The Ancient Philistines (Philistia) in the Gaza Strip of Israel
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Philistines (Philistia) in the Gaza Strip

Overview: The Philistines were people who lived in Canaan along the Mediterranean coast at the time the Israelites sought to occupy the land. They were centered in five cities called the Philistine Pentapolis: Ashkelon Ashdod Ekron Gath and Gaza .....

Amos 1:6–8 Thus says the Lord: For three transgressions of Gaza and for four I will not revoke the punishment ..... I will cut off the inhabitants from Ashdod and the one who holds the scepter from Ashkelon; I will turn my hand against Ekron and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish says the Lord God .....

Prologue: The Philistines are among the most maligned peoples of ancient history. The Bible characterized them as cunning pagan warmongers; the ancient Egyptians as pirates and marauders ..... One of the Aegean Sea Peoples who settled on the southern coast of Canaan at the end of the twelfth century BC -- they entered history as the main adversaries of the Israelites (See *1 Below) .....

The two erstwhile major powers at the time –- Egypt and the Hittites –- were politically weak and militarily impotent and the Sea Peoples -- among them the Philistines -- exploited this power vacuum by invading areas previously subject to Egyptian and Hittite rule. This confederation of tribes included also the Tjekker –- Sheklesh –- Denyen -– and Weshesh. In wave after wave of land and sea assaults they attacked Syria –- Palestine -– and even Egypt. Ramesses III defeated the invaders at his doorstep but was unable to stop them from subsequently settling on the southern coast of Palestine. There they developed into an independent political entity of major importance and constituted a threat to the disunited Canaannite city-states (See ibid) .....

Philistine Head Dress from Medinet Habu (Mysteries of the Bible) In large part due to the excavations at Ekron thirty miles west of Jerusalem a more complete picture of who these Philistines were is becoming available. The excavations at Ekron along with the information from other recent excavations not only can help us understand why these people were nearly always seen in a negative light in the Old Testament but also can provide us clearer insight into their cultural and physical world. Thus we can better understand their social and religious life in contrast to the social and religious life of God’s chosen people -- the Israelites. To understand this difference is to see what set the Israelites apart from the Philistines and why the latter biblical prophets were so adamant in their pronouncements .....

In Association with

(*1) The Sea Peoples by Trude and Moshe Dothan
The Search for the Philistines (1992)
Library of Congress # DS 90 D63

(*2) Philistines: Giving Goliath His Due by Neal Bierling
New Archaeological Light on the Philistines (1992)

(*3) The Sea Peoples and the Philistines on the Web
(Penn State Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies)

The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium