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Joppa in the Cyclopedia of Biblical -- Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
Joppa (Hebrew Yapho יָפוֹ in Joshua 19:46; 2 Chronicles 2:16; Jonah 1:3 or יָפוֹא in Ezra 3:7; meaning beauty; Septuagint -- New Testament and Josephus Ι᾿όππη; other Greek writers Ι᾿ώππη Ι᾿ώπη or Ι᾿όπη; Vulgate Joppe; Authorized Version "Japho" except in Jonah; usually "Joppe" in the Apocrypha) --- a town on the southwest coast of Palestine, the port of Jerusalem in the days of Solomon, as it has been ever since ...1. Legends - The etymology of the name is variously explained; Rabbinical writers deriving it from Japhet but classical geographers from Iopa (Ι᾿όπη), daughter of Aeolus and wife of Cepheus, Andromeda's father, its reputed founder; others interpreting it "the watchtower of joy" and so forth (Reland in Palaestina Page 864). The fact is that from its being a seaport it had a profane as well as a sacred history. Pliny, following Pomponius Mela (De situ Orbis 1.12), says that it was of antediluvian antiquity (Naturalis Historia 5.14); and even Sir John Maundeville in the 14th century bears witness - though it must be confessed a clumsy one - to that tradition (Early Travels in Palestine Page 142). According to Josephus it originally belonged to the Phoenicians (Antiquities 13.15.4). Here, writes Strabo, some say Andromeda was exposed to the whale (Geographica 16.759) and he appeals to its elevated position in behalf of those who laid the scene there. However in Pliny's age - and Josephus had just before affirmed the same - they still showed the chains by which Andromeda was bound. Reland would trace the adventures of Jonah in this legendary guise (SEE JONAH) but it is far more probable that it symbolizes the first interchange of commerce between the Greeks -- personified in their errant hero Perseus -- and the Phoenicians, whose lovely but till then unexplored clime may be shadowed forth in the fair virgin Andromeda.
2 History - We find that Japho or Joppa was situated in the portion of Dan (Joshua 19:46) on the coast towards the south and on a hill so high says Strabo that people affirmed (but incorrectly) that Jerusalem was visible from its summit. Having a harbor attached to it -- though always as still a dangerous one -- it became the port of Jerusalem when Jerusalem became metropolis of the kingdom of the house of David; and certainly never did port and metropolis more strikingly resemble each other in difficulty of approach both by sea and land. Hence, except in journeys to and from Jerusalem, it was not much used. Accordingly, after the above incidental notice, the place is not mentioned till the times of Solomon when, as being almost the only available seaport, Joppa was the place fixed upon for the cedar and pine wood from Mount Lebanon to be landed by the servants of Hiram, king of Tyre, thence to be conveyed to Jerusalem by the servants of Solomon for the erection of the first "house of habitation" ever made with hands for the invisible Jehovah. It was by way of Joppa similarly that like materials were conveyed from the same locality by permission of Cyrus for the rebuilding of the second Temple under Zerubbabel (1 Kings 5:9; 2 Chronicles 2:16; Ezra 3:7). Here Jonah, whenever and wherever he may have lived (2 Kings 14:25 certainly does not clear up the first of these points) "took ship to flee from the presence of his Maker" (Jonah 1:3) and accomplished that singular history which our Lord has appropriated as a type of one of the principal scenes in the great drama of his own (Matthew 12:40).
