1902 Encyclopedia > Philistines


PHILISTINES (_____), the name of a people which, in the latter part of the age of the Judges and up to the time of David, disputed the sovereignty of Canaan with the Israelites (see ISRAEL, vol. xiii. p. 402 sq.). The Philistine country (____; Palaestina; the authorized version still uses the word in this its original sense as equivalent to Philistia) embraced the rich lowlands on the Mediterranean coast (the Shephelah) from somewhere near Joppa to the Egyptian desert south of Gaza, and was divided between five chief cities, Ashdod or AZOTUS (q.v.), GAZA (q.v.), and Askelon (Ashkelon, ASCALON, q.v.) on or near the coast, and GATH (q.v.) and EKBON (q.v.) inland. The five cities, of all of which except Gath the sites are known, formed a confederation under five "lords" (Seranim).

Ashdod was probably the foremost city of the confedera-tion in the time of Philistine supremacy; for it heads the list in 1 Sam. vi. 17, and it was to the temple of Dagon in Ashdod that the ark was brought after the battle of Aphek or Ebenezer (1 Sam. v. 1). Hebrew tradition recognizes the Philistines as immigrants into Canaan with-in historical times, like the Israelites and the Aramaeans (Amos ix. 7), but unlike the Canaanites. They came, according to Amos, from Caphtor (comp. Jer. xlvii. 4), and Deut. ii. 23 relates that the Caphtorim from Caphtor displaced an earlier race, the 'Avvfm, who were not city-dwellers like the Canaanites, but lived in scattered villages. The very name of Philistines probably comes from a Semitic root meaning "to wander " ; the Septuagint calls them _______, "aliens." The date of their immigration cannot be determined with certainty. We are scarcely en-titled to take Gen. xxi., xxvi., as proving that the inhabit-ants of Gerar in patriarchal times were identical with the later Philistines, and the other references in the Penta-teuch and Joshua are equally inconclusive. The first real sign of the presence of the Philistines is when the Danites, who in the time of Deborah were seated on the sea-coast (Judges v. 17), were compelled—obviously by the pressure of a new enemy—to seek another home far north at the base of Mount Hermon (Judges xviii.). This marks the commencement of the period of Philistine aggression, when the foreigners penetrated into the heart of the Israelite country, broke up the old hegemony of Ephraim at the battle of Ebenezer, and again at the battle of Mount Gilboa destroyed the first attempt at a kingdom of all Israel. The highest power of the Philistines was after the death of Saul, when David, who still held Ziklag, and so was still the vassal of Gath, reigned in Hebron, and the house of Saul was driven across the Jordan. But these successes were mainly due to want of union and discipline in Israel, and when David had united the tribes under a new sceptre the Philistines were soon humbled. After the division of the kingdom the house of Ephraim appears to have laid claim to the suzerainty over Philistia, for we twice read of a siege of the border fortress of Gibbethon by the northern Israelites (1 Kings xv. 27, xvi. 15); but the Philistines, though now put on the defensive, were able to maintain their independence. Philistia was never part of the land of Israel (2 Kings i. 3, viii. 2 ; Amos vi. 2), and its relations with the Hebrews were embittered by the slave trade, for which the merchants of Gaza carried on forays among the Israelite villages (Amos i. 6). On the other hand, the trading relations between Gaza and Edom (Amos, ut sup.) probably imply that in the 8th century Judah, which lay between the two, was open to Philistine commerce (comp. Isa. ii. 6); Judah under Uzziah had reopened the Red Sea trade, of which the Philistine ports were the natural outlet. Soon, how-ever, all the Palestinian states fell under the great empire of Assyria, and Tiglath-Pileser, in 734 B.C., subdued the Philistines as far as Gaza. But the spirit of the race was not easily broken; they were constantly engaged in intrigues with Egypt, and had a share in every conspiracy and revolt against the great king. Of two of these revolts, first against Sargon in 711, and afterwards against Sennacherib on Sargon's death (705), a memorial is preserved in Isa. xx., xiv. 29 sq. In the latter revolt Hezekiah of Judah was also engaged; it was to him that Delta. Ancient tradition gives no help ; for it takes Caphtor to be Cappadocia, led, it would seem, merely by a super-ficial similarity of the names. Of the two main theories the former is that which has recently found most support, and it has a definite point of attachment in the fact that the Philistines, or a part of them, are also called in the Bible Cherethites (1 Sam. xxx. 14; Ezek. xxv. 16; Zeph. ii. 5), while David's Philistine guards are in like manner called the Cherethites and Pelethites (2 Sam. viii. 18, xv. 18, &c). Cherethites (Kretim) can hardly be anything but Cretans, as the LXX. actually renders it in Ezekiel and Zephaniah, and Caphtor would thus be the island of Crete, —an identification which seems to satisfy the conditions of a reasonable hypothesis. For, though the points of contact between Crete or Cretan religion and the Philistine coast which have been sought in Greek and Latin writers (chiefly in Steph. Byzant., s.v. " Gaza ") are very shadowy, there is no doubt that Crete had an early connexion with Phoenicia and received many Semitic inhabitants and a Semitic civilization before the Greeks gradually asserted themselves in the Aegean and forced back the tide of Semitic influence (for details, see the article PHOENICIA). These facts give a reasonable explanation of the settlement on the Philistine coast within historical times of a mari-time people, cognate to the Phoenicians in so many points and yet having certain distinct characters, such as would naturally be produced in a place like Crete by the grafting of a Semitic stock and culture on ruder races not Semitic (the Eteocretans). The opposite view, which places Caphtor in the Delta, rests on more complicated but less satisfactory arguments. There were certainly many Semites in the Delta of Egypt, and so long as the history of the Hyksos (who were no doubt Semites) remains in its present obscurity it is always possible to suppose that their ex-pulsion from Egypt explains the settlement of the Philis-tines in Canaan. But it is very questionable if the dates will fit; the name Caphtor is connected with the Delta by no historical testimony, but only by elaborate hypotheses, as that Caphtor may mean in Egyptian Great Phoenicia, and that this again may have been a name for the Egyptian coast, where there was a large Semitic population; and the characteristic Philistine peculiarity of uncircumcision, intelligible enough on the Cretan theory, is scarcely con-ceivable in a race which had been long settled in Egypt. The mainstay of the Egyptian hypothesis is found in Gen. x. 13, 14,—verses which belong to the older part of the chapter (see NOAH), and reckon in the very obscure list of descendants of Mizraim or Egypt " Casluhim (whence came forth Philistim) and Caphtorim." This account places Caphtorim in some relation to Egypt, but not necessarily in a very close relation, for the Ludim, who are also made descendants of Egypt, are scarcely different from Lud or Lydia, which appears at ver. 22, in the later part of the chapter, in another connexion. But further, if the text as it stands is sound, it gives a new account of the origin of the Philistines, which can be reconciled with the other Biblical evidence only by making Casluhim a halting-place of the Philistines on their way from Caphtor to Canaan. Accordingly the advocates of the Egyptian theory propose to identify Casluhim with the arid district of Mount Casius on the coast of the Egyptian desert. But ihis is false etymology. Mount Casius is named from the temple of Jupiter Casius, that is, the well-known Semitic God VXp, whose name as written in Semitic letters has no possible affinity to Casluhim. And in truth the statement that the Philistines came from Casluhim, presented with-out a hint as to their connexion with Caphtorim, which is mentioned immediately afterwards, lies under strong suspicion of being a gloss, originally set on the margin by a copyist who meant it to refer to Caphtorim. In this case the original author will have meant Caphtorim to denote, or at least include, the Philistines (who, as they are not Canaanites, and had close relations with Egypt in historical times, fall readily enough under the Egyptian group), and tells us nothing about the origin of the race.

