Gath of the Philistines

October 26, 2010

There were five Philistine cities; these are listed as Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron (1 Sam. 6:17). Today’s post features an aerial shot of the Philistine city of Gath.


Aerial of Gath of the Philistines. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.


There are numerous biblical references to Gath. Goliath the giant, the Philistine champion, was from Gath (1 Sam. 17:4).  David fled from King Saul, seeking asylum from Achish, king of Gath (1 Sam. 21: 10), but when he saw he was is danger there too, pretended to be insane.  However, David was later successful in finding refuge at Gath (1 Sam. 27:1ff), though subsequently the Philistines gave him his own city of Ziklag.

When Saul and his son Jonathan (David’s best friend) died at Mt. Gilboa, David wrote a song that included the words, “Tell it not in Gath, Proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon — Lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, Lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph” (2 Sam. 1:20).

“Later David defeated the Philistines and subdued them. He took Gath and its surrounding towns away from the Philistines” (1 Chron. 18:1, NET).

Also, bear in mind that when you see the word Gittite that reference is made to a resident of Gath.  One of David’s most loyal followers was Ittai the Gittite.  When David was forced to flee Jerusalem during his son Absalom’s rebellion, he told Ittai that he was not expected to accompany David. “But Ittai replied to the king, ‘as surely as the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be'” (2 Sam. 15:21, NIV).

Remember to click on photo for higher resolution.

A couple of matters on a personal note:

I’m currently in a 4-day meeting in Lawrenceville, GA., presenting a series of lessons on “Becoming More Like Jesus.”  My friend Allen Shepherd is the local evangelist.  This is my second time to be with this congregation.  The meeting concludes tomorrow evening.

Also, my mother-in-law, Mrs. Ura May Creel, passed away this past Sat. after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.    My brother-in-law and I conducted the funeral service yesterday in Hanceville AL. Three of her grandsons led congregational singing.  I regarded her as a mother.   We sorrow, but not as those who have no hope (1 Thes. 4:13ff.).

Socoh, in the David & Goliath Narrative

October 21, 2010

Our recent posts have included aerial photos of Azekah and Khirbet-Qeiyaffa (Elah Fortress), both of which are in the Valley of Elah. (Some suggest that Khirbet-Qeiyaffa may turn out to be the biblical Ephes Dammim.)

Another site mentioned in the biblical record and featured in today’s post Socoh. 1 Sam. 17 includes this site as the geographical setting is provided for the battle between the Philistines and the Israelites, when David killed Goliath. The text reads:

Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle; and they were gathered at Socoh which belongs to Judah, and they camped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim.  Saul and the men of Israel were gathered and camped in the valley of Elah, and drew up in battle array to encounter the Philistines.  The Philistines stood on the mountain on one side while Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with the valley between them. (1 Sam. 17:1-3)

Our photo shows tel Socoh in center (look to the left and above the horizontal road that dissects the field in center).

Aerial of Socoh in Elah Valley. Scene of Philistine-Israel Battle of 1 Sam. 17. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

If you note the tiny tree-line above tel Socoh, across the road, this is the brook from which David selected five smooth stones, one of which he used to slay Goliath.

In the distance (just right of wing brace at top) you can see tel Azekah. For 40 days this valley rang out with the threatening voice of loud-mouth Goliath, until the shepherd David rose to the challenge, prompted by this faith in the God of Israel.

Socoh (also spelled Sochoh and Soco) had earlier been assigned to the territory of Judah (Josh. 15:35). Later it was fortified by Solomons’ son King Rehoboam (2 Chron. 11:7).  Later still, in the days of King Kezekiah, Socoh was among the cities of the Shephelah listed in 2 Chron. 28:18 as raided and conquered by the Philistines.  Apparently Socho had been an administrative center during Hezekiah’s reign as indicated by the numerous stamped jar handles with the seal of Socoh.

Click on image for higher resolution.


October 18, 2010

An archaeological site of current interest is Khirbet-Qeiyafa, the Elah Fortress.  Luke Chandler has been involved in digs there, and his blog reports on some of the findings there and their implications. Go to:


Many believe this site will prove to be an Israelite fortress that dates back to the reign of King David. Our aerial photo below shows the site in its context overlooking the Valley of Elah:

Khirbet-Qeiyafa, the Elah Fortress overlooking Valley of Elah. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

You can see the circular tel on your right in the photo.  It was in the valley below that David killed Goliath.