After the close of Old Testament history Joppa rose in importance. The sea was then beginning to be the highway of nations. Greece -- Egypt -- Persia and some of the little kingdoms of Asia Minor had their fleets for commerce and war. Until the construction of Caesarea by Herod, Joppa was the only port in Palestine proper at which foreign ships could touch; it was thus not only the shipping capital but the key of the whole country on the seaboard. During the wars of the Maccabees it was one of the principal strongholds of Palestine (1 Maccabees 10:75; 14:5 and 34; Josephus Antiquities 13.15.1). It would seem that Jews then constituted only a minority of the population and the foreign residents - Greeks -- Egyptians and Syrians - were so rich and powerful and so aided by the fleets of their own nations as to be able to rule the city. During this period therefore Joppa experienced many vicissitudes. It had sided with Apollonius (an officer of Antioches Epiphanes and governor of Samaria) and was attacked and captured by Jonathan Maccabaeus (1 Maccabees 10:76). It witnessed the meeting between the latter and Ptolemy (ibid 11:6). Simon Thassi (fourth leader of the Judean revolt against the Greco-Syrian empire 162 BC) had his suspicions of its inhabitants and set a garrison there (ibid 12:34) which he afterwards strengthened considerably (ibid 13:11). But when peace was restored he reestablished it once more as a haven (ibid 14:5). He likewise rebuilt the fortifications (ibid 5:34). This occupation of Joppa was one of the grounds of complaint urged by Antiochus, son of Demetrius, against Simon Thassi; but the latter alleged in excuse the mischief which had been done by its inhabitants to his fellow citizens (ibid 15:30 and 35). It would appear that Judas Maccabaeus had burned their haven some time back for a gross act of barbarity (2 Maccabees 12:6). Tribute was subsequently exacted for its possession from John Hyrcanus by Antiochus Sidetes (ruler of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire). By Pompey it was once more made independent and comprehended under Syria (Josephus Antiquities 14.4.4); but by Caesar it was not only
restored to the Jews but its revenues - whether from land or from export duties - were bestowed upon the 2nd Hyrcanus and his heirs (14.10.6). When Herod the Great commenced operations it was seized by him lest he should leave a hostile stronghold in his rear when he marched upon Jerusalem (14.15.1) and Augustus confirmed him in its possession (15.7.4). It was afterwards assigned to Archelaus when constituted ethnarch (17.11.4) and passed with Syria under Cyrenius (Publius Sulpicius Quirinius) when Archelaus had been deposed (17.12.5). Under Cestius (i.e. Gessius Florus) it was destroyed amidst great slaughter of its inhabitants (Wars of the Jews 2.507); and such a nest of pirates had it become when Vespasian arrived in those parts that it underwent a second and entire destruction together with the adjacent villages at his hands (3.9.3). Thus it appears that this port had already begun to be the den of robbers and outcasts which it was in Strabo's time (Geographica 16.759) while the district around it was so populous that from Jamnia, a neighboring town and its vicinity, 40,000 armed men could be collected (ibid). There was a vast plain around it as we learn from Josephus (Antiquities 13.91); it lay between Jamnia and Caesarea - the latter of which might be reached "on the morrow" from it (Acts 10:9,24) - not far from Lydda (Acts 9:38) and distant from Antipatris 150 stadia (Antiquities 13.387).
It was at Joppa on the house top of Simon the tanner "by the seaside" - with the view therefore circumscribed on the east by the high ground on which the town stood but commanding a boundless prospect over the western waters - that the apostle Peter had his "vision of tolerance" as it has been happily designated and went forth like a second Perseus to emancipate from still worse thralldom the virgin daughter of the west. The Christian poet Arator has not failed to discover a mystical connection between the raising to life of the aged Tabitha - the occasion of Peter's visit to Joppa - and the baptism of the first Gentile household.
