Yavneh appears in written sources in the Old Testament, where it is mentioned as a city named Jabne'el.
According to II Chronicles 26:6, King Uzziah conquered Yavneh in the 8th century BCE from the Philistines. But we lack written sources on Yavneh in this period and only relatively few pottery sherds attributed to the Iron I period were found (including Philistine pottery), to tell us much about the region of this time.
We also lack written sources about the history of Yavneh during most of the Persian period, but Yavneh is mentioned in the Book of Judith (3:1, Vulgate 2:28), which dates probably to the late 2nd century BCE, with some earlier, 4th century BCE sources. In the Hellenistic period, Yavneh was a city in Idumea and later in the Paralia region.
The city was used by the Seleucids as a base of operations against Judea. According to I Maccabees 5:55-62, Gorgias, the governor of the region was based in Yavneh, when he repulsed a Judean attack in 163 BCE. Under Antiochus VII, Cendebaeus was appointeed governor of the coast. He settled in Yavneh and began to harass Judea (I Maccabees 15:40; 16:4-10).
Yavneh was, 103 – 76 BCE, under rule of King Alexander Jannaeus and had at this time a Jewish population. Pompey made Yavneh an independent city under Gabinius, the Proconsul od Coele Syria.
Around 30 BCE Augustus gave the city to King Herod, Herod passed it on to his sister Salomes, who handet it to Augustus` wife Livia. The city was later passed to the hands of Tiberius.
Since the Roman period the port of Yavneh was recognised seperatly from the city.
Yavneh (Jamnia) is mentioned as a seat of the procurator Herennius Capito.
After the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE, Yavneh became a center of special significance for Jewish history. It became the seat of Sanhedrin and a center of Jewish thought and was the birthplace of rabbinical Judaism.
As a consequence of the second Jewish war of 130-135 CE, Yavneh lost its importance in favor of Lod, Bney and Galilee.
During the Byzantine period Yavneh became a center of Samaritan population.
Yavneh was a Christian city form the 4th century CE onwards, the names of six bishops of Yavneh are known.
In 634 CE the city was conquered by the Arabs. A Crusader castle called Ibelin was established at the city in 1142 CE by Fulco, King of Jerusalem.
The Ayyubis ruler Saladin occupied Yavneh in 1187 CE, and it is said, that Richard the Lion Heart spend a night in the ruins of the castle in 1191 CE.
Yavneh became part of the Gaze district during the Mamluk period. During the Ottoman period Yavneh was an Arab village still related to the district of Gaza, under the local area of Ramlah.
Western explorers of the 19th century CE described the village as a large one, composed mostly of mud huts, with few stone houses and ancient remains visible above ground. The British army conquered Yavneh on November 17, 1917. In early June 1948 Yavneh was conquered by Israeli forces. The large Mamluk period mosque survived until 1950, it was demolished on July 9, 1950 by the Israeli army.