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Verse 8

And I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod - Ashdod, as well as Ekron, have their names from their strength; Ashdod, “the mighty,” like Valentia; Ekron, “the firm-rooted.” The title of Ashdod implied that it was powerful to inflict as to resist. It may have meant, “the waster.” It too was eminent in its idolatry. The ark, when taken, was first placed in its Dagon-temple 1 Samuel 5:1-7; and, perhaps, in consequence, its lord is placed first of the five, in recounting the trespass-offerings which they sent to the Lord 1 Samuel 6:17. Ashdod (Azotus in the New Testament now a village, Esdud or Shdood ), lay 34 or 36 miles from Gaza , on the great route from Egypt northward, on that which now too is most used even to Jerusalem. Ashkelon lay to the left of the road, near the sea, rather more than halfway.

Ekron (Akir, now a village of 50 mud-houses ), lay a little to the right of the road northward from Gaza to Lydda (in the same latitude as Jamnia, Jabneel) on the road from Ramleh to Belt Jibrin (Eleutheropolis). Ekron, the furthest from the sea, lay only 15 miles from it. They were then a succession of fortresses, strong from their situation, which could molest any army, which should come along their coast. Transversely, in regard to Judah, they enclosed a space parallel to most of Judah and Benjamin. Ekron, which by God’s gift was the northern line of Judah Joshua 15:11, is about the same latitude as Ramah in Benjamin; Gaza, the same as Carmel (Kurmul). From Gaza lay a straight road to Jerusalem; but Ashkelon too, Ashdod, and Ekron lay near the heads of valleys, which ran up to the hill-country near Jerusalem .

This system of rich valleys, in which, either by artificial irrigation or natural absorption, the streams which ran from the mountains of Judah westward fertilized the grainfields of Philistia, aforded equally a ready approach to Philistine marauders into the very heart of Judah. The Crusaders had to crown with castles the heights in a distant circle around Ashkelon , in order to restrain the incursions of the Muslims. (In such occasions doubtless, the same man-stealing was often practiced on lesser scales, which here, on a larger scale, draws down the sentence of God. Gath, much further inland, probably formed a center to which these maritime towns converged, and united their system of inroads on Judah.

These five cities of Philistia had each its own petty king (Seren, our “axle”). But all formed one whole; all debated and acted together on any great occasion; as in the plot against Samson Judges 16:5, Judges 16:8, Judges 16:18, the sacrifice to Dagon in triumph over him, where they perished Judges 16:23, Judges 16:27, Judges 16:30; the inflictions on account of the ark 1 Samuel 5:8, 1 Samuel 5:11; 1 Samuel 6:4, 1 Samuel 6:12, 1Sa 6:16, 1 Samuel 6:18; the great attack on Israel 1 Samuel 7:7, which God defeated the Mizpeh; the battle when Saul fell, and the dismissal of David 1Sa 31:2, 1 Samuel 31:6-7; 1 Chronicles 12:19. The cities divided their idolatry also, in a manner, between them, Ashdod being the chief seat of the worship of Dagon , Ashkelon, of the corresponding worship of Derceto , the fish-goddess, the symbol of the passive principle in re-production. Ekron was the seat of the worship of Baalzebub and his oracle, from where he is called “the god of Ekron” 2Ki 1:2-3, 2 Kings 1:16.

Gaza, even after it had become an abode of Greek idolatry and had seven temples of Greek gods, still retained its worship of its god Marna (“our Lord”) as the chief . It too was probably “nature” and to its worship they were devoted. All these cities were as one; all formed one state; all were one in their sin; all were to be one in their punishment. So then for greater vividness, one part of the common infliction is related of each, while in fact, according to the custom of prophetic diction, what is said of each is said of all. King and people were to be cut off from all; all were to be consumed with fire in war; on all God would, as it were, “turn” (literally, “bring back”) His Hand, visiting them anew, and bringing again the same punishment upon them. In truth these destructions came upon them, again and again, through Sargon, Hezekiah, Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander, the Maccabees.

Ashdod - Uzziah about this time “brake down its walls and built cities about” 2 Chronicles 26:6 it, to protect his people from its inroads. It recovered, and was subsequently besieged and taken by Tartan, the Assyrian General under Sargon Isaiah 20:1 (about 716 b.c.). Somewhat later, it sustained the longest siege in man’s knowlege, for 29 years, from Psammetichus king of Egypt (about 635 b.c.). Whence, probably Jeremiah, while he speaks of Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, mentions “the remnant of Ashdod” Jeremiah 25:20 only. Yet, after the captivity, it seems to have been the first Philistine city, so that the Philistines were called Ashdodites Nehemiah 4:7, and their dialect Ashdodite Nehemiah 13:24. They were still hostile to the Jews Nehemiah 4:7. The war, in which Judas Maccabaeus spoiled Ashdod and other Philistine cities (1 Macc. 5:68), was a defensive war against a war of extermination. “The nations round about” (1 Macc. 5:1, 2), it is said at the beginning of the account of that year’s campaign, “thought to destroy the generation of Jacob that was among them, and thereupon they began to slay and destroy the people.” Jonathan, the brother of Judas, “set fire to Azotus and the cities round about it (1 Macc. 10:82, 84), after a battle under its walls, to which his enemies had challenged him. The temple of Dagon in it was a sort of citadel (1 Macc. 10:83).

Ashkelon is mentioned as a place of strength, taken by the great conqueror, Raamses II. Its resolute defense and capture are represented, with its name as a city of Canaanites, on a monument of Karnac . Its name most naturally signifies “hanging.” This suits very well with the site of its present ruins, which “hang” on the side of the theater or arc of hills, whose base is the sea. This, however, probably was not its ancient site (see the note at Zephaniah 2:4). Its name occurs in the wars of the Maccabees, but rather as submitting readily (1 Macc. 10:86; 11:60). Perhaps the inhabitants had been changed in the intervening period. Antipater, the Edomite father of Herod, courted, we are told , “the Arabs and the Ascalonites and the Gazites.” “Toward the Jews their neighbors, the inhabitants of the Holy land,” Philo says to the Roman emperor, “the Ascalonites have an irreconcilable aversion, which will come to no terms.” This abiding hatred burst out at the beginning of the war with the Romans, in which Jerusalem perished. The Ascalonites massacred 2500 Jews dwelling among them . The Jews “fired Ascalon and utterly destroyed Gaza” .

Ekron was apparently not important enough in itself to have any separate history. We hear of it only as given by Alexander Bales “with the borders thereof in possession” (1 Macc. 10:89) to Jonathan the Maccabee. The valley of Surar gave the Ekronites a readier entrance into the center of Judaea, than Ascalon or Ashdod had. In Jerome’s time, it had sunk to “a very large village.”

The residue of the Philistines shall perish - This has been thought to mean “the rest” (as in Jeremiah 39:3; Nehemiah 7:72) that is, Gath, (not mentioned by name anymore as having ceased to be of any account (see the note at Amos 6:3)) and the towns, dependent on those chief cities . The common (and, with a proper name, universal ) meaning of the idiom is, “the remnant,” those who remain over after a first destruction. The words then, like those just before, “I will bring again my hand against Ekron,” foretell a renewal of those first judgments. The political strength which should survive one desolation should be destroyed in those which should succeed it. In tacit contrast with the promises of mercy to the remnant of Judah (see above the note at Joel 2:32), Amos foretells that judgment after judgment should fall upon Philistia, until the Philistines ceased to be anymore a people; as they did.

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