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.
Dress from Medinet Habu
We can do no better than quote from the Anchor Bible Dictionary to
show what difficulties are faced by followers of the conventional
" 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
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
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!
|The Sea Peoples
coming overland thousands of miles? (from Medinet Habu)
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
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
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
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,)
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.
Michael S. Sanders
Thursday, July 02, 1998