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What the Bible says about Philistines
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 10:13-14

Mizraim is the Hebrew word that is commonly translated as "Egypt," thus the Philistines are ethnically related to the Egyptians.

However, note that the Casluhim are divided into the Philistines and Caphtorim (in fact, the Philistines are frequently identified with Caphtor, the Hebrew name for at least the island of Crete and perhaps for the whole Aegean region; see Amos 9:7; Jeremiah 47:4). This indicates that their origins lie in the area of Crete, western Asia Minor, and the Aegean Sea, and modern archeology bears this out. For instance, Philistine pottery resembles that of the Minoan and Mycenaean (Homeric Greek) civilizations to the point that a material connection is beyond question. Other substantial links to the area include early Greek weapons, armor, dress, burial methods, military tactics, government, religion, etc.

How did these Aegean people end up settling in southwestern Canaan? The story is a long one, beginning in the days of Abraham. Being a restless, warlike, trading people, the Philistines frequently attempted to expand their influence, first through setting up trading colonies in distant lands and then by force of arms, if necessary. Genesis 21:34 records, "Abraham sojourned in the land of the Philistines many days," referring to the area around the town of Gerar, where Abimelech was king (see Genesis 20). This means that by the early nineteenth century BC, at least a small colony of Philistines had already gained a foothold in the land of Canaan.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Who Were the Philistines?

Related Topics: Abimelech | Egypt | Mizraim | Philistines


 

Exodus 13:17

The "way of the land of the Philistines" describes a small portion of the route later known as the Via Maris, "the Way of the Sea." This coastal road connected the Nile Delta region with Canaan, Syria, and beyond that to Mesopotamia. Although the naming of this portion of the road after the Philistines may be a slight anachronism (perhaps a later emendation), Philistines already lived along its southern course in Canaan.

However, more significant is the Philistines' connection with war. Evidently, the people who lived along that road were a hostile group, easily provoked into armed conflict, and at the time of the Exodus, on a war footing. The fledgling nation of Israel, God knew, was not yet prepared to fight any people as aggressive as the Philistines, no matter what their numbers were at the time.

Nevertheless, this passing mention in Exodus 13 alludes to the fact that the Philistine presence in southern Canaan had not remained static. From a trading outpost in Gerar, they had expanded in the intervening four centuries to control a large area. Perhaps they were not the most populous of the ethnic groups there, but they were certainly the dominant one. It is thought that their numbers were steadily increased by new colonists from their homeland in the Aegean. In addition, it seems to have been a conscious policy to assimilate to a large degree with the native population, which would include intermarriage and adoption of local deities. In this way a minority people could quickly rise to prominence.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Who Were the Philistines?

1 Samuel 13:19-22

A key to their dominance lay in their more advanced material culture. While the Israelites and Canaanites of the highlands still practiced Bronze Age skills, the Philistines had advanced to an Iron Age culture, making them nearly invincible on the battlefield.

Saul could muster only two swords among six hundred men (see verse 15)! Evidently, most of his soldiers fought with axes, mattocks, ox goads, sickles, or sharpened sticks. Recall that Samson never used a normal weapon either, resorting to the jawbone of a donkey or his bare hands. The Philistine army, however, was fully outfitted with the advanced weaponry of the day:

So the Lord was with Judah. And they drove out the inhabitants of the mountains, but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the lowland [the Philistines and Canaanites there], because they had chariots of iron. (Judges 1:19)

[Goliath] had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail. . . . And he had bronze greaves on his legs and a bronze javelin was between his shoulders. Now the staff of his spear was like a weaver's beam, and his iron spearhead weighed six hundred shekels; and a shield-bearer went before him. (I Samuel 17:5-7)

Later, the account mentions that Goliath also carried a sword (verse 51). David, of course, having refused Saul's armor and sword because he was untrained in them, carried only "his staff in his hand; . . . five smooth stones from the brook, and . . . his sling" (verse 40). David's severe disadvantage in arms was typical for an Israelite before the might of the Philistines.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Who Were the Philistines?

Matthew 27:22-25

Nowhere does Matthew—or anyone else—ever tell us that God acquiesced to carry out vengeance on those who cried, "Crucify Him!" before Pilate's judgment hall. Nowhere does Matthew intimate that God consented to punish their children over the centuries. If He had committed Himself to carry out these peoples' so-called "curse," He would have knowingly bound Himself to violate His own law for centuries.

Why, then, have the Jews found themselves so often in such dire straits over the years, not only after the crucifixion of Christ, but for centuries before? They have been persecuted by the Egyptians, the Philistines, the Edomites, the Canaanites, the Sidonians, the Hivites, the Moabites (see Judges 3:3-12), and the Midianites (see Judges 8:1). The catalog of their tormentors includes the Persians of Haman's time, the Greeks of Antiochus' time, the Romans of Imperial times, and afterwards various European and Muslim peoples to the present. Their history of persecution would fill volumes.

Why?

Anciently, only the Jews, along with their Israelite brethren, were the recipients of God's revelation: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth" (Amos 3:2). God counts that revelation as a precious blessing to the family of Abraham, as Paul writes in Romans 3:1-2: "What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God."

To Paul, the Jews were not cursed, but were first, the Greeks second (Romans 2:9-10). He took seriously his commission to carry God's name "before . . . the children of Israel" (Acts 9:15). The book of Acts records that in every town and city he visited, he went first to the local Jewish synagogue; after that, he preached the gospel to the Gentiles. Indeed, he admonished the church at Thessalonica to "become imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea . . . " (I Thessalonians 2:14).

God gave the Jews a lot. Here, the principle of Luke 12:48 enters the picture: "For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more."

As we know from the Old Testament and as history since has demonstrated, the Jews have repeatedly rejected God, treading His oracles underfoot. Today, many are the Jews who have forsaken God and joined the vanguard of liberal secularism (read, atheism) in the arts, law, politics, science, education—in virtually every field of human endeavor. Throughout their history, many Jews have scorned God's revelation, purposefully making themselves a profane people. So, the corollary of Christ's principle applies, as stated in Luke 12:47: "And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes."

The Jews, more than any single people in history, knew God's will, as it is expressed in the "oracles"—His revelation to them. They often have rejected it. As often as they do, their apostasy has carried with it the penalty of "many stripes."

Charles Whitaker
Are the Jews Cursed for Deicide?


Find more Bible verses about Philistines:
Philistines {Nave's}
 




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