Click on image for higher resolution.


October 15, 2010

Aphek is mentioned in 1 Sam. 4:1 as the site of the Philistine camp as they prepared for battle against Israel.  This was in the last days of Eli’s tenure as High Priest and Judge of Israel.

Holman’s Bible Dictionary has this info on Aphek:

Place-name meaning “bed of brook or river” or “fortress.”  City whose king Joshua defeated (Josh. 12:18), where Philistine armies formed to face Israel in days of Samuel (1 Sam. 4:1) resulting in Philistine victory and capture of Israel’s ark of the covenant. Philistine armies including David and his men gathered in Aphek to fight Saul. The Philistine commanders forced Achish to send David back from battle (1 Sam. 29). Eventually the Philistines defeated Israel, bringing death to Saul and Jonathan. Aphek is located at modern Tell Ras elʹ Ain near the source of the Yarkon River in the Sharon plain northeast of Joppa. Egyptian execration texts from about 1900 B.C. apparently refer to Aphek.

Our photo below gives an aerial view of Aphek. Click on image for higher resolution.


Aerial of Aphek. This was NT Antipatris. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.


In the New Testament this location was known as Antipatris, and is mentioned in Acts 23.  When the Roman commander Claudius Lysias became aware of an assassination plot to kill the Apostle Paul in Jerusalem, he order a military escort of Paul to Caesarea.  This was for Paul’s own protection.  The commander was thorough: two centurions were commanded to prepare 200 soldiers, 200 spearmen, and 70 horsemen.  The Roman militia departed at 9:00 PM (Acts 23:23). On the way to Caesarea, the governor’s residence, they went through Antipatris: “Then the soldiers, as they were commanded, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris” (v.31). The next day the horsemen went on with Paul to his destination, whereas the soldiers returned to the barracks (v.32) at Jerusalem.

On another (personal) note, I mentioned in a previous post that we were currently conducting a meeting at Pine Lane, Birmingham, which concluded last night.  On Wed PM our granddaughter was with my wife and me. One of the members there took this photo:



Leon & Granddaughter.


Tel Azekah

October 12, 2010

Well, a lot has happened since our last post of this past Friday!  Sunday morning, 10/10/2010, we were blessed with the birth of another grandchild. I just happen to have a photo:


Brand new granddaughter. My son Seth.


Then yesterday we began a 4-day meeting with the Pine Lane church of Christ, south Birmingham.  It is good to be with the church there again.  Terry Benton serves as evangelist.

Our post today features an aerial photo of Azekah. First note the location of Azekah on the map below.


Azekah. Map by


Azekah is mentioned in connection with the southern conquest of Canaan under Joshua:

And it happened, as they fled before Israel and were on the descent of Beth Horon, that the LORD cast down large hailstones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died from the hailstones than the children of Israel killed with the sword. (Josh. 10:11).

Our photo below shows Tel Azekah as it overlooks the Elah Valley.


Aerial of Tel Azekah. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.


Azekah is included in the geographical setting for the stand-off between the Philistines and the Israelite army under king Saul.

Now the Philistines gathered their armies together to battle, and were gathered together at Sochoh, which belongs to Judah; they encamped between Sochoh and Azekah, in Ephes Dammim. (1 Sam. 17:1).

It was on this occasion that David killed the giant from Gath, Goliath.

(Click on images for higher resolution).


The Fertile Coastal Plain

October 8, 2010

It is not unusual for some to have the impression that today Israel is altogether a dry and rocky land, especially when one has perhaps seen photos of the rugged wilderness of Judea, or other such barren areas.

One of the distinct features of the land of Israel is the amazing variety of the land.  At the coast you are at sea level.  Thirty-five miles east of Joppa you are 2500 above sea level at Jerusalem.  Another fourteen miles NE and you are at Jericho, 800 feet below sea level. South from there you will be at the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the face of the earth, 1300 feet below sea level.  But go north to the Golan, and much of the year you will see snow at Mt. Hermon.

Today’s photos were taken in the southern plain going from the Joppa/Tel Aviv area going from west to east, so we are looking to the south in the photos.  These aerial shots were taken this past Dec.  and you will see greenery and evidence of agriculture. Bear in mind also that during the OT period this area would have been inhabited by the Philistines much of the time.


Southern Coastal Plain. Land of the Philistines. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.


These aerial shots certainly give one a perspective different from ground level!


