Philistines

Philistines

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Philistines (ˈfɪlɨstiːnz, -staɪnz, fɨˈlɪstɨnz, -tiːnz; , Plištim), Pleshet or Peleset, were a people
Ethnic group
An ethnic group is a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage, often consisting of a common language, a common culture and/or an ideology that stresses common ancestry or endogamy...

 who occupied the southern coast of Canaan
Canaan
Canaan is a historical region roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan...

 at the beginning of the Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 (circa 1175 BC). According to the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, they ruled the five city-states (the "Philistine Pentapolis") of Gaza
Gaza
Gaza , also referred to as Gaza City, is a Palestinian city in the Gaza Strip, with a population of about 450,000, making it the largest city in the Palestinian territories.Inhabited since at least the 15th century BC,...

, Askelon, Ashdod, Ekron
Ekron
The city of Ekron , was one of the five cities of the famed Philistine pentapolis, located in southwestern Canaan. Ekron lies 35 kilometers west of Jerusalem, and 18 kilometers north of ancient Gath, on the eastern edge of Israel's coastal plain.-History:...

 and Gath, from the Wadi Gaza in the south to the Yarqon River in the north, but with no fixed border to the east. The Bible paints them as Israel's most dangerous enemy. The total population of Philistia after the arrival of immigrants was around 25,000 in the 12th century BC (immediately after the migration), rising to a peak of 30,000 in the 11th century BC; the Aegean element was not more than half the total, and perhaps much less.

Etymology


The etymology of the word into English is from Old French
Old French
Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century...

 Philistin, from Late Latin
Late Latin
Late Latin is the scholarly name for the written Latin of Late Antiquity. The English dictionary definition of Late Latin dates this period from the 3rd to the 6th centuries AD extending in Spain to the 7th. This somewhat ambiguously defined period fits between Classical Latin and Medieval Latin...

 Philistinus found in the writings of Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

, from Late Greek Philistinoi (Phylistiim in the Septuagint) found in the writings by Philo
Philo
Philo , known also as Philo of Alexandria , Philo Judaeus, Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, Yedidia, "Philon", and Philo the Jew, was a Hellenistic Jewish Biblical philosopher born in Alexandria....

, from Hebrew Plištim, (e.g. 1 Samuel 17:36; 2 Samuel 1:20; Judges 14:3; Amos 1:8), "people of Plešt" ("Philistia"); cf. Akkadian Palastu, Egyptian Parusata.

Biblical scholars
Biblical studies
Biblical studies is the academic study of the Judeo-Christian Bible and related texts. For Christianity, the Bible traditionally comprises the New Testament and Old Testament, which together are sometimes called the "Scriptures." Judaism recognizes as scripture only the Hebrew Bible, also known as...

 often trace the word to the Semitic
Semitic
In linguistics and ethnology, Semitic was first used to refer to a language family of largely Middle Eastern origin, now called the Semitic languages...

 root p-l-š which means to divide, go through, to roll in, cover or invade, with a possible sense in this name as "migrant" or "invader". The name of the Philistines in their own language is not known; however, the Bible also relates them as the people of "Kaftor" (כפתור in Hebrew, see for example the Book of Jeremiah Chapter 47, Verse 4). "Kaftor" is not of Hebrew or Semitic origin, which supports the possibility that this word is similar to the name they called themselves.

Another theory, proposed by Jacobsohn and supported by others, is that the name derives from the attested Illyria
Illyria
In classical antiquity, Illyria was a region in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula inhabited by the Illyrians....

n locality Palaeste, whose inhabitants would have been called Palaestīnī according to normal grammatical practice.

Another historian suggests that the name Philistine is a corruption of the Greek "phyle histia" ("tribe of the hearth
Hearth
In common historic and modern usage, a hearth is a brick- or stone-lined fireplace or oven often used for cooking and/or heating. For centuries, the hearth was considered an integral part of a home, often its central or most important feature...

", with the Ionic
Ionic Greek
Ionic Greek was a subdialect of the Attic–Ionic dialect group of Ancient Greek .-History:Ionic dialect appears to have spread originally from the Greek mainland across the Aegean at the time of the Dorian invasions, around the 11th Century B.C.By the end of the Greek Dark Ages in the 5th Century...

 spelling of "hestia"). He goes on to suggest that they were responsible for introducing the fixed hearth to the Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

. This suggestion was raised before archaeological
Syro-Palestinian archaeology
Syro-Palestinian archaeology is a term used to refer to archaeological research conducted in the southern Levant. Palestinian archaeology is also commonly used in its stead, particularly when the area of inquiry centers on ancient Palestine...

 evidence for the use of the hearths was documented at Philistine sites.

