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Gath of the Philistines

Gath, from the Hebrew word pronounced gawth, meaning wine press, was one of the royal cities of the Philistines (Ashdod, Gaza, Askelon, Gath, Ekron) that were located in the general area in what is today still called Gaza, between southern Israel and the Mediterranean Sea. The Philistines (the illustration below is that of an actual ancient carving of a Philistine warrior done during the time of Joshua) were militarily powerful and as such were often a formidable problem for the people of Israel who did not have (and still don't have) the luxury of being able to very carefully pick and choose who they went to war with. King David knew the Philistines well; he at times fought them, and at other times lived among them, as happened when David was pursued out of Judah by Saul (see below).

"There was none of the Anakims left in the land of the children of Israel: only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod, there remained"

Gath is first specifically mentioned in Bible History in the time of Joshua, when the Israelites had crossed the Jordan into their physical promised land.


"And at that time came Joshua, and cut off the Anakims from the mountains, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the mountains of Judah, and from all the mountains of Israel: Joshua destroyed them utterly with their cities. There was none of the Anakims left in the land of the children of Israel: only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod, there remained."

"So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that The Lord said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war." (Joshua 11:21-23 KJV)

In later years, when the Israelites had become corrupt, The Lord permitted their defeat in battle, and the capture of The Ark Of The Covenant by the Philistines, who, before long, were very eager to send The Ark back to Israel (see also Raiders Of The Lost Ark)

"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 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 about thither."

"And it was so, that, after they had carried it about, the hand of The Lord 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.

And it came to pass, as The Ark of God came to Ekron, that 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 again to his own place, that it slay us not, and our people: for there was a deadly destruction throughout all the city; the hand of God was very heavy there." (1 Samuel 5:7-11 KJV)

In the time that David was being pursued by Saul, David took refuge with the Philistines - despite the fact that David had been a deadly enemy of them. David resorted to a ruse that seemed to make the Philistines think that David was no longer dangerous to them.

"And David arose, and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. And the servants of Achish said unto him, Is not this David the king of the land? did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands?"

"And David laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath. And he changed his behaviour before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard."

"Then said Achish unto his servants, Lo, ye see the man is mad: wherefore then have ye brought him to me? Have I need of mad men, that ye have brought this fellow to play the mad man in my presence? shall this fellow come into my house? David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father's house heard it, they went down thither to him." (1 Samuel 21:10-22:1 KJV)

While still on the run from Saul, David, his immediate family, and many of those who had remained loyal to him, lived under the protection of the king of Gath and other Philistines for over a year.

"And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines; and Saul shall despair of me, to seek me any more in any coast of Israel: so shall I escape out of his hand."

"And David arose, and he passed over with the six hundred men that were with him unto Achish, the son of Maoch, king of Gath. And David dwelt with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, even David with his two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the Carmelitess, Nabal's wife. And it was told Saul that David was fled to Gath: and he sought no more again for him."

"And David said unto Achish, If I have now found grace in thine eyes, let them give me a place in some town in the country, that I may dwell there: for why should thy servant dwell in the royal city with thee?"

"Then Achish gave him Ziklag that day: wherefore Ziklag pertaineth unto the kings of Judah unto this day. And the time that David dwelt in the country of the Philistines was a full year and four months." (1 Samuel 27:1-7 KJV)

King David was nevertheless still a deadly force to anyone who was a threat to him.

"And David smote the land, and left neither man nor woman alive, and took away the sheep, and the oxen, and the asses, and the camels, and the apparel, and returned, and came to Achish."

"And Achish said, Whither have ye made a road to day? And David said, Against the south of Judah, and against the south of the Jerahmeelites, and against the south of the Kenites. And David saved neither man nor woman alive, to bring tidings to Gath, saying, Lest they should tell on us, saying, So did David, and so will be his manner all the while he dwelleth in the country of the Philistines." (1 Samuel 27:9-11 KJV)

Fact Finder: (a) What was the home city of the famous Philistine giant Goliath? (b) Were there other Philistine giants in Gath who were killed in battle by either David or others who were allied with him?
(a) 1 Samuel 17:4 (b) 2 Samuel 21:19-22

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