Ptolemais was a seaport city of Galilee, located about 8 miles / 13 kilometers north of Mount Carmel and 30 miles / 49 kilometers south of Tyre. In earlier times, as a Phoenician seaport, it was originally called Accho or Acco, but was known to the ancient Greeks (see Ancient Empires - Greece) and Romans (see Ancient Empires - Rome) by the name of Ptolemais, from Ptolemy the king of Egypt, who rebuilt it about 100 BC (see the The Ptolemies). During the crusades of the Middle Ages (see The Crusades) it was called Acra, and after it was occupied by the so-called Knights Hospitallers of Jerusalem, it was called St. Jean d'Acre, or simply Acre.
In The Old Testament
When the Israelites took possession of the Promised Land, Acco was assigned to the tribe of Asher (see Tribal Lands), but it was never fully acquired by them. The Canaanites who lived there provided labor to Israel, but remained a hostile entity within Israel's God-given national borders - a situation that, ever more tragically for themselves, modern Israelites, the people of Judah at least, are again experiencing today.
"When Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not utterly drive them out. And Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites who dwelt in Gezer; but the Canaanites dwelt in Gezer among them. Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, or the inhabitants of Nahalol; but the Canaanites dwelt among them, and became subject to forced labor. Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco, or the inhabitants of Sidon, or of Ahlab, or of Achzib, or of Helbah, or of Aphik, or of Rehob; but the Asherites dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land; for they did not drive them out." (Judges 1:28-32 RSV)
In The New Testament
In the New Testament, Ptolemais is mentioned as the port where the apostle Paul landed before making a very dangerous return to Jerusalem.
"And when we had parted from them and set sail, we came by a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. And having found a ship crossing to Phoenicia, we went aboard, and set sail. When we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left we sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload its cargo. And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days. Through the Spirit they told Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. And when our days there were ended, we departed and went on our journey; and they all, with wives and children, brought us on our way till we were outside the city; and kneeling down on the beach we prayed and bade one another farewell. Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home."
"When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais; and we greeted the brethren and stayed with them for one day. On the morrow we departed and came to Caesarea; and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. And he had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied."
"While we were staying for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us he took Paul's girdle and bound his own feet and hands, and said, "Thus says the Holy Spirit, 'So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this girdle and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'"
"When we heard this, we and the people there begged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, "The will of the Lord be done." After these days we made ready and went up to Jerusalem." (Acts 21:1-15 RSV)
Fact Finder: During Paul's three major missionary journeys, did he often use ships for travel through the region of the Mediterranean Sea?
See Paul's First Missionary Journey,
Paul's Second Missionary Journey and
Paul's Third Missionary Journey
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