PHILISTINES

PHILISTINES

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Philistine ship of war
The great enemies of the post-Moses Hebrews were the Philistines, a tribe that arrived in Canaan from Crete and lived along the Mediterranean coast in cities like Ekron (20 miles southwest of Jerusalem). Delilah was a Philistine who discovered the secret of Samson's strength and betrayed him. The Philistines killed the Hebrew King Saul. Goliath, the giant slain by David, was also a Philistine.

The Philistines were a seafaring people that settled on the Palestine coast in the 12th century B.C. They brought early Greek culture to Holy Land and are thought to have originated from Aegean region. They were one of about a half dozen or more Sea People that arrived in the eastern Mediterranean in the 12th century B.C. They were expert metalsmiths and similar to Phoenicians in some ways. While there are a number of theories abound as to where the Philistine came from — and how they arrived — no one really knows for sure.

In the Bible the Philistines were characterized as thuggish destroyers. The word Philistine has come to mean a hedonistic, uneducated person. The American Heritage Dictionary defines a Philistine as a “smug, ignorant, especially middle-class person who is regarded as being indifferent or antagonistic to artistic and cultural values."

The word Palestine was coined by the Romans and derived from Philistia, or "land of the Philistines." The Bible is the only lengthy written source on the Philistines. The bad rap the Philistines get seems to be based on the fact that they fought with the Israelites for the better part of two centuries.

According to Encyclopædia Britannica: The Philistines settled on the southern coast of Palestine in the 12th century bce, about the time of the arrival of 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 a Philistine occupation of the island). The first records of the Philistines are inscriptions and reliefs in the mortuary temple of Ramses III at Madinat Habu, where they appear under the name prst, as one of the Sea Peoples that invaded Egypt about 1190 bce after ravaging Anatolia, Cyprus, and Syria. After being repulsed by the Egyptians, they settled—possibly with Egypt’s permission—on the coastal plain of Palestine from Joppa (modern Tel Aviv–Yafo) southward to Gaza. The area contained the five cities (the Pentapolis) of the Philistine confederacy (Gaza, Ashkelon [Ascalon], Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron) and was known as Philistia, or the Land of the Philistines. It was from this designation that the whole of the country was later called Palestine by the Greeks. [Source: Encyclopædia Britannica]

“There are no documents in the Philistine language, which was probably replaced by Canaanite, Aramaic, and, later, Greek. Little is known of the Philistine religion; the Philistine gods mentioned in biblical and other sources such as Dagan, Ashteroth (Astarte), and Beelzebub, have Semitic names and were probably borrowed from the conquered Canaanites. Until their defeat by David, the Philistine cities were ruled by seranim, “lords,” who acted in council for the common good of the nation. After their defeat, the seranim were replaced by kings. At sites occupied by the Philistines at an early period, a distinctive type of pottery, a variety of the 13th-century Mycenaean styles, has been found. Philistine temples and shrines displaying a variety of Aegean design elements have been excavated in Ashdod, Ekron, and Tel Qasile.

Websites and Resources: Bible and Biblical History: Bible Gateway and the New International Version (NIV) of The Bible biblegateway.com ; King James Version of the Bible gutenberg.org/ebooks ; Bible History Online bible-history.com ; Biblical Archaeology Society biblicalarchaeology.org ; Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) ccel.org ; Judaism Judaism101 jewfaq.org ; Aish.com aish.com ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; torah.org torah.org ; Chabad,org chabad.org/library/bible ; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org/judaism ; BBC - Religion: Judaism bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism ; Encyclopædia Britannica, britannica.com/topic/Judaism; Jewish History: Jewish History Timeline jewishhistory.org.il/history ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Jewish History Resource Center dinur.org ; Center for Jewish History cjh.org ; Jewish History.org jewishhistory.org ; Christianity and Christians Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Christianity.com christianity.com ; BBC - Religion: Christianity bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/ ; Christianity Today christianitytoday.com

Philistines, Phoenicians and Sea Peoples


Kingdoms of the Levant in 830 BC with the Philistine states

Some archeologist and historians believe a mysterious group known as the Sea People — perhaps ancestors of the Minoans — migrated to Lebanon around 1200 B.C. and mixed with local Canaanites to create the Phoenicians. Other archeologist believe the Philistines were originally a Sea People group.

On the link between the Sea People and Phoenicians, Maria Eugenia Aubet, a leading Phoenician expert at Pempeu Fabra University in Barcelona, told National Geographic: “I think they became friends, Phoenician material culture shows so many elements from the Sea Peoples. The Phoenicians learned from them how to build harbors, moorings, docks, and piers. The Sea Peoples, like the Phoenicians, were excellent navigators---and how they knew the routes west to the rich sources of metals." DNA evidence seems to indicate the impact of the Sea People, if they existed, were a cultural and technological group, not a blood group. The geneticist Wells told National Geographic, “The Sea People apparently had bo significant genetic impact on populations in the Levant."

John R. Abercrombie of the University of Pennsylvania wrote: “Although the earliest depictions of Sea People occur in the reign of Seti I, the major incursion of these Aegean people happened about a century later during the reign of Ramesis III of the Twentieth Dynasty. Around 1180 B.C., Ramesis III defeated the Sea People in a land and sea battle at the borders of Egypt . The Philistines, one of the Sea People groups, are easily identified on the depiction of the battles by their distinctive headdresses. Since the 1920's, most scholars have linked those headdresses with some of the anthropoid coffin burials from Beth Shan and elsewhere in Eretz Israel. [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]

Be aware that a few scholars do not link all coffin burials with the Philistines, but with other groups including Canaanites and Egyptians. Besides the headdresses and biblical references, archaeological data suggest the appearance of a new group along the coast. The distinctive Philistine ware (Mycenean IIIc1b) appears in the twelfth century and continues into the eleventh century. This pottery tradition has close parallels to Cyprus as well as other islands in the eastern Mediterranean, and suggests that the Sea People may have originated from the eastern Mediterranean rather than Crete (Amos 9:7 and Jeremiah 47:4). Cremation burial, which can be cited from Anatolia and the Aegean, occurred in the coastal region beginning in the twelfth century and continued well into the seventh century. |*|

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Philistines Pentapolis in present-day southwestern Israel and the Gaza Strip:
Ashdod, Ashkelon, Tell Miqne (Ekron), Gaza and Gath
“The Philistine pentapolis came under control of David and remained generally part of Judah or Israel for most of the 10th and probably part of the ninth century. Later some of the Philistine city states exercised independence from the descendants of Jacob. Also, the general region became known as the land of the Palestu (=Palestine), or Philistines. |Recent excavations at Ashdod, Ashkelon, Tell Miqne (Ekron), Tell esh- Sharia (Ziklag) and Tell Qasile are amplifying our understanding of this intrusive Aegean culture. Sites, such as Ain Shems and even Sarepta, provide additional information on related cultures (e.g. Phoenicians). |*|

“The coastal region north of Carmel had been known since the time of Thothmosis IV as the land of the Fenkeu, or Phoenicians. In the Iron Age the Phoenician merchants plied their martime trade on the Mediterranean and were the first mariners to circumnavigate Africa. They established a number of Punic colonies in North Africa, Spain, France, Italy and the Aegean islands. Much of their culture in the Lebanese coast, however, remains undocumented in part due to disturbance of Iron Age sites by later Persian, Hellenistic and Roman cultures. Sarepta, excavated by James Pritchard, is one of the few sites from which we can document in Phoenicia proper the culture of these mariners of old in their homeland. |*|

“In many ways, one can summarize the material culture from Phoenicia and its colonies as reflecting developments on Canaanite culture from the Bronze Age. (Compare, for example, the small shrine at Sarepta to the Bronze Age temples from Beth Shan.) Of course, this culture is greatly influenced by the Aegean world and continues to reflect that eclectic world we characterize as Canaanite in the Bronze Age.” |*|

Philistines and the Historical Record

Philistines were referred to by the Egyptians as the People from the Sea. They were defeated by the armies of Ramses II in the 12th century B.C. and later hired out as mercenaries. Around 1100 B.C. they took over Gaza. They called it Philistia (from which the modern name Palestine is derived), and made it one of their civilization's most important cities. The historical record on them between 1,000 and 600 B.C. is sketchy. In 603 B.C. they, like the Hebrews, were conquered by the Assyrians. After that there is no reference to them in the historical record.

