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The Philistines were an ancient people that lived in the Middle Eastern region.  They are found on the Bible Timeline around 1200 B.C. Biblical and historical sources claim that the Philistines were a part of the Canaanite culture. These people have existed in Canaan before the arrival of the Israelites. The Philistines were also known as seamen and people who established cities close to the Mediterranean Sea.

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Even though the Philistines are not portrayed in the Bible as traders and seafarers, they were closely identified with the Phoenicians who were known for these characteristics. They were at times referred to as the people of the sea. The Philistines were mentioned in the Bible as far back as the time when God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. The Philistines were the mortal enemies of the nation of Israel for hundreds of years. When the Israelites had finally settled into Canaan, they had to contend with the Philistines.

These two nations constantly fought against one another. The major reason that the Philistines and the Israelites constantly had strife was because of their differing religious beliefs. The Philistines primarily believed in Dagon and the Israelites believed in Yahweh or God. These two gods were nothing alike and this religious difference played out in the lives of the Philistines and the Israelites in forming their cultures and shaping their lives.

Another major reason as to why the Philistines resented the Israelites is because they had conquered so many people when they entered into Canaan under Joshua’s leadership. The Philistines were a powerful and warlike people, and they disliked the idea of the Israelites gaining more power. They constantly challenged the strength of Israel. God also let the Philistines remain in the land to test and punish the Israelites whenever they strayed away from worshiping him. The Philistines defeated the Israelite armies on many occasions and they even managed to get some of the people to turn away from worshiping Yahweh.

Procession of Philistine Captives At Medinet-Habu.

The Philistines most notable mention in the Bible was during the era of the Judges and the reign of Kings Saul and David. Samson, the famed strongman, fought against the Philistines and was even overcome by a Philistine woman named Delilah. King Saul had to battle against the tyranny of the Philistines when they used the giants from Gath as a part of their armies. One Philistine giant named Goliath helped to mark the beginning of King David’s reign. The Philistines contended with Israel up until the time the Assyrians conquered the whole region during the 8th century B.C. After the Assyrians had taken over the area, the Philistines were no longer relevant and were absorbed by other cultures.

Philistines In the Bible

  • Genesis 21:34 Abraham stays in the land of the Philistines for a long time.
  • Genesis 26:1 a famine occurs in the land and Isaac looks for refuge in the land of the Philistines
  • .Genesis 6:14 the Philistines envy Isaac because of his wife and many great possessions.
  • Exodus 13:17 God doesn’t allow the Israelites to travel through the lands of the Philistines because they might have turned back to Egypt when they saw how warlike they were.
  • Judges 3:31 a judge named Shamgar kills six hundred Philistines with an ox goad.
  • Judges 10:7 God is angry with Israel, and he forces them to serve the Philistines.
  • Judges 13:5 God brings Samson into existence to free the Israelites from the Philistines.
  • Judges 14:2-4 Samson lusts after a Philistine woman named Delilah.
  • Judges 15 and 16 Delilah deceives Samson and he captured by the Philistines. Samson loses his strength but manages to get it back to destroy the Philistine rulers before he dies.
  • 1 Samuel 17 David slays Goliath
  • Zephaniah 2:5 God finally judges the Philistines, and they no longer are a relevant people in history.