Ekron, a City of the Philistine Pentapolis

December 30, 2014

I love to study 1 Samuel, though there is much sadness in it. For example, in the days of the Judges when the Philistines defeated Israel at Aphek, God allowed the Philistines to take the Ark of the Covenant (1 Sam. 4:11). Contextually, God permitted this because of Israel’s apostasy.

Meanwhile the Philistines triumphantly took the Ark to the house of their god Dagon at Ashdod. The god was providentially broken, and the residents of Ashdod became sick, so they moved it to Gath, with the same results there; tumors broke out on them (1 Sam. 5:1-9). Next it was moved to Ekron: “So they sent the ark of God to Ekron. And as the ark of God came to Ekron the Ekronites cried out, saying, ‘They have brought the ark of the God of Israel around to us, to kill us and our people'” (v.10).

The next chapter (1 Sam. 6) narrates how the Philistines had kept the Ark to their full satisfaction (!), and thus returned it to Israel’s territory.

I had the opportunity (along with Ferrell Jenkins) to make a personal study trip to Israel in 2009 that included Ekron, Tel Miqne.

Ekron info sign at site. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Ekron info sign at site. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Though originally in Israel’s territory at the time of the Conquest led by Joshua (Josh. 15:11, 45-56), Ekron was later in the hands of the Philistines by the time of the Judges. Ekron was one of five cities of the Philistine Pentapolis: Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron (1 Sam. 6:16).

Map here shows location of Ekron:

Ekron. Map by BibleAtlas.Org.

Ekron. Map by BibleAtlas.Org.

Ekron is a large tel, composed of about 50 acres. It was known for its olive oil industry.

Remnants of olive presses at Ekron. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Remnants of olive oil industry at Ekron. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary has this information on Ekron:

Northernmost of the five major Philistine cities known as the Pentapolis. The site of ancient Ekron has been much debated but now is generally agreed to be modern Tell Miqne, about 14 miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea and 10 miles from Ashdod. The site is one of the largest in Palestine, covering some 50 acres. Ekron lies on the road leading from Ashdod into the Judean hill country and up to Jerusalem through the Sorek Valley.

Ekron was assigned to both Judah (Josh. 15:11, 45–46) and Dan (Josh. 19:43) in the tribal allotments. It probably lay on the border between the tribes. Judges 1:18 reports that Judah captured Ekron along with other parts of the Philistine coast, but Ekron was certainly in Philistine hands at the time the ark was captured (1 Sam. 5:10). It was also the place to which the Philistines retreated after David slew Goliath (1 Sam. 17:52). Ahaziah, the son of King Ahab of Israel, called on the god of Ekron, Baal-zebub, when he was sick (2 Kings 1:2–16).

Excavations at Tell Miqne have discovered much pottery that is typically Philistine. From the last period before Tell Miqne was destroyed by the Babylonians, the excavators found an important industrial complex near the city gate. A hoard of iron agricultural tools was found. Hundreds of whole pottery vessels were present. Perhaps most importantly, a well-preserved olive press was discovered. This press is the largest and best preserved known in Israel. A horned altar was also found during the excavations. (pp. 469–470).

Click on images for larger view. Happy New Year!

Timnah and the Samson Narrative

October 14, 2011

Nelson’s New Illustrate Bible Dictionary tells us,

Timnah was allotted to the tribe of Dan (Josh. 19:43; Thimnathah, KJV). Some scholars identify it with Tell el-Batashi, about six kilometers (four miles) northwest of Beth Shemesh. At Timnah Samson married a Philistine woman and later told her his riddle of the lion and the honey (Judges 14).

See map for location.

Timnah. Map by BibleAtlas.org

We had the opportunity while in Israel last month to see Timnah. You can see the tel in center of photo.

Timnah. Tel is in center. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Samson was one of Israel’s judges in the biblical period usually designated “judges,” which preceded Israel’s having a king. Some of the other judges led an army to deliver Israel; Samson WAS the army.

But regarding Timnah, the text reads,

Samson went down to Timnah, where a Philistine girl caught his eye. 2 When he got home, he told his father and mother, “A Philistine girl in Timnah has caught my eye. Now get her for my wife.” 3 But his father and mother said to him, “Certainly you can find a wife among your relatives or among all our people! You should not have to go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines.” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, because she is the right one for me” (Judges 14:1-3, NET).

It was here at Timnah (at the vineyards) that a young lion roared against Samson, and he killed it with his bare hands (vv. 5-6).  The verses that follow tell of bees making honey in the carcass of the lion which Samson ate and shared with his parents. He omitted to tell them the source of the honey.

Samson told a riddle which would require the wedding guests (30) at Timnah to each give him a set of clothing. The men could not figure out his riddle,  “Out of the one who eats came something to eat; out of the strong one came something sweet” (v.14). They threatened Samson’s wife who finally got the answer from Samson (the lion).  Samson was angry with his wife, and went home to his parents.  Meanwhile his father-in-law gave Samson’s wife to his “best man” (v. 20 ESV, NET).

Not knowing what had happened Samson went back to Timnah to “make up” with his wife. Upon learning of this new set of circumstances,

4 Samson went and captured three hundred jackals and got some torches. He tied the jackals in pairs by their tails and then tied a torch to each pair. 5 He lit the torches and set the jackals loose in the Philistines’ standing grain. He burned up the grain heaps and the standing grain, as well as the vineyards and olive groves. (Judges 15:4-5, NET).

The biblical narrative continues, with subsequent retaliation both on the part of the Philistines as well as Samson.

We are glad to see such Bible places as Timnah, as such sites provide the geographical setting for the events of Scripture.

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More on Shiloh

September 23, 2011

At the battle of Aphek the Philistines defeated the Israelites in the days of Eli and Samuel (1 Sam. 4:1-11). Look at map to see Shiloh, where the tabernacle was, and Aphek. Both are in the tribal territory of Ephraim.

Location of Aphek relative to Shiloh, tribal territory of Ephraim. Map by Scott Richardson.

The best evidence is that it was then that the Philistines destroyed Shiloh. Ample traces of this destruction were found in the excavations. Israel Finkelstein wrote,

This complex of buildings [buildings in location designated area C] was destroyed by a violent conflagration whose traces were visible everywhere: charred floors and heaps of fallen bricks, sometimes more than one meter deep (some of the bricks were visibly baked by the fierce fire). Here and there parts of the fallen roof were identifiable. As suggested by Albright following the Danish expedition’s excavations, this may be attributable to the Philistine destruction of the site (mid-eleventh century BCE) (The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, IV.1368).

This photo shows some of the excavations at Shiloh.

Excavations at Shiloh. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Following the destruction of Shiloh, the tabernacle was at Gibeon in the days of David and Solomon, until Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem. We plan to follow-up on that in subsequent posts.

Moving ahead to the Byzantine Period, churches have been found from the fifth and sixth centuries AD. A section of Mosaic floor may be seen in our photo.

Mosaic Floor at Shiloh. Byzantine Period. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

To see the remains of Bible places can be tremendous help in visualizing the biblical text, don’t you agree?

Shiloh Flag. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Remember to click on images for higher resolution.


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.).


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.

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