They carried away captive - Gaza is well known to have been one of the five lordships of the Philistines; it lay on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, near to Egypt. Erkon, Ashdod, and Askelon, were other signories of the same people, which are here equally threatened with Gaza. The captivity mentioned here may refer to inroads and incursions made by the Philistines in times of peace. See 2 Chronicles 21:16. The margin reads, an entire captivity. They took all away; none of them afterwards returned.
Gaza - Was the southernmost city of the Philistines, as it was indeed of Canaan Genesis 10:19 of old, the last inhabited place at the beginning of the desert, on the way from Phoenicia to Egypt. Its situation was wonderfully chosen, so that, often as a Gaza has been destroyed, a new city has, if even after long intervals, risen up again in the same immediate neighborhood. The fragments of the earlier city became materials for the later. It was first Canaanite Genesis 10:19; then Philistine; then, at least after Alexander, Edomite; after Alexander Janneus, Greek; conquered by Abubekr the first Khalif, it became Arabian; it was desolated in their civil wars, until the Crusaders rebuilt its fort; then again, Muslim. In the earliest times, before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Gaza was the south angle of the border of the Canaanites, from where it turned to the south of the Dead Sea. Even then it was known by its name of strength, ‹Azzah “the strong,” like our “Fort.”
For a time, it stood as an island-fort, while the gigantic race of the Avvim wandered, wilder probably than the modern Bedaween, up to its very gates. For since it is said, “the Avvim dwelt in open villages as far as Gaza” Deuteronomy 2:23; plainly they did not dwell in Gaza itself, a fortified town. The description assigns the bound of their habitations, up to the furthest town on the southeast, Gaza. They prowled around it, infested it doubtless, but did not conquer it, and were themselves expelled by the Caphtorim. The fortress of the prince of Gaza is mentioned in the great expedition of Tothmosis III, as the conquest of Ashkelon was counted worthy of mention in the monuments of Raamses II. It was strengthened doubtless by giving refuge to the Anakim, who, after Joshua had expelled them “from Hebron” and neighboring cities, “and the mountains of Judah and Israel, remained in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod” Joshua 11:21-23.
Its situation, as the first station for land-commerce to and from Egypt, whether toward Tyre and Sidon, or Damascus and the upper Euphrates, or toward Petra, probably aggrandized it early. Even when the tide of commerce has been diverted into other channels, its situation has been a source of great profit. A fertile spot, touching upon a track through a desert, it became a mart for caravans, even those which passed, on the pilgrim-route to Mekka, uniting traffic with their religion. Where the five cities are named together as unconquered, Gaza is mentioned first, then Ashdod Joshua 13:3. Samson, after he had betrayed his strength, was “brought down to Gaza” Judges 16:21, probably as being their strongest fortress, although the furthest from “the valley of Sorek,” where he was ensnared.
There too was the vast temple of Dagon, which became the burying-place of so many of his worshipers. In Solomon‘s reign it was subject to Israel 1 Kings 4:21. After the Philistine inroad in the time of Ahaz 2 Chronicles 28:18, and their capture of towns of Judah in the south and the low country, Shephelah, Hezekiah drove them back as far as Gaza 2 Kings 18:8, without apparently taking it. Its prince was defeated by Sargon, whose victory over Philistia Isaiah foretold Isaiah 14:29. Sennacherib gave to its king, together with those of Ascalon and Ekron, “fortified and other towns which” he “had spoiled,” avowedly to weaken Judah; “so as to make his (Hezekiah‘s) country small;” probably also as a reward for hostility to Judah. Greek authors spcak of it, as “a very large city of Syria”, “a great city”. Like other cities of old, it was, for fear of pirates, built at some distance from the sea (Arrian says “2 12 miles”), but had a port called, like that of Asealea, Maiuma, which itself too in Christian times became a place of importance.
Because they carried away the whole captivity - Literally, “a complete captivity;” complete, but for evil; a captivity in which none were spared, none left behind; old or young, woman or child; but a whole population (whatever its extent) was swept away. Such an inroad of the Philistines is related in the time of Jehoram 2 Chronicles 21:16.
To deliver them up to Edom - Literally, “to shut them up to Edom,” in the power of Edom, their bitter enemy, so that they should not be able to escape, nor be restored. The hands, even if not the land, of Edom were already dyed in the blood of Jacob “their brother” Joel 3:19. “Any whither but there,” probably would cry the crowd of helpless captives. It was like driving the shrinking flock of sheep to the butcher‘s shambles, reeking with the gore of their companions. Yet therefore were they driven there to the slaughter. Open markets there were for Jewish slaves in abundance. “Sell us, only not to slaughter.” “Spare the greyheaded;” “spare my child,” would go up in the ears of those, who, though enemies, understood their speech. But no! Such was the compact of Tyre and Philistia and Edom against the people of God. Not one was to be spared; it was to be “a complete captivity;” and that, to Edom. The bond was fulfilled. “Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he too shall cry and shall not be heard” Proverbs 21:13. Joel mentions the like sin of the Philistines and Phoenicians, and foretold its punishment Joel 3:4-6. That in the reign of Jehoram is the last which Scripture mentions, but was not therefore, of necessity or probably, the last. Holy Scripture probably relates only the more notable of those border-raids. Unrepented sin is commonly renewed. Those strong Philistine fortresses must have given frequent, abundant opportunity for such inroads; as now too it is said in Arabia, “the harvest is to the stronger;” and while small protected patches of soil in Lebanon, Hauran, etc. are cultivated, the open fertile country often lies uncultivated, since it would be cultivated only for the marauder. Amos renews the sentence of Joel, forewarning them that, though it seemed to tarry, it would come.