Timeline


(Dates are approximate)
  • 1475 BC: Thutmose III
    Thutmose III
    Thutmose III was the sixth Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. During the first twenty-two years of Thutmose's reign he was co-regent with his stepmother, Hatshepsut, who was named the pharaoh...

     conquers Canaan: beginning of Egyptian domination of southern Canaanite plain
  • 1175 BC: Ramses III defeats the Sea Peoples
    Sea Peoples
    The Sea Peoples were a confederacy of seafaring raiders of the second millennium BC who sailed into the eastern Mediterranean, caused political unrest, and attempted to enter or control Egyptian territory during the late 19th dynasty and especially during year 8 of Ramesses III of the 20th Dynasty...

     including Philistines and settles captives in fortresses in southern Canaan (alternatively, Philistines invade and settle the coastal plain for themselves)
  • 1150 BC: final Egyptian withdrawal from southern Canaan
  • 10th–7th centuries BC: Philistines lose most of their distinctive culture and absorb that of surrounding peoples

History



Canaan and the Late Bronze collapse (1550–1200 BC)


Canaan (meaning the area covering roughly modern Israel, the Palestinian territories, and southern Lebanon) in the Late Bronze Age was a collection of city-states under the authority of the Egyptians. The cities were very small, really no more than towns, and were concentrated along the coast and in a few inland valleys. They were ethnically diverse, so far as can be judged, but they spoke languages of the West Semitic language family (probably mutually intelligible) and shared a common culture in many respects, including religion, diet, and economic and political organization.

This common Late Bronze culture collapsed at the end of the Late Bronze period. The collapse was gradual rather than sudden, extending over a century or so between 1250 and 1150 BC. Many, but not all, of the Canaanite cities were destroyed, international trade collapsed, and the Egyptians withdrew. At the end of this period a new landscape emerges: the northern Canaanite cities still existed, more or less intact, and became the Phoenicians; the highlands behind the coastal plains, previously largely uninhabited, were rapidly filling with villages, largely Canaanite in their basic culture but without the Bronze Age city-state structure; and along the southern coastal plain there are clear signs that a non-Canaanite people had taken over the former Canaanite cities while adopting almost all aspects of Canaanite culture.

Settlement in southern Canaan (c. 1175–1100 BC)


In about 1175 BC, Egypt was threatened with a massive land and sea invasion by the "Sea Peoples," a coalition of foreign enemies which included the Tjeker, the Shekelesh, the Deyen, the Weshesh, the Teresh, the Sherden and the PRST; the last group are commonly regarded as identical with the Philistines. They were comprehensively defeated by Ramses III, who fought them in "Djahi" (the eastern Mediterranean coast) and at "the mouths of the rivers" (the Nile delta), recording his victories in a series of inscriptions in his mortuary temple at Medinet Habu
Medinet Habu (temple)
Medinet Habu is the name commonly given to the Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III, an important New Kingdom period structure in the location of the same name on the West Bank of Luxor in Egypt...

. An additional Egyptian source, Papyrus Harris I
Papyrus Harris I
Papyrus Harris I is also known as the Great Harris Papyrus and simply the Harris Papyrus . Its technical designation is Papyrus British Museum 9999...

, records how the defeated foe were brought in captivity to Egypt and settled in fortresses. The Harris papyrus can be interpreted in two ways: either the captives were settled in Egypt and the rest of the Philistines/Sea Peoples carved out a territory for themselves in Canaan, or else it was Ramses himself who settled the Sea Peoples (mainly Philistines) in Canaan as mercenaries. Archaeological evidence indicates that the Philistines originally settled in a few sites in the south, such as Ashkelon
Ashkelon
Ashkelon is a coastal city in the South District of Israel on the Mediterranean coast, south of Tel Aviv, and north of the border with the Gaza Strip. The ancient seaport of Ashkelon dates back to the Neolithic Age...

