From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Smith's Bible Dictionary [1]

Philis'tines. (Immigrants). The origin of the Philistines is nowhere expressly stated in the Bible; but as the prophets describe them as "the Philistines, from Caphtor,"  Amos 9:7,, and "the remnant of the maritime district of Caphtor"  Jeremiah 47:4, it is prima facie probable that they were "the Caphtorim which came out of Caphtor" who expelled the Avim, from their territory and occupied it; in their place,  Deuteronomy 2:23, and that these, again, were the Caphtorim mentioned in the Mosaic genealogical table, among the descendants of Mizraim.  Genesis 10:14.

It has been generally assumed that Caphtor represents Crete, and that the Philistines migrated from that island, either directly or through Egypt, into Palestine. But the name Caphtor is more probably identified with the Egyptian Coptos. See Caphtor .

History. - The Philistines must have settled in the land of Canaan, before the time of Abraham; for they are noticed in his day as a pastoral tribe in the neighborhood of Gerur.  Genesis 21:32;  Genesis 21:34;  Genesis 26:1;  Genesis 26:8. Between the times of Abraham and Joshua, the Philistines had changed their quarters, and had advanced northward into the plain of Philistia. The Philistines had, at an early period, attained proficiency in the arts of peace. Their wealth was abundant,  Judges 16:5;  Judges 16:19, and they appear, in all respects, to have been a prosperous people. Possessed of such elements of power, they had attained, in the time of the judges, an important position among eastern nations.

About B.C. 1200, we find them engaged in successful war with the Sidonians. Justin xviii. 3. The territory of the Philistines having been once occupied by the Canaanites, formed a portion of the Promised Land, and was assigned the tribe of Judah.  Joshua 15:2;  Joshua 15:12;  Joshua 15:45-47. No portion of it, however, was conquered in the lifetime of Joshua,  Joshua 13:2, and even after his death, no permanent conquest was effected,  Judges 3:3, though we are informed that the three cities of Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron were taken.  Judges 1:18.

The Philistines soon recovered these, and commenced an aggressive policy against the Israelites, by which they gained a complete ascendancy over them. Individual heroes were raised up from time to time, such as Shamgar, the son of Anath,  Judges 3:31, and still more, Samson, Judges 13-16, but neither of these men succeeded in permanently throwing off the yoke. The Israelites attributed their past weakness to their want, of unity, and they desired a king, with the special object of leading them against the foe.  1 Samuel 8:20.

Saul threw off the yoke; and the Philistines were defeated with great slaughter at Geba.  1 Samuel 13:3. They made no attempt to regain their supremacy for about twenty-five years, and the scene of the next contest shows the altered strength of the two parties. It was no longer in the central country, but in a ravine leading down to the Philistine plain, the valley of Elah, the position of which is about 14 miles southwest of Jerusalem. On this occasion, the prowess of young David secured success to Israel, and the foe was pursued to the gates of Gath and Ekron.  1 Samuel 17:1.

The power of the Philistines was, however, still intact on their own territory. The border warfare was continued. The scene of the next conflict was far to the north, in the valley of Esdraelon. The battle, on this occasion, proved disastrous to the Israelites; Saul himself perished, and the Philistines penetrated across the Jordan and occupied the, forsaken cities.  1 Samuel 31:1-7. On the appointment of David to be king, he twice attacked them, and on each occasion, with singular success, in the first case, capturing their images, in the second, pursuing them, "from Geba until thou come to Gazer."  2 Samuel 5:17-25;  1 Chronicles 14:8-16. Henceforth, the Israelites appear as the aggressors.

About seven years after the defeat at Rephaim, David, who had now consolidated his power, attacked them on their own soil, and took Gath with its dependencies. The whole of Philistine was included in Solomon's empire. Later, when the Philistines, joined by the Syrians and Assyrians, made war on the kingdom of Israel, Hezekiah formed an alliance with the Egyptians, as a counterpoise to the Assyrians, and the possession of Philistia became, henceforth, the turning-point of the struggle between the two great empires of the East.

The Assyrians under Tartan, the general of Sargon, made an expedition against Egypt, and took Ashdod, as the key of that country.  Isaiah 20:1;  Isaiah 20:4-5. Under Senacherib, Philistia was again the scene of important operations. The Assyrian supremacy was restored by Esarhaddon, and it seems probable that the Assyrians retained their hold on Ashdod until its capture, after a long siege, by Psammetichus. It was about this time that Philistia was traversed by vast Scythian horde on their way to Egypt.

The Egyptian ascendancy was not as yet re-established, for we find the next king, Necho, compelled to besiege Gaza on his return from the battle of Megiddo. After the death of Necho, the contest was renewed between the Egyptians and the Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar, and the result was specially disastrous to the Philistines. The "old hatred" that the Philistines bore to the Jews was exhibited in acts of hostility, at the time of the Babylonish captivity,  Ezekiel 25:15-17, but on the return, this was somewhat abated, for some of the Jews married Philistine women, to the great scandal of their rulers.  Nehemiah 13:23-24. From this time, the history of Philistia is absorbed in the struggles of the neighboring kingdoms. The latest notices of the Philistines as a nation occur in  1 Maccabees 3-5.

