JOSHUA, JERICHO, JOSEPH, AND THE UNIFICATION OF THE HEBREWS

JOSHUA

20120502-Joshua_Commands_the_Sun_to_Stand_Still.jpg
Joshua Commands the Sun to Stand Still
Joshua was successor to Moses and regarded as the Bible's most famous warrior. He led the Jews into Canaan after they had spent 40 years wandering in the Sinai. In Canaan, the Jews evolved from a nomadic people into a strong nation. Joshua united the tribes into a strong fighting force.

Joshua led a number of fabled military campaigns in Canaan against the Moabites, Ammonites, the Philistines and other peoples and tribes. There is no archaeological evidence that any of these campaigns ever took place. Archaeologists have uncovered ash layers and other signs of destruction at only one of the many battlegrounds mentioned in the Bible.

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “It is clear that Joshua did not write the book bearing his name, for some passages reflect a post-conquest point of view (cf. "to this day" in Josh. 4:9; 5:9; 7:26; 9:27; 15:63) and Joshua's death and burial are reported in Josh. 24:29 f. A number of inconsistencies and repetitions (cf. Josh. 3:17 and 4:10 f.; 4:8, 20 and 4:9; 6:5 and 6:10; 8:3 f. and 8:12; 10: 26 and 10:37; 10:36 and 15:14) have led some scholars to extend Pentateuchal sources into Joshua, but so thoroughly has the Deuteronomist integrated and overwritten the work that the analyses are not very satisfactory. As a result, serious difficulties are encountered in any attempt to reconstruct the invasion history.<=> [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

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

Walls of Jericho

20120502-735px-Schnorr_von_Carolsfeld_Bibel_in_Bildern_1860_069 Jericho.png Jericho, in the West Bank of Palestine, is considered one of the world's oldest continually inhabited cities. It is the spot where the Bible says Israelites ended their desert-wandering and where the Israelites led by Joshua scored their first big victory in the Promised Land. According to the Bible, the walls of Jericho "fell flat down" during the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites after Joshua ordered his the children to unleash " a great shout" and his priests to blow their trumpets as they circled the city seven times. There is little historical evidence to back up any of it. Jericho wasn’t even inhabited at the time it was said to have been attacked.

Archaeologists contend a more likely explanation for the tumbling walls was an earthquake. Jericho sits right on the active Jordan fault between the Syrian plate and Arabian plate. Jericho has been leveled many times by earthquakes, most recently in 1927.

Excavations by archaeologists at Jericho of layers dated to around the time Biblical event reveal walls that all fell in one direction (consistent with an earthquake, those leveled by armies are scattered) and food was found underneath them (showing the walls fell suddenly without warning before it could be hauled away). The Bible also says the Jordan River stopped flowing. During Dead Sea zone earthquakes it is not unusual for the banks of the Jordan River to collapse briefly damming it. [National Geographic Geographica, January 1992].

There is clear archaeological evidence that Jericho was destroyed but the timing of the evidence is off. From what can be gleaned by the Bible, Joshua's conquest of Jericho took place in the 13th century B.C. but according to the archaeological record Jericho was abandoned between the 15th century and 11th century B.C.

Historical Jericho

Jericho — the Biblical city of Joshua, trumpets and falling walls — is regarded by some as the oldest city in the world. Established around 7,500 B.C. in an arid valley 600 feet below sea level in Palestine near the Dead Sea., ancient Jericho was home to 2000 to 3000 people that survived on plants that thrived in a fertile area around an oasis. Strains of wheat and barley and obsidian tools have been discovered that came from elsewhere. Ancient Jericho had an elaborate system of walls, towers and moats. The circular wall that surrounded the settlement had a circumference of about 200 meters and was four meters high. The wall in turn was surrounded by a 30-foot-wide, 10-foot-deep moat. The technology used to build them was virtually the same as those used in medieval castles. [Source: "History of Warfare" by John Keegan, Vintage Books]

20120502-Walls_of_Jericho_Fall_Down.jpg
Located near a permanent spring a few miles west of the Jordan River and excavated by Kathleen Kenyon, Jericho is certainly one of the world’s oldest fortified settlement but whether it qualifies as a city is a matter of some debate. There are indications of settlement after 9000 B.C.. This settlement grew to city-like status by 7000 B.C. The archaeological site is situated in the plain of the Jordan Valley two kilometers northwest of modern Jericho city. It is a large artificial mound, rising 21 meters high and covering an area of about one acre.

In 7000 B.C., Jericho encompassed of about eight to ten acres and was home to estimated two to three thousand people. It was inhabited by people who depended on collecting wild seeds for food. It is appears that they did not plant seeds, but harvested wild grains using scythes with flint edges and straight bone handles and used stone mortars with handles for grinding them. Some people lived in caves, while others occupied primitive villages with round huts made from sun-dried bricks. They buried their dead with jewelry in graves made out of rock.

The early inhabitants of Jericho dug out canals to bring water from nearby sources to where they lived and perhaps to irrigate land with wild plants they harvested for food. They constructed huge two-meter-thick walls around their villages. Inside the main fortified settlement was a circular stone tower, nine meters in diameter, and ten meters high, built for protection and requiring thousands of man hours to build. The people of ancient Jericho practiced the domestication of animals, and weaving mats, as well as animal hunting, and perhaps, agriculture. They used spears and flint-capped arrows. They also used hatchets to cut tree branches. Some inhabitants expanded from their settlements in search of new homes outside their boundaries.

The Archeological Museum of Jordan has a stunning collection of 9,000-year-old sculptured heads from Jericho. Consisting of on an actual skull with plaster skin and sea shell eyes, each head is different. Some archeologists claim they were sealed "spirit" traps," designed to keep the soul from wandering around. Jericho.

Story of Joshua and the Walls of Jericho

According to the BBC: “The story of the walls of Jericho is one of the most violent episodes in the Bible. An army of nomads emerges from the desert and destroys a heavily fortified city... not by force, but by faith. The story is set in the Middle East, some 3000 years ago. Even then, the area was plagued by war. The story begins with Joshua and his army preparing an attack in the mountains to the north-east of the Dead Sea. From the mountains, Joshua looks west across the river Jordan toward his destination. According to the Bible, this was the territory God once pledged to Abraham and his descendants. At Joshua's command are some 40,000 Israelite men, descendants of the Hebrew slaves who fled Egypt. There is one problem: the country is already inhabited by Canaanites. [Source: BBC, July 6, 2009 |::|]

20120502-Jericho_BW_3.jpg
Jericho today
“Like any good military commander, Joshua's first requirement is to gather military intelligence. He sends out two spies across the Jordan River ahead of time. They go immediately to an inn that's run by a prostitute. In the ancient world, brothels and taverns were obvious places to gather information. The spies meet a prostitute called Rahab. But things soon go wrong. No sooner have they come to her house than the King of Jericho sends his men, because he knows that the spies have arrived. Rahab takes charge of the whole situation. She hides the spies in the stocks of grain on her roof. |::|

“When the King's guards come, Rahab says to them: "Some men came, you're right, but they left a long time ago when the city gate closed. If you rush ahead and go down to the Jordan, I think you'll find them there." Having thus diverted the pursuers, she goes up to the roof and tells the spies that she knows that Israel will conquer the land. She knows that God has promised the land to them. |::|

“The Bible tells how the army walked around the walled city of Jericho once a day for six days. Each time they walked priests blew trumpets. On the seventh day they circled seven times and the walls of the city came crashing down. Joshua and his army conquered the city, massacring every person they found. Only Rahab and her family were saved. The once mighty city of Jericho had been set alight. Joshua and his people then continued to destroy other towns and cities and Joshua succeeded in conquering Canaan.” |::|

Evidence of Joshua and the Walls of Jericho

According to the BBC: “Many archaeologists have struggled to find evidence of a historical battle at Jericho at the time the story takes place in the Bible. Through their quests they have uncovered many intriguing facts about the Canaanites and Israelites which challenge many assumptions. Archaeologists have discovered that a series of earthquakes swept through the Eastern Mediterranean, including where Jericho stood, in around 1250 BC, and certainly brought walls crumbling down. However, the dates don't match with the time Joshua was supposedly conquering the land. Maybe the memory of the destruction of the towns inspired scribes to write about a great warrior who conquered cities with God's will. Or perhaps the catastrophic collapse of the old world through the earthquakes gave way to opportunism and Israelite groups took advantage of the destruction of the existing Canaanite cities and began to settle in Israel. [Source: BBC, July 6, 2009 |::|]

“There is a twist to the story. Recent DNA research shows that the Canaanites and Israelites were not just similar in their cultures, they were genetically identical. Perhaps the Israelites did not conquer the land at all - they were there all along. Is then, the story of Joshua and the walls of Jericho complete fiction? Well, perhaps not. Joshua's military tactics are plausible and it is possible that some Israelites did travel across from Egypt. Authors could have embellished stories of their ancestors. The story is most probably a culmination of separate oral traditions. Maybe there as a historical figure called Joshua who travelled with his people to a new land.” |::|

Hazor and Joshua’s Victory There

Hazor was the site of one Joshua's most important victories in the conquest of the Promised Land. Joshua 11:10-11 reads: "And Joshua turned back at that time and took Hazor and smote its king with his the sword for Hazor formally was the head of all those kingdoms. And he put to the sword all who were in it, utterly destroying them: there was none left that breathed, and he burned Hazor with fire."

Hazor is one of the most important Old Testament sites in Israel. Covering 200 acres and commanding a view of the Jordan River and the Huleh Valley, it was the most important of the Canaanite city-states and the only Canaanite city mentioned in the royal archives from Mabolonian Mari in Mesopotamia. It was also mentioned in the battles of the Israelites led by Deborah and Barak, and mentioned as a city rebuilt by Solomon. It ruins lay near Mount Herman and the Golan Heights in present-day northern Israel.

In Hazor, archaeologists unearthed cuneiform tablets, cylinder seals, ivory objects, bronze swords, armor and figures, a basalt statue of a Canaanite god. Hazor was destroyed by a fire sometime in the late 14th or early 13th century B.C. This is sometimes offered as evidence that the battle fought here by Joshua really took place..



Invasion of Canaan

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “The only written reports of the Hebrew invasion of Palestine are found in Joshua and in the first chapter of Judges, both of which are part of the Deuteronomic history, and in Num. 13; 21:1-3, a combination of materials from J, E and P sources. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“The general picture presented in the book of Joshua is that of a swift, complete conquest by invaders who were enabled, through Yahweh's miraculous intervention, to overcome the most powerful Canaanite fortress without difficulty, and who engaged in a program of massive annihilation of the Canaanite populace. Despite this picture numerous passages reveal that the conquest was not complete (cf. 13:2-6, 13; 15:63; 16:10; 17:12), and the impact of Canaanite life and thought through the period of the monarchy reveals the continuation of strong Canaanite elements within the culture.<=>

“The Deuteronomic interpretation of the invasion in terms of a holy war adds further problems to our efforts to understand what actually happened. Holy war was waged under the aegis of the deity. Battles were won not by might of human arms, but by divine action. The hosts of heaven assisted human soldiers who represented the family of worshipers, and battles were waged according to divine directions. Ritual purification was essential. Conquered peoples and properties came under the ban or herem and were "devoted" to the deity.<=>

Invasion of Canaan in Joshua

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “The Joshua story (Josh. 1-12, 23-24) opens with the Hebrews poised for attack on the eastern bank of the Jordan. Joshua, appointed by divine commission as the successor of Moses, sent spies into Jericho and, upon their return, made ritual preparations for the holy war. Sanctification rites were performed, for the people had to be a holy people (3:5). Miraculously, the Jordan River was crossed (ch. 3) and the purified people entered the land promised by Yahweh. The rite of circumcision was performed, signifying the uniting of all to Yahweh6 and Passover was observed. Assurance of success came with the appearance of the commander of Yahweh's armies. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

“Through ritual acts, Jericho's walls collapsed and the city was taken and devoted to Yahweh. Violation of the herem by Achan interrupted the smooth annexation of the land at Ai, and it was not possible for the invasion to proceed harmoniously until he and all encompassed in the corporate body of his family were exterminated. Subsequently Ai fell. Gibeon, through a ruse, was spared destruction. A coalition of frightened monarchs from Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon attempted in vain to halt Joshua's progress. Next, the Hebrews moved through the Shephelah, then northward into Galilee, completing the conquest north and south. The conquered territory was divided among the Hebrew tribes. Joshua died after making a farewell speech and performing a covenant rite (which interrupts the sequence) at Shechem.<=>

“Archaeological research has provided only limited assistance for the reconstruction of the invasion history. Excavation at Jericho produced no evidence for the period of the Hebrew attack because erosion had washed away all remains7 but there is no reason to doubt the tradition that Jericho fell to the Hebrews. The problem of Ai mentioned earlier must remain unsolved. Of the cities of the southern coalition both Lachish (Tell ed-Duweir) and Eglon (possibly Tell el-Hesi) have produced evidence of destruction in the thirteenth century; Hebron (Jebel er-Rumeide) is being excavated; Jarmuth (Khirbet Yarmuk) has not been explored; and Jerusalem, if it fell in the thirteenth century (cf. Josh. 15:63), was rebuilt and reoccupied so that it had to be reconquered when David came to the throne (II Sam. 5:6-9). Other sites, Bethel (Beitan), Tell Beit Mirsim (possibly Debir) and far to the north, Hazor (Tell el-Qedah) reveal thirteenth century destruction, supporting the thesis of a Hebrew invasion.<=>



Invasion of Canaan in Judges

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “Judg. 1:1-2:5 gives a different portrait of the invasion, which parallels certain parts of the account in the book of Joshua, but which omits any reference to the role of Joshua and simply announces his death in the opening verse. Battles for both southern and northern territories are reported, but individual tribes struggle for the territory allocated to them in Joshua, and the impression of united action by an amalgamation of all tribes is missing. It is possible that this account which may have taken written form as early as the tenth century, preserves a more factual record than the idealized Deuteronomic tradition, and probably was inserted into the Deuteronomic material at a very late date. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]

The separate tradition preserved in Num. 13 and 21:1-3 also omits any reference to Joshua, and records an invasion from the south under the leadership of Moses. In preparation for the attack, Moses sent out spies who penetrated as far north as Hebron and brought back glowing reports of the agricultural productivity of the land. A battle with the people Arad resulted in the destruction of that site. There is no tradition of settlement or of further invasion from the south.<=>

“Despite the fact that archaeological and biblical sources are inadequate for any detailed or precise formulation of how the invasion was accomplished, a number of hypotheses have been developed. One analysis finds three separate waves of invasion: one from the south by the Calebites and Kenizzites, both part of Judah; one encompassing Jericho and its environs by the Joseph tribes, led by Joshua; and a third in the Galilee area.9 Another theory suggests that there were two Hebrew invasions separated by 200 years: a northern invasion under Joshua during the fourteenth century in which the Ephraimite hills were seized (perhaps to be related to the Habiru problem of the El Amarna correspondence) and a southern invasion around 1200 B.C. involving the tribes of Judah, Levi and Simeon, as well as Kenites and Calebites and perhaps the Reubenites, with Reuben finally migrating to the area northeast of the Dead Sea. <=>

“Still another suggestion is that, prior to the thirteenth century, a number of Hebrews of the Leah tribes had united in an amphictyony centered in Shechem and that the Joseph tribes, under Joshua, invaded in the thirteenth century. The earlier occupation may have been a peaceful one, in contrast to the devastation wrought by Joshua's forces. The Shechem covenant (Josh. 24) marked the union of the Leah group and the newcomers.11 The recital of further hypotheses could add but little to this discussion. No single view can be embraced with full confidence. Perhaps it will be enough to say that in the light of present evidence, the entrance of the Hebrews into Canaan was marked in some instances by bloodshed and destruction and in others by peaceful settlement among Canaanite occupants; and, although the thirteenth-century date best fits the invasion, it is likely that movement into the land by Hebrew people had been going on for at least 200 years.<=>

Jericho Disappointing 10,000th Birthday

On October 10th 2010, Jericho celebrated it reputed “10,000th Birthday.” The celebration turned out to be a poorly planned dud. Edmund Sanders wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Imagine you turned 10,000 years old — and nobody showed up at your birthday party. That's a bit how they're feeling in the ancient West Bank city of Jericho, believed to be one of the world's oldest continually inhabited settlements.” In 2007, “Palestinians made big plans for Jericho's historic birthday. Nobody really knows the exact anniversary, but Palestinians thought 10-10-10 had a good ring to it. The idea was to host an international blowout to rival the 2000 millennium, including fireworks, laser shows, half a million guests and a who's who of international dignitaries. They dreamed of bringing singer Shakira to perform, and city officials figured they'd need to build at least a couple of new hotels and some restaurants to handle the crowds. [Source: Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times, October 14, 2010 *-*]


modern Jericho

“But when Oct. 10 rolled around, the party -- to say the least -- fell flatter than the city's walls once did. A single balloon floated over the city square, a local band named Culture Shock performed on a portable stage, and some new artwork and an ancient mosaic were unveiled. No foreign diplomats attended the opening ceremony, Shakira was not there to sing or shake, and even Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was a no-show. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, greeted by a few dozen Jericho children, unveiled a Jericho-themed postage stamp. *-*

“Like much in the West Bank, Jericho's birthday fete appears to have fallen victim to inadequate finances, poor organization and political infighting. City officials said they received no funds to prepare. A planning committee fell into disarray as members and chairpersons kept changing. And a publicity firm was not hired until 10 days before the event. "Unfortunately, we've been late in everything," Jericho city spokeswoman Weaam Iriqat said, sighing. *-*

“Jericho has a history of high hopes and lost opportunities. With skeletal remains dating to the Stone Age and a prominent place in the Bible, the renowned city has long been seen as the West Bank's most promising tourist destination. This is the spot where the Bible says Israelites ended their desert-wandering and brought down Jericho's walls with a trumpet. There's a sycamore tree said to be the one Jesus once passed and a monastery built into a hillside where Jesus is said to have resisted Satan's temptations. *-*

“After the 1993 Oslo peace accords, Jericho blossomed, drawing Palestinian investors and throngs of Israeli tourists enjoying a new casino and luxury hotel. But after the 2000 Palestinian uprising, the Israeli military banned its citizens from visiting Jericho. The casino was shuttered, and today tourists generally swing through town in a couple of hours, barely getting off the bus. The historic Old City, which wasn't included in Sunday's celebration, is little more than some dirt mounds, with no guides or signs to orient visitors. Indeed, there is nary a placard in sight to show where the walls once stood.” *-*

Joseph

According to the BBC: “The story of Joseph is one of the best known tales in the Bible. The events of Joseph's life are also found in the Torah and the Qur'an. Today it is perhaps most associated with the West End and Sunday school. Written down by scribes about 1000 years after the events supposedly took place, it is often thought that the story may have some historical tradition, but with a healthy portion of dramatic license. Egyptologists, however, have uncovered some intriguing evidence. [Source: BBC, July 6, 2009 |::|]

“The story begins in Canaan - modern day Palestine, Syria and Israel - around 1600 to 1700 BC. Joseph was 11th of 12 sons of a wealthy nomad Jacob and his second wife Rachel. His story is told in the book of Genesis 37-50. Joseph was very much loved by Jacob because he had been born to him in his old age. He was given a special gift by his father - a richly ornamented coat. This favouritism wasn't well received by his brothers. |::|


Joseph's dream

“Anthropologists today have found that this sibling rivalry is a common by-product of polygamous marriages. Children were often born by different wives, and each wife wanted the best for their child. The Bible tells us that Joseph and Benjamin are the sons of Jacob's second wife, while all the other sons are from different wives. Being given a special coat would have only fuelled the brothers' jealousy. The choice of colours in the coat held great prestige. In the ancient world colour was a precious commodity and vivid colours such as red and purple were held in high esteem, as it was very costly to create the dyes. Joseph's coat of red and purple reinforced the message to his brothers that he was Jacob's favourite. |::|

“Joseph's brothers were also suspicious of the strange and vivid dreams he had and did not like the interpretations he told them. His brothers eventually took their revenge by selling Joseph as a slave to passing merchants. While Joseph was being taken to Egypt, his brothers faked his death by rubbing goat's blood into the multi-coloured coat. |::|

“In Egypt, Joseph became a house servant to a rich, high-ranking Egyptian, Potiphar. In the household he was noticed by Potiphar's wife who tried to seduce him, but he resisted her and was put in prison. Whilst in prison Joseph used his power to interpret the dreams of prison officials, and when the Pharaoh had two disturbing dreams Joseph was called to interpret them. |::|

“According to Joseph's interpretation, there were to be seven years of plenty in Egypt, followed by seven years of famine. Joseph was able to advise the Pharaoh on how to prepare for the famine and as a result gained the favour of the Pharaoh who promoted him to Prime Minister. During the famine Joseph had to make key decisions. His acquisition of grain provisions enabled Egypt to withstand and survive the famine. |::|

Evidence of the Joseph Story


Joseph and the Pharaoh

According to the BBC: “The idea of a foreigner reaching the top of Egyptian society sounds unlikely and there is no archaeological or written record of a Prime Minister in Egypt called Joseph. However some new scientific evidence helps to support the case of a historical Joseph. Studies in 'ice cores' found in Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania - the mountain which supplies the Nile with its water - have revealed that a drought did take place around 3600 years ago - around the time the Bible sets Joseph's story. [Source: BBC, July 6, 2009 |::|]

“We also know of another event around the same time. One of the most fertile areas in Egypt was the land around Lake Quarun. This lake was fed with water from one of the branches of the Nile. Droughts in Egypt used to cause this branch to dry up, leaving the land around the Lake destitute. We do know that between 1850 and 1650 BC a canal was built to keep the branches of the Nile permanently open, enabling water to fill Lake Quaran and keep the land fertile. This canal was so effective that it still successfully functions today. There is no record of who built the canal, but for thousands of years it has only been known by one name. In Arabic it's the Bahr Yusef. This translates into English as The Waterway of Joseph. Could this canal have been built by a certain Prime Minister called Joseph as part of his work to save Egypt from famine? Was this Prime Minister the son of a Canaanite called Jacob? |::|

“The Bible tells us that the Pharaoh allowed Joseph to bring Jacob and his family to Egypt, where he took care of them. Generations later, Moses was to lead the descendents of Jacob out of slavery and Egypt to their promised land. Among the items that Moses brought from Egypt were the bones of his predecessor, Joseph. Whatever the truth behind the life of Joseph, his story accounts for a pivotal period in the history of the Israelites.” |::|

Philistines

20120502-735px-Schnorr_von_Carolsfeld_Bibel_in_Bildern_1860_069 smason kils 1000 phistines.png
Samson Kills 1,000 Philistines
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 sent by the Philistines to discover Samson's strength. The Philistines themselves 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. The were expert metalsmiths and similar to Phoenicians in some ways.

In the Bible the Philistines were characterized as thugish 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 hat they fought with the Israelites for the better part of two centuries.

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. 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.


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.

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.

Egyptian relief of Philistine prisoners 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.

Hebrews Unite

20120502-Deborah_Praises_Jael.jpg
Deborah Praises Jael
Before the Jewish kingdom was formed. The Jews were led by officers known as judges. Among these were the warrior Gideon, the great judge Deborah, and Samson, known for his long hair and feats of strength

Threatened by the Philistines and resolved to renew their relationship with God, the Israeli tribes were unified under Saul of the tribe of Benjamin around 1023 B.C. Saul helped build a powerful nation and won many victories. His reign ended when he and his son Jonathon were killed in a battle with the Philistines.

At first the Hebrew monarchy was very powerful. The height of ancient Israel was between 1000 and 930 B.C. when David and Solomon forged the Hebrew tribes into a small but strong state. Then the Hebrew monarchy was split into two weaker kingdoms---Israel and Judea---which were conquered and ruled by Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians. The Jewish kingdom returned again between 162 and 48 B.C., until they were surmounted again, this time by Romans.

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

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from factsanddetails.com, please contact me.