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Philistines

philistine gaza semitic egypt dagon coast name egyptian temple ashdod

PHILISTINES (D'T:II:4S), the name of a people which, : : in the latter part of the age of the Judges and up to the time of David, disputed the sovereignty of Canaan with the Israelites (see ISRAEL, VOI. xiii. p. 402 sq.). The Philistine country (nt.:*Palaastina ; the authorized version still uses the word in. this its original sense as equivalent to Philistia) embraced the rich lowlands on die Mediter-ranean coa,st (the Shephelah) from somewhere near Joppa to the Egyptian desert south of Gaza, and was divided between five chief cities, Ashdod or AZOTIIS (q.v.), GAZA. (q.v.), and Askelon (Ashkelon, ASCALON, q.v.) on or near tbe coast, and GATH (q.v.) and EKRON (q.v.) inland. The five cities, of all of which except Gath the sites are known,' formed a confederation under five " lords " (Seriinim).2 Ashdod was probably the foremost city- of the confedera-tion in the time of Philistine supremacy ; for it heads the list in 1 Sam. vi. 17, and it was to the temple of Dagon in Ashdod that the ark was brought after the battle of Aphek or Ebenezer (1 Sam. v. 1). Hebrew tradition recognizes the Philistines as immigrants into Canaan with-in historical times, like the Israelites and the Aramaeans (Amos ix. 7), but unlike the Canaanites. They came, according to Amos, from Caphtor (comp. Jer. xlvii. 4), and Dent. ii. 23 relates that the Caphtorim from Caphtor dis-placed an earlier race, the `Avvfm, who were not city-dwellers like the Canaanites, but lived in scattered villages. The very name of Philistines probably comes from a Semitic root meaning " to wander "; the Septuagint calls thein 'AA.A.695vAot, " aliens." The date of their immigration cannot be determined with certainty.3 We are scarcely en-titled to take Gen. xxi., xxvi., as proving that the inhabit-ants of Gerar in patriarchal times were identical with the later Philistines, and the other references in the Penta-teuch and Joshua are equally inconclusive. The first real sign of the presence of the Philistines is when the Danites, who in the time of Deborah were seated on the sea-coast (Judges v. 17), were compelled - obviously by the pressure of a new enemy - to seek another home far north at the base of Mount Hermon (Judges xviii.). This marks the commencement of the period of Philistine aggression, when the foreigners penetrated into the heart of the Israelite country, broke up the old hegemony of Ephraim at the battle of Ebenezer, and again at the battle of Mount Gilboa destroyed the first attempt al a kingdom of all Israel. The highest power of the Philistines was after the death of Saul, when David, who still held Ziklag, and so was still the vassal of Gath, reigned in Hebron, and the house of Saul was driven across the Jordan. But these successes were mainly due to want of union and discipline in Israel, and when David had united the tribes under a new sceptre the Philistines were soon humbled. After the division of the kingdom the house of Ephraim appears to have laid claim to the suzerainty over Philistia, for we twice read of a siege of the border fortress of Gibbethon by the northern Israelites (1 Kings xv. 27, xvi. 15); but the Philistines, though now put on the defen-sive, were able to maintain *heir independence. Philistia was never part of the land of Israel (2 Kings i. 3, viii. 2 ; Amos vi. 2), and its relations with the Hebrews were embittered by the slave trade, for which the merchants of Gaza carried on forays among the Israelite villages (Amos i. 6). On the other hand, the trading relations between Gaza and Edom (Amos, 2.4 sup.) probably imply that in the 8th century Judah, which lay between the two, was open to Philistine commerce (comp. Isa. ii. 6); Judah under Uzziah had reopened the Red Sea trade, of which the Philistine ports were the natural outlet.4 Soon, how-ever, all the Palestinian states fell under the great empire of Assyria, and Tiglath-Pileser, in 734 B.C., subdued the Philistines as far as Gaza. But the spirit of the race was not easily broken ; they were constantly engaged in intrigues with Egypt, and had a share in every conspiracy and revolt against the great king. Of two of these revolts, first against Sargon in 711, and afterwards against Sennacherib on Sargon's death (705), a memorial is preserved in Isa. xx., 29 sq. In the latter revolt Hezekiah of Judah was also engaged ; it was to him that Padi, kinglet of Ekron and a pa,rtisan of .A.ssyria, was delivered for custody- by the rebels. In 701 Sennacherib marched westward and reduced the rebel cities of Ascalon and Ekron ; kinglets faithful to his cause were established in both places, and the territories of these Philistine princes and of those of Gaza and Ashdod were enlarged at the cost of Judah. The Philistine war of Hezekialt spoken of in 2 Kings xviii. 8 was probably undertaken to regain the lost territory after the disaster of Sennacherib's army. Under Esarliaddon and Assurbanipal the inscrip-tions still speak of the cities of Philistia as governed by kinglets tributary to Assyria ; and, as the power of Nineveh declined and the monarchs of Egypt began to form plans of aggrandizement in Syria, the Philistine fortresses were the first that opposed their advance. According to Herodotus (ii. 157) Psammetichus besieged Ashdod for twenty-nine years, from which we may at least conclude that the Shephelah was the scene of a protracted conflict between the two great powers. The prophecy of Zeph-aniah ii. 4 sq. has by some been held to point to these events; but most recent writers prefer to connect it with the invasion of the Scythians, who in the reign of Psammetichus ravaged the Phcenician coast and plundered the famous temple of Aphrodite -Urania (Astarte) at Ascalon (Herod., 105). The next king of Egypt, Necho, also made war in the Philistine country and smote Gaza (Jer. xlvii.), event recorded also by Herodotus, who gives to Gaza (Ghazzat, Assyria,n Kha,ziti) the name of Cadytis (Herod., We have still to consider the much-vexed question of the origin of the Philistines. That they were a Semitic or at least a thoroughly Semitized people can now hardly be made matter of dispute. The short list of proper names derived from the Bible has been considerably enlarged from the Assyrian monuments, and suffices to prove that before as after the captivity their language was only dialectically different from that of the Israelites. The religion too was Semitic, and of that older type when the gods were not yet reduced to mere astral powers, but had individual types and special relations to certain animals. Thus Ekron had its local " Fly-Bani" (Baal-Zebub, 2 Kings i. 2 s7.), the fame of whose oracle in the 9th century B.C. extended as far as Samaria,. The more famous Dagon, who ha,d temples at Ashdod (1 Sam. v. ; 1 Mac. x. 83) a,nd Gaza (Judges xvi. 21 sq.), seeins to have been more than a mere local deity ; there was a place called Beth-Dagon in Judxa (Josh. xv. 41) and another on tlie borders of Asher (Josh. xix. 27). The name Dagon seems to come froin'n, " fish," and " only his fish-part was left to him."