Institutions, religion, etc. - With regard to the institutions of the Philistines our information is very scanty, The five chief cities had, as early as the days of Joshua, constituted themselves into a confederacy, restricted however, in all probability, to matters of offence and defence. Each was under the government of a prince,  Joshua 13:3;  Judges 3:3; etc.;  1 Samuel 18:30;  1 Samuel 29:6, and each possessed its own territory.

The Philistines appear to have been deeply imbued with superstition: they carried their idols with them on their campaigns,  2 Samuel 5:21, and proclaimed their victories in their presence.  1 Samuel 31:9. The gods whom they chiefly worshipped were Dagon,  Judges 16:23;  1 Samuel 5:3-5;  1 Chronicles 10:10;  1 Maccabees 10:83, Ashtaroth,  1 Samuel 31:10, Herod. I. 105, and Baalzebub.  2 Kings 1:2-6.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

PHILISTINES . The inhabitants of the Maritime Plain of Palestine (cf. art. Palestine, 1) from the period of the Judges onward to the 6th cent. or later. They are said to have come from Caphtor (  Amos 9:7 ,   Jeremiah 47:4 ,   Deuteronomy 2:23 ), which is with much probability identified with Crete. At all events they came from over the sea.

Rameses III. of the XXth Egyptian dynasty encountered a piratical sea-faring people on the borders of Syria, whom he called Purusati (= Pulista or ‘Philistines’). They afterwards made incursions on the northern coast of Egypt as well as on the coast of Palestine. In the latter country they gained a permanent foothold, owing to its disorganized condition. When Wenamon made his expedition to Lebanon for a king of the XXIst dynasty (c [Note: circa, about.] . 1100), a Philistine kingdom existed at Dor. (For these facts cf. Breasted, Ancient Records , iv. 274 ff., and History of Egypt , p. 513.)

The Philistines first make their appearance in Biblical history late in the period of the Judges, when Samson, of the tribe of Dan, is said to have waged his curious single-handed combats with them ( Judges 13:1-25;   Judges 14:1-20;   Judges 15:1-20;   Judges 16:1-31 ). These conflicts were the natural result of the impact of the Philistines upon Israel’s western border. The reference to the Philistines in   Judges 3:31 is a later insertion (cf. Israel, §I. 11). During the time of Eli these invaders were trying to make their way into the central ridge of Palestine, and in one of the battles captured the ark of Jahweh, which a pestilence (probably bubonic plague) induced them to return (  1 Samuel 4:1-22;   1 Samuel 5:1-12;   1 Samuel 6:1-21 ).

When Saul became king the Philistines tried to break his power, but were defeated through the bravery of Jonathan ( 1 Samuel 13:1-23;   1 Samuel 14:1-52 ). Saul did not permanently check their progress, however, as by the end of his reign the whole of the rich plain of Jezreel was in their possession, including the city of Bethshean at its eastern end (  1 Samuel 31:10 ). David early in his reign inflicted upon them a severe defeat (  2 Samuel 5:22 ff.), afterwards reducing them to vassalage (  2 Samuel 8:1 ). Down to this time Philistine power was concentrated in the hands of the rulers of the five cities of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath. The rulers of these cities are called by a peculiar title, which is translated ‘lords of the Philistines’ (wh. see).

After the reign of David, probably at the division of the kingdom, the Philistines regained their independence, for we find the kings of Israel in the 9th cent. trying to wrest from them Gibbethon, a town on the border of the Maritime Plain ( 1 Kings 15:27;   1 Kings 16:15 ). Late in the same century the Assyrian king Adad-nlrari III. took tribute of Philistine kings ( KIB [Note: IB Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek.] i. 190), and began the long series of Assyrian interferences in Philistine affairs. Amos (1:6 8) denounces Philistine monarchies as among the independent kingdoms of his time.

The position of the Philistines exposed them to every approach of the Assyrians and Egyptians, and during the last third of the 8th cent. and the whole of the 7th their history is a series of conquests, conspiracies, and rebellions. It is possible to follow these with much fulness in the Assyrian inscriptions, but full details cannot be given here. Tiglath-pileser iii. received tribute from Philistines ( KIB [Note: IB Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek.] ii. 20). They became Sargon’s vassals the year that Samaria fell, b.c. 722 ( KIB [Note: IB Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek.] li. 54), but ten years later a rebellion was led by Ashdod (  Isaiah 20:1; KIB [Note: IB Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek.] ii. 64 ff.). At the beginning of the reign of Sennacherib another effort was made to shake off the Assyrian yoke. In this Hezekiah of Judah took part by imprisoning Padi, the Philistine king of Ekron, who remained faithful to Sennacherib. The allies thus brought together were defeated at Eltekeh ( KIB [Note: IB Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek.] ii. 92 ff.), and the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib was the result (  2 Kings 18:1-37;   2 Kings 19:1-37 ). Esarhaddon ( KIB [Note: IB Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek.] ii. 148), and Ashurbanipal ( KIB [Note: IB Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek.] ii. 240) marched across the Philistine territory and held it in subjection. With the decline of Assyria the Philistines began to suffer from the rise of Egypt under the XXVIth dynasty. Psammetichus i. took Ashdod after a siege of 29 years (Herod. ii. 157). Necho ii., a contemporary of Josiah of Judah, captured Gaza (Herod. ii. 159). It is probable that the Philistines suffered at the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, but no record of his doings among them has been preserved. The Assyrians call the Philistine rulers ‘kings.’ The older title, ‘lords of the Philistines,’ has disappeared.

