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her king: the ruins of Askelon do not shelter a single human being. * It is said to have been famous among the idolatrous nations of antiquity, for a temple dedicated to Decreto, the mother of Semiramis, who was adored here under the form of a mermaid ; and for a temple of Apollo, in which Herod, the father of Antipater, and grandfather of Herod the Great, officiated as priest.
Above Ascalon, still farther to the north, stood the city of Ashdod, called by the Greeks Azotus, and mentioned under that name in the Acts of the Apostles. It lies near the shore, between Gaza and Joppa, and was distinguished by the temple of Dagon. Into this temple the captive ark of Jehovah was brought by the triumphant idolaters, and set by the side of their unsightly idol. But their joy was of short duration ; the object of their stupid veneration was laid prostrate before the symbol of the divine presence, and broken in pieces, and a severe, but righteous vengeance, inflicted on themselves for their presumption. The passage
is too important to be omitted :— And when they of Ashdod rose early on the morrow, behold Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth, before the ark of the Lord ; and they took Dagon and set him in his place again. And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold Dagon was fallen on his face to the ground, before the ark of the Lord ; and the head of Dagon, and both the palms of his hands, were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him.' Nor was this all :- The hand of the Lord was heavy also upon the men of Ashdod ; and he destroyed and smote them with emerods, even Ashdod and the coasts thereof. And when the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, The ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with us ; for his hand is sore upon us and upon Dagon our god. They sent therefore and gathered all the lords of the Philistines unto them, and
* Trav. by Dr Richardson, vol. ii. p. 204.
said, What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel? And they answered, let the ark of the God of Israel be carried about unto Gath. And they carried the ark of the God of Israel thither.'*
Gath, lying still farther to the north than Ashdod, was memorable in the history of the Old Testament for being the birth-place of the giant Goliath, who defied the armies of the living God, and suffered the punishment due to his impiety, from the hand of David. The city was dismantled by this prince; but was afterwards rebuilt by Rehoboam his grandson; and after being again dismantled by Ozias king of Judah, was totally destroyed by Hazael king of Syria. But from this catastrophe it gradually recovered, and retained its ancient name in the days of Eusebius and Jerome, who place it about four miles from Eleutheropolis, towards Diospolis or Lydda.
Gath suffered severely while the ark of the covenant was detained within its walls: The hand of the Lord,' says the sacred writer, was against the city with a very great destruction ; and he smote the men of the city both small and great ; and they had emerods in their secret parts. Therefore they sent the ark of God to Ekron.'+
Ekron.—This city was placed in the northern extremity of the country which submitted to the yoke of the Philistines. It was called by the Greeks Accaron; was a place of great wealth and power, and held out a long time against the arms of Israel. Ekron is frequently mentioned in the holy Scriptures, and particularly for the idolatrous worship of Beelzebub, that is, the lord of flies ; a name given him by the Jews, either in contempt of his divinity and the rites of his worship, or in allusion to the numerous swarms of flies which attended his sacrifices. But whatever might be the reason for distinguishing him by this name, certain it is, that in this city was the principal seat of his wor
+ 1 Samuel v. 9, 10.
* i Samuel v. 2-8,
ship: here he was held in the highest honour, and is therefore called in scripture the god of Ekron.'
The inhabitants of Ekron, less hardened in crime, or less insensible to danger than their neighbours, were the first that advised the Philistines to restore the ark of Jehovah the God of Israel:- The Ekronites cried out, saying, they have brought about the ark of the God of Israel to us, to slay us and our people. So they sent and gathered together all the Lords of the Philistines, and said, Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it go to its own place ;' and the destructive calamity which hung over their devoted city was averted.*
[Idumea, or Edom, the ancient country of Esau's descendants, was bounded on the north by the Holy Land and the Dead Sea, on the east by Arabia Petræa, which afterwards gave name to the whole country, and reached southwards to the gulf of Elath. In this extensive region were included various smaller districts, as the land of Uzt the native country of Job; of Teman, where Eliphaz, one of the patriarch's friends, resided, which is sometimes put for the name of the whole region; that of Dedan;and of Buz,|| whence Elihu came.
