Who are the…
also known as: Philistim, Peleset, Peleshet, Palastu, Pilistu
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
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.”
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.
Other Philistines or inhabitants of Philistia
- Delilah—a Philistine woman bribed by the “lords of the Philistines”
- Cherethim/Cherethites—inhabitants of Southern Philistia
- Gittite or Gitti—resident of the Philistine city of Gath
- Goliath of Gath was a champion of the Philistines
- Isaac—the son of Abraham moved to the land of the Philistines for a time to escape a famine
- Ittai—a Philistine who became commander of 600 of David’s heros
- Phicol—chief captain of the army of Abimelech, the Philistine king of Gerar
- Ashtoreth—moon godess idol of Philistia
- Baal—a god idol of Philistia
- Baal-zebub (Baalzebub/Beelzebub)—a god idol of Philistia
- Dagon—a god idol of Philistia
- Dagon’s House—the place where the Philistines placed King Saul’s head
Cities and places
- Gath (Metheg-ammah)—the chief city of the Philistines
- Caphtor—original capital of the Philistines/Caphtorim
- Ekron—Philistine city
- Ashdod—Philistine city
- Ashkelon—Philistine city
- Azotus—Philistine city
- Gaza (Azzah)—a Philistine city
- Gerar—Abraham pitched his tent among the Philistines near Gerar.
- Gibbethon—Philistine city
- The Shephelah (Shfela) is also called “the plain of the Philistines”
- Ziklag—a town once in the possession of the Philistines
- Timna—Samson married a Philistine woman in this Judean town (Joshua 15:10; Judges 14) and the Philistines took possession of it during the reign of Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:18)
- Baal-perazim—David defeated the Philistines at this place
- Beth-car—a place to which the Israelites pursued the Philistines
- Beth-shemesh—a Danite city taken by Philistines
- Elah—the armies of the Philistines and of Israel were in battle array in the Valley of Elah
- Beth-dagon—a city near Philistia
- Ephes-dammim—a place where the Philistines camped when David fought Goliath
- Esdraelon and Gilboa—the Philistines defeated King Saul’s army here
- Gimzo—villages here captured by Philistines
- Lehi—Samson killed 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of donkey at Lehi
- Michmash—the scene of a great battle between the Philistines and the army of Saul
- Valley of Rephaim—2 great battles between David and the Philistines took place in the Valley of Rephaim. God miraculously used great supernatural thunder to confuse and route the Philistines at Eben-Ezer as Samuel made a burnt offering (1 Samuel 7:10-12).
- Rephaim—God sent a supernatural sound at Rephaim to help destroy Philistines for David (2 Samuel 5:23-25).
- Mizpah—during a Hebrew revival of repentance and humility here, the Philistines attacked in mass and were totally routed (1 Samuel 7:7-12).
- Mount Perazim—here David gained a victory over the Philistines (2 Samuel 5:20)
- Shunem—a village where the Philistines camped in preparation to battle King Saul
- Sitnah—a well here dug by Isaac was contended for by the Philistines
- Socho—a city where the Philistines camped when invading Judah
- Cities of the Bible
- divination—practiced by Philistine priests
- Samson was confined in a Philistine prison (Judges 16:21, 25).
- SAMSON—Does archaeology shed any light on the story of Samson? Answer
- various prophecies were made about the land of the Philistines (Jeremiah 47:4-7; Ezek. 25:15-17; Amos 1:6-8; Zeph. 2:4-7; Zechariah 9:5-8)
- chariots—in King Saul’s time the Philistines had 30,000 chariots
- Abishai—slew a Philistine giant
- archers of Philistia wounded King Saul
- ark of the Covenant—was captured by Philistines
- emerods—God miraculously struck the Philistines with a disease
- coffer—Philistines deposited golden mice and golden emerods in a coffer for the Israelites
- Jashobeam and Eleazar (the son of Dodo the Ahohite), broke through the Philistine army to bring David water from Bethlehem’s well
- Endor—King Saul consulted a witch at this place on the eve of his last engagement with the Philistines
- Ezekiel—prophecied against the Philistines, as record in the Book of Ezekiel
- goad—Shamgar killed 600 Philistines with an ox-goad
- King Jehoram of Judah—his land was invaded by Philistines
- Prince Jonathan—with the Lord’s help had victories over Philistines
- Book of Obadiah—records the capture of Jerusalem by Philistines and Arabians during the reign of King Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:16)
- Phinehas, son of the high priest Eli died in battle with the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:4, 11)
- Samuel—during his time the Philistines greatly oppressed the Hebrews
- blacksmith—the Philistines did not permit the Hebrews to have any during the days of Samuel
- 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)