Philistines: (Gen. 10:14, R.V.; but in A.V., "Philistim"), a tribe allied to
the Phoenicians. They were a branch of the primitive race which
spread over the whole district of the Lebanon and the valley of
the Jordan, and Crete and other Mediterranean islands. Some
suppose them to have been a branch of the Rephaim (2 Sam.
21:16-22). In the time of Abraham they inhabited the south-west
of Judea, Abimelech of Gerar being their king (Gen. 21:32, 34;
26:1). They are, however, not noticed among the Canaanite
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 (Ex. 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 (Judg. 15:11; 1 Sam. 13:19-22); at other
times they were defeated with great slaughter (1 Sam. 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 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 Israel. As they did not enter Israel
till the time of the Exodus, the use of the name Philistines in
Gen. 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 "Israel." Many scholars
identify the Philistines with the Pelethites of 2 Sam. 8:18.