The Philistines were a people of Aegean origin who settled on the southern coast of Palestine about the same time as did the Israelites. According to biblical tradition (Deuteronomy 2:23; Jeremiah 47:4), the Philistines came from Caphtor (possibly Crete, although there is no archaeological evidence of Philistine life there). The first records of the Philistines are inscriptions and reliefs in the mortuary temple of Ramses III at Madinat Habu. They were memorialized as one of the “Sea Peoples” that invaded Egypt after ravaging Anatolia, Cyprus, and Syria. Egypt repulsed the Philistines, and they settled—possibly with Egypt’s permission—on the coastal plain of the Gaza strip and northward. Evidence suggests that they intermixed with the native Canaanite (Hittite) population, or at least adopted some of their gods. The lack of written records from the Philistines themselves is a frustration to archeologists. Even their very language is a matter of debate to this day.
Certain misinformation, now commonly believed, states that the Roman renaming of Judea as “Syro-Palestine” (after the Jewish revolt of 135 AD) began the use of the name “Palestine.” However, the Greek historian Herodotus writing 500 years earlier said that the region was “called” Palestine by the Persian conquerors.
The Philistines are the enemies of the David and Goliath epic (1 Samuel 17:52). In 2 Kings 1:2-16, their god is referred to mockingly as Baal-zebub -that is, "Lord of the Flies.” During the period of the Judges, the Philistines would perennially raid the tribe of Dan and steal their harvest. They kept their neighbors weak by not permitting blacksmiths.
Archeological evidence shows that they suffered a decline as God promised in Amos 1:6-8 (CSB), “The LORD says: ‘I will not relent from punishing Gaza…because they exiled a whole community, handing them over to Edom. Therefore, I will send fire against the walls of Gaza, and it will consume its citadels. I will cut off the ruler from Ashdod, and the one who wields the scepter from Ashkelon. I will also turn my hand against Ekron (today,Tel Migne), and the remainder of the Philistines will perish.’ The Lord GOD has spoken.” (See also the prophecies of Philistine destruction in Jeremiah 25:20, Zephaniah 2:4, Zechariah 9:5,7.)
Current DNA profiling evidence suggests that the Palestinians – the Philistines’ modern descendants – have avoided intermixing their population to a remarkable extent. This is especially unusual because foreign armies continually marched through Palestine on their way to different battles. (Gil Atzmon, et al., Abraham’s Children in the Genome Era: Major Jewish Diaspora Populations Comprise Distinct Genetic Clusters with Shared Middle Eastern Ancestry, The American Journal of Human Genetics 86, 850–859, June 11, 2010)
Unhappy as relations are, all mankind are brothers at some distant date. How thankful we are for the promise that in Christ’s kingdom those who are enemies today will be reconciled.