Joppa, Down by the Sea

Jaffa is the modern name for Joppa, which was and still is a major sea-port on the Mediterranean. God gave the region to the tribe of Dan (Josh. 19:40–46).

The timbers from Lebanon used to build the first Temple and other construction projects in the days of King Solomon were floated down the Mediterranean in rafts to Joppa and then were transported to Jerusalem (2 Chr. 2:16).

Later, after the Jewish people returned from the Babylonian Captivity, Joppa was again the port of choice for bringing cedar logs from Lebanon to rebuild the Temple, according to permission the Jewish people had from King Cyrus of Persia (Ezra 3:7).

Joppa was home to Dorcas, also called Tabitha. After Dorcas died, the apostle Peter “knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, ‘Tabitha, arise.’ And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up” (Acts 9:40).

In the Old Testament, Joppa is identified with the prophet Jonah who fled to Tarshish from the port, going in the opposite direction of Nineveh, where God had commanded him to go (Jon. 1:1–3).

Ultimately, Jonah was swallowed by a great fish that spewed him out after three days. God then recommissioned him to go to Nineveh, and he obeyed, sparking a great revival there.

Today a bronze sculpture of a smiling whale by Ilana Goor, a native of Tiberias, Israel, reminds tourists of the biblical account of Jonah.

Jonah is the only book in the Hebrew Scriptures devoted to God commanding a Jewish prophet to go to Gentiles and preach repentance. Nineveh was the capital of the evil Assyrian Empire.

To Christians, Joppa is best known as the home of Simon the tanner, where the apostle Peter received a vision from the Lord. Peter, a Jew who kept kosher, saw a sheet lowered from heaven containing all types of non-kosher animals. God told him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat” (Acts 10:13). When Peter refused, God told him, “What God has cleansed you must not call common” (v. 15).

God was telling Peter the good news of salvation in Christ was not exclusively for the Jewish people; He was including the Gentiles also. The event led to Peter taking the gospel to the Gentiles via Cornelius, a Roman centurion who had been seeking the truth.

Perhaps Joppa could be considered a pivotal city in taking God’s message to the Gentiles. Jonah attempted to flee from there when told to go to the Gentile Assyrian Empire, and years later the Lord commissioned Peter there to go to the Gentiles of the Roman Empire.

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