According to Encyclopædia Britannica: “The first nonbiblical reference to the Philistines after their settling on the Palestinian coast is in the annals of the Assyrian king Adad-nirari III (810–782), who boasted of having collected tribute from Philistia. By the early part of the 7th century, Gaza, Ashkelon, Ekron, Ashdod, and probably Gath were vassals of the Assyrian rulers; during the second half of that century, the cities became Egyptian vassals. With the conquests of the Babylonian king Nebuchadrezzar II (605–562) in Syria and Palestine, the Philistine cities became part of the Neo-Babylonian empire. In later times they came under the control of Persia, Greece, and Rome.” [Source:Encyclopædia Britannica]

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Philistine captives at Medinet Habu
In the late 1980s, archaeologists discovered the remains of Ekron, a 60-acre walled city with around 6,000 residents before it was destroyed in 603 B.C. Instead of being a civilization of pleasure-seeking ignoramuses, archaeologists found that the Philistines were an industrious, innovative Iron Age civilization that grew rich from selling olives and dying cloth, and developed sophisticated metal tools and olive crushing machines. [Source: National Geographic]

The Philistines occupied Ashkelon from 1175 B.C. to 604 B.C. , when the city was sacked by the neo-Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. They dominated four other major cities in the region around the same time. Among the interesting things that archaeologists have dug up in Ashkelon from the Philistine period are a large winery with a storehouse and a burial ground for dogs. A thick layer of charred wood and debris marks the sacking of the city by the Babylonians. In one building the skeleton of a woman---whose skull had been smashed by a blunt instrument---was found. Nebuchadnezzar is said to have destroyed Ashkelon to send a warning to cities in the region of what would await them if they sided with the Egyptians.

Philistine captives at Medinet Habu On the discovery of a puppy in pot, Paula Wapnish, an animal bone specialist at the University of Alabama, told National Geographic, “We think that somebody killed it and placed it in a pit in the ground." Team member Brian Hesse added, “The pot has char marks. I think someone was probably cooking the puppy for food but never came back for it." Stager thinks the puppy was buried in a pot that was already charred to bring good fortune for the building it was buried under.

The artifacts that archaeologists have turned in Ashkelon from the Philistine period shows that Philistines were a very advanced people. While the Israelite were making crude, unadorned pottery, the Philistines were decorating their ceramics with designs similar to those produced in Mycenaean Greece, the civilization that defeated Troy in Homeric legend.

Stager believes the Philistines were Greeks. He bases his arguments on: 1) similarities between the Samson and Delilah story and the myths of Hercules and a Greek myth with a figure that loses it power when its hair is cut; 2) evidence that Goliath wore Mycenaean-style battle gear; and 3) animal bones remains that indicate the Philistines ate a lot pigs, a common practice among the Greeks but not among the Canaanites.

Ekron Inscription


Ekron inscription

The Ekron Inscription is the oldest text to be identified as "Philistine". It is a royal dedication inscription found in the ruins of a temple during the 1996 excavations of Ekron (Tel Miqne) Israel. Dated to the 7th century B.C. and written in Philistine script in what is thought to be a Phoenician language, it consists of 72 letters and 5 lines of writing on a limestone block, measuring 38 centimeters high and 61 centimeters wide, and weighing about 100 kilograms (220 lbs.). It was found in Temple Complex 650, Room U at Ekron by Seymour Gitin and Trude Dothan and is now housed in the Israel Museum [Source: Hanson's website, kchanson.com ***]

The Ekron Inscription reads: This temple was built by 'Akish, son of Padi, son of Yasid, son of Ada, son of Ya'ir, ruler of Ekron, for Ptgyh, his (divine) lady. May she bless him, and guard him, and prolong his days, and bless his land. [Translated by Gitin, Demsky, Naveh (1997:9)] ***