, Ashdod and Ekron
Ekron
The city of Ekron , was one of the five cities of the famed Philistine pentapolis, located in southwestern Canaan. Ekron lies 35 kilometers west of Jerusalem, and 18 kilometers north of ancient Gath, on the eastern edge of Israel's coastal plain.-History:...

. It was not until several decades later that they expanded into surrounding areas such as the Yarkon region to the north (the area of modern Jaffa
Jaffa
Jaffa is an ancient port city believed to be one of the oldest in the world. Jaffa was incorporated with Tel Aviv creating the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel. Jaffa is famous for its association with the biblical story of the prophet Jonah.-Etymology:...

, where there were Philistine farmsteads at Tel Gerisa and Aphek, and a larger settlement at Tel Qasile). "Most scholars therefore believe that the settlement of the Philistines took place in two stages. In the first, dated to the reign of Ramses III, they were limited to the coastal plain, the region of the Five Cities; in the second, dated to the collapse of Egyptian hegemony in southern Canaan, their influence spread inland beyond the coast.

Iron Age (8th–5th centuries BC)


The Bible paints the Philistines as the main enemy of the Israelites prior to the rise of Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

 in the 8th century BC, with a state of almost perpetual war between the two peoples. The Philistine cities lost their independence to Tiglath-Pileser III
Tiglath-Pileser III
Tiglath-Pileser III was a prominent king of Assyria in the eighth century BC and is widely regarded as the founder of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. Tiglath-Pileser III seized the Assyrian throne during a civil war and killed the royal family...

 of Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

 by 732 BC, and revolts in following years were all crushed. They were subsequently absorbed into the Babylonian and Persian empires, and disappear as a distinct group by the late 5th century BC.

The Philistine pentapolis
Pentapolis
A pentapolis, from the Greek words , "five" and , "city" is a geographic and/or institutional grouping of five cities...

 were ruled by seranim (סְרָנִים, "lords"), who acted together for the common good, though to what extent they had a sense of a "nation" is not clear without literary sources.

Origins


It has been suggested that the Casluhite Philistines formed part of the "Sea Peoples
Sea Peoples
The Sea Peoples were a confederacy of seafaring raiders of the second millennium BC who sailed into the eastern Mediterranean, caused political unrest, and attempted to enter or control Egyptian territory during the late 19th dynasty and especially during year 8 of Ramesses III of the 20th Dynasty...

" who repeatedly attacked Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 during the later Nineteenth Dynasty
Nineteenth dynasty of Egypt
The Nineteenth Dynasty of ancient Egypt was one of the periods of the Egyptian New Kingdom. Founded by Vizier Ramesses I, whom Pharaoh Horemheb chose as his successor to the throne, this dynasty is best known for its military conquests in Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria.The warrior kings of the...

. Though they were eventually repulsed by Ramses III, he finally resettled them, according to the theory, to rebuild the coastal towns in Canaan. Papyrus Harris I
Papyrus Harris I
Papyrus Harris I is also known as the Great Harris Papyrus and simply the Harris Papyrus . Its technical designation is Papyrus British Museum 9999...

 details the achievements of the reign of Ramses III. In the brief description of the outcome of the battles in Year 8 is the description of the fate of the Sea Peoples. Ramses tells us that, having brought the imprisoned Sea Peoples to Egypt, he "settled them in strongholds, bound in my name. Numerous were their classes like hundred-thousands. I taxed them all, in clothing and grain from the storehouses and granaries each year." Some scholars suggest it is likely that these "strongholds" were fortified towns in southern Canaan, which would eventually become the five cities (the Pentapolis
Pentapolis
A pentapolis, from the Greek words , "five" and , "city" is a geographic and/or institutional grouping of five cities...

) of the Philistines. Israel Finkelstein
Israel Finkelstein
Israel Finkelstein is an Israeli archaeologist and academic. He is currently the Jacob M. Alkow Professor of the Archaeology of Israel in the Bronze Age and Iron Ages at Tel Aviv University and is also the co-director of excavations at Megiddo in northern Israel...

 has suggested that there may be a period of 25–50 years after the sacking of these cities and their reoccupation by the Philistines. It is quite possible that for the initial period of time, the Philistines were housed in Egypt, only subsequently late in the troubled end of the reign of Ramses III would they have been allowed to settle Philistia.

