called also Azzah, which is its Hebrew name (De 2:23; 1Ki 4:24; Jer 25:20), strong, a city on the Mediterranean shore, remarkable for its early importance as the chief centre of a great commercial traffic with Egypt. It is one of the oldest cities of the world (Ge 10:19; Jos 15:47). Its earliest inhabitants were the Avims, who were conquered and displaced by the Caphtorims (De 2:23; Jos 13:2-3), a Philistine tribe. In the division of the land it fell to the lot of Judah (Jos 15:47; Jg 1:18). It was the southernmost of the five great Philistine cities which gave each a golden emerod as a trespass-offering unto the Lord (1Sa 6:17). Its gates were carried away by Samson (Jg 16:1-3). Here he was afterwards a prisoner, and "did grind in the prison house." Here he also pulled down the temple of Dagon, and slew "all the lords of the Philistines," himself also perishing in the ruin (Jg 16:21-30). The prophets denounce the judgments of God against it (Jer 25:20; 47:5; Am 1:6-7; Zep 2:4). It is referred to in Ac 8:26. Philip is here told to take the road from Jerusalem to Gaza (about 6 miles south-west of Jerusalem), "which is desert", i.e., the "desert road," probably by Hebron, through the desert hills of Southern Judea. (See Samson.)
It is noticed on monuments as early as B.C. 1600. Its small port is now called el-Mineh.
("fortified".) One of the five Philistine cities, Mentioned in the first and latest books of Scripture, and even now exceeding Jerusalem in size. It is the most southwesterly town toward Egypt, and lay on the great route between Syria and that country, being in position and strength (as its name means) the key of the line of communication. It withstood Alexander's siege with all his resources for five months. It is called Azzah Ge 10:19 margin; De 2:23; Jer 25:20. Gaza was assigned by Joshua to Judah (Jos 15:47), but not occupied until afterward (Jg 1:18; compare Jos 10:41), the Anakims occupying it still (Jos 11:22; 13:8). The Philistines soon recovered it (Jg 13:1; 16:1-21), and there Samson perished while destroying his captors. Solomon ruled over it (1Ki 4:24).
Hezekiah gave the decisive blow to the Philistines, "even unto Gaza and the borders thereof, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city" (2Ki 18:8). Amos (Am 1:6) threatened from God. "for three transgressions of Gaza and for four (i.e. for sin multiplied on sin, Ex 20:5; Pr 30:15. Three and four make seven, the number implying completion of the measure of guilt) I will not turn away the punishment thereof, because they carried away captive the whole captivity (i.e. they carried all away and left none; see 2Ch 21:17; 28:18) to deliver them up to Edom (the Philistines of Gaza, instead of hospitably sheltering the Jewish refugees fleeing before Sennacherib and other Assyrian, invaders, sold them as captives to their bitter foes, the Edomites; compare Isa 16:4). But I will send a fire on the wall of Gaza, which shall devour the palaces thereof."
Pharaoh Necho fulfilled the prophecy on returning from slaying Josiah at Megiddo (2Ch 35:20) (Grotius). Or "Pharaoh" Hophra, on his return from the unavailing attempt to save Jerusalem from Nebuchadnezzar (7/5'>Jer 37:5,7; 47:1) (Calvin) In Zep 2:4 there is a play on like sounds; Gazah gazuwbah, "Gaza shall be forsaken." In Zec 9:5 "the king shall perish from Gaza," i.e., its Persian satrap, or petty "king," subordinate to the great king of Persia, shall perish, and it shall cease to have one. Alexander having taken the city, and slain 10,000 of its inhabitants, and sold the rest as slaves, bound Betis the satrap to a chariot by thongs thrust through his soles, and dragged him round the city, as Achilles did to Hector.
In Ac 8:26, "go toward the S. unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza which (not Gaza, but which way) is desert," refers to the portion of the road between Eleutheropolis and Gaza, which is without villages and exposed to Bedouin marauders of the desert. The words "which is desert" are the angel's words (not Luke's), to inform Philip, then in Samaria, on what route he would find the eunuch, namely, on the S. route, thinly peopled, but favorable for chariots, Robinson (2:748) found an ancient road direct from Jerusalem to Gaza through the wady Musurr, now certainly without villages.
The water in wady el Hasy was probably the scene of the eunuch's baptism. Once Gaza was the seat of a Christian church and bishop; but now of its 15,000 inhabitants only a few hundreds are Christians, the rest Muslims. The great mosque was formerly the church of John when Gaza was a Christian city. An extensive olive grove lies N. of the modern Ghuzzeh., from whence arises its manufacture and export of soap. Its trade in grain is considerable, and still is heard the "grinding" of grain with millstones such as Samson was forced to work with in his prison house at Gaza. The Tel el Muntar or "hill of the watchman," east of Gaza, is the hill to which Samson carried up the gates. It commands a lovely and striking view on every side.
A city of the Philistine Pentapolis. It is referred to in Genesis (Ge 10:19) as a border city of the Canaanites, and in Jos 10:41 as a limit of the South country conquered by Joshua; a refuge of the Anakim (Jos 11:22), theoretically assigned to Judah (Jos 15:47). Samson was here shut in by the Philistines, and escaped by carrying away the gates (Jg 16:1-3); he was, however; brought back here in captivity after being betrayed by Delilah, and here he destroyed himself and the Philistines by pulling down the temple (Jg 16:21-30). Gaza was never for long in Israelite hands. It withstood Alexander for five months (b.c. 332). In b.c. 96 it was razed to the ground, and in b.c. 57 rebuilt on a new site, the previous site being distinguished as 'Old' or 'Desert' Gaza (cf. Ac 8:26). It was successively in Greek, Byzantine Christian (a.d. 402), Muslim (635), and Crusader hands; it was finally lost by the Franks in 1244. A Crusaders' church remains in the town, now a mosque. It is now a city of about 16,000 inhabitants, and bears the name Ghuzzeh.
