Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home

Ancient Jewish History: The Philistines

The Philistines are referred to as the descendants of the Casluchim in Genesis 10:14 and Exodus 13:17. Known as a seafaring nation, the Philistines were a non-Semitic people who left Crete and arrived in Canaan at the beginning of the 12th century B.C.E. The Philistines inhabited the Mediterranean coast of Canaan during the period of the Book of Judges. They founded five principalities - Gaza, Asheklon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath.

Their highly-developed weapons brought a great threat to the Israelites. During the Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites purposely took a southern route to circumvent them. The Philistines often battled against the Israelites. The first King of Israel, Saul, temporarily weakened them. Later, a little-known shepherd by the name of David (later second King of Israel) defeated them after his battle with the large Philistine by the name of Goliath. The Philistines were reduced to mainly commercial ventures rather than military ventures. Throughout the Books of Kings, different Jewish leaders fought the nation until the Assyrians completely defeated them. The Philistines then assimilated into the surrounding cultures and ceased to exist as a separate nation.

The name Palestine originates from the Philistine inhabitance of the land of Judea. After the Romans conquered the region in the second century C.E., the Romans used the term Palestinia to refer to the region in an attempt to minimize Jewish attachment to the land. The Arabic use of the term Filastin is from this Latin root.

Sources: Bridger, David. Ed. The New Jewish Encyclopedia. NY: Behrman House, Inc. 1976.
Schreiber, Mordecai (ed.). The Shengold Jewish Encyclopedia. Shengold Books. 1998.
Telushkin, Joseph. Jewish Literacy. William Morrow and Company, Inc. 1991.
Navigating the Bible II