Archaeology


The connection between Mycenaean
Mycenaean Greece
Mycenaean Greece was a cultural period of Bronze Age Greece taking its name from the archaeological site of Mycenae in northeastern Argolis, in the Peloponnese of southern Greece. Athens, Pylos, Thebes, and Tiryns are also important Mycenaean sites...

 culture and Philistine culture was made clearer by finds at the excavation of Ashdod, Ekron
Ekron
The city of Ekron , was one of the five cities of the famed Philistine pentapolis, located in southwestern Canaan. Ekron lies 35 kilometers west of Jerusalem, and 18 kilometers north of ancient Gath, on the eastern edge of Israel's coastal plain.-History:...

, Ashkelon
Ashkelon
Ashkelon is a coastal city in the South District of Israel on the Mediterranean coast, south of Tel Aviv, and north of the border with the Gaza Strip. The ancient seaport of Ashkelon dates back to the Neolithic Age...

, and more recently Gath, four of the five Philistine cities in Canaan. The fifth city is Gaza
Gaza
Gaza , also referred to as Gaza City, is a Palestinian city in the Gaza Strip, with a population of about 450,000, making it the largest city in the Palestinian territories.Inhabited since at least the 15th century BC,...

. Especially notable is the early Philistine pottery, a locally made version of the Aegean
Aegean civilization
Aegean civilization is a general term for the Bronze Age civilizations of Greece around the Aegean Sea. There are three distinct but communicating and interacting geographic regions covered by this term: Crete, the Cyclades and the Greek mainland. Crete is associated with the Minoan civilization...

 Mycenaean Late Helladic IIIC pottery, which is decorated in shades of brown and black. This later developed into the distinctive Philistine pottery of the Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 I, with black and red decorations on white slip known as Philistine Bichrome ware
Philistine Bichrome ware
Philistine Bichrome ware refers to the pottery group associated with the Philistine settlements during the Iron Age I period in ancient Canaan...

. Also of particular interest is a large, well-constructed building covering 240 square metres (287 sq yd), discovered at Ekron. Its walls are broad, designed to support a second story, and its wide, elaborate entrance leads to a large hall, partly covered with a roof supported on a row of columns. In the floor of the hall is a circular hearth paved with pebbles, as is typical in Mycenaean megaron
Megaron
The megaron is the great hall of the Grecian palace complexes. It was a rectangular hall, fronted by an open, two-columned porch, and a more or less central, open hearth vented though an oculus in the roof above it and surrounded by four columns. It is the architectural predecessor of the...

 hall buildings; other unusual architectural features are paved benches and podiums. Among the finds are three small bronze wheels with eight spokes. Such wheels are known to have been used for portable cultic stands in the Aegean region during this period, and it is therefore assumed that this building served cultic functions. Further evidence concerns an inscription in Ekron to PYGN or PYTN, which some have suggested refers to "Potnia
Potnia Theron
Potnia Theron is a term first used by Homer and often used to describe female divinities associated with animals...

", the title given to an ancient Mycenaean
Mycenaean Greece
Mycenaean Greece was a cultural period of Bronze Age Greece taking its name from the archaeological site of Mycenae in northeastern Argolis, in the Peloponnese of southern Greece. Athens, Pylos, Thebes, and Tiryns are also important Mycenaean sites...

 goddess
Goddess
A goddess is a female deity. In some cultures goddesses are associated with Earth, motherhood, love, and the household. In other cultures, goddesses also rule over war, death, and destruction as well as healing....

. Excavations in Ashkelon
Ashkelon
Ashkelon is a coastal city in the South District of Israel on the Mediterranean coast, south of Tel Aviv, and north of the border with the Gaza Strip. The ancient seaport of Ashkelon dates back to the Neolithic Age...

, Ekron
Ekron
The city of Ekron , was one of the five cities of the famed Philistine pentapolis, located in southwestern Canaan. Ekron lies 35 kilometers west of Jerusalem, and 18 kilometers north of ancient Gath, on the eastern edge of Israel's coastal plain.-History:...

