Rameses Ii and was subdued, and we have mention of it as being under the rule of Assyria. Tiglath-pileser Iii names it among his tributaries, and its king, Mitinti, is said to have lost his reason when he heard of the fall of Damascus in 732 bc. It revolted in the reign of Sennacherib and was punished, and remained tributary to Assyria until the decay of that power. In Maccabean times we learn of its capture by Jonathan (1 Macc 10:86; 11:60, the Revised Version (British and American) "Ascalon"). Herod the Great was born there ( BJ , III, ii, 1ff). In the 4th century ad it was the seat of a bishopric. It became subject to the Moslems in the 7th century and was taken by the Crusaders. It was taken in 1187 by Saladin, who dismantled it in 1191 to make it useless to Richard of England, into whose hands it was expected to fall. Richard restored it the next year but it was again destroyed by Saladin. It was an important fortress because of its vicinity to the trade route between Syria and Egypt.