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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Philistia

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(Heb. Pele'sheth, פְּלֶשֶׁת, signif. doubtful [see below]; Sept. ἀλλόφυλοι ), the land of the Philistines, as it is usually styled in prose (Genesis 21:32-33; Exodus 13:17; 1 Samuel 27:1; 1 Samuel 27:7; 1 Samuel 29:11; 1 Kings 4:21; 2 Kings 8:2-3). This term is rendered in our version sometimes "Palestina," as in Exodus 15:14, and Isaiah 14:29; Isaiah 14:31; and "Palestine" in Joel 3:4; but "Philistia" in Psalms 60:8; Psalms 87:4; and Psalms 108:9; and "Philistines" in Psalms 83:7. "Palestine" originally meant nothing but the district inhabited by the "Philistines," who are called by Josephus Παλαιστῖνοι , "Palaestines" (Ant. 5:1, 8). In fact the two words are the same, and the difference in their present form is but the result of gradual corruption. The form Philistia does not occur anywhere in the Sept. or Vulgate. In Exodus 15:14 this word (Pelesheth) is used along with Canaan, and as distinct from it; in Joel 3:4 its "coasts" are referred to (for it was a littoral territory), and are coupled with Tyre and Sidon as having sold into slavery the children of Judah and Jerusalem, and carried off silver and gold from the Temple; and in Isaiah 14:29-31 it is told not to congratulate itself on the death of Ahaz, who had smitten it. In Psalms 60:8; Psalms 83:7; Psalms 87:4; Psalms 108:9, it is classed among countries hostile to Israel. The word therefore uniformly in Scripture denotes the territory of the Philistines though it came at length to signify in common speech the entire country the Holy Land. Philistia is probably the country vaguely referred to by Herodotus as Συρίη Παλαιστίνα for he describes it as lying on the sea-coast (7:89).

The name is specially attached to Southern Syria by Strabo (16), Pomp. Mela (1:11), and Pliny (Hist. Nat. 5:12). The broader signification of the term arose by degrees. Josephus apparently uses it in both meanings (Ant. 1:6, 2. 4; 8:10, 3). Philo says of Palestine, τότε προσηγορεύετο Χαναναίων , and Jerome says, "Terra Judaea quae nunc appellatur Palaestina" (see Reland, Palcest. chapter 1, 7, 8). In the Talmud and the Arabic it likewise denotes the whole land of the Jews. (See PALESTINE). The name itself has given rise to various conjectures. Hitzig identifies the Philistines with Πελασγοί, and supposes the word, after the Sanscrit Valaksha, to denote the white races, as opposed to the Phoenician or dusky races (see Kenrick, Phean. pages 50, 52). Redslob makes it a transposition of the name of their country, שְׁפְלָה, Shephelah, the low country (A.V. "valley" or "plain"). Knobel, Gesenius, Movers, and Roth take it from the root פָּלִשׁ, "to emigrate" of which Ἀλλόφυλοι is supposed to be a translation. Furst substantially agrees with this etymology, from the same Heb. root, in the sense of breaking through, i.e., "wandering." Stark regards this Greek term as opposed to μόφυλος , "of the same race" (Gaza, page 67); and Von Lengerke looks upon it as a playful transposition of Φυλιστιείμ . Ἀλλόφυλοι seems, in later Greek, to denote a foreign race living in a country among its natives. Thus Polybius gives the name to the forces of Hannibal located in Gaul and Italy (3:61). The Sept. has in this way given it to a race that lived in a country which God had conferred in promise on the Hebrew people. The same name is for a like reason given to the population of Galilee (1 Maccabees 5:15).

Philistia proper was a long and somewhat broad strip of land lying on the sea-coast, west of the hills of Ephraim and Judah, and stretching generally from Egypt to Phoenicia. The northern portion of this territory, from Joppa nearly as far as Ashkelon, was allotted to Dan; and the southern portion, from Ashkelon to the wilderness of Tih, and extending east to Beersheba, was assigned to Judah. In short, it comprised the southern coast and plain of Canaan, along the Mediterranean, hence called " the sea of the Philistines" (Exodus 23:31), from Ekron to the border of Egypt; though at certain times the Philistines had also in possession large portions of the interior (Psalms 60:7; Psalms 87:4; Psalms 108:10; 1 Samuel 31:8; 1 Kings 15:27; Psalms 83:7). The land of the Philistines partakes of the general desolation common to it with Judaea and other neighboring states. According to Volney, except the immediate environs of a few villages, the whole country is a desert abandoned to the Bedawin Arabs who feed their flocks on it (Zephaniah 2:4-7). (See PHILISTINE).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Philistia'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/p/philistia.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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