Now annexed as a part of Tel Aviv in Israel, Joppa was an ancient walled town located on Palestine’s coast. It was situated northwest of Jerusalem, approximately 35 northwest of the capital city. When Israel conquered the promised land and territories were assigned to the Israelite tribes, Joppa was allocated to Dan (see Josh. 19:40-46). However, the city never was securely taken by the Hebrews. Philistines were in control of Joppa for a time, then David overtook it. Under Solomon, it became a major port for Jerusalem. The city was a strategic point of entry for cedar logs that were used in the construction of Solomon’s temple. Hiram, king of Tyre, wrote a letter to King Solomon that said in part, “We will cut logs from Lebanon, as many as you need, and bring them to you as rafts by sea to Joppa. You can then take them up to Jerusalem” (2 Chorn. 2:16).
By the time of Jonah (approximately 800 BC), Joppa was under Phoenician control. You may remember that after Jonah received instructions from the Lord to go to Nineveh and to preach to its people, Jonah attempted to run from God: He “got up to flee to Tarshish from the LORD’s presence. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. He paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish, from the LORD’s presence” (Jonah 1:3). No one can escape from God’s presence, however, for God is everywhere—including Tarshish, and Joppa as well. Jonah would learn that God was even in Nineveh!
In the New Testament, we read that Joppa was home to Dorcas, a follower of Christ who had a wonderful reputation for performing charitable actions. Dorcas died, and the believers there called for Simon Peter, who was in nearby Lydda, to come and help in any way he could. Peter did come, and God used him to raise Dorcas, also called Tabitha, back to life (see Acts 9:36-42).
Peter could be found in Joppa “on many days” (v. 43). He stayed with Simon, a tanner. A tanner was a craftsman whose work involved preparing and preserving animal skins for people’s practical use. It was in Simon’s house that Peter received a vision from God that eventually led him to conclude that God had indeed sent His Son Jesus to redeem not just Jews, but Gentiles as well (see vv. 9-48).