Within the immense history of the peoples and cultures that have inhabited the Middle East since biblical times, we find the Philistines , a people who settled in the city of Canaan and were characterized by being aggressive and warrior . Little is known about their origins and the information that exists has been taken from the only source where they speak of them, the Bible.


Who were the Philistines?

The Philistines were a very ancient people who were known mainly for their great aggressiveness . They were a feared people because they used to harass and ravage the coasts of places like Egypt, Palestine and Turkey.



The Philistines were a very ancient people who inhabited the southern coast of Canaan for many years . They lived in this place approximately from the 12th century BC to the year 604 BC. This people was and is well known for all the conflicts against the people of Israel.


Characteristics of the Philistines

Among the main characteristics that made this town unique and recognized are the following:

  • They were included among what were known as ” peoples of the sea .”
  • They were characterized by having confrontations and conflicts continuously.
  • They were ruled by kings or lords .
  • They were also known for being uneducated and very rude .
  • They had a lot of knowledge in the field of navigation .
  • They followed a type of political organization called a pentarchy in which each of the five centers of government that made it up had its own prince.
  • They knew how to forge iron what had to be superior.
  • One of its main activities to maintain its economy was agriculture, mainly wheat and grapes.
  • In the field of art they dedicated themselves to working ceramics .
  • They had good knowledge related to metallurgy .
  • They had peculiar weapons among which the use of a feather headdress, walking barefoot and the use of short skirts stood out.


Although the origin of the Philistines is not clear, several of the archaeological finds that have been made show that this people originated in an area of the Aegean Sea . The Hebrew Bible also refers to the origin of this people locating it in Caphtor and the Septuagint locates them in the Island of Crete . For this reason, many historians consider the true origin of the Philistines to be Aegean.

History of the Philistines

This town managed to go down in history by being known as the town of the giant Goliath , a man who represented ignorance and who was defeated by a little shepherd named David . However, the true history of the Philistines remains largely mired in mystery as little is known about it.

They managed to settle in five different cities in the southwestern part of Israel and their history is based on the monopolization of arms , their struggles against other peoples and their character . The settlement of this town is established from the twelfth century BC in Canaan . They tried to expand towards the southern part of Canaan and managed to cover practically the entire coast, this was one of the reasons why they always lived in conflict with the Israelites.

After having fought and lost several battles against David, who was the king of Israel, the Philistine people stopped expanding and from that moment, they stopped being an imminent risk for Judah. Experts consider that this was the reason why the name of this town stopped being named even in the biblical texts.

In the 10th century BC the Philistines lost all their autonomy and after the conquest of Assyria , which took place in 722 BC and with the destruction of the Philistine territory in the hands of Nebuchadnezzar II, the people finally fell into the hands of the Empire. of Alexander the Great . By this time, the Philistines had lost much of the cultural identity that characterized them.

Presence in the Bible

In the Bible, the Philistines were a non-Semitic Indo-European people who managed to settle on the southern coast of Palestine , in what is now known as the West Bank . They were part of the peoples of the sea , who had settled on the northern shores of the Aegean Sea. They were grouped into five cities and were considered the main enemies of the people of Israel in the time of Judges.

The book of Judges points them out as the main contender for the Hebrews in the struggle to possess Palestine. Mention is also made in this book of their oppression of Israel. The story is also told of Samson , a strong man but with very little discipline who fell before the trap of a Philistine spy, Delilah . In the book of Samuelmention is also made of the Philistine people. Finally, the Philistines appear during the last reign of Saul when David is mentioned, who was his contender and who fled to the land of the Philistines. They decided to give him protection in order to weaken the Hebrew people, however, David managed to reunite Israel under his rule and although the Philistines opposed this, he managed to defeat them completely.

Capture and return of the ark

The Ark of the Covenant was one of the main elements that existed and represented the presence of God for Israel . After the ark was captured, it was taken to the temple of Dagon , who was the main god of the Philistines, however, this did not do the people good because in addition to destroying the image of this god, its power dissipated and the people fell ill . The Philistines decided to take the ark to two other of their cities, however, the plague also ravaged them.

For this reason, they decided to summon soothsayers and priests to find a way to return the ark. The priests then recommended that she be returned with a guilt offering , which was gold in the form of tumors and mice , two of the plagues that had struck the Philistines. They delivered the ark to Israel in the town of Bethsemen , near Jerusalem .


Among their main beliefs we can mention those they had towards their gods because they worshiped them. They also believed in sacrifices to keep the gods happy and affirmed the existence of the Philistine pantheon .

God of the philistines

The Philistines worshiped three different gods called Ashtarot , Dagon, and Baal – zebub . Each of them had a sanctuary located in different cities and their images were even carried into battles. Dagon was the Semitic god of vegetation and crops , Astarot was the prince of hell , an angel who had been corrupted after having visited the human world and finally Baal-zebub, who represented the lord of darkness, in other words, the devil or demon.

Why were they enemies of the Israelites

From time immemorial it has been known that the Philistines were enemies of the Israelites. The main reason was due to the fact that the Philistines maintained a constant search and pressure against the interior of the coast in order to achieve greater political and economic power over the people of Israel.


Its importance lies in the representation of the Philistines in Judges and Samuel as the way by which it was possible to establish the legitimate and authorized monarchy , from the divine point of view , in ancient Israel, which was achieved through David.

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