Biblical Archaeology Review 40:6, November/December 2014

The Other “Philistines”

By Ephraim Stern

The Bible portrays the Philistines as Israel’s cruel and ruthless enemy. The two peoples engaged in a fierce struggle for control of the land in the 12th–11th centuries B.C.E. We all know the stories of Samson’s struggles against the Philistines (Judges 14–16), David’s victory over the Philistine giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17), and the tragic death of King Saul and his son Jonathan in a battle with the Philistines at Mt. Gilboa (1 Samuel 31).

The Philistines were only one of several tribes known as the Sea Peoples, however, who invaded the Land of Israel during the 12th century B.C.E. It has recently become clear that these Sea Peoples conquered not only parts of the Land of Israel but virtually the entire eastern Mediterranean coastal region, including northern Syria and southern Anatolia. Their attempt to conquer Egypt failed.

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