One of the most critical battles in early Israelite history was fought about 1050 B.C. between the Israelites and the Philistines. At that time, the Bible tells us, the twelve tribes had settled the land and the Ark of the Covenant had been installed at Shiloh under the authority of Eli the High Priest. The people were ruled by tribal elders, by priests, by charismatic leaders called Judges who arose in times of crisis, and ultimately by the God of Israel.
The Book of Judges makes clear that not all the land allotted by God to the Israelites had been occupied by them. Various Canaanite enclaves remained. The principal problem for the Israelites in the 11th century, however, was the encroaching power of the Philistines, one of the Sea Peoples who settled and occupied the Mediterranean coastal region from Gaza to the Yarkon River, north of the modern city of Tel Aviv. On the border between the coastal plain, occupied by the Philistines, and the rising hills of Samaria, occupied by the Israelites, and the two principal powers of the country—the Philistines and the Israelites—clashed in battle.
The battle itself is described in 1 Samuel 4.