A celebrated people, who inhabited the southern seacoast of Canaan, which from them took the name of Philistia, Psalms 60:8 108:9, or Palestine. They seem originally to have migrated form Egypt to Caphtor, by which some understand Crete, and others with the ancients Cappadocia, Genesis 10:14, and thence to have passed over to Palestine under the name of Caphtorim, where they drove out the Avim, who dwelt from Hazerim to Azzah, that is, Gaza, and swelt in their stead, Deuteronomy 2:23. The country they inhabited lay between the higher land of Judea and the Mediterranean, and was in the main a level and fertile territory. It resembles our own western prairies; and bears splendid crops year after year, though miserably cultivated and never manured.
The Philistines were a powerful people in Palestine, even in Abraham’s time, B. C. 1900, for they had then kings and considerable cities, Genesis 20.2; 21.32; Exodus 13.17. They are not enumerated among the nations devoted to extermination with the seed of Canaan. Joshua, however, did not hesitate to attack them by command from the Lord, because they possessed various districts promised to Israel. But these conquests must have been ill maintained, since under the judges, at the time of Saul, and at the beginning of the reign of David, the Philistines had their own kings and lords. Their state was divided into five little principalities, at the head of each of which was a "lord," namely, Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron-and they oppressed Israel during the government of the high-priest Eli, that of Samuel, and during the reign of Saul, for about one hundred and twenty years. Shaamgar, Samson, Samuel, and Saul opposed them, and were victorious over them with great slaughter, at various times, but did not destroy their power, Judges 3:14 1 Samuel 4:1-22 7:1-17 14:1-52 31:1-13. They maintained their independence till David subdued them, 2 Samuel 5:17 8:1-18, from which time they continued in subjection to the kings of Judah, down to the reign of Jehoram, son of Johoshaphat, when they revolted, 2 Chronicles 21:16. Jehoram made war against them, and probably reduced them to obedience; for it is observed that they revolted again from Uzziah, who kept them under his sway using his whole reign, 2 Chronicles 26:6-7. During the unfortunate reign of Ahaz, the Philistines made great havoc in the territory of Judah; but his son and successor Hezekiah again subdued them, 2 Chronicles 28:18 2 Kings 18:8. They regained their full liberty, however, under the later kings of Judah; and we see by the menaces uttered against them by the prophets Isaiah, Amos, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, that they brought many calamities on Israel, for which God threatened to punish them with great misfortunes, Jeremiah 47:1-7 Ezekiel 25:15 Amos 1:6-8 Obadiah 1:19 Zechariah 9:5. See also Nehemiah 13:23.
They were partially subdued by Esar-haddon king of Assyria and afterwards by Psammetichus king of Egypt; and there is great probability that they were reduced by Nebuchadnezzar, as well as the other people of Syria, Phoenicia, and Palestine, during the siege of Tyre. They afterwards fell under the dominion of the Persians; then under that of Alexander the Great, who destroyed Gaza, the only city of the Philistines that dared to oppose him. They appear to have become entirely incorporated with the other inhabitants of the land under the Maccabees, and are no more mentioned as a distinct people. The ancient Philistines appear in sacred history as a warlike people, not strangers to the arts of life, Judges 15:5 1 Samuel 13:20; worshippers of Baal and Ashtoreth, under the names of Baal-zebub and Dagon; having many priests and diviners, 1 Samuel 6:2 2 Kings 1:2 Isaiah 2:6. They appear to have been of the race of Shem, their language being akin to the Hebrew, yet distinct from it, Nehemiah 13:24. Their land, once rich and covered with cities and towns, is now desolate, Zephaniah 2:4-7.
These dictionary topics are from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary published in 1859. Public Domain, copy freely.
Rand, W. W. "Entry for 'PHILISTINES'". "American Tract Society Bible Dictionary".