In the 4th century Eusebius calls Joppa a city; and it was then made the seat of a bishopric, an honor which it retained till the conquest of the country by the Saracens; the subscriptions of its prelates are preserved in the acts of various synods of the 5th and 6th centuries. Joppa has been the landing place of pilgrims going to Jerusalem for more than a thousand years from Arculf in the 7th century to his royal highness the prince of Wales in the 19th; and it is mentioned in almost all the itineraries and books of travel in the Holy Land which have appeared in different languages (Early Travels in Palestine Pages 10 -- 34 -- 142 -- 286). None of the early travelers however give any explicit description of the place. During the Crusades Joppa was several times taken and retaken by Franks and Saracens. It had been taken possession of by the forces of Godfrey de Bouillon previous to the capture of Jerusalem [whereupon he became the first Crusader Defender of the Holy Sepulchre]. The town had been deserted and had fallen into ruin, the Crusaders contenting themselves with possession of the citadel ... Saladin in A.D. 1188 destroyed its fortifications; but Richard of England, who was confined here by sickness, rebuilt them. Its last occupation by Christians was that of St. Louis (A.D. 1253) and when he came it was still a city and governed by a count. "Of the immense sums" says Joinville, "which it cost the king to enclose Jaffa it does not become me to speak for they were countless. He enclosed the town from one side of the sea to the other; and there were twenty-
four towers including small and great. The ditches were well scoured and kept clean, both within and without. There were three gates" (Chronicles of Crusades Pages 276-7). So restored it fell into the hands of the sultans of Egypt together with the rest of Palestine, by whom it was once more laid in ruins; so much so that Bertrand de la Brocquiere, visiting it about the middle of the 15th century, states that it then consisted only of a few tents covered with reeds, having been a strong place under the Christians. Guides, accredited by the sultan, here met the pilgrims and received the customary tribute from them; and here the papal indulgences offered to pilgrims commenced (Page 286 in Early travels in Palestine). Finally, Jaffa fell under the Turks, in whose hands it still is, exhibiting the usual decrepitude of the cities possessed by them and depending on Christian commerce for its feeble existence. During the period of their rule it has been three times sacked - by the Arabs in 1722, by the Mamelukes in 1775 and lastly by Napoleon I in 1799 when a body of 4000 Albanians, who held a strong position in the town, surrendered on promise of having their lives spared. Yet the whole 4000 were afterwards pinioned and shot on the strand! When Napoleon was compelled to retreat to Egypt, between 400 and 500 French soldiers lay ill of the plague in the hospitals of Joppa. They could not be removed and Napoleon ordered them to be poisoned! (Page 288 in A handbook for travellers in Syria and Palestine).
3. Description - Yafa is the modern name of Joppa and is identical with the old Hebrew Japho. It contains about 5000 inhabitants of whom 1000 are Christians; about 150 Jews and the rest Moslems. It is beautifully situated on a little rounded hill dipping on the west into the waves of the Mediterranean and on the land side encompassed by orchards of orange -- lemon -- apricot and other trees which for luxuriance and beauty are not surpassed in the world. They extend for several miles across the great plain. Like most Oriental towns however it looks best in the distance. The houses are huddled together without order; the streets are narrow, crooked and filthy; the town is so crowded along the steep sides of the hill that the rickety dwellings in the upper part seem to be toppling over onto the flat roofs of those below. The most prominent features of the architecture from without are the flattened domes by which most of the buildings are surmounted and the appearance of arched vaults. But the aspect of the whole is mean and gloomy and the inside of the place has all the appearance of a poor though large village. From the steepness of the site many of the streets are connected by flights of steps and the one that runs along the seawall is the most clean and regular of the whole. There are three mosques in Joppa and Latin -- Greek and Armenian convents. The former is that in which European pilgrims and travelers usually lodge. The bazaars are worth a visit. The chief manufacture is soap. It has no port and it is only under favorable circumstances of wind and weather that vessels can ride at anchor a mile or so from the shore. There is a place on the shore which is called "the harbor". It consists of a strip of water from fifteen to twenty yards wide and two or three deep and is enclosed on the sea side by a ridge of low and partially sunken rocks. It may afford a little shelter to boats but it is worse than useless so far as commerce is concerned. The town is defended by a wall on which a few old guns are mounted. With the exception of a few broken columns scattered about the streets and through the gardens on the southern slope of the hill, and the large stones in the foundations of the castle, Joppa has no remains of antiquity; and none of its modern buildings, not even the reputed "house of Simon the tanner", which the monks show, are worthy of note, although the locality of the last is not badly chosen (Pages 263 and 274 in Sinai and Palestine by Arthur Stanley; and see Pages 86 and 185 in Memoir and letters of the late Thomas Seddon). The town has still a considerable trade as the port of Jerusalem. The oranges of Jaffa are the finest in all
Palestine and Syria; its pomegranates and watermelons are likewise in high repute and its gardens and orange and citron groves deliciously fragrant and fertile. But among its population are fugitives and vagabonds from all countries; and Europeans have little security, whether of life or property, to induce a permanent abode there. A British consul is now resident in the place and a railroad has been projected to Jerusalem.