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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Heb. Pelishti', פְּלַשְׁתַּי ., gentile from פְּלֵשֵׁת, Philistia; Sept. ἀλλόφυλος, but sometimes Φυλιστιείμ for the plur., which is the usual form; A.V. once "Philistim," Genesis 10:14; Josephus, Παλαίστινοι, Anf. 5:1, 18), a race of aboriginal Canaanites inhabiting the land of Philistia (q.v.). The following article combines the Scripture information with that from other sources.
I. Early History. —
1. The origin of the Philistines is nowhere expressly stated in the Bible; but since the prophets describe them as "the Philistines from Caphtor" (Amos 9:7), and "the remnant of the maritime district of Caphtor" (Jeremiah 47:4), it is prima facie probable that they were the "Caphtorims which came out of Caphtor" who expelled the Avim from their territory and occupied it in their place (Deuteronomy 2:23), and that these again were the Caphtorim mentioned in the Mosaic genealogical table among the descendants of Mizraim (Genesis 10:14). But in establishing this conclusion certain difficulties present themselves: in the first place, it is observable that in Genesis 10:14 the Philistines are connected with the Casluhim rather than the Caphtorim. It has generally been assumed that the text has suffered a transposition, and that the parenthetical clause "out of whom came Philistim" ought to follow the words "and Caphtorim." This explanation is, however, inadmissible; for (1) there is no external evidence whatever of any variation in the text, either here or in the parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 1:12; and (2) if the transposition were effected, the desired sense would -not be gained; for the words rendered in the A.V. "out of whom" (אֲשֶׁר מַשָּׁם ) really mean "whence," and denote a local movement rather than a genealogical descent, so that, as applied to the Caphtorim, they would merely indicate a sojourn of the Philistines in their land, and not the identity of the two races. The clause seems to have an appropriate meaning in its present position: it looks like an interpolation into the original document with the view of explaining when and where the name Philistine was first applied to the people whose proper appellation was Caphtorim. It is an etymological as well as a historical memorandum; for it is based on the meaning of the name Philistine (from the root פָּלִשׁ =the Ethiopic falasa, "to migrate;" a term which is said to be still current in Abvssinia [Knobel. Vilkert. page 281], and which on the Egyptian monuments appears under the form of Pulost [Brugsch. Hist. d'Egypt. page 187]), viz. "emigrant," and is designed to account for the application of that name. But a second and more serious difficulty arises out of the language of the Philistines; for while the Caphtorim were Hamitic, the Philistine language is held to have been Shemitic. (Hitzig, in his Urgeschichte d. Phil., however, maintains that the language is Indo-European, with a view to prove the Philistines to be Pelasgi. He is, we believe, singular in his view.) It has hence been inferred that the Philistines were in reality a Shemitic race, and that they derived the title of Caphtorim simply from a residence in Caphtor (Ewald, 1:331; Movers, Phoniz. 3:258), and it has been noticed in confirmation of this that their land is termed Canaan (Zephaniah 2:5). Blut this seems to be inconsistent with the express assertion of the Bible that they were Caphtorim (Deuteronomy 2:23), and not simply that they came from Caphtor; and the term Canaan is applied to their country, not ethnologically but etymologically, to describe the trading habits of the Philistines. The difficulty arising out of the question of language has been met by assuming either that the Caphtorim adopted the language of the conquered Avim (a not unusual circumstance where the conquered form the bulk of the population), or that they diverged from the Hamitic stock at a period when the distinctive features of Hamitism and Shemitism were yet in embryo. (See below.) A third objection to their Egyptian origin is raised from the application of the term "uncircumcised" to them (1 Samuel 17:26; 2 Samuel 1:20), whereas the Egyptians were circumcised (Herod. 2:36). But this objection is answered bv Jeremiah 9:25-26, where the same term is in some sense applied to the Egyptians, however it may be reconciled with the statement of Herodotus. (See CAPHTOR)
There is additional evidence to the above that the Philistines belonged to the Shemitic family. The names of their cities and their proper names are of Shemitic origin. In their intercourse with the Israelites there are many intimations that the two used a common language. How is this, if they were immigrants in Palestine? This difficulty is removed by supposing that originally they were in Palestine, being a part of the great Shemitic family, went westward, under pressure from the wave of population which came down from the higher country to the sea-coast, but afterwards returned eastward, back from Crete to Palestine; so that in Amos 9:7 it is to be understood that God brought them up to Palestine, as he brought the Israelites out of Egypt-back to their home. This view the passage undoubtedly admits; but we cannot agree with Movers in holding that it gives direct evidence in its favor, though his general position is probably correct, that the Philistines first quitted the mainland for the neighboring islands of the Mediterranean sea, and then, after a time, returned to their original home (Movers, pages 19, 29, 35). Greek writers, however, give evidence of a wide diffusion of the Shemitic race over the islands of the Mediterranean.