When Cambyses made his expedition into Egypt (b.c. 525), Gaza opposed him (Polyb. xvi. 40). The Sidonian king Eshmunazar claims that Dor and Joppa were added to the dominions of Sidon. Gaza in 332 held out against Alexander the Great, and his siege of it is famous (Diod. Sic. xvii. xlviii. 7). The Ptolemys and Seleucids often fought over Philistine territory. It finally passed under Roman rule, and its cities had then an important history.

The Philistines cease to be mentioned by this name after the time of the Assyrians. Some infer from the fact that Herodotus (iii. 5) speaks of the Arabians as being in possession of the coast in the time of Cambyses, that the Philistines had even then been supplanted. It is probable that in the ebb and flow of the nations over this land they were gradually absorbed and lost their identity.

Probably the Philistines adopted in the main the religion and civilization of the Canaanites. Their chief god, Dagon ( 1 Samuel 5:2 ff.), was a Semitic deity. He appears in the el-Amarna letters and also in Babylonia (cf. Barton, Semit. Or . 229 ff.). There was also at Ashkelon a temple of Ashtart (Herod. l. 105). If their religion was Semitic, so also were probably the other features of their civilization. If they brought other customs from beyond the sea, they are not described in our scanty records.

George A. Barton.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [3]

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. It resembles our own western prairies; and bears splendid crops year after year, though miserably cultivated and never manured.

The Philistines were a powerful people in Palestine, even in Abraham's time, B. C. 1900, for they had then kings and considerable cities,  Genesis 20.2;  21.32;  Exodus 13.17 . They are not enumerated among the nations devoted to extermination with the seed of Canaan. Joshua, however, did not hesitate to attack them by command from the Lord, because they possessed various districts promised to Israel. But these conquests must have been ill maintained, since under the judges, at the time of Saul, and at the beginning of the reign of David, the Philistines had their own kings and lords. Their state was divided into five little principalities, at the head of each of which was a "lord," namely, Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron-and they oppressed Israel during the government of the high-priest Eli, that of Samuel, and during the reign of Saul, for about one hundred and twenty years. Shaamgar, Samson, Samuel, and Saul opposed them, and were victorious over them with great slaughter, at various times, but did not destroy their power,  Judges 3:14   1 Samuel 4:1-22   7:1-17   14:1-52   31:1-13 . They maintained their independence till David subdued them,  2 Samuel 5:17   8:1-18 , from which time they continued in subjection to the kings of Judah, down to the reign of Jehoram, son of Johoshaphat, when they revolted,  2 Chronicles 21:16 . Jehoram made war against them, and probably reduced them to obedience; for it is observed that they revolted again from Uzziah, who kept them under his sway using his whole reign,  2 Chronicles 26:6-7 . During the unfortunate reign of Ahaz, the Philistines made great havoc in the territory of Judah; but his son and successor Hezekiah again subdued them,  2 Chronicles 28:18   2 Kings 18:8 . They regained their full liberty, however, under the later kings of Judah; and we see by the menaces uttered against them by the prophets Isaiah, Amos, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, that they brought many calamities on Israel, for which God threatened to punish them with great misfortunes,  Jeremiah 47:1-7   Ezekiel 25:15   Amos 1:6-8   Obadiah 1:19   Zechariah 9:5 . See also  Nehemiah 13:23 .

They were partially subdued by Esar-haddon king of Assyria and afterwards by Psammetichus king of Egypt; and there is great probability that they were reduced by Nebuchadnezzar, as well as the other people of Syria, Phoenicia, and Palestine, during the siege of Tyre. They afterwards fell under the dominion of the Persians; then under that of Alexander the Great, who destroyed Gaza, the only city of the Philistines that dared to oppose him. They appear to have become entirely incorporated with the other inhabitants of the land under the Maccabees, and are no more mentioned as a distinct people. The ancient Philistines appear in sacred history as a warlike people, not strangers to the arts of life,  Judges 15:5   1 Samuel 13:20; worshippers of Baal and Ashtoreth, under the names of Baal-zebub and Dagon; having many priests and diviners,  1 Samuel 6:2   2 Kings 1:2   Isaiah 2:6 . They appear to have been of the race of Shem, their language being akin to the Hebrew, yet distinct from it,  Nehemiah 13:24 . Their land, once rich and covered with cities and towns, is now desolate,  Zephaniah 2:4-7 .

