One of the cities of the Decapolis—a federation of ten cities in eastern Palestine (Matthew 4:25, Mark 5:20, 7:31)—Abila appears in the works of several ancient writers such as Polybius, Pliny the Elder and the geographer Ptolemy. It is located about nine miles from Irbid, in northern Jordan.
Five seasons of survey and excavation have revealed evidence of human habitation during every period from the Neolithic (8300–4500 B.C.) onward. The site’s highlights include three churches—two of them large Byzantine (324–640 A.D.) basilicas—an extensive Roman-Byzantine cemetery and three long subterranean aqueducts. In 1990, archaeologists plan to continue excavating the basilicas, the cemetery and a Roman-period theater.
The site is open to visitors all year.
The Bible frequently mentions the Philistine port city of Ashkelon. Samson went there in a rage and killed 30 men Judges 14:19); David lamented, “Proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon,” when he learned of the death of Saul and Jonathan, slain by the Philistines at the Battle of Gilboa (2 Samuel 1:10); and the seventh-century B.C. prophet Zephaniah predicted that “Ashkelon shall become a desolation” (Zephaniah 2:4).