DISCUSSION

The Sea-coast

92. Geth, now Gitta, one of the five satrapies - (Ras Abu Hamid ?)


The best known Gath is "Gath of the Philistines." It was originally inhabited by Anakim ("giants"; Josh. 11:22; I Chron. 20:6, 8; II Sam. 21:20, 22) and later by one of the five Philistine lords (Josh. 13:3; etc.). It was one of the cities to which the Ark was brought after its capture (I Sam. 5:8). The Philistines fled from Gath after the defeat of Goliath (ibid. 17:52). Persecuted by Saul, David escaped to take refuge with Achish king of Gath (ibid. 21:11) from whom he received Ziklag in the Negev, a fact which indicates the extent of the territory ruled by Gath in the south. When Israel again became strong and united under David, Gath is mentioned in connection with his victory over the Philistines (I Chron. 8:13); the parallel account in II Samuel 8:1, however, contains the enigmatic "Metheg-Ammah" instead of Gath. The people of Gath were subdued and Ittai the Gittite became one of the captains of David's guard and remained faithful to him when Absalom rebelled (II Sam. 15:19-22; 18:2). A descendant of Achish, however, continued to rule Gath at the beginning of Solomon's reign (I Kings 2:39ff.); thus the Gath fortified by Rehoboam cannot be Gath of the Philistines and is possibly Moresheth-Gath, as proposed by Y. Aharoni. In his campaign of c. 815-814 B.C.E., Hazael of Aram-Damascus advanced as far as Gath (II Kings 12:18); his destruction of the city may be that alluded to by Amos (6:2). Gath was conquered by Uzziah, king of Judah (II Chron. 26:6) and Sargon mentions the capture of Gath (Ginti) during his campaign against Ashdod in 711 B.C.E. It is doubtful, however, whether these two references are to Gath of the Philistines or to the more northern Gat-Gittaim. In later times Eusebius mentions a village called Gath, five Roman miles from Eleutheropolis on the road to Diospolis-Lydda (Onom. 68:4ff.); it is also mentioned by Jerome (Epistulae 108:14).
The identification of Gath is a much debated problem. Albright proposed to locate it at Tell al-Urayna, west of Bet Guvrin (Eleutheropolis) but six seasons of excavations by S. Yeivin have shown that most of the site contained no Iron Age (Philistine) remains. Only on the upper mound were remains from that period found, but its small size (3-4 acres) precludes an identification with Gath. A subsequent proposal to identify Gath with Tell al-Najila has also been disproved so far by excavations; in two seasons of excavations a large Middle Bronze Age city was found but almost no Iron Age remains. The current proposal returns to its old identification with Tell al-Safi (as suggested by Elliger, Galling, and later, Aharoni). This large mound, excavated in 1899/1900, has produced large quantities of Philistine pottery.

Michael Avi-Yonah, Encyclopaedia Judaica, ad v. "Gath"

Herbert Donner (The Mosaic Map of Madaba, Kampen 1992, 56)
The biblical city of Gat, now Tall as-Safi about 18 km east-southeast of Ashdod, is obviously meant here. Its location however, is wrong, for it is represented north of Ashdod.The mosaicist followed Eus.On,72:2-4 where an other Geth is mentioned, also called Gitthaim, identical with Ras Abu Hamid, he ignore the better location in Eus.On.68:4-7. The "five satrapies" are the Philistine city territories often mentioned in the Bible: Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gat.

Michael Avi-Yonah (The Madaba Mosaic Map, Jerusalem 1954, 63)
The name and localization (between Antipatris and Iamnia) are derived from On. 72, 2, but the identification with one of the Philistine cities has been added in disregard of the better identification ib. 68, 4. The Jewish tradition which located Gath at er-Ramleh has some foundation in archaeological facts, Ras Abu Hamid in the vicinity having been identified as Gittaim of Eusebius (B. Maisler in Sefer Assaf. Jerusalem, 1954, pp. 351-356 (Hebrew); id., Israel Expl. Journal, 4, 1954 (Reifenberg Memorial Number), pp.227ff.), which might be represented here. The additional phrase is taken verbally from Eusebius' description of Ekron (On., 22, 16), Ashdod (ib., 22,11) and Ascalon (ib., 22,15).

Leah Di Segni ("The Onomastikon of Eusebius and the Madaba Map", in The Madaba Map Centenary, Jerusalem 1999, 117-118)
A last divergence from Eusebius in the same area: Geth he nun Gitta, 'one of the five satrapies (of the Philistines)' is located in the map at the site of Gitthaim, described by Eusebius as 'a large village between Antipatris and Azotus' which represented ancient Gettha 'where the Ark of God was brought around from Ashdod' (I Sam. 5:8). This presumes an independent unification of the two Gath of the Philistines in the map, against Eusebius' distinction of two different cities, and contrary to his statement that at his time Gath, one of the five city-states, was a village, 5 miles from Eleutheropolis in the direction of Diospolis. (See also the complete article)

For more sources and bibliography see:
Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea - Palaestina (Jerusalem 1994) s.v. "Gitthaim", 136.

Map Section 7 Place Sources

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