, and Gath reveal dog
Dog
The domestic dog is a domesticated form of the gray wolf, a member of the Canidae family of the order Carnivora. The term is used for both feral and pet varieties. The dog may have been the first animal to be domesticated, and has been the most widely kept working, hunting, and companion animal in...

 and pig
Pig
A pig is any of the animals in the genus Sus, within the Suidae family of even-toed ungulates. Pigs include the domestic pig, its ancestor the wild boar, and several other wild relatives...

 bones which show signs of having been butchered, implying that these animals were part of the residents' diet. Among other findings there are wineries where fermented wine was produced, as well as loom weights resembling those of Mycenaean sites in Greece.

It has been theorized that the latter Philistines originated among the "sea peoples
Sea Peoples
The Sea Peoples were a confederacy of seafaring raiders of the second millennium BC who sailed into the eastern Mediterranean, caused political unrest, and attempted to enter or control Egyptian territory during the late 19th dynasty and especially during year 8 of Ramesses III of the 20th Dynasty...

". Modern archaeology
Archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

 has also suggested early cultural links with the Mycenaean
Mycenaean Greece
Mycenaean Greece was a cultural period of Bronze Age Greece taking its name from the archaeological site of Mycenae in northeastern Argolis, in the Peloponnese of southern Greece. Athens, Pylos, Thebes, and Tiryns are also important Mycenaean sites...

 world in Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

. Though the Philistines adopted local Canaan
Canaan
Canaan is a historical region roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan...

ite culture and language before leaving any written texts (and later adopted
Philistine language
The Philistine language is the extinct language of the Philistines, spoken— and rarely inscribed— along the coastal strip of southwestern Canaan...

 the Aramaic language
Aramaic language
Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

), an Indo-European
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

 origin has been suggested for a handful of known Philistine words
Philistine language
The Philistine language is the extinct language of the Philistines, spoken— and rarely inscribed— along the coastal strip of southwestern Canaan...

 that survived as loanword
Loanword
A loanword is a word borrowed from a donor language and incorporated into a recipient language. By contrast, a calque or loan translation is a related concept where the meaning or idiom is borrowed rather than the lexical item itself. The word loanword is itself a calque of the German Lehnwort,...

s in Hebrew.

Philistine language



Nothing is known for certain about the language of the Philistines. There is some limited evidence in favor of the assumption that the Philistines did originally speak some Indo-European language. A number of Philistine-related words found in the Bible are not Semitic, and can in some cases, with reservations, be traced back to Proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European language
The Proto-Indo-European language is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans...

 roots. For example, the Philistine word for captain, 'seren', may be related to the Greek word tyrannos (thought by linguists to have been borrowed by the Greeks from an Anatolian language, such as Luwian
Luwian language
Luwian is an extinct language of the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European language family. Luwian is closely related to Hittite, and was among the languages spoken during the second and first millennia BC by population groups in central and western Anatolia and northern Syria...

 or Lydian
Lydian language
Lydian was an Indo-European language spoken in the region of Lydia in western Anatolia . It belongs to the Anatolian group of the Indo-European language family....

). Some of the Philistine names, such as Goliath, Achish
Achish
Achish is a name used in the Hebrew Bible for two Philistine rulers of Gath. It is perhaps only a general title of royalty, applicable to the Philistine kings. The two kings of Gath, which is identified by most scholars as Tell es-Safi, are:...

, and Phicol
Phicol
Phicol, also spelled Phichol or Phikol, was a Philistine military leader.Phicol was the chief captain of the army of Abimelech, the Philistine king of Gerar...

, appear to be of non-Semitic origin, and Indo-European etymologies have been suggested. Recently, an inscription dating to the late 10th/early 9th centuries BC with two names, very similar to one of the suggested etymologies of the popular Philistine name Goliath (Lydian
Lydian language
Lydian was an Indo-European language spoken in the region of Lydia in western Anatolia . It belongs to the Anatolian group of the Indo-European language family....

 Alyattes, or perhaps Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 Kalliades) was found in the excavations at Gath. The appearance of additional non-Semitic names in Philistine inscriptions from later stages of the Iron Age is an additional indication of the non-Semitic origins of this group.

Culture and religion


Philistine culture was almost fully integrated with that of Canaan
Canaan
Canaan is a historical region roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan...

 and the Canaanites. The deities they worshipped were Baal
Baal
Baʿal is a Northwest Semitic title and honorific meaning "master" or "lord" that is used for various gods who were patrons of cities in the Levant and Asia Minor, cognate to Akkadian Bēlu...