There are two other views about Dagon. (1) Philo Byldins (Muller, Fr. Hist. Greee., iii. 567 sq.) makes Dagon the inventor of corn and the plough, whence he was called ZEiis 'Apirptos. This implies an etyinology of a very improbable kind from the Hebrew and Pliw-nician " corn." But it is probable that, at least in later times, Dagon had in place of, or in addition to, his old character that of the god who presided over agriculture ; for in the last days of paganism, as we learn from Marcus Diaccrins in the Life qf Porphyry of Gaza (§ 19), the great god. of Gaza, now known as Marna (our Lord), was regarded as the god of rains and invoked againa famine. That Marna was lineally descended from Dagon is probable in ever3- way, and it is therefore interesting to note that he gave oracles, that he had a circular temple, where he was sometimes worshipped by human sacrifices, that there WCIT wells in the sacred circuit, and that there was also a place of adoration to him situated, in old. Semitic fashion, outside the town. Certain " marmora " in the temple, which might not be approached, especially by women, may perhaps be connected with the threshold which the priests ot' Dagon would not touch with their feet (1 Sam. v. 5 ; &ph. i. (2) Schrader (K. T., 2d ed., p. 1S1 sq.) identifies Dagon with the Assyrian god Dakan, and believes that the word i3 Aeradian. We are here in a region of pure conjecture ; the attributes of Dakan are unknown, save only that Berosus speaks of an Assyrian merman-god '125cifccep.

