David and Goliath
David and Goliath. Goliath was a Philistine giant.wikimedia.org

A celebrated people, who inhabited the southern seacoast of Canaan, which from them took the name of Philistia, Psalm 60:8, 108:9 ,or Palestine. They seem originally to have migrated form Egypt to Caphtor, by which some understand Crete, and others with the ancients Cappadocia, Genesis 10:14, and thence to have passed over to Palestine under the name of Caphtorim, where they drove out the Avim, who dwelt from Hazerim to Azzah, that is, Gaza, and swelt in their stead, Deuteronomy 2:23. The country they inhabited lay between the higher land of Judea and the Mediterranean, and was in the main a level and fertile territory.

1. Race and Origin

The Philistines were an uncircumcised people inhabiting the shore plain between Gezer and Gaza in Southwestern Palestine. The name Palestine itself (Hebrew pelesheth ) refers to their country. The word means “migrants,” and they came from another country. They are noticed 286 times in the Old Testament, and their country 8 times.

The question of their race and origin is of great importance as affecting the genuine character and reliability of the Bible notices. In Genesis 10:141 Chronicles 1:12 ) they are reckoned with other tribes in Mizraim (Egypt) as descendants of Ham, and as cousins of the old inhabitants of Babylonia ( Genesis 10:6 ). They are said to be a branch of the Casluhim – an unknown people – or, according to Septuagint, of the Casmanim, which would mean “shavers of the head” – a custom of the Phoenicians (forbidden to Hebrews as a rule), as known from a picture of the time of Thothmes Iii in the 16th century BC. They are also connected with the Caphtorim or people of Caphtor, whence indeed they are said to have come ( Jeremiah 47:4;  Amos 9:7 ). Caphtor was a “shoreland,” but its position is doubtful (see  Deuteronomy 2:23 ); the Caphtorim found an earlier race of Avim living in “enclosures” near Gaza, and destroyed them. In the Septuagint of this passage (and in  Amos 9:7 ) Cappadocia stands for Caphtor (Kaphtor), and other versions have the same reading. Cappadocia was known to the Assyrians as kat-pat-uka (probably an Akkadian term – “land of the Kati”), and the Kati were a people living in Cilicia and Cappadocia, which region had a Semitic population side by side with Mengels (see Hittites ) at least as early as the time of Moses. It is very likely therefore that this reading is correct.

2. Religion

According to the Old Testament and monuments alike, the Philistines were a Semitic people, and they worshipped two Babylonian gods, Dagon ( 1 Samuel 5:2 ) and Ashtaroth ( 1 Samuel 31:10 ), both of whom were adored very early in Babylonia, both, however, having names of Akkadian and not of Semitic origin. In Semitic speech Dagon meant “grain,” and was so understood in the time of Philo of Gebal, a Greek-Phoenician writer who attributes the art of grain-growing to this deity. But the original name was Da – gān , and in Akkadian da is “the upper part of a man,” and gān (Turkish ḳaan ) probably means “a large fish.” The new man deity was well known to the Assyrians, and is represented in connection with Sennacherib’s worship of Ea, the sea-god, when he embarked on the Persian Gulf. Thus Dagon was probably a title of Ea (“the water spirit”), called by Berosus Oannes ( – ḥa – na , “lord of the fish”), and said to have issued from this same gulf. We consequently read that when the statue of Dagon at Ashdod fell ( 1 Samuel 5:4 ), its head and hands were broken off, and only “the great fish” was left. In 1874 the present writer found a seal near Ashdod representing a bearded god (as in Babylonia) with a fish tail (see Dagon ). As to Ashtoreth, who was adored in Philistia itself, her name is derived from the Akkadian Ishtar (“light maker”), a name for the moon-goddess and – later – for the planet Venus.

3. Individual Philistines Mentioned

The Philistines had reached Gerar by the time of Abraham, and it was only in the age of the Hyksos rulers of the Delta that Canaanite tribes could be described as akin, not only to Babylonians, but also to certain tribes in Egypt, a circumstance which favors the antiquity of the ethnic chapter, Genesis 10.

We have 9 Philistine names in the Old Testament, all of which seem to be Semitic, including Abimelech – “Moloch is my father” – ( Genesis 20:2-18;  Genesis 21:22-32;  Genesis 26:8-11 ) at Gerar, Southeasat of Gaza, Ahuzzath (“possession,”  Genesis 26:26 ), and Phicol (of doubtful meaning), with Delilah (“delicate,”  Judges 16:4 ), Goliath (probably the Babylonian galu , “great”), and Saph ( 2 Samuel 21:18 ), perhaps meaning “increase.” These two brothers were sons of Raphah (“the tall”); but Ishbi-benob ( 2 Samuel 21:16 ), another of the family, perhaps only means “the dweller in Nob” ( Beit Nûba , North of Gezer).

The king of Gath in David’s time was Achish (“the gift” in Bah), who ( 1 Samuel 27:2 ) was the son of Maoch, “the oppressor.” According to Septuagint, Jonathan killed a Philistine named Nasib ( 1 Samuel 13:3 ,  1 Samuel 13:4 , where the King James Version reads “a garrison”). If this is correct the name (meaning “a pillar”) would also be Semitic.

4. Title of Ruler and Circumcision

Besides these personal names, and those of the cities of Philistia which are all Semitic, we have the title given to Philistine lords, ṣeren , which Septuagint renders “satrap” and “ruler,” and which probably comes from a Semitic root meaning “to command.” It constantly applies to the rulers of Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron, the 5 chief cities of Philistia. The fact that the Philistines were uncircumcised does not prove that they were not a Semitic people. Herodotus (ii. 104) says that the Phoenicians acknowledged that they took this custom from the Egyptians, and the Arabs according to this passage were still uncircumcised, nor is it known that this was a custom of the Babylonians and Assyrians. The Septuagint translators of the Pentateuch always render the name Phulistieim , and this also is found in 8 passages of Joshua and Judges, but in the later books the name is translated as meaning “strangers” throughout, because they were not the first inhabitants of Philistia.

5. History in the Old Testament Until Death of Saul:

The Philistines conquered the “downs” ( gelı̄lōth, Joel 3:4 ) near the seacoast, and were so powerful at the time of the Hebrew conquest that none of their great towns were taken ( Joshua 13:3;  Judges 3:3 ). By the time of Samson (about 1158 BC) they appear as oppressors of Israel for 40 years ( Judges 13:1;  Judges 15:20 ), having encroached from their plains into the Shephēlāh (or low hills) of Judah, at the foot of the mountains. Delilah was a Philistine woman, living in the valley of Sorek, close to Samson’s home. In the last year of Eli ( 1 Samuel 4:1 ) we find the Philistines attacking the mountains near Mizpeh, where they captured the ark. Samuel drove them back and placed his monument of victory between Mizpeh and Jeshanah (Shen; see the Septuagint;  1 Samuel 7:12 ) on the mountain ridge of Benjamin. He even regained towns in the Shephēlāh as far as Ekron and Gath ( 1 Samuel 7:14 ); but at the opening of Saul’s reign ( 1 Samuel 10:5 ) the Philistines had a “garrison” at Gibeah – or a chief named Hasib according to Septuagint. They raided from this center ( 1 Samuel 13:17-23 ) in all directions, and prevented the Hebrews from arming themselves, till Jonathan drove them from Michmash (1 Sam 14:1-47).

David’s victory ( 1 Samuel 17:2 ) was won in the Valley of Elah East of Gath, and the pursuit ( 1 Samuel 17:52 ) was as far as Ekron. We here read that the Philistine champion wore armor of bronze ( 1 Samuel 17:4-7 ), his spear head being of iron. They still invaded the Shephēlāh after this defeat, robbing the threshing-floors of Keilah ( 1 Samuel 23:1 ) near Adullam at the foot of the Hebron Mountains (see  1 Samuel 23:27;  1 Samuel 24:1 ).

David’s band of outlaws gradually increasing from 400 to 600 men ( 1 Samuel 22:2;  1 Samuel 27:2 ), being driven from the Hebrew lands, accompanied him to Gath, which is usually placed at Tell es – Ṣâfi , at the point where the Valley of Elah enters the Philistine plain. It appears that Achish, king of Gath, then ruled as far South as Ziklag ( Joshua 15:31;  1 Samuel 27:6 ) in the Beersheba plains; but he was not aware of the direction of David’s raids at this distance. Achish supposed David to be committed to his cause ( 1 Samuel 27:12 ), but the Philistine lords suspected him and his Hebrew followers ( 1 Samuel 29:3 ) when going up to Jezreel.

6. History Continued to Time of Ahaz:

After they had killed Saul, we hear no more of them till the 8th year of David, when, after taking Jerusalem, he apparently went down to Adullam ( 2 Samuel 5:17 ) and fell upon them in their rear as they advanced on his capital. He then destroyed their supremacy ( 2 Samuel 8:1 ) as far as Gezer ( 1 Chronicles 20:4 ), and the whole of Philistia was subject to Solomon ( 1 Kings 4:21 ), though not long after his death they seem to have held the town of Gibbethon ( 1 Kings 15:27;  1 Kings 16:15 ) in the hills of Dan. Hezekiah smote the Philistines as far as Gaza ( 2 Kings 18:8 ) before 702 BC, in which year (according to the Taylor cylinder) Sennacherib made Hezekiah deliver up Padii, king of Ekron, who had been carried prisoner to Jerusalem. The accounts in Chronicles refer to David’s taking Gath ( 1 Chronicles 18:1 ), which was recovered later, and again taken by Uzziah ( 2 Chronicles 26:6 ). The Philistines sent gifts to Jehoshaphat ( 2 Chronicles 17:11 ), but invaded the Shephēlāh 2 Chronicles 28:18 ) in the time of Ahaz.

7. Later Notices:

In this age the “lords” of the 5 cities of Philistia are called “kings,” both in the Bible and on Assyrian monuments. Isaiah ( Isaiah 2:6 ) speaks of Philistine superstitions, Ezekiel ( Ezekiel 25:15 ,  Ezekiel 25:16 ) connects them with the Cherethim on the seacoast. They still held Gath in the time of Amos ( Amos 6:2 ), and Gaza, Ashdod and Ekron in that of Zephaniah ( Zephaniah 2:5 ), who again mentions the Cherethim with Philistines, as inhabitants of Canaan or the “lowlands.” The last notice ( Zechariah 9:6 ) still speaks of kings in Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron and Ashdod at a time when the Ionians had become known in Judah ( Zechariah 9:13 ); but the Philistines are unnoticed by Ezra or Nehemiah, unless we suppose that the “speech of Ashdod” ( Nehemiah 13:24 ) was their old dialect, which appears – like the language of the Canaanites in general in earlier times – to have resembled that of the Babylonians and Assyrians, and to have thus differed – though Semitic – from the Hebrews.

Their further history is embraced in that of the various cities to which reference can be made under the articles pertaining to them.

Compile from BiblePortal Wiki