Aerial Photo of Coastal Plain. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.


Again, this is typical terrain as you make your way toward the Shephelah and then on to the central hill country.


Looking south as we continue eastward. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.


Here is one more.  You get the idea.  A lot of photosynthesis is taking place here!


Aerial Coastal Plain looking south. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.


Remember to click on images for higher resolution.


October 6, 2010

In the biblical period of the Judges, when Eli was High Priest and judge, God allowed the Philistines to defeat apostate Israel, even allowing the Philistines to capture the ark of the covenant.  But as the Philistines gloated over their “prize” they were stricken with plagues.  This continued as the ark was moved from city to city; they were getting severely sick, and some died.

The Philistine leaders then decided to try an experiment to determine whether this was some strange coincidence or if in fact they were objects of the wrath of the God of Israel. They took two cows, each of which had a calf, and harnessed the cows to a new cart.  They secured the calves in their stalls.  The natural inclination of the cows would be to go to their calves.  So the Philistine leaders reasoned in this manner:

Take the ark of the LORD and place it on the cart; and put the articles of gold which you return to Him as a guilt offering in a box by its side. Then send it away that it may go. Watch, if it goes up by the way of its own territory to Beth-shemesh, then He has done us this great evil. But if not, then we will know that it was not His hand that struck us; it happened to us by chance (1 Samuel 6:8-9).


Aerial shot of Beth-shemesh. Ark was returned here by Philistines. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.


The Philistines placed the ark on the cart along with offerings to the Lord.  The text continues, “And the cows took the straight way in the direction of Beth-shemesh; they went along the highway, lowing as they went, and did not turn aside to the right or to the left. And the lords of the Philistines followed them to the border of Beth-shemesh” (v.12).

Can you imagine those cows mooing and crying as they made a bee-line from Philistia to Israelite territory, against their instinct but forced to yield to the hand of a Sovereign God?  Our photo above shows the ruins of biblical Beth-shemesh, the site referenced in the text.

From Beth-shemesh the ark was moved to Kiriath Jearim, where it would remain until the reign of David (2 Sam. 7:1).

Click on image for higher resolution.

The Yarkon River

October 5, 2010

Today’s post features an aerial photo of the Yarkon River, a river on the western side of Israel near Joppa.  In a context setting forth the tribal allotment of Dan, Joshua 19:46 includes “Me Jarkon, and Rakkon, with the region near Joppa” (NKJV).  The term Me Jarkon means “waters of the Jarkon” (Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary). The Hebrew character for “J” is sounded as “Y,” hence the spelling Yarkon.

You can locate the Yarkon on this map, just north of Joppa: (click image for larger view)

Yarkon River, north of Joppa.

The Yarkon is the principle stream of the southern Plain of Sharon. The Yarkon’s source is near Aphek, NT Antipatris (see map), and flows west/southwest until it empties in the Mediterranean, as seen in our photo: (click image for higher resolution)

Aerial Photo of Yarkon River as it empties into the Mediterranean. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

The Archaeological encyclopedia of the Holy Land (3rd ed) has the following info re: the Yarkon:

The Yarkon or Me-Yarkon (‘Waters of Yarkon’ in Hebrew) is a river mentioned as being in the territory of Dan (Josh. 19:46); called el-Auja in Arabic, it is a perennial river rising at the foot of Tell Ras el-Ain. The mound referred to most probably contains the remains of the ancient city of Aphek (Josh. 12:18; 1 Sam. 29:1), the Herodian Antipatris. The copious waters of the river made its valley ideal for intensive agriculture. Indeed, along its bank numerous towns and villages sprang up in all periods. It is possible that in ancient times, before the mouth of the river silted, it also served as a safe harbor, and small vessels and rafts could navigate its entire length. Running from the foothills down to the sea the Yarkon River formed a military obstacle. Alexander Jannaeus built a line of fortresses as defense against the Syrians (Josephus, War i,99).

The earlier cited text of Joshua 19:46 is the only text in the Bible which mentions the Yarkon.

How’s the Food Over There?

October 2, 2010

People often ask, “How’s the food over there?”, meaning in the Bible lands, including Israel and other places.  One answer is that it’s different.  If it were the same as what you have at home, why not stay home? How often do you see bread being cooked like this?

