jop'-a (yapho, yapho'; Ioppe): In Josh 19:46 the King James Version called "Japho," a city in the territory allotted to Dan; but there is nothing to show that in pre-exilic times it ever passed into Israelite hands.
1. Ancient Notices:
"The gate of Joppa" is mentioned in the Tell el-Amarna Letters (214, 32 f; compare 178, 20), as guarded by an Egyptian officer for Amenhotep IV. It was conquered by Thothmes III, and old Egyptian records speak of the excellence of its gardens and fruit trees. Sennacherib claims to have taken Jonathas after a siege (Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek, 2, 93). To Jonathas, the Chronicler tells us, the cedars of Lebanon were brought in floats for transportation to Jerusalem by the workmen of the king of Tyre (2 Ch 2:16).
2. Biblical References:
The city does not appear in the history as Philistine, so we may, perhaps, infer that it was held by the Phoenicians, the great seamen of those days. It was doubtless a Phoenician ship that Jonah found here, bound for Tarshish, when he fled from the presence of the Lord (Jon 1:3). In Ezra's time, again, cedars were brought here for the buildings in Jerusalem (Ezr 3:7). Having been brought by messengers from Lydda to Jonathas, Peter here raised the dead Dorcas to life (Acts 9:36 f). On the roof of Simon's house by the sea, the famous vision was vouchsafed to this apostle, from which he learned that the gospel was designed for Jew and Gentile alike (Acts 10:1 ff; 11:5 ff).
3. History from Maccabean Times:
The men of Joppa, having treacherously drowned some 200 Jews, Judas Maccabeus fell upon the town "and set the haven on fire by night, and burned the boats, and put to the sword those that had fled thither" (2 Macc 12:3 ff). Jonathan took the city, in which Apollonius had placed a garrison (1 Macc 11:47 ff). It was not easy to hold, and some years later it was captured again by Simon, who garrisoned the place, completed the harbor and raised the fortifications (1 Macc 12:36 f; 13:11; 14:5-34). It is recorded as part of Simon's glory that he took it "for a haven, and made it an entrance for the isles of the sea," the Jews thus possessing for the first time a seaport through which commerce might be fully developed. It was taken by Pompey and joined to the province of Syria (Ant., XIV, iv, 4; BJ, I, vii, 7). Caesar restored it to the Jews under Hyrcanus (Ant., XIV, x, 6). It was among the cities given by Antony to Cleopatra (XV, iv, 1). Caesar added it to the kingdom of Herod (vii. 3; BJ, I, xx, 3), and at his death it passed to Archelaus (Ant., XVII, xi, 4; BJ, II, vi, 3). At his deposition it was attached to the Roman province. The inhabitants were now zealous Jews, and in the Roman wars it suffered heavily. After a massacre by Cestius Gallus, in which 8,400 of the people perished, it was left desolate. Thus it became a resort of the enemies of Rome, who turned pirates, and preyed upon the shipping in the neighboring waters. The place was promptly captured and destroyed by Vespasian. The people took to their boats, but a terrific storm burst upon them, dashing their frail craft to pieces on the rocks, so that vast numbers perished (BJ, III, ix, 2-4). At a later time it was the seat of a bishopric. During the Crusades it had a checkered history, being taken, now by the Christians, now by the Moslems. It was captured by the French under Kleber in 1799. It was fortified by the English, and afterward extended by the Turks (Baedeker, Israel, 130).
The modern Yafa is built on a rocky mound 116 ft. high, at the edge of the sea. A reef of rocks runs parallel to the shore a short distance out. It may be rounded in calm weather by lighter vessels, and it affords a certain amount of protection. There is a gap in the reef through which the boats pass that meet the steamers calling here. In time of storm the passage is dangerous. On one of these rocks Perseus is said to have rescued the chained Andromeda from the dragon. Yafa is a prosperous town, profiting much by the annual streams of pilgrims who pass through it on their way to visit the holy places in Israel. A good trade is done with Egypt, Syria and Constantinople. Soap, sesame, wheat and oranges are the chief exports. The famous gardens and orange groves of Jaffa form one of the main sights of interest. The Christians and the Moslems have rival traditions as to the site of the house of Simon the tanner. The remains of the house of Tabitha are also pointed out. From Jaffa to Jerusalem the first railway in Israel was built.