Philistines in the Patriarchal Era
To the Editor:
The announcement of the dig at Tel Haror (“Places to Dig this Summer,” BAR 12:01) mentions the “Philistine king Abimelech” in connection with Abraham. Since Abraham is dated roughly 18th century B.C. and the Philistines did not invade Canaan until the 12th century B.C., how could Abimelech possibly have been a Philistine? Since he was king of Gerar, might he not better have been called Canaanite or even Egyptian (near Gaza)?
I agree heartily with the complaint about your misuse of the words “Palestine” and “Philistine” (Queries & Comments, BAR 11:01). But I love your magazine and will continue to read it even if it occasionally makes me angry.
The reference to Abimelech as a Philistine may be anachronistic. Or as a BAR reader noted several years ago, when the Biblical writer wrote down the story hundreds of years after the events described, he used a more “up-to-date” term to emphasize the then-current hegemony of that area, for at the time he wrote, the area was controlled by the Philistines (see “Patriarchal References to Philistines Not Anachronistic,” BAR 08:06, by Charles E. Gersch.)—Ed.