PHILISTIM, or PHILISTINES, a people who are commonly said to have descended from Casluhim, the son of Mizraim or Mizr, who peopled Egypt. The Philistines, it is probable, continued with their progenitors in Egypt until they were sufficiently numerous and powerful to stretch themselves along the coast of Canaan; doubtless by driving out that portion of the family of Ham. It is certain that, in the time of Abraham, the Canaanites were in possession of the rest of the land, to which they gave their name: but the extreme south of Philistia, or Palestine, was even then possessed by the Philistines, whose king, Abimelech, reigned at Gerar. After this, in the time of Joshua, we find their country divided into five lordships or principalities; namely, Gaza, Askelon, Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron; giving sometimes also, as it appears, the title of king to their respective rulers; Achish being termed king of Gath, 1Sa 21:10. The time of their coming to Palestine is unknown; but they had been long in Canaan when Abraham came thither, in the year of the world 2083. The name Philistine is not Hebrew. The Septuagint generally translate it '?????????, strangers. The Pelethites and Cherethites were also Philistines; and the Septuagint sometimes translate Cherethim, ??????, Cretes. They were not of the cursed seed of Canaan. However, Joshua did not forbear to give their land to the Hebrews, and to attack them by command from the Lord, because they possessed a country promised to Israel. But these conquests of Joshua must have been ill maintained, since, under the Judges, under Saul, and at the beginning of the reign of King David, the Philistines had their kings, and their lords, whom they called Sazenim; since their state was divided into five little kingdoms, or satrapies; and since they oppressed the Israelites during the government of the high priest Eli, and of Samuel, and during the reign of Saul, for about a hundred and twenty years, from A.M. 2848 to A.M. 2960. True it is, that Shamgar, Samson, Samuel, and Saul, opposed them, and killed some of their people, but did not reduce their power. They continued independent till the time of David, who subdued them, 2Sa 5:17; 8:1-2, &c.
They continued in subjection to the Kings of Judah down to the reign to Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, about two hundred and forty-six years, when they revolted from Jehoram, 2Ch 21:16. Jehoram made war against them, and probably reduced them to his obedience again; because it is observed in Scripture, that they revolted again from Uzziah, who kept them to their duty during his whole reign, 2Ch 26:6-7. Uzziah began to reign A.M. 3194. During the unfortunate reign of Ahaz, the Philistines made great havoc in the territory of Judah; but his son and successor Hezekiah subdued them again, 2Ch 28:18; 2Ki 18:8. Lastly, they regained their full liberty under the later kings of Judah; and we may see, by the menaces made against them by the Prophets Isaiah, Amos, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, that they brought a thousand hardships and calamities on the children of Israel, for which God threatened to punish them with great misfortunes.
Esar-haddon, successor to Sennacherib, besieged Ashdod, or Azoth, and took it by the arms of his general, Thasthan, or Tartan. Psammetichus, king of Egypt, took the same city after a siege of twenty-nine years, according to Herodotus. During the siege of Tyre, which held out thirteen years, Nebuchadnezzar used part of his army to subdue the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and other nations bordering on the Jews. There is great probability that the Philistines could not withstand him, but were reduced to his obedience, as well as the other people of Syria, Phenicia, and Palestine. Afterward they fell under the dominion of the Persians; then under that of Alexander the Great, who destroyed the city of Gaza, the only city of the Phenicians that dared to oppose him. After the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes, the Asmoneans took by degrees several cities from the country of the Philistines, which they subjected. Tryphon, regent of the kingdom of Syria, gave to Jonathan, the Asmonean, the government of the whole coast of the Mediterranean, from Tyre to Egypt; consequently, all the country of the Philistines.
The land of the Philistines bordered on the west and south-west of Judea, and lies on the south-east point of the Mediterranean Sea. The country to the north of Gaza is very fertile; and, long after the Christian era, it possessed a very numerous population, and strongly fortified cities. No human probability, says Keith, could have existed, in the time of the prophets, or at a much more recent date, of its eventual desolation. But it has belied, for many ages, every promise which the fertility of its soil, and the excellence both of its climate and situation, gave for many preceding centuries of its permanency as a rich and well cultivated region. And the voice of prophecy, which was not silent respecting it, proclaimed the fate that awaited it, in terms as contradictory, at the time, to every natural suggestion, as they are descriptive of what Philistia now actually is. "I will stretch out my hand upon the Philistines, and destroy the remnant of the sea coasts," Eze 25:16. "Baldness is come upon Gaza; Ashkelon is cut off with the remnant of their valley," Jer 47:5. "Thus saith the Lord, For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof. I will send a fire upon the wall of Gaza, which shall devour the palaces thereof. And I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod, and him that holdeth the sceptre from Ashkelon; and I will turn my hand against Ekron; and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish, saith the Lord God," Am 1:6-8. "For Ashkelon shall be a desolation;" it shall be cut off with the remnant of the valley; "and Ekron shall be rooted up.