What is the Biblical history of the ancient city of Gaza?

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The word Gaza is the Greek transliteration of the Heb. ‘Azzah, which means “strong.” The city was also called Azzah (Deut. 2:23; 1 Kings 4:24; Jer. 25:20). The known history of the city of Gaza covers a period of 4,000 years. This city was ruled by diverse dynasties.

The Avims and the Caphtorim

The Avims or the “ruin dwellers” first occupied it. These were the aborigines of the area who preceded the Canaanites. The Caphtorim overcome the Avims and possessed the city (Deut. 2:22, 23). Then, the philistines conquered them and took over the city (Deut. 2:23).

The Philistines

Gaza was the southernmost of the Philistine cities and the largest among them (Gen. 10:19). It was around 30 mi. (48 km.). It was a focal point because the travelers routes from the desert joined the road from Egypt there.

The philistines that occupied Gaza were the enemies of the Israelites. The inhabitants of these cities were heathen and practiced wickedness. For a short period of time, “Judah took Gaza with its territory” (Judges 1:18), but soon lost it (Joshua 13:3; Judges 3:3).

Gaza was the city where Samson’s was captured and humiliated. But there he gave up his life and destroyed all of his enemies. In his death he killed more Philistines, and greater ones than he had in his life (Judges 16).

The Hebrews

This Philistines continued to hold during the time of Samuel and onward (1 Sam. 6:17). But Gaza fell to the Israelites in about 1000 BCE.  King Solomon (1 Kings 4:21, 24), and after him King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:8), subdued that city. In 730 BDE, Gaza became part of the Assyrian Empire.

The Greeks

At the time of the Greeks, the city resisted Alexander the Great for five months, but it fell in 332 BCE. It became an important military post during the struggles between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids, and in the wars of the Maccabees (1 Maccabees 11:61).

About 96 B.C. Gaza was ruined and its people were killed by Alexander Jannaeus (Josephus Antiquities xiii. 13. 3 [358–364]). But it was rebuilt by the proconsul Gabinius (ibid. xiv. 5. 3 [88]), though the new city was closer to the coast of the sea than the older one.

The Romans

Gaza was rebuilt by Roman General Pompey Magnus, and after 30 years was given to Herod the Great. Throughout the Roman period, it was supported by different emperors. A 500-member senate governed the city. These consisted of Romans, Greeks, Jews, Egyptians, Persians and Nabateans. Later on, the city converted to Christianity under Saint Porphyrius, who removed its eight pagan temples between 396 and 420 CE.

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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