Morrish Bible Dictionary [4]

Descendants, with the Caphtorim, of the Pathrusim, and the Casluhim, two clans descended from Ham.  Genesis 10:14;  Deuteronomy 2:23;  Jeremiah 47:4;  Amos 9:7 . They were found in the S.W. of Palestine when Abraham went to sojourn at Gerar,  Genesis 20; and both Abraham and Isaac had certain contentions with them respecting the wells which they had digged.  Genesis 21:25-34;  Genesis 26:1-18 . They were a warlike people, which was the reason that God did not lead the Israelites near to them when He led them out of Egypt.  Exodus 13:17 . It is probable that at first they were a sort of colony of Egypt. Their five cities commanded the coast road from Egypt to Syria, and there is proof that Egypt had a strong hold on Palestine before the arrival of Joshua; but it was then declining.

As they occupied a part of the promised land, the Israelites should have dispossessed them; but when Joshua was old 'all the borders of the Philistines' were still unoccupied by the Israelites. They represent the pretension and intrusion of man in the flesh into that which belongs to God. Nazariteship in Samson is God's way of deliverance, but the Nazarite utterly failed, and in the days of Eli the Israelites were conquered by them and the ark taken. When Saul was king he was in fear of them, and they were enabled to enter his dominions, and in a battle Saul and his sons lost their lives. It was by David, God's king, that the Philistines were really conquered, and under Solomon we find they were tributary.

When the kingdom of Israel was divided, the Philistines regained their independence more or less. God used them at times to punish His guilty people, and at other times gave those that served Him power over them. In the prophets destruction is pronounced upon their land and the remnant of the people. The five fortified cities of the Philistines, with their 'daughters' or dependent villages, were Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron. The Philistines were idolaters and worshipped Dagon, Ashtaroth and Baal-zebub.  1 Samuel 5:2;  1 Samuel 31:10;  2 Kings 1:2;  Jeremiah 57;  Ezekiel 25:15-17;  Amos 1:7,8;  Zephaniah 2:5 . Philistim in  Genesis 10:14 is the same Hebrew word that is elsewhere translated Philistines.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [5]

 Genesis 10:14 2 Samuel 21:16-22 Genesis 21:32,34 26:1 Amos 9:7 Jeremiah 47:4 Exodus 13:17 15:14,15 Joshua 13:3 1 Samuel 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 ( Ezekiel 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 south-western 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 Twentieth 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 in Palestine. As they did not enter Palestine 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 ch. 20.

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 .

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [6]

A race well known to the church; the sworn foes to God and his people. The name is not derived from the Hebrew, but is a common name for dwellers in villages.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [7]

fi - lis´tinz , fil´is - tı̄nz , fil´is - tinz ( פּלשׁתּים , pelishtı̄m  ; Φυλιστείν , Phulistieı́m , ἀλλόφυλοι , allóphuloi ):

I. Old Testament Notices

1. Race and Origin

2. Religion

3. Individual Philistines Mentioned

4. Title of Ruler and Circumcision

5. History in the Old Testament to Death of Saul

6. History Continued to Time of Ahaz

7. Later Notices

II. Monumental Notices

1. Palestinian Excavations

2. Egyptian Monuments

3. Assyrian Texts

III. The Cretan Theory

1. Cherethim and Kretes

2. Caphtor and Keft

IV. David 'S Guards

1. The "Cherethi" and the "Pelethi" Not Mercenaries

2. Meaning of These Terms

3. Native Hebrews

4. Review


I. Old Testament Notices.

1. Race and Origin:

The Philistines were an uncircumcised people inhabiting the shore plain between Gezer and Gaza in Southwestern Palestine (see Philistia ). 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 10:14 (  1 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 ( u - 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. See Ashtoreth .

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.

II. Monumental Notices.

1. Palestinian Excavations:

These are of great importance, because they confirm the Old Testament statements from a time at least as early as that of Moses, and down to 670 BC. Recent excavations at Gezer show the early presence of two races at this Philistine city, one being Semitic, the other probably Egyptian Scarabs as old as the Xii th Dynasty were found, and in the 15th century Bc G ezer was held by Amenophis III. At Lachish also seals of this king and his queen have been found, with a cuneiform letter to Zimridi, who was ruler of the city under the same Pharaoh. At Gaza a temple was built by Amenophis II. The names of places in Philistia noticed yet earlier by Thothmes 3 are all Semitic, including Joppa, Saphir, Gerar, Gezer, etc. In the Tell el - Amarna Letters we have also (about 1480 BC) letters from chiefs subject to Amenophis 3 at Joppa, Ashkelon, Gezer, Lachish and Keilah which show us a Semitic population, not only by the language of these letters, but also by the names of the writers. In the case of Ashkelon especially the Semitic rulers are found to have worshipped Dagon; and, though the name "Philistine" does not occur, the race was clearly the same found by the Assyrians in 800 Bc in the land of Palastan beside the Great Sea. These names include Yamir - Dagān ("Dagon sees"), Dagāntakala ("Dagon is a protection") and Yadaya (the "grateful") at Ashkelon; Bua ("asked for"), son of the woman Gulata , at Joppa; Yabnilu ("God made"), at Lachish, with Zimridi - a name found also in Sabean Arabic; while, at Gezer, Yapa'a represents the Biblical Japhia (  Joshua 10:3 ), and Milkilu ("Moloch is king") the Hebrew Malchiel. Others might be added of the same character, but these examples are enough to show that, in the time of Moses and Joshua, the population of Philistia was the same that is noticed in the Old Testament as early as Abraham's age.

