The Philistines were an ancient people that existed in the Mesopotamian region nearly 4000 years ago. Their importance to Bible History has a note for them on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History during their rule of Israel when Saul, David and Samson lived.
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Their land was known as Philistia, and they were supposed to have been one of the groups of Sea People that settled into the region after the Flood. Other historical records indicate that the Philistines were connected to Mycenaean and Greek culture.
Some scholars and historians have even speculated that the Philistines name was derived from the Pelasgen, which were a group of people who once inhabited southeastern Greece in ancient times. Historians are not able to accurately figure out the origins of the Philistines. If they were a part of the Sea People that invaded ancient Canaan, then they could have come from any of the groups of people that existed throughout southeastern Europe and the Middle East. The Philistines were also mentioned in the Bible during the period that the patriarch Abraham existed. The Bible states that Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long period (Genesis 21:34). Genesis 26:1 records Isaac‘s visit with King Abimelech of the Philistines during a famine. These scriptures coincide with Genesis 12:5 and 16:3 where Abraham had lived in Canaan for at least 10 years. God had formed a covenant with Abraham and as a part of this pact God said that he would give the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession to him and the Hebrew people (Genesis 17:8). The land of Canaan was (and is) an important part of the covenant and inheritance that God has established for the people of Israel. God sometimes referred to the land of Canaan as the “land of promise” or the “land that flows with milk and honey.” Even though God was going to give this particular piece of land to the Israelites, there were other people who already lived in this area of the world.
The Jebusites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hittites, Ammonites and the Moabites were some of the inhabitants of Canaan. The Philistines were also included within this group of people that inhabited Canaan. So the Israelites had to fight against them as well as the other inhabitants of Canaan to secure the land. The Philistines occupied the southwestern coastal parts of Canaan. They had established five major cities that probably started off as strongholds or fortresses. The cities of Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron and Gath, were five cities that were a part of the Philistine Empire.
The Philistines never completely conquered the whole entire land of Canaan they seemed content to rule in the section that they had occupied. History records the Philistines attacking Egypt, but the Egyptians had apparently subdued and controlled them for a period as a result of this action. Since Israel seemed to be the arch enemies of the Philistines they were in constant strife with God’s chosen people. Scripture also points out that the Philistines sided with other Canaanite nations in their effort to wipe out Israel. The Philistines had defeated the Israelites and a few other cultures but they never completely controlled Canaan. Around 750 B.C., the Philistines were completely defeated by the Assyrians and after this point they never rose again to power or importance.
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