The Philistines, also called the "Sea Peoples," migrated during the 13th century BC to the Gaza area on the coast of Canaan.
The prophets Jeremiah and Amos both state the Philistines originated in Caphtor, which is believed to be Crete. They had a superior army with chariots that made life miserable for Israel for many years. They invaded Egypt in 1175 BC but were defeated by a larger army. They are mentioned in reliefs in the temple of Rameses III.
The Philistines were known to be a tall, clean-shaven people. Their five main cities were Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron and Gath.
When Moses was leading the Jews out of Egypt, God did not direct them by way of Philistia, although that was the shorter route. The longer route avoided a war with the Philistines that might have prompted the Israelites to return to Egypt (Exodus 13:17-18).
During the time of the Judges, who ruled over the land of Israel about 3000 years ago, there was constant warfare between Philistia and Israel. At one time the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant after a battle with Israel, and after God caused a plague of tumors to afflict the Philistines, they decided to return the Ark.
Samuel and King Saul both subdued the Philistines in battles, but in a later battle, the Philistines killed Saul and his sons.
A young David, before he became king, killed the giant Philistine named Goliath and sparked a great victory for Israel over the Philistines.
At one time, when David and his outlawed band were running from King Saul, he was given shelter by Ashish, King of Gath, in the town of Ziklag (1 Sam. 27:6). The Philistines were defeated by David after he became King, and their country went into a decline. King Uzziah defeated them again (2 Chr. 26:6-7), taking the cities of Gath, Jabneh and Ashdod.
Today the country of Philistia does not exist. Excavations in the area has turned up pottery and clay coffins, but no written material of the Philistines has so far been found.
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