2. Egyptian Monuments:

When therefore scholars speak of the Philistines as being non-Semitic - and probably Āryan - invaders of the country, arriving about 1200 BC, they appear not only to contradict the Bible, but also to contradict the monumental evidence of the earlier existence of Semitic Dagon- worshippers at Ashkelon. In this later age Rameses 3 was attacked, in Egypt, by certain northern tribes who came by sea, and also by land, wasting first the country of the Hittites and Amorites. Among them were the Danau, who were probably Greek Danai. They were exterminated in the Delta, and in the subsequent advance of Rameses 3 to the Euphrates. On a colored picture they are represented as fair people; and two of the tribes were called Pūrstau and Takarri , whom Chabas supposed to be Pelasgi (since 50 and r are not distinguished in Egyptian) and Teucrians. These two tribes wear the same peculiar headdress. Brugsch supposed the former to be Philistines ( Geog ., I, 10), but afterward called them Purosata ( Hist Egypt , II, 148). The inscriptions accompanying the picture on the temple walls say that they came from the north, and "their home was in the land of the Purstau, the Takarri," etc. There is thus no reason at all to suppose that they were Philistines, nor did they ever settle in Philistia.

3. Assyrian Texts:

The Assyrian texts agree with those already mentioned in making the inhabitants of Philistia Semitic. Rimmon-nirari, about 800 BC, was the first Assyrian conqueror in Palastau ("by the great sea"). In 734,727 BC, Tiglath-pileser attacked the Pilisti , and mentions a king of Ashkelon named Mitinti ("my gift"), and his son Rukufti whose name resembles that of the Kenite called Rechab in the Old Testament. The name of the king of Gaza was Chanun, or "merciful." In 711 Bc S argon took Ashdod, and speaks of its king Azuri , whose name recalls the Amorite Aziru, and of Aḥimiti ("a brother is sent"), and the usurper Yamanu ("stedfast"), who fled before him. Sennacherib, in 702 BC, gives the names of cities in Philistia (including Eltekeh and Beneberak near Joppa) which are Semitic. He notices Ṣidḳa (Zadok) of Ashkelon, and also Sarludari ("the Lord be praised"), son of Rukubti in the same city, with Mitinti of Ashdod, and Padii ("redeeming") of Ekron, while Ṣil - b'el ("Baal is a protection") was king of Gaza. In 679 Bc E sarhaddon speaks of Ṣilli - b'el ("Baal is my protection") of Gaza, with Mitinti of Ashkelon, Ika - samsu ("the sun-god is manifest") of Ekron, and Abi - milki of Ashdod, who bore the ancient Philistine name Abimelech. In 670 BC, when Assur - bani - pal set up many tributary kings in Egypt, we find again the name Sarludari applied to a ruler of Pelusium, who may have been a Philistine. It is thus abundantly clear that the monumental notices all agree with the Old Testament as to the names and nationality of the Philistines, and as to their worship of Baal and Dagon; the conjecture that they were Āryan foreigners, arriving in 1200 BC, is not based on any statement of the monuments, but merely rests on a guess which Brugsch subsequently abandoned. It resembles many other supposed discrepancies between Biblical and contemporary records due to the mistakes of modern commentators.

III. The Cretan Theory.

1. Cherethim and Kretes:

This strange theory, which is apparently of Byzantine origin, would make the Philistines come from Crete. It still finds supporters, though it does not rest on any Biblical or monumental evidence. The Ḥerethim (  Ezekiel 25:16;  Zephaniah 2:5 ) were a Semitic people named with the Philistines in Canaan. The Septuagint renders the word with Krētēs or Krētoi  ; and, about 1770 AD, Michaelis (Spicil., I, 292-308) argued that this meant "Cretans," and that the Philistines therefore came from Caphtor, which must be Crete. The passages, however, refer to Philistia and not to any island, and the Septuagint translators, as we have seen, placed Caphtor in Cappadocia. The Cherethi - in the singular - is mentioned ( 1 Samuel 30:14 ) as a people of Philistia ( 1 Samuel 30:16 ), near Ziklag, and their name probably survives at the present town called Keratı̂yeh in the Philistine plain.

