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Philistine Head Dress from Medinet Habu
Philistine Head Dress from Medinet Habu
One of the greatest divides between orthodox archaeology/ancient history and followers of the Biblical account can be found in the way the history of the Philistines is described.

We can do no better than quote from the Anchor Bible Dictionary to show what difficulties are faced by followers of the conventional chronology.

" The Philistines (Egyptian P-r-s-t-w; Hebrew pelistim), whose country of origin is still unknown , must have come to Canaan through the Aegean basin, destroying the Mycenean and Minoan civilizations. They came partly overland via Anatolia, destroying the Hittite empire, Ugarit and Amurru and partly by ship via Crete (Caphtor of the Bible, c.f. Amos 9:7 and Jer. 47:4; Keftiu of the Egyptians) and Cyprus (Ships from the quarter of Kittim," i.e. Cyprus [Num 24:24] probably alludes to the first waves of the Sea Peoples). They were allied with the other Sea Peoples and their ultimate goal was to settle in Egypt. In about 1190, Ramesses III clashed with them and defeated them. Ramesses settled the conquered Philistines, mostly as Egyptian mercenaries, in the coastal towns, Gaza, Ashkelon and Ashdod (cf. Deut 2:23 where "Caphtorim" refers to the Philistines), The connection between Egypt and Caphtorim is reflected in Gen: 10: 13-14 (cf. Spicer, Genesis AB). The term "The Negeb of the Cherethites" (1 Sam 30:14) may reflect Philistine occupation of that part of the Negeb (for the identification of the Cherethites as Philistines cf. Ezek 25:16).

The reference to the Philistines in Gen 21:32-34; 26:1,8, 14-15; and in Exodus 13:17; 15:14; 23:31) are all anachronisms, although the expression "The Sea of the Philistines" may reflect Philistine naval supremacy in the 12th and 13th centuries." Anchor Bible Dictionary Vol. 5 p. 326.

The problem is that there is absolutely no evidence for most of the above pronouncements. Note also that the Biblical account of the Philistines is dismissed in those cases where it is inconvenient but accepted when it fits the new conventional story.

Thus the stories of Abraham and Isaac separately meeting with a Philistine King are dismissed. Even the account in Exodus describing how the Children of Israel avoided the land of the Philistines has got to be dismissed because according to the conventional chronology, they could not have been a settled powerful force by then.

Whilst it is accepted that the other nations mentioned in the great song of Moses, Edom, Moab, and Canaan are not anachronistic, the inhabitants of Philistia could not have been Philistines. (Exodus 15).

The territory that God gave to the children of Israel must also be dismissed because one of the markers was "the Sea of the Philistines". (Exodus 23: 31) No Philistines, no territory given by God.

Remember that all this is not just the conventional thinking of ancient historians and archaeologists, it is the accepted thinking of academic Biblical scholars. This is taken from the Anchor Bible Dictionary.

We are asked to believe that a sea faring people coming from somewhere in the Aegean send their families thousands of miles by land through tremendously hostile territory meeting up with them simultaneously at the borders of Egypt, then attack the most powerful nation known on earth at that time............for what purpose? Because they had to leave their own land. Why? Because they were too weak to hold it!!!!!!


The Sea Peoples coming overland thousands of miles from Medinet Habu
The Sea Peoples coming overland thousands of miles? (from Medinet Habu)
They left wonderful ports and infrastructure for such a sea loving people to settle in the only known stretch of coast in the whole Mediterranean without a natural port!

They defeated the whole Hittite nation? Where is the evidence for that? The name is not even mentioned in any Hittite record.

Having then been defeated completely by the Egyptians they then become a tremendous force in the land that they are the only group that the Children of Israel can never completely defeat. Only at the time of Uzziah was Ashdod ever captured.

At least Donald Redford (Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times) who is really a minimalist when it comes to the historicity of the Biblical Account does not understand the absurdity of the above and reflects the latest thinking that equates the Peleset with the "Pelasgians" who through some miraculous transformation become Philistines.

Who were the Pelasgians? According to Redford " a vague and rather an enigmatic designation of the pre-Greek inhabitants of the Aegean." ( p. 252) Redford at least points out the problems with this in that the few Philistine words known seem to be of Greek origin. Of course this presupposes that they obtained their language from the Greeks instead of vice versa. We will show in later lectures how the tribe of Dan landed in the Aegean and it is well attested by later Greek historians.

So once more because of the nature of the conventional chronology there have to be convolutions made to squeeze the evidence into the accepted theory.

So what was the Biblical account of the origins of the Philistines?

In the table of Nations in Genesis 10:-

"1 Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth; and to them were sons born after the flood.

2 The sons of Japheth; Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras.

3 And the sons of Gomer; Ashkenaz, and Riphath, and Togarmah.

4 And the sons of Javan; Elishah, and Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim.

5 By these were the islands of the nations divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.

6 And the sons of Ham: Kush, and Egypt, and Put, and Canaan.

7 And the sons of Kush: Seba, and Havilah, and Sabtah, and Raamah, and Sabtecha; and the sons of Raamah; Sheba, and Dedan.

8 And Kush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty one.

9 He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, As Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.

10 And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.

11 Out of that land went forth Assyria, and built Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah,

12 And Resen between Nineveh and Calah; which is a great city.

13 And Egypt fathered Ludim, and Anamim, and Lehabim, and Naphtuhim,

14 And Pathrusim, and Casluhim, (from whom the Philistines descend,) and Caphtorim.)

the Philistines are the descendants of the Philistim in the line of Casluhim, son of Mizraim, ancestor of the Egyptians. The Philistines are stated to have come from Caphtor (at least at one time) which is generally agreed upon to be Crete.  (Jerem. 47:4. The Jewish sages never accepted this view and maintained that any time the "isles" were referred to in connection with these peoples, they always meant the Egyptian Delta, a position also held by the Egyptologist Alessandra Nibbi. However they were a substantial presence at the time of Abraham with a King, Abimelech and a host for an army.

At the time of the Conquest under Joshua there were a substantial presence in the land forming a Pentapolis, five city states each ruled over by a King.

Thus the Biblical account has them a settled people in South West Canaan long before the invasion of the so-called Sea Peoples at the time of Ramesses III.

Next week we will investigate the archaeological evidence and let that be the arbiter of the truth.

Any Questions.

Michael S. Sanders

Thursday, July 02, 1998

Irvine California


  1. Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times: Donald B. Redford (ISBN: 0691036063)
  2. The Anchor Bible: Volume 5 O-Sh (ISBN: 0385193637)
  3. Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic : Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel: Frank Moore Cross (ISBN: 0674091760)
  4. The Living Torah: Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (ISBN: 0940118351)


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