Besides these Doeg was, I and Herod the Great is said to have been, both Edomites by birth. Its chief towns were Selah, or Joktheel,** afterwards called Petra. Bozrah, famous for its breed of cattle. Elath and Eziongeber, on the extremity of the eastern gulf of the Red Sea, annexed to the territories of Israel by the conquests of David, and rendered seaports of great importance in the time of Solomon.ft The Horites, the aboriginal inhabitants, being subdued and expelled, the descendants of Esau, their conquerors, took possession of the country, and rose to be a populous and * Wells' Hist. Geog. vol. ii. pp. 5, 6. † Lam. iv. 21; Jer. xxv. 20. & Job ii. 11; Jer. xlix. 7, 20. § Ezek. xxv. 13.
| Job xxxii. 2; Jer. xxv. 23. 1 Samuel xxi. 7.
** 2 Kings xiv. 7. tt i Chron. xviii. 11 ; 1 Kings ix. 26.
powerful nation,* who, by their lawless aggressions, made their very name a terror to the neighbouring nations. Their government was carried on first by kings, and afterwards by a succession of sheiks.t The natural fertility and luxuriant produce of this country in patriarchal times is more than once brought under our notice in the sacred history, I and besides, it was the high road through which was conveyed the flourishing commerce of Judea with the countries of Asia and Africa. Bordering with Arabia on the east,' says Volney, “and Egypt on the south-west, and forming from north to south the most commodious channel of communication between Jerusalem and her dependencies on the Red Sea, as well as between Syria and Judea, through the continuous valleys of ÈI Ghor and El Arabia, which terminated on the one extremity at the borders of Judea, and on the other at Elath and Eziongeber on the eastern gulf of the Red Sea, Idumea may be said to have long formed the emporium of the commerce of the East.' Nay, to use the words of a later writer, · The caravans in all ages from Minea in the interior of Arabia, and from Gerrha on the gulf of Persia, from Hadramaut on the ocean, and some even from Yemen, appear to have pointed to this country and its capital as their common centre; and from thence the trade seems to have again branched out in every direction, to Palestine, Egypt, and Syria, through Arsinoe, Gaza, Tyre, Jerusalem, Damascus, and a variety of subordinate routes, that all terminated on the Mediterranean.'
[A hereditary hostility seems to have subsisted all along between the people of this country, and their neighbours in Palestine. But it was not till the victorious reign of David that the posterity of Jacob realized their promised superiority over the descendants of Esau. S Our limits do not admit of our tracing the
+ Genesis xxxvi. 31-43. # Genesis xxvii. 39; Numbers xx. 17. § 2 Samuel viii. 14.
* Genesis xxxvi. 31.
history of this country. Suffice it to say that their idolatry and inveterate enmity against Jacob have been signally punished in their once fruitful and populous country being so reduced, that there is not any remaining of the house of Esau,' for Edom was doomed to be cut off for ever;' and in this region, which was once the highway for the conveyance of the costliest merchandise of the wealthiest countries in the world, being so utterly swept by the besom of destruction, that none shall pass through it for ever and ever.'* The present state of Idumea affords remarkable and overwhelming attestations to the truth of scripture prophecy. Divine Providence has in very deed cut off from Mount Seir, or Edom, him that passeth out, and him that remaineth.'t
[Ammon lay eastward of Palestine, having Reuben and Gad on the west, and Moab on the north. Its chief city was Rabbah.I The inhabitants of this country traced their descent to Ben-Ammon, son of Lot, and they were exempted by the special command of God from the list of countries which the Israelites were at liberty to attack and appropriate. Insensible, however, to this favour, they frequently made inroads upon the settlements of Israel, and at one period they, in conjunction with their allies the Moabites, made the land of Canaan tributary to them for eighteen years, till, by the energy of Jephtha, it threw off the yoke and regained its independence.|| To check their incessant efforts to harass the Israelites who dwelt upon their borders, David sacked Rabbah their metropolis, I in consequence of which they were shorn of their main * Isaiah xxxiv. 10; Jer. xlix. ; Ezek. xxv. ; Xxxv.
* The repeated and persevering attempts of travellers,' says Mr Munro, “to explore Idumea, have always proved abortive, except in two instances. Seetzen did “ pass through," but died immediately after at Aleppo. Burckhardt penetrated it, but turned aside in dismay, and died soon after at Cairo.' See Keith's Evidences, where the literal interpretation of the prophecy is ably maintained.- Ed. $ 2 Sam. xii. 26; Ezek. xxi. 20.
§ Deut. ii. 9. # Judges xi.
2 Sam. xi. 1; xii. 26.