Other Sites of Interest In Central Israel
Places of Interest
Other Sites of Interest In Central Israel
Ashdod is a coastal city on the Mediterranean Sea about 18 miles (29 km.) south of Jaffa and Tel Aviv.
It was one of the 5 main stronghold cities of the Philistines and was well-fortified.
During the conquest of the Promised Land under Joshua and the Israelites, giants known as Anakim were found here (Josh. 11:22). Ashdod was allotted to Judah, but they failed to conquer it (Josh. 13:3, 15:46–47).
During the time of Samuel, Ashdod, and the other main cities of the Philistines were still independent.
When the Israelites were defeated in battle under the priesthood of Eli and his wicked sons (Hophni and Phinehas), the ark was taken to the house of Dagon in Ashdod (1 Sam. 5:1–2). Later, it would be returned to the Israelites at Beth-Shemesh.
Ashdod was conquered and came under the authority of Assyria in around 711 BC. Later, Babylon conquered it as well in around 605 BC.
Ashdod was the recipient of many prophecies proclaiming its doom and destruction, i.e., Isaiah 20:11, Amos 1:8, Jeremiah 25:20, and Zechariah 2:4, 9:6. However, Ashdod continued to be inhabited as the Jews intermarried with its inhabitants after their return from Babylon (Neh. 13:23–24).
In the New Testament, Ashdod is called Azotus.
Acts 8:40: But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
Ashkelon is a coastal city on the Mediterranean Sea about 27 miles (43 km.) south of Jaffa and Tel Aviv. It’s also just a bit north of modern-day Gaza.
Ashkelon was one of the 5 main coastal cities of the Philistines.
Joshua and the Israelites conquered Ashkelon in the conquest of the Promised Land (Josh. 13:3), and it was allotted to Judah, who then occupied it (Judg. 1:18).
One of the golden tumors (emerods) that was returned with the Ark of the Covenant by the Philistines was from Ashkelon (1 Sam. 6:17).
Both Ashkelon and Gath are mentioned in David’s lament over Saul and Jonathan, which reveals their importance (2 Sam. 1:20).
Ashkelon is also mentioned with Gaza, Ashdod, and Ekron, in the prophet Amos’ denunciations of their sin and coming judgment (Amos 1:7–8).
Ashkelon was also denounced by Jeremiah (Jer. 25:20, 47:5–7), Zephaniah (2:4–7), and Zechariah (9:5).
Bethany Beyond the Jordan
Tradition and archaeology hold that this site is the believed location of Bethany Beyond the Jordan. It’s located on a tributary that connects to the Jordan River known as Wadi Kharrar. Just before the place this wadi joins the Jordan River is called Bethany Beyond the Jordan.
It’s also just across from Qasr al-Yahud Baptismal Site on Israel’s side of the river. (For more on Qasr al-Yahud Baptismal Site, please see Jordan River Baptismal Site of Jesus.)
This area is where Jesus is believed to have been baptized by John the Baptist (John 1:28), where John baptized many people, and where John lived for periods of time. It’s on the Jordanian side of the Jordan River and consists of two distinct areas: Tell Al-Kharrar, also known as Jabal Mar-Elias (Elijah’s Hill), and the area of the churches of John the Baptist. There are Roman and Byzantine ruins of churches, chapels, a monastery, caves that hermits have used, and pools in which baptisms were held.
Excavations at this site began in 1996, following Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel in 1994, and have uncovered more than 20 churches, caves, and baptismal pools, all dating from the Roman and Byzantine periods.
This area is also associated with the ascension of the Prophet Elijah into heaven, which is commemorated at a hill called Tell Mar Elias or Jabal Mar-Elias (Elijah’s Hill).
Ekron (Tel Makna Akron)
Ekron is located about 20 miles (32 km.) east of Ashdod and the Mediterranean Sea.
Ekron is the northernmost of the 5 main cities of the Philistines, all located in the coastal plain along the Mediterranean Sea.
Joshua and the Israelites failed to conquer Ekron in the conquest of the Promised Land (Josh. 13:3). It was allotted to Judah in the division of the land and then to the tribe of Dan (Josh. 15:11, 45–46, 19:43). However, Dan moved to the northern part of Israel, and Judah wound up conquering Ekron and inhabiting it (Judg. 1:18).
When the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant, it was the people of Ekron who proposed to have it sent back to Israel (1 Sam. 5:10, 6:16–17). The Ark went up the valley to Beth-Shemesh, where the Israelites received it with joy (1 Sam. 6:9–18).
