This won’t be a regular travelogue because of the subject matter – Gaza. In fact, we would probably recommend readers to plan on notvisiting Gaza when they go to Israel next. It is just too dangerous these days.
But with all the media attention the city has been receiving, there’s really no better time for Christians to be thinking about Gaza. Why? Because it’s in the Bible, and although we won’t try to make sense of it politically (that’s not our agenda after all), wouldn’t this be a great time to find out what the Bible has to say?
While Wikipidia claims Gaza was there back in the 15th century BC, the Bible names the city of Gaza as far back as Genesis, first book of the Bible, where it’s described as the city bordering the land of the Canaanites (Genenis 10:19).
We see it again in scripture when Joshua calls Gaza the home to the Philistines (Joshua 13:3). This is actually interesting to pay attention to, since that particular status wouldn’t last. Whether Joshua realized it or not himself, God had other plans for Gaza.
And several chapters further it was Joshua writing again – but this time he was writing a list of the cities God said He would give the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:47). But you know how it is. Sometimes when God gives you something, it can take a while before you receive it, which is what seems to have happened here.
Further into the Old Testament, we see Gaza referred to again when Samson had been captured by the Philistines and dragged there, after having his eyes gouged out. He was tied up to the columns in a Gaza temple to their god Damon, as entertainment for the Philistines making their sacrifices.
The Philistines might not have been so amused if they’d known how God would answer Samson’s prayers though! “…On the roof were about 3,000 men and women watching Samson perform. Then Samson prayed to the LORD, “O Sovereign LORD, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived. (Judges 16:27-30)
So in spite of a wasted life, Samson turned to God at the end and died a noble death.
But the Philistines still held Gaza and God knew it.
If you flip forward a few pages you find a shepherd boy being called up to battle. And in the perfect sequel to Samson’s last act, our boy David picks up a stone and kills the famous Philistine giant with just one shot (1Samuel 17:50).
But the Philistines still weren’t gone. Later, David attacked them again, this time killing 200 soldiers so he could take their foreskins to King Saul and receive the king’s daughter as his bride in exchange (1Samuel 18:27). Further on in the next scene, David was himself Israel’s king and God was moving him from one war campaign to the next. Until, at last, the grand finale when David did as the LORD commanded him, and struck down the Philistines from Geba to Gezer (2 Samuel 5:25).
So the Philistines who controlled Gaza in Samson’s day were finally dealt with when God sent first a shepherd, and then a shepherd-turned-king, to defeat them. And that’s the truth about how the Philistines lost control of Gaza.
Far too much history has happened in Gaza since then for us to even skim over and it hasn’t been easy to understand. We can only accept the fact that all through its time-line, this city has been conquered by one religion or world power after another.
And while we may not understand what’s going on now, we know the land of Israel held Gaza when Jesus lived there. And we know that until 2004, it was part of Israel again. Who can predict what will happen to it next?