The Ekron Inscription is identified as "Philistine" based on Ekron's identification as a Philistine city in the Bible (see Joshua 13:3 and 1 Samuel 6:17). However, it is written in a Canaanite dialect similar to Phoenician and Old Byblian, something that its discoverers referred to it as "something of an enigma". The inscription mentions Ekron, thus confirming the identification of the site, as well as five of its rulers, including Ikausu (Achish), son of Padi, who built the sanctuary. Padi and Ikausu are known as kings of Ekron from the late 8th- and 7th-century Neo-Assyrian Royal Annals. [4] King Padi is mentioned in connection to events from the years 701 and 699 BC, King Ikausu in relation to 673 and 667 BC, placing the date of the inscription firmly in the first half of the 7th century BC, and most likely in the second quarter of that century. [Source: Wikipedia]

Battles between the Israelites and the Philistines

According to Encyclopædia Britannica: The Philistines expanded into neighbouring areas and soon came into conflict with the Israelites, a struggle represented by the Samson saga (Judges 13–16) in the Hebrew Bible. Possessing superior arms and military organization, the Philistines were able (c. 1050 bce) to occupy part of the Judaean hill country. The Philistines’ local monopoly on smithing iron (I Samuel 13:19), a skill they probably acquired in Anatolia, was likely a factor in their military dominance during this period. They were finally defeated by the Israelite king David (10th century), and thereafter their history was that of individual cities rather than of a people. After the division of Judah and Israel (10th century), the Philistines regained their independence and often engaged in border battles with those kingdoms. [Source: Encyclopædia Britannica]


Philistines defeat the Israelites

The following is a list of battles described in the Bible as having occurred between the Israelites and the Philistines:
The Battle of Shephelah (2 Chronicles 28:18).
Israelites defeated at the Battle of Aphek, Philistines capture the Ark (1 Samuel 4:1–10).
Philistines defeated at the Battle of Eben-Ezer (1 Samuel 7:3–14). [Source: Wikipedia +]

Some Philistine military success must have taken place subsequently, allowing the Philistines to subject the Israelites to a localised disarmament regime (1 Samuel 13:19–21 states that no Israelite blacksmiths were permitted and they had to go to the Philistines to sharpen their agricultural implements).

Skirmish at Michmash, Philistines routed by Jonathan and his men (1 Samuel 14).
Near the Valley of Elah, David defeats Goliath in single combat (1 Samuel 17).
The Philistines defeat Israelites on Mount Gilboa, killing King Saul and his three sons Jonathan, Abinadab and Malkishua (1 Samuel 31).
Hezekiah defeats the Philistines as far as Gaza and its territory (2 Kings 18:5–8).

Samson, Delilah and the Philistines

Delilah, the central figure of Samson’s last love story (Judges 16) in the Old Testament, was a Philistine. She was bribed and coaxed Samson into revealing that the secret of his strength was his long hair. Samson lost his strength because Delilah tricked him into cutting off his hair . She was offered 1,100 pieces of silver for betraying Samson's secret and turned him over to his enemies. Her name has since been linked sexy, double-crossing women. One the lessons learned from Samson and Delilah, David Plotz wrote in “The Good Book”: “1. Women are deceptive and heartless” and “2. Men are too stupid and sex-crazed to realize this."

Samson (meaning "man of the sun") was the last of the judges of the ancient Israelites mentioned in the Book of Judges in the Hebrew Bible (chapters 13 to 16) and one of the last of the leaders who "judged" Israel before the institution of the monarchy. He is sometimes considered to be an Israelite version of the popular ancient folk heros such as the Sumerian Enkidu and the Greek Heracles. The Bible describes Samson as a Nazirite who performed superhuman feats such as slaying a lion with his bare hands and slaughtering an entire army of Philistines using only the jawbone of a donkey. However, if Samson's long hair was cut, then his Nazirite vow would be violated, and he would lose his strength. [Source: Wikipedia +]