, Astarte
Astarte
Astarte is the Greek name of a goddess known throughout the Eastern Mediterranean from the Bronze Age to Classical times...

 and Dagon
Dagon
Dagon was originally an Assyro-Babylonian fertility god who evolved into a major northwest Semitic god, reportedly of grain and fish and/or fishing...

, whose names or variations thereof appear in the Canaanite pantheon as well.

Extrabiblical inscriptions


Inscriptions written by the Philistines have not yet been found or conclusively identified; however, their early history is known to scholars from inscriptions in other ancient documents, such as Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

ian texts. The Philistines appear in four different texts from the time of the New Kingdom
New Kingdom
The New Kingdom of Egypt, also referred to as the Egyptian Empire is the period in ancient Egyptian history between the 16th century BC and the 11th century BC, covering the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth Dynasties of Egypt....

 under the name Peleshet. Two of these, the inscriptions at Medinet Habu
Medinet Habu (temple)
Medinet Habu is the name commonly given to the Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III, an important New Kingdom period structure in the location of the same name on the West Bank of Luxor in Egypt...

 and the Rhetorical Stela
Stele
A stele , also stela , is a stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected for funerals or commemorative purposes, most usually decorated with the names and titles of the deceased or living — inscribed, carved in relief , or painted onto the slab...

 at Deir al-Medinah, are dated to the time of the reign of Ramses III (1186–1155 BC). Another was composed in the period immediately following the death of Ramses III (Papyrus Harris I
Papyrus Harris I
Papyrus Harris I is also known as the Great Harris Papyrus and simply the Harris Papyrus . Its technical designation is Papyrus British Museum 9999...

). The fourth, the Onomasticon of Amenope, is dated to some time between the end of the 12th or early 11th century BCE.

The inscriptions at Medinet Habu consist of images depicting a coalition of Sea Peoples, among them the Philistines, who are said in the accompanying text to have been defeated by Ramses III during his Year 8 campaign. Scholars have been unable to conclusively determine which images match what peoples described in the reliefs depicting two major battle scenes. A separate relief on one of the bases of the Osirid pillar
Column
A column or pillar in architecture and structural engineering is a vertical structural element that transmits, through compression, the weight of the structure above to other structural elements below. For the purpose of wind or earthquake engineering, columns may be designed to resist lateral forces...

s with an accompanying hieroglyphic text clearly identifying the person depicted as a captive Peleset chief is of a bearded man without headdress.

The Rhetorical Stela are less discussed, but are noteworthy in that they mention the Peleset together with a people called the Teresh, who sailed "in the midst of the sea". The Teresh are thought to have originated from the Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

n coast and their association with the Peleshet in this inscription is seen as providing some information on the possible origin and identity of the Philistines.

The Harris Papyrus which was found in a tomb at Medinet Habu also recalls Ramses III's battles with the Sea Peoples, declaring that the Peleset were "reduced to ashes." Egyptian strongholds in Canaan
Canaan
Canaan is a historical region roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan...

 are also mentioned, including a temple dedicated to Amun
Amun
Amun, reconstructed Egyptian Yamānu , was a god in Egyptian mythology who in the form of Amun-Ra became the focus of the most complex system of theology in Ancient Egypt...

, which some scholars place in Gaza
Gaza
Gaza , also referred to as Gaza City, is a Palestinian city in the Gaza Strip, with a population of about 450,000, making it the largest city in the Palestinian territories.Inhabited since at least the 15th century BC,...

; however, the lack of detail indicating the precise location of these strongholds means that it is unknown what impact these had, if any, on Philistine settlement along the coast.

The first mention in an Egyptian source of the Philistines in conjunction with three of the five cities that are said in the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

 to have made up their pentapolis
Pentapolis
A pentapolis, from the Greek words , "five" and , "city" is a geographic and/or institutional grouping of five cities...

 comes in the Onomasticon of Amenope. The sequence in question read: "Ashkelon
Ashkelon
Ashkelon is a coastal city in the South District of Israel on the Mediterranean coast, south of Tel Aviv, and north of the border with the Gaza Strip. The ancient seaport of Ashkelon dates back to the Neolithic Age...

, Ashdod, Gaza, Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

, Shubaru [...] Sherden, Tjekker, Peleset, Khurma [...]" Scholars have advanced the possibility that the other Sea Peoples mentioned were connected to these cities in some way as well.

