Who were the Philistines?

The Philistines were a people close to Israel, they fought a lot with the Hebrews. The best known philistine in the Bible is the giant Goliath. The Philistines disappeared after being conquered by the Babylonian empire.

The Philistines settled in the land of Canaan, by the Mediterranean Sea, after they tried unsuccessfully to invade Egypt. They built five main cities: Ashdod, Gaza, Ascalom, Gate and Ecrom . Each city was independent and had a king, but when they went to war, the five came together.

For a long time the Philistines were the most powerful people in Canaan, because they were the only ones who knew how to create iron weapons ( 1 Samuel 13: 19-20 ). When the Hebrews conquered Canaan, they were unable to expel the Philistines. The Philistines lived many years in conflict with the Hebrews.

Philistines and Israelites

In the time of the judges, when Israel did not yet have a king, the Philistines often managed to defeat the Israelites. When Samson was a man, the Israelites were under the rule of the Philistines ( Judges 15:20 ). Samson married a woman from the Philistines but came into conflict with them and killed many Philistines throughout his life.

Years later, when the prophet Samuel was still young, the Philistines defeated the Israelites and took the Ark of the Covenant . They placed the ark in the temple of their god Dagon, but the statue of Dagon fell and broke in front of the ark! ( 1 Samuel 5: 1-4 ) The Philistines were attacked by a plague of tumors, so they decided to return the Ark of the Covenant to Israel, along with an offering.

See also: who was Samuel in the Bible?

When Saul became king of Israel, he fought a lot against the Philistines ( 1 Samuel 14:52 ). His squire David became famous for killing many Philistines after he killed Goliath. But when Saul became jealous of him, David fled to the city of Gath, where he worked for a time as a mercenary for the Philistines ( 1 Samuel 27: 1-3 ). After the Philistines killed Saul and his sons, David abandoned Gate and returned to Israel.

The end of the Philistines

The Philistines attacked Israel when they heard that David had become king of Israel. But David defeated the Philistines and subdued them ( 2 Samuel 8: 1 ). The Philistines were no longer able to overcome Israel and only attacked a few times after David’s reign.

Much later, when Nebuchadnezzar became king of Babylon, the Philistines fought against the Babylonian empire. Then Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the cities of the Philistines and deported the people to other parts of the empire. The Israelites were also deported but when they were allowed to return to their land, the Philistines had disappeared as a people.


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