Samson Destroys the Philstines with an ass jawbone

Delilah ordered a servant to cut Samson’s hair while he was sleeping and turned him over to his Philistine enemies, who gouged out his eyes and forced him to grind grain in a mill at Gaza. When the Philistines took Samson into their temple of Dagon, Samson asked to rest against one of the support pillars. After being given permission to do so he prayed to God and miraculously recovered his strength, allowing him to push over the columns, bringing the temple down, killing himself and all the Philistines with him. Some say Samson is buried in Tel Tzora in Israel. +

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “Like many other heroes, Samson had a miraculous birth: his mother, hitherto barren, was informed by a divine messenger that she was to conceive, the child was to be a Nazirite, living under a vow of consecration. As a grown man, Samson's particular gift was his superhuman strength, and the secret of his magnificent strength lay in his Nazirite relationships to Yahweh, symbolized by his long hair. When he revealed this secret to his Philistine bride, Delilah, he was betrayed to his enemies. Samson's story is important for what it portrays of Hebrew-Philistine relationships. Despite the tendency to maintain separate national identities, there was intermarriage of the sadiqa type, in which the wife remained with her parents and the husband paid periodic visits. Rivalry between Hebrews and Philistines was keen and some skirmishes did occur, but there was no open warfare. It is interesting that no language problem appears to have existed; Hebrews and Philistines were able to communicate without difficulty. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org]

Goliath

The most famous Philistine was Goliath of Gath, a giant, who, according to the Bible, was defeated by David in a famous duel as was "six cubits and a span" (9 feet 6½ inches) tale. Most historians believe he was only about 6 feet 10 inches. According to the Bible the Philistines had issued a challenge for someone from the Jewish kingdom to fight Goliath, who carried a spear with a 20-pound head of iron and a shaft “like a weaver's beam” and wore a huge brass helmet and a coat of mail that weighed 160 pounds. No one came forward to take up the challenge.

David was delivering cheeses to three of his brothers when the challenge was made. He appeared to confront Goliath. He wore not armor; he was dressed only in shepherd's garments. His only weapon was a sling and five smooth stones. As Goliath approached him he placed a stone in the sling and let it fly. The stone penetrated Goliath's forehead and killed him. David cut off his head and presented it to the Jewish king. The event if it really took place occurred around 1060 B.C.


David slays Goliath

According to The Bible: "And a champion went out from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. And he had bronze armor on his legs and a bronze javelin between his shoulders. Now the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his iron spearhead weighed six hundred shekels; and a shield-bearer went before him" (1 Samuel 17:4–7).

Robert Draper wrote in National Geographic: Twenty miles southwest of Jerusalem in the Elah Valley---the very spot where the Bible says the young shepherd David slew Goliath---Hebrew University professor Yosef Garfinkel claims to have unearthed the first corner of a Judaean city dating to the exact time that David reigned. A busy highway, Route 38, crosses the ancient road that follows the Elah Valley en route to the Mediterranean Sea. Beneath the hills on either side of the road lie the ruins of Socoh and Azekah. According to the Bible, the Philistines encamped in this valley, between the two towns, just before their fateful encounter with David. The battlefield of legend is now quiet and abounds with wheat, barley, almond trees, and grapevines, not to mention a few of the indigenous terebinth (elah in Hebrew) trees from which the valley derives its name. A small bridge extends from Route 38 over the Brook of Elah. During high season, tourist buses park here so that their passengers can climb down into the valley and retrieve a rock to take back home and impress friends with a stone from the same place as the one that killed Goliath. [Source: Robert Draper, National Geographic, December 2010]

Other Philistine Giants

Tim Chaffey wrote in answersingenesis.org: “The Bible mentions four more Philistine giants, who were relatives of Goliath from the region of Gath. Samuel 21:15–22 provides a more detailed account of these giants than the record of 1 Chronicles 20:4–8, but the latter passage does provide some extra information that helps us make sense of the passage. The additional details from 1 Chronicles are provided in brackets. [Source: Tim Chaffey, answersingenesis.org, February 22, 2012 ]

"When the Philistines were at war again with Israel, David and his servants with him went down and fought against the Philistines; and David grew faint. Then Ishbi-Benob, who was one of the sons of the giant, the weight of whose bronze spear was three hundred shekels, who was bearing a new sword, thought he could kill David. But Abishai the son of Zeruiah came to his aid, and struck the Philistine and killed him. Then the men of David swore to him, saying, “You shall go out no more with us to battle, lest you quench the lamp of Israel.” "

"Now it happened afterward that there was again a battle with the Philistines at Gob [or “Gezer”].19 Then Sibbechai the Hushathite killed Saph [or “Sippai”], who was one of the sons of the giant. Again there was war at Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaare-Oregim [or “Jair”] the Bethlehemite killed [“Lahmi”] the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. "

"Yet again there was war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature, who had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number; and he also was born to the giant. So when he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea, David’s brother, killed him. " "These four were born to the giant in Gath, and fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants" (2 Samuel 21:15–22). David’s mighty men killed giants named Ishbi-Benob, Saph (Sippai), and Lahmi, as well as an unnamed giant with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot.20 Each of these men could have descended from the remnant of Anakim that survived in the region of Gath, Gaza, and Ashdod (Joshua 11:22).

Why the Philistines are Linked with Ignorance and Materialism


from the Ashdod-Philistine Culture Museum

Today the word philistine describes a person who is narrow-minded and materialistic but has no taste. The American Heritage Dictionary defines a Philistine as a “smug, ignorant, especially middle-class person who is regarded as being indifferent or antagonistic to artistic and cultural values." In the fields of philosophy and æsthetics, the derogatory term philistinism denotes an anti-intellectual attitude that undervalues and despises art, beauty and spirituality.

Since the 19th century, the contemporary denotation of philistinism, as the behaviour of "ignorant, ill-behaved persons lacking in culture or artistic appreciation, and only concerned with materialistic values" derives from Matthew Arnold's adaptation to English of the German word Philister, as applied by university students in their antagonistic relations with the townspeople of Jena, Germany, where, in 1689, a row resulted in several deaths. [Source: Wikipedia +]

In the aftermath, the university cleric addressed the town-vs-gown matter with an admonishing sermon "The Philistines Be Upon Thee", drawn from the Book of Judges (Chapt. 16, 'Samson vs the Philistines'), of the Tanakh and of the Christian Old Testament. In Word Research and Word History, the philologist Friedrich Kluge said that the word philistine originally had a positive meaning that identified a tall and strong man, such as Goliath; later the meaning changed to identify the "guards of the city". +

Philistines Introduced Cumin and Opium to Israel During the Iron Age

A study released in August 2015, describing the bio-archaeological remains of the Philistine culture in Israel during the Iron Age (1200 - 550 B.C.), indicated that the 600 year presence of Philistine culture in Palestine left behind cumin, opium and sycamore. [Source: Bar-Ilan University, sciencedaily.com, August 28, 2015 ==]

The study published in the August 25th issue of Scientific Reports by a team led by archaeologists from Bar-Ilan University’s Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology (Suembikya (Sue) Frumin, Prof. Ehud Weiss and Prof. Aren Maeir) and the Hebrew University (Dr. Liora Kolska Horwitz), compiled a database of plant remains extracted from Bronze and Iron Ages sites in the southern Levant and compared plant remains at both Philistine and non-Philistine sites.

According to Science Daily: “The species they brought are all cultivars that had not been seen in Israel previously. This includes edible parts of the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) which originates in western Europe; the sycamore tree (Ficus sycomorus), whose fruits are known to be cultivated in the eastern Mediterranean, especially Egypt, and whose presence in Israel as a locally grown tree is first attested to in the Iron Age (1200 - 550 B.C.) by the presence of its fruit; and finally, cumin (Cuminum cyminum), a spice originating in the Eastern Mediterranean. Sue Frumin, a PhD student at Prof. Ehud Weiss’s archaeobotanical lab, Bar-Ilan University, explains that “the edible parts of these species — opium poppy, sycamore, and cumin — were not identified in the archaeobotanical record of Israel prior to the Iron Age, when the Philistine culture first appeared in the region. None of these plants grows wild in Israel today, but instead grows only as cultivated plants.” =


opium dripping from poppies

“In addition to the translocation of exotic plants from other regions, the Philistines were the first community to exploit over 70 species of synanthropic plants (species which benefit from living in the vicinity of man) that were locally available in Israel, such as Purslane, Wild Radish, Saltwort, Henbane and Vigna. These plant species were not found in archaeological sites pre-dating the Iron Age, or in Iron Age (1200 - 550 B.C.) archaeological sites recognized as belonging to non-Philistine cultures — Canaanite, Israelite, Judahite, and Phoenician. The “agricultural revolution” that accompanied the Philistine culture reflects a different agrarian regime and dietary preferences to that of their contemporaries. ==

“The fact that the three exotic plants introduced by the Philistines originate from different regions accords well with the diverse geographic origin of these people. The Philistines — one of the so called Sea Peoples, and mentioned in the Bible and other ancient sources — were a multi-ethnic community with origins in the Aegean, Turkey, Cyprus and other regions in the Eastern Mediterranean who settled on the southern coastal plain of Israel in the early Iron Age (1200 - 550 B.C.) (12th century BCE), and integrated with Canaanite and other local populations, finally to disappear at the end of the Iron Age (1200 - 550 B.C.) (ca. 600 BCE). ==

“The results of this research indicate that the ca. 600 year presence of the Philistine culture in Israel had a major and long-term impact on local floral biodiversity. The Philistines left as a biological heritage a variety of plants still cultivated in Israel, including, among others, sycamore, cumin, coriander, bay tree and opium poppy. The Philistines also left their mark on the local fauna. In a previous study also published in Scientific Reports in which two of the present authors (Maeir and Kolska Horwitz) participated, DNA extracted from ancient pig bones from Philistine and non-Philistine sites in Israel demonstrated that European pigs were introduced by the Philistines into Israel and slowly swamped the local pig populations through inter-breeding. As a consequence, modern wild boar in Israel today bears a European haplotype rather than a local, Near Eastern one.” ==

Newly Discovered Cemetery At Odds with the Philistines Bad Reputation

A team of archaeologists working at excavation site in the coastal Israeli city of Ashkelon have uncovered a Philistine cemetery that appears to indicate they were not the thugish brutes they have been made out to be. The Leon Levy Expedition, which has been excavating in and around the Ashkelon since 1985, says the find is the first of its kind. "When we found this cemetery right next to a Philistine city, we knew we had it," Daniel Master, co-director of the expedition, tells The New York Times. "We have the first Philistine cemetery that's ever been discovered." [Source: Colin Dwyer, NPR, July 10, 2016 <|>]


from the Museum of Philistine Culture in Ashdod

Colin Dwyer of NPR wrote: “Researchers say the site — which is dated from between the 11th and 8th centuries B.C. — contains the remains of more than 150 bodies, variously arranged in single graves and larger burial chambers. And already, the circumstances of these burials are beginning to give lie to the Philistines' reputation as uncultured boors. For instance, small vials of perfume lay near the bodies, "presumably so that the deceased could smell perfume throughout eternity," according to the Israeli publication Haaretz. Among the remains, researchers also found arrowheads, bracelets and earrings. "This forms a baseline for what 'Philistine' is. We can already say that the cultural practices we see here are substantially different from the Canaanites and the highlanders in the east," Master tells Haaretz, referencing the Philistines' nearest neighbors. <|>

“The discovery offers insight into the rituals with which the Philistines observed the end of an individual's life — yet the researchers say the most significant gift of the find may rest instead with a beginning of sorts: They hope that DNA and radiocarbon tests will eventually reveal the origins of the people, who made a mysterious entrance onto the historical stage in the early 12th century B.C., according to National Geographic. "The basic question we want to know is where this people are from," anthropologist Sherry Fox tells Haaretz. The Times reports the team will begin testing bone samples found at the site to see if indeed the people came from the Aegean Sea, as many believe, or another place of origin.” <|>

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons, Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bible in Bildern, 1860

Text Sources: Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Old Testament Life and Literature” by Gerald A. Larue, King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org, New International Version (NIV) of The Bible, biblegateway.com Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL), translated by William Whiston, ccel.org , Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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