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(gath) Gath was one of the five cities that comprised the Philistine city-state system (1 Samuel 6:17 ). See Philistines. The inhabitants of Gath were referred to as the Gittites (1 Samuel 17:4; 2 Samuel 6:10-11 ). Because the Hebrew term gath/gat meant “winepress” and since vineyards and winepresses were widespread in the land, a number of towns in Palestine were named Gath. Usually the name was used with another name which helped distinguish one site from another, such as, Gath-Hepher, Gath-Rimmon and Moresheth-Gath.

By far the most frequently mentioned Gath in the Old Testament is Gath of the Philistines. In addition to Gath, the other towns of the Philistine city-state system were Ekron, Ashdod, Ashkelon and Gaza (1 Samuel 6:17 ). We may reasonably assume that Gath was the principal city among the five and served as the hub of the pentapolis. In other words, Ekron, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Gaza were, in a sense, satellite cities of Gath.

Gath was strategically located for Philistine purposes. While we do not know the exact location, we do know the general area in which Gath was located. Based on information from the biblical accounts, Gath was located inland as opposed to the other Philistine towns which were on or near the coast. It was located in the Shephelah, that is, the band of foothills which lay between the coastal plain on the west and the central hill country on the east. Since the Israelites, at least during the period of the settlement, occupied the central hill country, Gath was in a position to protect Philistine territory from raids by the Israelites. At the same time it was convenient for the Philistines to initiate raids on Israelite communities from the city of Gath. Since a number of sites have been eliminated in recent years based on archaeological excavations, one of the most likely candidates for Philistine Gath is tell es-Safi, twelve miles east of Ashdod.

A number of the highlights of Gath's history are reflected in the Old Testament. Prior to the coming of the Israelites, Gath was a Canaanite city occupied by the Anakim, a group known for their large stature (Joshua 11:21-22 ). During the conquest of Canaan, Joshua and the Israelites apparently did not take the sites of Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod (Joshua 11:22 ). We may assume that these towns were taken by the Philistines at this point. Gath was one of the locations to which the Philistines took the ark (1 Samuel 5:8-9 ) and was the hometown of Goliath (1 Samuel 17:4 ) and Obed-edom (1 Chronicles 13:13 ). One of the most interesting bits of information is that at one point while Saul was in pursuit of David, David found sanctuary with Achish, the king of Gath, and perhaps became a vassal of the Philistines (1 Samuel 27:1-7 ). Eventually David defeated the Philistines and made Gath an Israelite town (1 Chronicles 18:1 ). Apparently Achish continued to be the king of Gath, perhaps as a vassal king, even during the reign of Solomon (1 Kings 2:39 ). During the period of the divided monarchy, Gath's history went through a series of changes. Rehoboam, the king for Judah (931-913 B.C.) fortified Gath and made it a fortress city of Judah (2 Chronicles 11:5-12 ). Hazael, king of Syria (about 843-797 B.C.), beseiged the city and captured it (2 Kings 12:17 ). Shortly thereafter, the inhabitants of Gath apparently rebelled against Hazael and established to some degree their independence. Finally, Uzziah, king of Judah (792-740 B.C.), partially destroyed Gath and made it once again a part of the territory of Judah (2 Chronicles 26:6 ). Around 711 B.C., Sargon II, the king of Assyria, conquered and perhaps destroyed the city. Apparently, at this point, Gath's history came to an end. This conclusion is reinforced by the fact that Gath is obviously omitted in the lists of Philistine sites mentioned by the prophets (Jeremiah 25:20; Amos 1:6-8; Zephaniah 2:4; Zechariah 9:5-6 ).

LaMoine DeVries

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Gath'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hbd/​g/gath.html. 1991.
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