Literature. — Hitzig, Urgeschichte . . . der Philistder, 1845, where the now untenable hypothesis of a Pelasgic origin of the Philistines is maintained ; Ewald, Gesch. des V. Israel, i. 348 sq.; and in general the books on Hebrew history and commentaries on
Gen. x. and on Arnos. A useful monograph is Stark's Gaza und die philistdische Kilste, Jena, 1852. For the Assyrian evidence see especially Schrader, Keilinschriften und Altes Testament, 2d ed., Giessen, 1883. (W. R. S.)



Their modern names are Azdiid, Ghazza, 'Askalan, 'Akir.
The word seren, pi. seranim, means an axle, and seems to be ap-
plied metaphorically like the Arabic hotb.

For some Egyptian evidence, see PHOENICIA.

The Chronicler, who represents the relations of Judah and Philistia as generally unfriendly, makes Uzziah subdue the latter country as well as Edom, assuming perhaps that he was the fulfiller of the pro-phecy in Amos i., in which, however, it is the Assyrians who are really pointed to as the ministers of divine justice. The old history has no trace of pretensions of Judah to sovereignty in Philistia tilbthe time
' of Hezekiah. Comp. Wellhausen, Proleyomeiw, p. 217.

In 2 Sam. xx. 23, Ktib, and 2 Kings xi. 4, 19, the foreign mercenaries are called not Krethim but Karl, perhaps Carians. The Carian seamen and pirates had also a strong Semitic strain, and were at bottom the same race with the Eteocretans.
So Ebers, Aegypten unci die Bucher Mosis, where the theory is
See De Vogue, Syrie Centrale : Inscr. Sem., p. 103 sq.
So Olshausen, and Budde, Biblische Urgeschichte, p. 331, note. A mere transposition (so Ewald, Tuch, &c.) is much less probable,

The above article was written by: Prof. W. R. Smith.

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