(assh' dahd) One of five principal cities of the Philistines, where the Philistines defeated Israel and captured the ark of the covenant.
Asdod was ten miles north of Ashkelon and two and a half miles east of the Mediterranean Sea on the Philistine plain. It was the northernmost city of the Philistine pentapolis recorded in
Joshua 13:3. Ashdod occurs in written history first in the Late Bronze period where it is mentioned in the trade documents of the Ras Shamra tablets discovered at Ugarit (ancient trade center near the Mediterranean coast in northern Syria). Ashdod is described as a manufacturer and exporter of textiles, specifically purple wool. The city name also occurs in the Egyptian list of names, Onomasticon of Amanope (263).
Old Testament In the Old Testament Ashdod was a place where some of the Anakim remained during the time of Joshua (Joshua 11:22). See Anakim. As one of the five chief cities of the Philistines it stood yet to be possessed by Joshua (Joshua 13:3), who allocated it to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:46-7). David subdued the Philistines, implicitly including Ashdod (2 Samuel 5:25;
2 Samuel 8:1), but it was not described as under Israel's control until Uzziah (783-742 B.C.) captured it (2 Chronicles 26:8). Perhaps the most infamous contact between Ashdod and Israel is reported in
1 Samuel 4-6 when the Philistines defeated the army of Israel in battle, killed the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, and captured the ark of the covenant.
Although the city was captured by Uzziah, it did not remain long under Judah's control and regained enough strength to revolt from Sargon II in 711 B.C. The Assyrians were able quickly to subdue the Philistines, and they remained under Assyrian control until captured by the Egyptian Pharaoh Psammetichus I (664-610) after a 29-year siege as reported by Herodotus. Under Nebuchadnezzar (604-562 B.C.), Babylon soon captured this territory and took the king of Ashdod prisoner.
The prophets of Israel spoke about the city of Ashdod in various military, political and moral contexts (Nehemiah 13:23-24;
Zechariah 9:6). Throughout the Persian period the city remained a threat to Israel.
Extra-biblical Sources In the Greek period Ashdod was known as Azotus and was a flourishing city until being captured by Israel during the Maccabean period. Judas Maccabeus destroyed altars and images in Ashdod (1 Maccabees 5:68), and Jonathan later burned the temple of Dagon, those who took refuge there, and ultimately the city itself (1 Maccabees 10:84-87).
Josephus reported that Pompey separated Ashdod from Israel after his victory (63 B.C.), Gabinius rebuilt the city, and it was joined to the province of Syria. Augustus granted it to Herod the Great. Herod left it to his sister Salome, who in turn willed it to Julia, the wife of Augustus. Its greatness as a city ended with the Roman destruction of A.D. 67, although it was occupied at least through the sixth century.
Archaeological Evidence The major archaeological work on Ashdod was done from 1962-72 under the direction of D. N. Freedman and others. Some evidence remains from Chalcolithic and Early Bronze times, but the major remains date from Middle Bronze and later including a walled city dating around 1625 B.C. A major destruction of the city was indicated by a three foot layer of ash and debris dating about 1250 B.C. Two extensive Philistine occupation levels date from the twelfth and eleventh centuries B.C. The Iron Age showed a flourishing community, and an Iron II temple yielded many cultic artifacts.
George W. Knight