A town of the Anakim (lit. "giants", Josh. 11:22). After its conquest by the Philistines, it became one of their five chief cities and they erected a temple dedicated to Dagon at Ashdod (Josh. 13.3; 15:46; I Sam. 5:1-7; Amos 2:8). Uzziah, King of Judah, breached the fortifications of the town and built in the area (II Chron. 26:6).
In 734 BCE the city capitulated to Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria and in 712 BCE Sargon crushed a rebellion led by Ashdod which then became the capital of an Assyrian province (cf. Isa. 20:1). The Egyptian pharaoh Psammetichus I conquered the city after a siege of 29 years (according to Herodotus, 2:157). Nehemiah fought against Ashdod's influence which extended as far as Jerusalem. (Neh. 4:1; 13:24).
The town continued to be a district capital in the Hellenistic period when it was known as Azotus and it served as a Greek stronghold down to the days of the Hasmoneans (I Macc. 5:68). Its suburbs were burnt by Jonathan (I Macc 10:84); 11:4) and the city was captured by John Hyrcanus (c. 165 BCE, Jos., Aut. 13:324). Ashdod then remained in Hasmonean hands until its conquest by Pompey (63 BCE). It was rebuilt by Gabinius (55 BCE) and later changed hands several times, eventually becoming the property of Herod, who gave to his sister Salome; she bequeathed it to Livia, the wife of Augustus Caesar, from whom it was inherited by the emperor Tiberius (ibid, 14:75, 88; 17:189; 18:31). From the time of the Hasmoneans until the second century CE, Ashdod appears to have been a Jewish town.
Encyclopaedia Judica, Jerusalem, 1971