Ashdod in the Old Testament
Ashdod was one of the five chief cities of the Philistines. The name means stronghold or fortress, and its strength may be inferred by the fact that Psammetik I, of Egypt, besieged it for many years (Herodotus says 29). Some of the Anakim were found there in the days of Joshua (Josh 11:22), and the inhabitants were too strong for the Israelites at that time.
It was among the towns assigned to Judah, but was not occupied by her (Josh 13:3; 15:46,47). It was still independent in the days of Samuel, when, after the defeat of the Israelites, the ark was taken to the house of Dagon in Ashdod (1 Sam 5:1,2). We have no account of its being occupied even by David, although he defeated the Philistines many times, and we have no definite knowledge of its coming into the hands of Judah until the time of Uzziah (2 Ch 26:6).
Ashdod, like the other Philistine towns, came under the authority of the Assyrian monarchs, and we have mention of it in their records. It revolted against Sargon in 711 BC, and deposed the Assyrian governor, Akhimiti, who had been appointed by him in 720. Sargon at once dispatched a force to subdue the rebels and the city was severely punished. This is referred to by Isaiah (Isa 20:1).
Amos had prophesied such a calamity some years before (1:8), and Jeremiah refers to "the remnant of Ashdod" as though it had continued weak until his day (Jer 25:20).
Zephaniah (Zeph 2:4) refers to the desolation of Ashdod and Zechariah to its degraded condition (Zec 9:6). It continued to be inhabited, however, for we find the Jews intermarried with them after the return from Babylon (Neh 13:23,24).
In the Maccabean period we are told that Judas and Jonathan both took it and purified it of idolatry (1 Macc 5:68; 10:84). In these passages it is called Azotus, as it is also in the New Testament (Acts 8:40). In the 4th century AD it became the seat of a bishopric.
It had been restored in the time of Herod, by the Roman general Gabinius, and was presented to Salome, the sister of Herod, by the emperor Augustus. It is now a small village about 18 miles Northeast of Gaza.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, which is in the public domain.