After David killed Goliath in the Valley of Elah, the Israelites pursued and defeated the Philistines all the way to Ekron.
Ekron seems to have been the center of worship to the false god Baalzebub. This is seen in the account of the sickness and death of King Ahaziah (2 Kings 1:2–3, 6:16).
Ekron is included, among other cities, in pronouncements of judgment by the prophets Amos 1:8, Jeremiah 25:20, Zephaniah 2:4, and Zechariah 9:5–7.
Gath (Tell es Safi)
Biblical Gath (known today as Tell es-Safi, is 14 miles (23 km.) east of Ashdod and Ashkelon, which are close to the Mediterranean Sea.
Gath was one of the five main cities of the Philistines (Josh. 13:3; 1 Sam. 6:17).
It was a well-fortified walled city (2 Chron. 26:6).
Joshua and the Israelites were unable to conquer Gath despite the numerous conflicts between the Israelites and the inhabitants of Gath.
It wasn’t until King David that the city was conquered and became part of the Israelite Kingdom (1 Chron. 18:1).
Its name is most remembered as the home of the giant, Goliath, whom David slew (1 Sam. 17:4).
The people of Ashdod took the Ark of the Covenant to Gath when they were smitten with tumors from God. Later, the people of Gath were smitten as well with tumors and took the ark to Ekron (1 Sam. 5:8–10).
David sought refuge in Gath on two occasions when King Saul was seeking his life (1 Sam. 21:10, 27:2–4).
Gath appears to have been destroyed after being taken by David because Rehoboam restored it under his reign (2 Chron. 11:8).
Later, the Philistines regained control of Gath, for we see that King Uzziah conquered it and destroyed its walls (2 Chron. 26:6).
Once again, it must have been restored and rebuilt because Hazael, of Damascus, captured it once more (2 Kings 12:17).
During the time of the prophet Amos, Gath seems to have been destroyed (Amos 6:2), and is only mentioned in Micah 1:10, as a proverb, “Tell it not in Gath.”
Since the time Gath was destroyed, most likely in the middle of the 8th century BC, it has laid desolate.
Gaza is one of the 5 main cities of the Philistines and seems to be the oldest of them all.
It’s a coastal city on the Mediterranean Sea about 40 miles (64 km.) south of Joppa (Jaffa). Gaza was also located on the Via Maris.
Gaza was on a hill rising about 200 ft. (61 m.) above the valley floor. There were sand dunes between it and the sea, which was about 2 miles away.
In the conquest of the Promised Land, Joshua and the Israelites failed to conquer Gaza, along with several other main cities of the Philistines (Josh. 10:41, 11:22).
Later, the tribe of Judah captured Gaza but couldn’t control it for long, and it fell back into the hands of the Philistines (Judg. 1:18).
During the time of Samson, it was the heavy gates of Gaza that Samson carried all the way up to Hebron (Judg. 16:1–3).
After the Philistines defeated the Israelites in battle and captured the Ark of the Covenant during the priesthood of Eli and his two wicked sons, Gaza, along with the other main cities of the Philistines, sent a trespass offering to God when the ark was returned to the Israelites at Beth-Shemesh (1 Sam. 6:17–18).
When Hezekiah reigned, he defeated and pursued the Philistines to Gaza but did not seem to have captured the city. However, the Assyrians later captured it in 720 BC.
In the New Testament, Philip was sent to Gaza to evangelize the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26).
Today, because ancient Gaza lies in the Gaza Strip, where land is scarce and Israeli interests are not valued, the remains of ancient Gaza are practically nonexistent.
Mizpah was located centrally in the country within the territory of Benjamin, about 8 miles north of Jerusalem. Its importance as an administrative center is demonstrated not only by its use during the days of the Judges and Samuel but also by its utilization by conquering nations years later when the Empires of Assyria and Babylon would take over Judah. Mizpah means watchtower or lookout and was a central meeting place where Israel gathered for much of its history.
At Mizpah, Jacob and Laban made a covenant wherein Jacob promised Laban that he would take care of his daughters and grandchildren (Gen. 31:48–49).
The city of Mizpah was established as an important site early in the history of Israel in the time of the Judges and was used as a national rallying point for a man of the Levites who asked for national justice at the end of the time period of the Judges when his concubine was raped and killed by several members of the Benjamite tribe.
Samuel judged the nation from Mizpah and held national gatherings at the city, and Israel's first king, Saul, was presented to the nation at Mizpah.
Biblical Sites of Israel
Sea of Galilee Sites
Northern Israel Sites
Central Israel Sites
Southern Israel Sites
Other Biblical Sites
Experience the Holy Land Online!