To the male god Dagon answers in the Bible the female deity Ashtoreth, whose temple spoken of in 1 Sam. xxxi. 10 is probably the ancient temple at Ascalon, which Herodotus regarded as the oldest seat of the worship of Aphrodite -Crania. This Ashtoreth is the Derketo of Diodorus (ii. 4) and Lucian (De Dea, Syr., 14), the Atargatis of Xanthus (1'r. /fist. i. 155), whose sacred enclosure and pool were near Ascalon, and whose image had a human head, but WaS continued in the form of a fish.2 The association of Ashtoreth with sacred pools and fish was common in Syria, and the sacred doves of Ascalon mentioned by Philo (ed. Mang-ey, 646) belong to the, same worship.3 Of the details of Philistine religion in the Biblical period we know ahnost nothing.1 Their gods were ca,rried into battle (2 Sam. v. 21), a usage found among other Semites ; their skill in divination is alluded to in Isa. ii. 6, and we have already- seen that oracles were a feature in their shrines. The whole record shows a religion characteristically Semitic in type ; and it is also noteworthy that at the earliest date when the Philistines appear ia history the great sanctuaries are all on the coast with deities of a marine type. This raises a presumption that the Philistines came from over the sea, and that Caphtor, their original home, was an island or maritime country.5 In point of fact the Philistines must have entered their later seats either by sea or from the desert between Canaan and Egypt. In the latter case they come from Egypt, for a city-building people, which supplanted a race of villagers, cannot have been a tribe of Arabs. And so the theories about the origin of the Philistines reduce themselves to two, one class of write,rs holding that Capbtor must be sought across the .Mediterranean, another placing it in the Delta,. Ancient tradition gives no help ; for it takes Caphtor to be Cappadocia, led, it would seem, merely by a super-ficial similarity of the names. Of the two main theories the former is that which has recently found most support, and it has a definite point of attachment in the fact that the Philistines, or a. part of them, are also called in the Bible Cherethites (1 Sam. xxx. 14; Ezek. xxv. 16 ; Zeph. 5), while David's Philistine guards are in like manner called the Cherethites and Pelethites (2 Sam. viii. 18, xv. 18, &c.). Cherethites (Kraim) can hardly be anything but Cretans, as the LXX. actually renders it in Ezekiel and Zephaniah, and Caplitor would thus be the island of Crete, - an identification which seems to satisfy the conditions of a reasonable hypothesis. For, though the points of contact between Crete or Cretan religion and the Philistine coast which have been sought in Greek and Latin writers (chiefly in Steph. Byzant., s.v. "Gaza") are very shadowy, there is no doubt that Crete had an ea,rly connexion with Plicenicia and received many Semitic inhabitants and a Semitic civilization before the Greeks gradually asserted themselves in the YEgean and forced back the tide of Semitic influence (for details, see the article PHCENICIA). These facts give a reasonable explanation of the settlement on the Philistine coast within historical times of a mari-time people, cogitate to the Phcnicians in so many points and yet having certain distinct characters, such as would naturally be produced in a place like Crete by the grafting of a Semitic stock and culture on ruder races not Semitic (the Eteocretans).1 The opposite view, which places Caplitor in the Delta, rests on more complicated but less satisfactory arguments. There were certainly many Semites in the Delta. of Egypt, and so long as the history of the Hyksos (who were no doubt Semites) remains in its present obscurity it is always possible to suppose that their ex-pulsion from Egypt explains the settlement of the Philis-tines in Canaan. But it is very questionable if the dates will fit ; the name Caplitor is connected with the Delta by no historical testimony, btit only by elaborate hypotheses, as that Caplitor may mean in Egyptian Great Phcenicia, and that this again may have been a name for the Egyptian coast, where there was a large Semitic population ; 2 and the characteristic Philistine peculiarity of uncircumcision, intelligible enough on the Cretan theory, is scarcely con-ceivable in a race which had been long settled in Egypt. The mainstay of the Egyptian hypothesis is found in Gen. x. 13, 14, - verses which belong to the older part of the chapter (see Nomr), and reckon in the very obscure list of descendants of Mizraiin or Egypt " Caslulffin (whence came forth Philistim) and Caplitorim." This account places Caphtorim in some relation to Egypt, but not necessarily in a very close relation, for the Ludim, who are also made descendants of Egypt, are scarcely different from Lud or Lydia, which appears at ver. 22, in the later part of the chapter, in another connexion. But further, if the text as it sta,nds is sound, it gives a new account of the origin of the Philistines, which can be reconciled with the other Biblical evidence only- by malting Casluhim a halting-place of the Philistines on their way from Caplitor to Canaan. Accordingly the advocates of the Egyptian theory propose to identify Casluhim with the arid district of Mount Casius on the coast of the Egyptian desert. But this is false etymology. Mount Casius is named from thc temple of Jupiter Casius, that is, the well-known Semitic God 1+Vp,3 whose name as written in Semitic letters has no possible affinity to Casluhim. And in truth the statement that the Philistines came from Cashihini, presented with-out a hint as to their connexion with Caphtorim, which is mentioned immediately afterwards, lies under strong suspicion of being a gloss, originally set on the margin by a copyist who meant it to refer to Caphtorim.4 In this case the original author will have meant Caphtorim to denote, or at least include, the Philistines (who, as they are not Canaanites, and had close relations with Egypt in historical times, fall readily enough under the Egyptian group), and tells us nothing about the origin of the race.

_Literature. - Hitzig, Urgeschichte . . . der Philisteier, 1845, where the ii,ow untenable hypothesis of a Pelasgic origin of the Philistines is maintained ; Ewald, Gesch. des V. Israel, i. 348 sq.; and in general the books on Hebrew history and commentaries on Gen. x. and on Amos. A useful monograph is Stark's Gaza und die philistaische Kiiste, Jena, 1852. For the Assyrian evidence see especially Schrader, Keilinschriften und Altes Testament, 2d ed., Giessen, 1883. (W. R, S.)

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