Philistines in the Bible


The Hebrew text of Genesis 10:14, with regard to the descendants of Mizraim
Mizraim
Mizraim is the Hebrew name for the land of Egypt, with the dual suffix -āyim, perhaps referring to the "two Egypts": Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt....

, reads "we'et Petrusim we'et Kesluhim 'esher yats'u misham Filistim we'et Keftorim." Literally, it says that those whom Mizraim begat included "the Pathrusim
Pathrusim
Pathrusim were descendants of Mizraim, according to the genealogies in Genesis. According to some scholars, this was in southern Egypt around Thebes, since Pa-to-ris means "southerners" in Ancient Egyptian....

, Casluhim
Casluhim
The Casluhim or Casluhites were an ancient Egyptian people mentioned in the Bible and related literature. According to and , they were descendants of Mizraim son of Ham, out of whom originated the Philistines....

 (out of whom came the Philistines), and the Caphtorim". There is some debate among interpreters as to whether this verse was originally intended to signify that the Philistines themselves were the offspring of the Casluhim or the Caphtorim.

The Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 does not record the Philistines as one of the nations to be displaced from Canaan. In Genesis 15:18-21 the Philistines are absent from the ten nations Abraham's descendents will displace as well as being absent from the list of nations Moses tells the people they will conquer (Deut. 7:1, 20:17). God also intentionally directed the Israelites away from the Philistines upon their exit from Egypt according to Exodus 13:17. In Genesis 21, Abraham agreed a covenant of kindness with the Philistine king Avimelech and his descendants.

Also, Samson
Samson
Samson, Shimshon ; Shamshoun or Sampson is the third to last of the Judges of the ancient Israelites mentioned in the Tanakh ....

 killed many Philistines and had many skirmishes with them.

A few biblical texts, such as the Ark Narrative and stories reflecting the importance of Gath, seem to portray Late Iron I and Early Iron II memories. They are mentioned over 250 times, the majority in the Deuteronomistic history (the series of "history" books from Joshua to 2 Kings), and are depicted as the archenemies of the Israelites, a serious and recurring threat before being subdued by David
David
David was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary...

.

The following is a list of battles recorded in the Bible between Israel and the Philistines:
  • The Battle of Shephelah
    Shephelah
    The Shephelah is a designation usually applied to the region in south-central Israel of 10-15 km of low hills between the central Mount Hebron and the coastal plains of Philistia within the area of the Judea, at an altitude of 120-450 metres above sea level. The area is fertile, and a temperate...

  • Israel defeated at the Battle of Aphek
    Battle of Aphek
    The Battle of Aphek is a biblical episode described in 1 Samuel 4:1-10 of the Hebrew Bible. During this battle the Philistines defeat the Israelite army and capture the Ark of the Covenant.-The Biblical account:...

    , Philistines capture the Ark of the Covenant
    Ark of the Covenant
    The Ark of the Covenant , also known as the Ark of the Testimony, is a chest described in Book of Exodus as solely containing the Tablets of Stone on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed...

     (1 Samuel 4:1–10)—see Eben-Ezer
    Eben-Ezer
    Eben-Ezer , is the name of a location that is mentioned by the Books of Samuel as the scene of battles between the Israelites and Philistines. It is specified as having been less than a day's journey by foot from Shiloh, near Aphek, in the neighbourhood of Mizpah, near the western entrance of the...

    ; Aphek
  • Philistines defeated at the Battle of Eben-Ezer (1 Samuel 7:3–14)
  • Skirmish at Michmash
    Michmash
    Michmash - "Laid Up [that is, concealed] Place"; a town of Benjamin, east of Bethel and south of Migron, on the road to Jerusalem.-Location:...

    , Philistines routed by Jonathan and his men (1 Samuel
    Samuel
    Samuel is a leader of ancient Israel in the Books of Samuel in the Hebrew Bible. He is also known as a prophet and is mentioned in the Qur'an....

     14)
  • Near the Valley of Elah
    Valley of Elah
    The Valley of Elah, "the valley of the oak or terebinth" , best known as the place described in the Bible where the Israelites were encamped when David fought Goliath . It was near Azekah and Socho...

    , David
    David
    David was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary...

     defeats Goliath in single combat (1 Samuel 17)

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