Thucydides says (1:8) that most of the islands were inhabited by Carians and Phoenicians. Of Crete, Herodotus (1:173) declares that barbarians had, before Minos, formed the population ofthe island. There is evidence in Homer to the same effect (Od. 9:174; comp. Strabo, page 475). Many proofs offer themselves that, before the spread of the Hellenes. these islands were inhabited by Shemitic races. The worship observed in them at this time shows a Shemitic origin. The Shemitics gave place to the Hellenics-a change which dates from the time of Minos, who drove them out of the islands, giving the dominion to his son. The expelled population settled on the Asiatic coast. This evidence, derived from heathen sources, gives a representation which agrees with the scriptural account of the origin, the westerly wandering, and eastward return of the Philistines. But chronology creates a difficulty. Minos probably lived about the year B.C. 1300. According to the O.T. the Philistines were found in Palestine at an earlier period. In Genesis 20:2; Genesis 26:1, we find a Philistine king of Gerar. But this king (and others) may have been so termed, not because he was of Philistine blood, but because he dwelt in the land which was afterwards called Philistia. There are other considerations which seem to show that Philistines did not occupy this country in the days of Abraham (consult Bertheau, page 196). It is, however, certain that the Philistines existed in Palestine in the time of Moses'as a brave and warlike people (Exodus 13:17) — a fact which places them on the Asiatic continent long before Minos. This difficulty does not appear considerable to us. There may have been a return eastwards before the time of Minos, as well as one in his time; or he may have merely put the finishing stroke to a return commenced, from some cause or other — war, over-population, etc. — at a much earlier period. The information found in the Bible is easily understood on the showing that in the earliest ages tribes of the Shemitic race spread themselves over the West, and, becoming inhabitants of the islands, gave themselves to navigation. To these tribes the Philistines appear to have belonged, who, for what reason we know not, left Crete, and settled on the coast of Palestine.
2. The next question therefore that arises relates to the early movements of the Philistines. It has been very generally assumed of late years that Caphtor represents Crete, and that the Philistines migrated from that island, either directly or through Egypt, into Palestine. This hypothesis presupposes the Shemitic origin of the Philistines; for we believe that there are no traces of Hamitic settlements in Crete, and consequently the Biblical statement that Caphtorim was descended from Mizraim forms an a priori objection to the view. Moreover, the name Caphtor can only be identified with the Egyptian Cotptos. But the Cretan origin of the Philistines has been deduced, not so much from the name Caphtor, as from that of the Cherethites. This name in its Hebrew form (כְּרֵתַי ) bears a close resemblance to Crete, and is rendered Cretans in the Sept. A further link between the two terms has apparently been discovered in the term כָּרַי, kari, which is applied to the royal guard (2 Kings 11:4; 2 Kings 11:19), and which sounds like Carians. The latter of these arguments assumes that the C herethites of David's guard were identical with the Cherethites of the Philistine plain, which appears in the highest degree improbable. See CHERETHITE
With regard to the former argument, the mere coincidence of the names cannot pass for much without some corroborative testimony. The Bible furnishes none, for the name oci curs but thrice (1 Samuel 30:4; Ezekiel 25:16; Zephaniah 2:5), and apparently applies to the occupants of the southern district; the testimony of the Sept. is invalidated by the fact that it is based upon the mere sound of the word (see Zephaniah 2:6, where keroth is also rendered Crete); and, lastly, we have to account for the introduction of the classical name of the island side by side with the Hebrew term Caphtor. A certain amount of testimony is indeed adduced in favor of a connection between Crete and Philistia; but, with the exception of the vague rumor, recorded but not adopted by Tacitus (Hist. 5:3), the evidence is confined to the town of Gaza, and even in this case is not wholly satisfactory. The town, according to Stephanus Byzantinus (s.v. Γάζα ), was termed Minoa, as having been founded by Minos, and this tradition may be traced back to, and was perhaps founded on, an inscription on the coins of that city, containing the letters ΜΕΙΝΩ; but these coins are of no higher date than the 1st century B.C., and belong to a period when Gaza had attained a decided Greek character (Josephus, War, 2:6, 3). Again, the worship of the god Mama, and its identity with the Cretan Jove, are frequently mentioned by early writers (Movers, Phoniz. 1:662); but the name is Phoenician, being the maran," lord," of 1 Corinthians 16:22, and it seems more probable that Gaza and Crete derived the worship from a common source, Phoenicia. Without therefore asserting that migrations may not have taken place from Crete to Philistia, we hold that the evidence adduced to prove that they did is not altogether sufficient. What is remarkable, and as if two distinct and unallied peoples bore the same appellation, on a tablet of Rameses III at Medinet HabA is sculptured a naval victory over the Sharutana, perhaps the Cherethites of Crete; while another nation of the same name, perhaps the Cherethites of the mainland, form a portion of the Egyptian army. We find also the name Pulusata in close connection with this Sharutana. (See CRETE)
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Philistine'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/p/philistine.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.