Joppa, one of the oldest cities in the world, is mentioned several times in both Old and New Testaments. Joppa is known today as Jaffa and was most likely part of the land allotment given to the tribe of Dan, although it doesn’t seem the Danites ever took possession of it (Joshua 19:40–48). Located between 30 and 40 miles northwest of Jerusalem, Joppa perches on a high cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and served as the primary port city for Jerusalem. Its low ledge of rocks hangs out over the sea and forms a small harbor.
It was through Joppa that the timber for Solomon’s temple arrived from the forests of Lebanon (2 Chronicles 2:8–9, 16). Joppa was also the port through which timber came for the rebuilding of God’s temple, authorized by King Cyrus of Persia and overseen by Ezra and Zerubbabel (see Ezra 3:7). The cedar trees were harvested in Lebanon and the trunks lashed together in large rafts that were then floated south to the port of Joppa.
Joppa is the city to which Jonah fled after the Lord told him to go to Nineveh (Jonah 1:1–3). He went to Joppa, a harbor city, where he knew he could find a ship sailing in the opposite direction. In Joppa, Jonah boarded a ship to Tarshish, but the Lord had other plans for him and eventually got him to Nineveh where he belonged.
In the New Testament, Joppa is notable as the home of Simon the tanner. Simon the tanner housed Peter while Peter ministered to believers in Joppa (Acts 9:32–43). Most likely, Simon the tanner chose to work in the seaport of Joppa to more easily receive the pelts coming in and to ship the finished product out. His house was “by the sea” (Acts 10:6), probably at some distance from the rest of the community, to allow the offensive smells related to his work to dissipate. It was on Simon’s rooftop that Peter had his vision of unclean animals being lowered from the sky in something like a sheet. Joppa was also the home of Tabitha, also called Dorcas, whom Peter raised from the dead (Acts 9:36–43). When the Roman centurion Cornelius sent a delegation to find Peter, they found him in Joppa.