Who are the…

Hebrew: פְלִשְׁתִּי —transliteration: Pelishti —meaning: inhabitants of Philistia

also known as: Philistim, Peleset, Peleshet, Palastu, Pilistu


This was a large tribe allied to the Phoenicians. The King James Version of Genesis 10:14 calls them “Philistim.” The Philistines are referred to 287 times in Scripture.

DNA samples indicate the Philistines originally came from southern Europe.1 Daniel Master, the head archaeologist of the team that made this discovery says that the Philistine’s ancestors left their homelands seeking a new land and new life during the period of the Trojan War and the collapse of empires in the 13th and 12th centuries BCE.

“…the Philistines were immigrants to the region of Philistia… They are survivors who set up a new life for themselves, which lasted for 6 centuries.” —Daniel Master, director of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon

The Philistines may have come through Crete and other Mediterranean islands. The prophet Amos mentions that they came from Caphtor, which is probably related to Crete.

They are called Allophyli, “foreigners,” in the Septuagint, and in the Books of Samuel they are spoken of as uncircumcised. It would therefore appear that they were not of the Semitic race, though after their establishment in Canaan they adopted the Semitic language of the country. We learn from the Old Testament that they came from Caphtor, usually supposed to be Crete. From Philistia the name of the land of the Philistines came to be extended to the whole of “Palestine.”

Many scholars identify the Philistines with the Pelethites of 2 Samuel 8:18.

Some suppose the Philistines were a branch of the Rephaim (2 Sam. 21:16-22).

Land of the Philistines

In the time of Abraham, they inhabited the southwest of Judea, Abimelech of Gerar being their king (Genesis 21:32, 34; 26:1). They are, however, not noticed among the Canaanitish tribes mentioned in the Pentateuch. They are spoken of by Amos (9:7) and Jeremiah (47:4) as from Caphtor, i.e., probably Crete, or, as some think, the Delta of Egypt. In the whole record from Exodus to Samuel they are represented as inhabiting the tract of country which lay between Judea and Egypt (Exodus 13:17; 15:14-15; Josh. 13:3; 1 Sam. 4).

This powerful tribe made frequent incursions against the Hebrews. There was almost perpetual war between them. They sometimes held the tribes, especially the southern tribes, in degrading servitude (Judges 15:11; 1 Samuel 13:19-22); at other times they were defeated with great slaughter (1 Samuel 14:1-47; 17). These hostilities did not cease till the time of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:8), when they were entirely subdued. They still, however, occupied their territory, and always showed their old hatred to Israel (Ezek. 25:15-17). They were finally conquered by the Romans.

The Philistines are called Pulsata or Pulista on the Egyptian monuments; the land of the Philistines (Philistia) being termed Palastu and Pilista in the Assyrian inscriptions. They occupied the five cities of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath, in the southwestern corner of Canaan, which belonged to Egypt up to the closing days of the Nineteenth Dynasty. The occupation took place during the reign of Rameses III of the 20th Dynasty. The Philistines had formed part of the great naval confederacy which attacked Egypt, but were eventually repulsed by that Pharaoh, who, however, could not dislodge them from their settlements.

As they did not enter Canaan till the time of the Exodus, the use of the name Philistines in Genesis 26:1 must be proleptic. Indeed the country was properly Gerar, as in Genesis 20.


Today’s Palestinians are likely the descendants of the Philistines, Edomites and Amalekites.


Other Philistines or inhabitants of Philistia

False gods

Cities and places

More information

  1. Ann Gibbons, “DNA reveals European roots of the ancient Philistines,” Science, Vol. 365, Issue 6448 (July 5, 2019), p. 17 (“3000-year-old burials identify the enemies of the Biblical Israelites and shore up legends of Bronze Age migration… an international team of geneticists and archaeologists has found a new way to understand the Philistines. By analyzing DNA from 12th century B.C.E burials in the Philistines's renowned city of Ashkelon, Israel, researchers have found that they were interlopers in the ancient Middle East. Their closest known kin were from ancient Sardinia, Greece, or Spain, the team reports…”). / Michal Feldman, et al, “Ancient DNA sheds light on the genetic origins of early Iron Age Philistines,” Science Advances, Vol. 5, No. 7 (July 3, 2019)
Article Version: July 12, 2019