>  Top Tour Destinations in the Shephela   >  Ekron (Tel Miqne) – The Philistine City that Rejected the Ark

Tel Miqne is a 50-acre archaeological site in the Shephelah region, about 25 miles southeast of Tel-Aviv. Excavations at the site proved Tel Miqne is the ancient city of Ekron, one of the five main cities of the Philistines Pentapolis in Biblical times.

Along with Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Gath, Ekron was one of the five main Philistines cities that mastered the southern coastal plain during the Iron Age. Before the Ark of the Covenant was returned to the Israelites, the Philistines placed in a field neat Ekron for seven months (1 Samuel 5). Later, after David slew Goliath, The Israelites chased the Philistines to the gates of Gath and Ekron (1 Samuel 17:52).

Ekron and the Ark of the Covenant

The Book of Samuel records the turbulent period of the 11th century BCE, when the Philistines pressured the Israelites. In one of the battles, the Israelites even lost the Ark of the Covenant, yet later, it inflicted a plaque among the Philistines. Eager to get rid of it, the Philistines in Ashdod sent the ark to the people of Gath. But it also inflicted a plague there, so the people of Gath sent it to the Ekronites. Hearing of its dreadful acts, the people of Ekron refused to let the Ark enter the city and placed it in a field near the town. Seven months later, they completed a carriage that would take it back to the Israelites at Beth Shemesh. Eventually Solomon placed in his temple in Jerusalem, yet its whereabouts remain a mystery.

Ekron and Baalzebub

Later, the city was associated with the worship of Baalzebub (“Baal of the Flies”). Ahaziyah, king of Israel, referred to its oracle when he got it ill, for which he was condemned by prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1).

Identifying and Excavating Ekron

Philistine-street-antropoid-coffinNathan Edlin, a member of the nearby Kibbutz Revadim, was the first to suggest locating Ekron at Tel Mikne (Arabic: Kirbet el-Muqanna’).

Between 1981 and 1996, a joint expedition of the Hebrew University and Albright Institute conducted excavations at the site. They uncovered a wealth of finds from the late Canaanite, Philistine, and Israelite Periods. Most significant was the discovery in 1996 of inscriptions proving the site is ancient Ekron.

The excavations indicated the site was first settled in the 13th century BCE by Canaanites, but from the 12th century BCE, the Philistines mastered it. In the 8th century BCE, the Assyrians turned Ekron into an international center for olive oil production, producing about 700 tons of olive oil annually. At that time, Ekron was the largest olive oil production center in the ancient Near East. But the city later declined, and in 604 BCE, Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Babylonians, conquered and destroyed the city. The site was never settled again; eventually, its location was forgotten.

During the British mandate period, there was a widespread (yet false) assumption that the Arab village of ‘Aqir was preserving the name and location of ancient Ekron, about 10 miles north of Tel Miqne. The British established an airfield next to ‘Aqir and named it Ekron (Today’s Tel Nof IAF base). To this day, a town nearby is called Qiryat Ekron.

Touring Ekron (Tel Miqne)

philistine street pottery

The site of Ekron / Tel Miqne is in the fields east of Kibbutz Revadim. Unfortunately, almost all of the archaeological discoveries made at the site are covered up. However, kibbutz Revadim displays replicas of some of the finds made at the site (The “Philistine Street”), providing a glimpse into this area’s rich history.

A tour of Ekron can be combined with a guided day tour in the Judean Foothills (the Shephelah).

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