Cooking Bread in Egypt. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Another observation is that there is variety; even somewhat “picky” eaters can find something they like.  My “problem” is that I am not a picky eater, so almost everything is good to me. I’ve been blessed; I’ve never gotten sick on a Bible lands trip. (I did one time during a preaching trip to the Ukraine, but that doesn’t count in this context).

I enjoy eating outdoors when it is feasible.

Eating Outdoors in Egypt. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Click on images for higher resolution.

Isaac Went Out To Meditate

October 1, 2010

Genesis 24:63 reads, “Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, camels were coming” (NASB).

This lengthy chapter narrates how a faithful servant of Abraham left Canaan to travel to Mesopotamia (Abraham had family there) to procure a wife for Isaac.  Abraham did not want his son to marry one of the idolatrous Canaanites whom God condemned; Abraham’s descendants were to be a separate people.  And thus Genesis 24 tells how Rebekah willingly made the journey to marry Isaac, whom she had never met.

Our text of Gen. 24:63 takes us to the time when Isaac saw Rebekah coming. He was meditating.

Previously he had been to Beer Lahai Roi, (v.62) which means “the well of the Living One who sees me” (see Gen. 16:14).  At this time the text tells us that Isaac “dwelt in the Negev” (Gen. 24:26). The word Negev is the designation for the southern desert region of Canaan.  Gen. 23 tells us that the patriarchal family was living in Hebron (v.2). Prior to that they were living in Beersheba (22:19).  See our map to locate these sites:

Beer lahai roi, Beersheba and Hebron. Map by Scott Richardson.

The Hebrew word for meditate in Gen. 24:63 is suach, which in this form is found only here in the Old Testament. It is derived from siach, of which the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says,

The basic meaning of this verb seems to be “rehearse,” repent,” or “go over a matter in one’s mind.” This meditation or contemplation may be done either inwardly or outwardly. Since English differentiates these two notions, the word is usually rendered “meditate,” or “talk” (II.875-6).

Consider first the idea of meditation as silent reflectionSiach is used of reflection on God’s works, “I will meditate with my heart” (Psa. 77:6) during a time when he was so troubled that he could not speak (v.4).  See the context: “I will meditate [here Heb. hagah] on all Your work And muse on Your deeds” (v.12, etc.).

Second, there is the idea of meditating, of silent reflection, on God’s word. Psalm 119 is that great chapter that in each of its 176 verses declares some point or principle regarding God’s word! It is not surprising that several verses speak of meditation. v. 15: “I will meditate on Your precepts And regard Your ways.” v. 48: “And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, Which I love; And I will meditate on Your statutes.” See also vv. 23, 27, 79, 148, each of which have our word siach.

For the use of the word siach meaning to talk, consider Proverbs 6:22, which speaks of the young man who has bound his father’s command and his mother’s law to his heart: “When you walk about, they will guide you; When you sleep, they will watch over you; And when you awake, they will talk [siach]to you.” What a beautiful picture: the son has listened, he has made wise teaching from his parents his own.  As he goes about in life, denoted by the words walk about, sleep, and awake, the teaching is always with him.  The word of the Lord talks to him!

But regarding Isaac, of what did his meditation consist?  In short, we don’t know what he was meditating about.  But from the context we can make a couple of suggestions:

1. Consider the emphasis that is given to the LORD (YHVH) in this chapter. He is referenced in vv. 3, 6, 12, 21, 26, 31, 35, 40, 42, 44, 48, 50, 51, 52, 56! This is truly a chapter about the LORD, about His will and His purpose!

2. Perhaps meditating on his future marriage? Considerable trouble and time was involved in Abraham’s servant making a journey of some 900 miles or so to obtain a wife for Isaac.  I would suggest Isaac may well have been meditating, reflecting, on the marriage he was about to enter, with a woman he had never seen before.  Isaac was a godly man, and he no doubt wanted his marriage, his home life, to be pleasing to God.


Time is well spent when it is devoted to meditating on God’s word. This is more than mere reading.  It means to make it your own, to let it dominate your thoughts.

Also, there is much to be said for preparation for marriage.  First, to be what God wants you to be, and second, to have a marriage that is pleasing to God, that He can bless.

We’ll close with another camel photo, as camels are referenced in our text of Gen. 24:63.  This shot was taken at St. Catherine’s Monastery, at the foothills of Mt. Sinai.

Camels at St. Catherine's at Foothills of Mt. Sinai. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Click on images for higher resolution.

%d bloggers like this: