Those Enigmatic Philistines

When reading history in the Bible and seeing the word Philistines, one might want to heave a sigh and mutter about troublemakers. The most famous passages about them are probably with David and Goliath (who was probably a mercenary), Samson beating up on them, and when Philistines took the Ark of the Covenant.

They are mentioned numerous times throughout the Old Testament. More often than not, they were indeed troublemakers. They cause problems today for Bible scholars and historians who want to know who they were in the first place.

Philistines are noted troublemakers in the Old Testament, and cause problems for Bible scholars and historians today. Their history is puzzling.
Pottery Votive Gift to Philistine Shrine, 9th Century BC, Flickr / Gary Todd (Public Domain)
Philistines lived in several areas, and seem to have come from Crete. The Bible seems to conflict with other historical accounts and archaeology. However, there are several things that need to be considered, including that the name itself seems to have been used loosely — and retroactively.

The Philistines are a problematic people group in the Bible. Scholars argue about who they were and where they came from. Skeptics like to point out that the Bible claims the Philistines were in Canaan fully 500 years before they could have arrived. The Philistines lived in Canaan, but they were not ‘Canaanites’. They fought against the Israelites from their home base on the Canaanite Mediterranean coastland, but they were not listed among the seven nations that the Israelites were supposed to drive out (Deuteronomy 7:1). The archaeological evidence points to Crete, not Canaan, as their original homeland, and a 2019 DNA study on over 150 graves in Ashkelon confirmed their Aegean origin.1 How can this be? Is the Bible wrong about them?

To read the rest, head on over to "Who were the Philistines?"