Yet, many theories are founded on this old idea about the Cherethites. Some suppose that Tacitus confused the Jews with the Philistines as having come from Crete; but what he actually says ( History v. 11) is that "the Jews ran away from Crete," and "the inhabitants are named Idaci (from Mount Ida), which, with a barbarous augment, becomes the name of the Judaei ." This absurd derivation shows at least that Tacitus did not mean the Philistines. Stephen of Byzantium said that the god Marna at Gaza was like the Cretan Jove. Probably he had seen the huge statue of a seated Jove found near Gaza, and now at Constantinople, but this is late Greek work, and the name Marna ("our lord") is Semitic. Stephen also thought that Minois - the port of Gaza - was named from the Cretan Minos, but it is an Arabic word Mı́neh , for "harbor," still applying to the same place.

2. Caphtor and Keft:

No critical student is likely to prefer these later speculations to our present monumental information, even without reference to the contradiction of the Bible. Yet these blunders have given rise to the supposition that Caphtor is to be identified with a region known to the Egyptians as Keft , with inhabitants called Kefau . The latter are represented in a tomb of the Xviii th Dynasty near Thebes. They are youths of brown color, with long black hair, and the same type is found in a Cypriote figure. They are connected with islanders of the "green sea," who may have lived in Arvad or in Cyprus; but there is no evidence in any written statement that they were Cretans, though a figure at Knossos in Crete somewhat resembles them. There are many indications that this figure - painted on the wall of the later palace - is not older than about 500 BC, and the Sidonians had colonies in Crete, where also pottery is found just like that marked by a Phoenician inscription in Cyprus. The Kefau youths bring vases as presents, and these - in all their details - are exactly the same as those represented in another picture of the time of Thothrues III, the bearers in this case being Ḥarri from North Syria, represented with black beards and Semitic features. Moreover, on the bilingual inscription called the Decree of Canopus (238 BC), the Keft region is said to be "Phoenicia," and the Greek translator naturally knew what was meant by his Egyptian colleague. Keft in fact is a Semitic word for "palm," occurring in Hebrew (  Isaiah 9:14;  Isaiah 19:15 ), and thus applicable to the "palm"-land, Phoenicia. Thus, even if Keft were related to Caphtor, the evidence would place the Philistine home on the Phoenician shores, and not in Crete. There is indeed no evidence that any European race settled near the coasts of Palestine before about 680 BC, when Esarhaddon speaks of Greek kings in Cyprus. The Cretan theory of Michaelis was a literary conjecture, which has been disproved by the results of exploration in Asia.

IV. David's Guards.

1. The "Cherethi" and the "Pelethi" Not Mercenaries:

Another strange theory, equally old, represents David as being surrounded with foreign mercenaries - P hilistines and Carians - as Rameses 2 employed mercenaries called Shairtanau from Asia Minor. The suggestion that the Cherethites were of this race is scarcely worth notice, since the Hebrew letter kāph כ is never represented by sh in Egyptian. David's band of Hebrew exiles, 400 in number, followed him to Gath where 200 Gittites joined him (  2 Samuel 15:18 ). In later times his army consisted of "the Cherethi" ( kerēthı̄ , in the singular) and "the Pelethi" ( pelēthı̄ ), commanded by the Hebrew leader Benaiah, son of Jehoiada ( 2 Samuel 8:18;  2 Samuel 15:18;  2 Samuel 20:7;  1 Kings 1:38 ,  1 Kings 1:44 ), together with the Gittites under Ittai of Gath. These guards are never said to have been Philistines, but "the Cherethi" is supposed to mean one of the Cherethim tribe, and "the Pelethi" to be another name for the Philistine. As regards the Gittites, the fact that they came from Gath does not prove that they were Philistines, any more than was David himself because he came back from this city. David calls Ittai an "enemy" and an "exile," but it is probable that he was the same hero, so named ( 2 Samuel 23:29 ), who was the son of Ribai from Gibeah of Benjamin. He had himself not long joined David, being no doubt in exile at Gath, and his tribe at first opposed David, taking the side of their tribesman Saul. Even when Ittai's men joined the Cherethi and Pelethi against Absalom, they were naturally suspected; for David still had enemies ( 2 Samuel 15:5-13 ) among Benjamites of Saul's house. It is also surely impossible to suppose that David would have left the ark in charge of a Phili; and Obed-edom the Gittite ( 2 Samuel 6:10 ) was a Levite, according to a later account ( 1 Chronicles 15:18 ), bearing a Hebrew name, meaning perhaps "servant of men," or "humble worshipper." It seems equally unlikely that, in later times, a pious priest like Jehoiada ( 2 Kings 11:4 ) would have admitted foreign mercenaries into the temple. In this passage they are called kārı̄ , as also in  2 Samuel 20:23 , where the Septuagint has Cherethi . The suggestion of Wellhausen that they were Carians does not seem probable, as Carians had not even reached Egypt before about 600 BC.

2. Meaning of These Terms:

The real explanation of these various words for soldiers seems simple; and David - being a very popular king - is not likely to have needed foreign mercenaries; while the Philistines, whom he had so repeatedly smitten, were very unlikely to have formed trusty guards. The word "Cherethi" ( kerēthı̄ ) means a "smiter" or a "destroyer," and "Pelethi" ( pelēthı̄ ) means "a swift one" or "pursuer." In the time of Joash the temple-guards are called kārı̄ (  2 Kings 11:4 ,  2 Kings 11:19 , Carites), which the Septuagint treats as either singular or plural, and rācı̄m or "runners" (see  1 Samuel 22:17;  1 Kings 14:27 ,  1 Kings 14:28;  2 Kings 10:25 ), these two bodies perhaps answering to the Cherethi and Pelethi of David's time; for kārı̄ means "stabber." The term rācı̄m , or "runners," is however of general application, since Jehu also had troops so called ( 2 Kings 10:25 ). Evidently we have here two classes of troops - as among the Romans - the heavier regiment of "destroyers," or "stabbers," being armed with swords, daggers or spears; while the "swift ones" or "runners" pursued the defeated foe. Thus, in Egypt we find, yet earlier, the ax-man supported by the bow-man in regular regiments; and in Assyria the spear-man with heavy shields defending the bow-man. We have also a picture of the time of Tiglath-pileser Ii representing an Assyrian soldier on a camel. The Pelethi or "pursuers" may have been "runners" on foot, but perhaps more probably mounted on camels, or on horses like the later Assyrians; for in the time of Solomon ( 1 Kings 4:28 ) horses and riding camels were in use - the former for chariots. It is clear that David's band, leaving the vicinity of Jezreel ( 1 Samuel 29:1;  1 Samuel 30:1 ), could not have reached Ziklag "on the third day" (a distance of 120 miles) on foot; so that the camel corps must have existed even before the death of Saul.

3. Native Hebrews:

These considerations seem to make it evident that David's guards were native Hebrews, who had been with him as exiles and outlaws at Adullam and Gath, and that the Cherethi or "destroyer" only accidentally had a title like that of the Philistine tribe of "destroyers" or Cherethim, who were not Cretans, it would seem, any more than the "stabbers" were Carians.

4. Review:

The general result of our inquiry is, that all monumental notices of the Philistines agree with the Old Testament statements, which make them to be a Semitic people who had already migrated to Philistia by the time of Abraham, while the supposed discrepancies are caused by the mistakes made by a commentator of the 18th century, and by archaeologists of later times.


Paton, Early History of Syria and Palestine  ; Smith, Hghl  ; Budge, History of Egypt  ; Breasted, History of Egypt  ; Rawlinson, Ancient Monarchies  ; Herodotus with most histories of Egypt, Babylon, and Assyria for the period from the 13th century Bc to the time of Alexander.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [8]

Philis´tines, a tribe which gave its name to the country known as Palestine, though it occupied only a portion of the southern coast, namely, that which was bounded on the west by the hill country of Ephraim and Judah, and on the south extended from Joppa to the borders of Egypt, thus touching on the Israelite tribes Dan, Simeon, and Judah. Indeed the portions of Simeon and Dan covered a large part of Philistia, but its possession by the Israelites was disputed, and was never entirely achieved. This country was originally held by the Avims, who were destroyed and their land seized by the Caphtorims, coming forth out of Caphtor . In the Philistines are denominated 'the remnant of the country (or isle) of Caphtor.' In , the Divine Being asks, 'Have I not brought the Philistines from Caphtor?' The Caphtorim and the Philistim are also associated together as kindred tribes in the genealogical list of nations given in , both being descendants of Mizraim. Some imagine that Caphtor is Cappadocia: others with more reason affirm that it is Crete, and that the Philistines, being a part of the great Shemitic family, went westward under pressure from the wave of population which came down from the higher country to the sea-coast, but afterwards returned eastward from Crete to Palestine. Another opinion, which is supported by very plausible arguments, is, that the Philistines are to be identified with the Hycksos or Shepherd kings, who were expelled from Egypt, and taking possession of Canaan gave to it the name of Palisthan, i.e., Shepherd-land. This view appears to be countenanced by , where the Philistines are derived from Mizraim, that is from Egypt.

If now we follow the Biblical accounts, we find the history of the Philistines to be in brief as follows. They had established themselves in their land as early as the time of Abraham, when they had founded a kingdom at Gerar . When the Israelites left Egypt, they were deterred by fear of the power of the Philistines from returning by the shortest road—that which the caravans still take—because it lay through the country of the Philistines . In the time of Joshua the Philistines appear in a league of five princes, governors of so many tribes or petty states—'all the borders of the Philistines from Sihor which is before Egypt even unto the borders of Ekron northward counted to the Canaanites.' Joshua appears to have thought it prudent to attempt nothing for the dispossession of the Philistines, and he therefore had no hostile relations with them; for the division of Philistia among the tribes was nothing more than a prospective but unfulfilled arrangement . The days of the Judges, however, brought conflicts between the Israelites and the Philistines, who dwelt wide over the land, and even exercised dominion over their Hebrew neighbors (;;;;; ).