R. A. S. Macalister.
1. One of the five royal cities of the Philistines. We read of it as early as Ge 10:19 as a border of the Canaanites. The Anakim dwelt there, but Judah was able to take Gaza and the coasts thereof. Jos 11:22; Jg 1:18. In the time of Samson, however, the Philistines were in possession, and he was made a prisoner there. Jg 16:21. It was held afterwards by Solomon, 1Ki 4:24 (where it is called AZZAH, as it is also in De 2:23 and Jer 25:20); but had to be taken again by Hezekiah. 2Ki 18:8. It was afterwards smitten by Pharaoh. Jer 47:1,5. Having been a stronghold of the Philistines, woes were pronounced against it by the prophets. Am 1:6-7; Zep 2:4; Zec 9:5.
Gaza was the S.W. frontier town of Palestine, and did a large trade with the caravans to and from Egypt. It was taken by Cambyses, the Ptolemies, and by Alexander the Great, and was held in the twelfth century by the Knights Templars. Gaza is now under Palestinian rule. It is situate at 31 30' N, 34 28' E. Ac 8:26 signifies that the way from Jerusalem to Gaza was desert. This is supposed to refer to the road through Hebron, for after leaving that city it is comparatively desert.
2. City of Ephraim, 1Ch 7:28; but here many MSS read Ayyah.
(the fortified; the strong) (properly Azzah), one of the five chief cities of the Philistines. It is remarkable for its continuous existence and importance from the very earliest times. The secret of this unbroken history is to be found in the situation of Gaza. It is the last town in the southwest of Palestine, on the frontier towards Egypt. The same peculiarity of situation has made Gaza important in a military sense. Its name means "the strong;" and this was well elucidated in its siege by Alexander the Great, which lasted five months. In the conquest of Joshua the territory of Gaza is mentioned as one which he was not able to subdue.
It was assigned to the tribe of Judah,
and that tribe did obtain possession of it,
but did not hold it long,
but in after times the same trouble with the Philistines recurred.
The passage where Gaza is mentioned in the New Testament
is full of interest. It is the account of the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch on his return from Jerusalem to Egypt. Gaza is the modern Ghuzzeh, a Mohammedan town of about 16,000 inhabitants, situated partly on an oblong hill of moderate height and partly on the lower ground. The climate of the place is almost tropical, but it has deep wells of excellent water. There are a few palm trees in the town, and its fruit orchards are very productive; but the chief feature of the neighborhood is the wide-spread olive grove to the north and northeast
GAZA, a city of the Philistines, made by Joshua part of the tribe of Judah. It was one of the five principalities of the Philistines, situated toward the southern extremity of the promised land, 1Sa 6:17, between Raphia and Askelon. The advantageous situation of Gaza was the cause of the numerous revolutions which it underwent. It first of all belonged to the Philistines, and then to the Hebrews. It recovered its liberty in the reigns of Jotham and Ahaz, and was reconquered by Hezekiah, 2Ki 18:8. It was subject to the Chaldeans, who conquered Syria and Phenicia. Afterward, it fell into the hands of the Persians. It must have been a place of considerable strength. For two months it baffled all the efforts of Alexander the Great, who was repeatedly repulsed and wounded in the siege; which he afterward revenged in a most infamous manner on the person of the gallant defender Betis, whom, while yet alive, having ordered his ankles to be bored, he dragged round the walls, tied to his chariot wheels, in the barbarous parade of imitating the less savage treatment of the corpse of Hector by Achilles.
Dr. Wittman gives the following description of his visit to Gaza: "In pursuing our route toward this place, the view became still more interesting and agreeable: the groves of olive trees extending from the place where we had halted to the town, in front of which a fine avenue of these trees was planted. Gaza is situated on an eminence, and is rendered picturesque by the number of fine minarets which rise majestically above the buildings, and by the beautiful date trees which are interspersed. The suburbs of Gaza are composed of wretched mud huts; but within side the town the buildings make a much better appearance than those we had generally met with in Syria. The streets are of a moderate breadth. Many fragments of statues, columns, &c, of marble were seen in the walls and buildings in different parts of the town. The suburbs and environs of Gaza are rendered infinitely agreeable by a number of large gardens, cultivated with the nicest care, which lie in a direction north and south of the town; while others of the same description run to a considerable distance westward. These gardens are filled with a great variety of choice fruit trees, such as the fig, the mulberry, the pomegranate, the apricot, the peach, and the almond; together with a few lemon and orange trees. The numerous plantations of olive and date trees which are interspersed contribute greatly to the picturesque effect of the scene exhibited by the surrounding plains. These, on our arrival, were overspread with flowers, the variegated colours of which displayed every tint and every hue. Among these were the chrysanthemum, scarlet ranunculus, lupin, pheasant-eye, tulip, china-aster, dwarf-iris, lintel, daisy, &c, all of them growing wild and abundantly, with the exception of the lupin, which was cultivated in patches, regularly ploughed and sowed, with a view to collect the seeds, which the inhabitants employ at their meals, more especially to thicken their ragouts. The few corn fields, which lay at a distance, displayed the promise of a rich golden harvest; and the view of the sea, distant about a league, tended to diversify still more the animated features of this luxuriant scene." This and similar descriptions of modern travellers, which are occasionally introduced into this work, are given both as interesting in themselves, and to show that relics of the ancient beauty and fertility of the Holy Land are still to be found in many parts of it.