Biblical Archeology Course 4, Lesson 4
The city of Ekron (Hebrew: עֶקְרוֹן ʿeqrōn, also transliterated Accaron) was one of the five cities of the famed Philistine ‘pentapolis,’ located in southwestern Canaan.
During the Iron Age, Ekron was a border city on the frontier contested between Philistia and the kingdom of Judah. Located at a site now known as Tel Mikne (or Tel Miqne), its identification with the Biblical city was possible due to its presence in the small Palestinian village of Akir, whose name is thought to be derived from the ancient name. Akir was among hundreds of villages destroyed and depopulated in the 1948 Israeli-Arab War).
Ekron lies 35 kilometers west of Jerusalem, and 18 kilometers north of Gath, on the western edge of the inner coastal plain. Excavations in 1981-1996 at the low square tel have made Ekron one of the best documented Philistine sites.
Ekron was a settlement of the indigenous Canaanites. The Canaanite city had shrunk in the years before its main public building burned in the thirteenth century BCE; it was refounded by Philistines at the beginning of the Iron Age, ca 1200s BCE.
Ekron is mentioned in the Book of Joshua 13:2-3:
“This is the land that still remains: all the regions of the Philistines and all those of the Geshurites from Shihor, which is east of Egypt, northward to the boundary of Ekron.”
Joshua 3:13 counts it the border city of the Philistines and seat of one of the five Philistine city lords, and Joshua 15:11 mentions Ekron’s satellite towns and villages. The city was reassigned afterwards to the tribe of Dan (Joshua 19:43), but came again into the full possession of the Philistines. It was the last place to which the Philistines carried the ark before they sent it back to Israel (1 Samuel 5:10; 6:1-8).
There was here a noted sanctuary of Baal. The Baal who was worshipped was called Baal Zebul, which some scholars connect with Beelzebub, known from the Hebrew Bible: (2 Kings 1:2):
Ahaziah fell through the lattice in his upper chamber at Samaria and was injured. So he sent messengers whom he instructed: “Go inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this injury.” (JPS translation)
Non-Hebrew sources also refer to Ekron. The siege of Ekron in 712 BCE is depicted on one of Sargon II’s wall reliefs in his palace at Khorsabad, which names the city. Ekron revolted against Sennacherib and expelled Padi, his governor, who was sent to Hezekiah, at Jerusalem, for safe-keeping. Sennacherib marched against Ekron and the Ekronites called upon the aid of the king of Mutsri. Sennacherib turned aside to defeat this army, which he did at Eltekeh, and then returned and took the city by storm, put to death the leaders of the revolt and carried their adherents into captivity. This campaign led to the famous attack of Sennacherib on Hezekiah and Jerusalem, in which Sennacherib compelled Hezekiah to restore Padi, who was reinstated as governor at Ekron.
Excavations in the temple complex at Tel Miqne in 1996 recovered a significant artifact for the corpus of Biblical archaeology, a dedicatory inscription of the seventh-century king of Ekron ‘Akish. The inscription not only securely identifies the site, it gives a brief king-list of rulers of Ekron, fathers to sons: Ya’ir, Ada, Yasid, Padi, ‘Akish.
Of more than local interest is the recipient of the inscription, ‘Akish’s divine “Lady. May she bless him, and guard him, and prolong his days, and bless his land.” The name or title of the Lady of Ekron is Ptgyh or Ptnyh. Aaron Demsky (Demsky 1997) reads the name asPtnyh and relates it to the title Potnia (“Mistress”) that was applied to the Great Goddess of the Aegean, in her various local manifestations, which include Mycenaean sites. A much earlier representation of the Lady of Ekron, perhaps thirteenth century BCE offers her left breast.
Ashdod and Ekron survived to become powerful city-states dominated by Assyria in the seventh century BCE. The city may have been destroyed by the Neo-Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzer II around 603 BCE, but it is mentioned, as “Accaron”, as late as 1 Maccabees 10:89. [GFDL Document and Copyright]