In the time of Eli the Philistines succeeded in getting the ark into their possession (1 Samuel 4); but a defeat which they suffered under Samuel put an end to their dominion, after it had lasted forty years (1 Samuel 7). This subjection of the Israelites began after the death of Jair, and continued to the termination of the period embraced in the book of Judges. Within this space of time fall the life and the heroic actions of Samson. Notwithstanding the total defeat which the Philistines had undergone, and the actual termination of their political supremacy, they continued to be troublesome neighbors. 'There was sore war against the Philistines all the days of Saul' a conflict which was carried on with various success, and in which the king found great support in the prudent bravery of his son Jonathan and the high courage of David (; 1 Samuel 14;;; ). Even after his separation from Saul, David inflicted many blows on the Philistines (1 Samuel 23); but soon saw himself obliged to seek refuge in Gath (1 Samuel 27), and was in consequence near making common cause with them against Saul (1 Samuel 29), who met with his death at their hands while engaged in battle (1 Samuel 31). They also raised their arms against David, when he had become king of all Israel, but were several times beaten by that brave monarch (, sq.; 8:1). 'Mighty men,' performing valorous deeds in imitation of David's rencounter with Goliath, gave the king their support against this brave and persevering enemy (, sq.). Solomon appears to have been undisturbed by the Philistines, but they had settlements in the land of Israel under the early Ephraimitic kings . To Jehoshaphat they became tributary . Under Jehoram, however, they, in union with the Arabians, fell on Jerusalem, and carried off the king's substance, as well as his wives and children . On the other hand, in the reign of King Jehoash, their city Gath was taken by Hazael, King of Syria, who also threatened Jerusalem . But in the time of Ahaz they revolted, and carried with them a part of western Judah, having 'invaded the cities of the low country and of the south of Judah, and taken Bethshemesh and Ajalon,' etc. (; comp. ). Hezekiah in the first years of his reign obtained some advantages over them . Soon, however, Assyrian armies went against Philistia, and, with a view to an invasion of Egypt, got into their power the strong frontier-fortress of Ashdod , which at a later time Psammetichus took from them, after a siege of twenty-nine years (Herod, ii. 157). In consequence of the hostile relations between Assyria and Egypt, Philistia suffered for a long period, as the troops of the former power took their way through that land, and Pharaoh-Necho captured the stronghold Gaza . The same was done by Alexander the Great in his expedition to Egypt. On the destruction of the Jewish state, the Philistines, like other neighboring peoples, acted ill towards the Jews, having 'taken vengeance with a despiteful heart' . Many of those who returned from the captivity 'had married wives of Ashdod, and their speech spoke half in the speech of Ashdod' (, sq.). In the Maccabean period the Philistines were Syrian subjects, and had at times to suffer at the hands of the Jews (; , sq.). King Alexander (Balus) gave Jonathan a part of their territory Accaron, with the borders thereof in possession . The Jewish monarch Alexander Jannaeus overcame and destroyed Gaza. By Pompey Azotus, Jamnia, and Gaza were united to the Roman province of Syria; but Gaza was given by Augustus to King Herod.

The Philistine cities were greatly distinguished. Along the whole coast from north to south there ran a line of towns—in the north the Phoenician, in the south the Philistine—which were powerful, rich, and well-peopled. The chief cities of the Philistines were five—Gaza, Ashdod, Askalon, Gath, and Ekron . Several of these Palestinian cities flourished at the same time; and though these cities gained at different periods pre-eminence in power, wealth, and population, and though some did not rise till others had declined or perished, yet is it true that from the earliest times till the century after Christ a number of important towns existed on the narrow strip of land which borders the Mediterranean Sea, such as was never seen in any other part of the world, the Ionian coast of Asia Minor not excepted.

The greatness of these cities was mainly owing to commerce, for the coast of Palestine was in the earliest ages exclusively in possession of the trade which was carried on between Europe and Asia. Besides a great transit trade, they had internal sources of wealth, being given to agriculture . In the time of Saul they were evidently superior in the arts of life to the Israelites; for we read that the latter were indebted to the former for the utensils of ordinary life. Their religion was not essentially different from that of the Phoenicians. The idol which they most reverenced was Astarte, the Assyrian Semiramis, or Derketo, who was also honored as Dagon, in a very ancient temple at Askelon and at Gaza, also at Ashdod (; , sq.; ). This was a species of fish-worship, a remnant of which may still be found in the special care taken of certain holy fish in some parts of Syria. In Ekron Baal-zebub had his chief seat. Priests and soothsayers were numerous . Their magicians were in repute , and the oracle of Baal-zebub was consulted by foreigners . They had the custom of carrying with them in war the images of their gods . Tradition makes the Philistines the inventors of the bow and arrow.

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [9]

A people, for long of uncertain origin, but now generally believed to have been originally emigrants from Crete, who settled in the plain, some 40 m. long by 15 broad, extending along the coast of Palestine from Joppa on the N. to the desert on the S., and whose chief cities were Ashdod, Askelon, Ekron, Gaza, and Gath; they were a trading and agricultural people, were again and again a thorn in the side of the Israelites, but gradually tamed into submission, so as to be virtually extinct in the days of Christ; their chief god was Dagon ( q. v .).