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 (1:7,8). It is referred to in a similar way by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:20; 47:5,7). Zephaniah (2:4,7) speaks of the desolation of Ashkelon and Zechariah announces the fear of Ashkelon on the destruction of Tyre (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, 1). 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.
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