Ekron of Philistia—1 Samuel 7:14

Archaeologists identify Ekron with Tel Miqne/Khirbet el-Muqanna’ about 21.7 miles (35 km) southwest of Jerusalem on the south bank of the Timnah valley where it lies on the border between the coastal plain and the Shephelah. The name of Ekron appears for the first time in the boundary lists found in Joshua 13-15. When the Philistines captured the ark, one of the places they took it to was Ekron (1 Sam. 5:1-6:17). After the defeat of Goliath, Saul’s army pursued the Philistines to the gates of Gath and Ekron (1 Sam. 17:52). Extra-biblical sources that mention Ekron primarily come from the neo-Assyrians and record such events as the siege of Ekron by Sargon II (721–705). A relief in his palace at Khorsabad depicts the site. Later Sennacherib (704–681) describes in his annals the capture of Ekron and the restoration of its original king Padi to the throne. Esarhaddon (680–669) lists Padi’s son Ikausu together with other vassal kings.

The site of Tel Miqne-Ekron, excavated by the Hebrew University and the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research (1981–1996) under the direction of Trude Dothan and Seymour Gitin, revealed cities extending from the Late Bronze Age down through the Iron Age.

During the Late Bronze Age, a massive conflagration destroyed the Canaanite city. Ekron’s municipal layout and material culture changed dramatically after that. In the Iron Age I layers, archaeologists have found mostly Philistine monochrome and local forms of pottery. Philistine monochrome and bichrome pottery, decorated with geometric forms, including spirals and squares, and with images of fish and birds, then replaced such earlier types in subsequent strata. The style reflects the Mycenaean pottery of mainland Greece, but neutron activation analysis indicates that they were made of local clays. Several pottery kilns at Ekron indicate the local production of pottery. Also, the diet of Ekron’s inhabitants was now very different from that of their predecessors. They added pig to the regular diet, a proportion that goes up from 14 percent in Stratum VII to 26 percent in Stratum V. Many scholars have suggested that these combined features represent the immigration of the Sea Peoples who, according to the Egyptian ruler Ramesses III, settled along the southern coastal plain of Canaan. The Bible refers to such Aegean people as “Philistine.”

The remains of Ekron’s major temples also indicate an Aegean architectural style. In Field IV the ancient inhabitants built a series of cultic structures beginning in stratum VIIa where excavators uncovered a single open-hearth room. Later the people of Ekron expanded this architecture into a larger complex. By stratum V and IV, they had erected a large Philistine temple with a pillared hall extending to three bench rooms to the east. One room contained a high place (bamah) in which several metal finds included a ceremonial iron knife with an ivory handle. The later phase included a ceramic pomegranate vessel, a kernos, and an ivory head of a woman. Fire, perhaps set by the Israelites during the tenth century, destroyed the later phase of the stratum IVA building. Temple-Palace Complex 650, built slightly to the north, indicates the continuity of this area which the excavators labeled the “elite zone.”

In 1996 an inscription found in Temple-Palace Complex 650 conclusively confirmed the site as Philistine Ekron. It reads: “The house [which] Akhayush [Ikausu/Achish], son of Padi, son of Ysd, son of Ada, son of Ya’ir, ruler of Ekron, built for Pythodaia (Ptgyh), his lady. May she bless him, and protect him, and prolong his days, and bless his land.” A dynasty of five kings, two mentioned in the neo-Assyrian inscriptions, appear in this inscription as “ruler [sar] or Ekron.” Achish is a Greek name similar to that of the king of Gath (1 Sam. 21:11).

Nebuchadnezzar razed the site in 603 BC, and it remained abandoned for a period. Its destruction with that of other the Philistine cities of Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Gaza reminds one of the prophetic predictions found in the eighth and seventh-century prophets (Amos 1:8; Jer. 47:4-7, Zeph. 2:4 and Zech. 9:5-7).