Who Are the Philistines?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, June 13, 2016 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

This week, we’re wrapping up our series on the different peoples mentioned in the Old Testament with discussing the Philistine people. If you want to review, so far we’ve learned about the Canaanites, Amalekites, Amorites, and Midianites.

The most famous time we see the people of Israel interact with the Philistines is the story of David and Goliath, which you can read about in 1 Samuel 17. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, it’s where young David has the courage to go up against the Philistines’ giant Goliath in battle, and David easily defeats the giant with a slingshot, some stones, and the power of God, bringing victory to Israel.

But who were these Philistine people, and why were they Israel’s enemies? They were a part of the primitive race of the Phoenicians. They lived in various parts of the Mediterranean, including in the valley of the Jordan River. We see in Exodus 13:17, Joshua 13:3, and 1 Samuel 4 that they inhabited the area between Judea and Egypt.

Throughout the Old Testament, it seems as though there’s almost a continual war between the Philistines and the people of Israel, especially the southern tribes. Sometimes the Israelites were enslaved by the Philistines (Judges 15:11 and 1 Samuel 13:19-22) and other times Israel defeated them (1 Samuel 14). This war between the peoples did not stop until the reign of King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:8), but they still occupied the land until they were ultimately defeated by the Romans.

So why do the Philistines matter to us today? Do you have a person in your life with whom it seems like you’re constantly fighting? They just keep turning up where you don’t want to see them and causing you grief. Maybe you had an incident that sparked the disagreement, or maybe it’s just malice for a reason you can’t explain. But for whatever reason, you just don’t get along. That’s the kind of relationship that the people of Israel had with the Philistines - they just didn’t get along and were often fighting.

How did Israel handle the Philistines? That depended on the situation. At times, they followed God’s leading and were victorious over them; at other times, they followed their own way of thinking and were beaten and enslaved. How are you dealing with the difficult person in your life? Are you listening to God’s leading in how to treat them, and therefore being victorious in having a better relationship with them? Or are you following your own way of thinking, and continuing to strain that already damaged relationship?

Use the example of Israel and the Philistines to take a look at difficult people you have in your life, and how God would want you to interact with them.

[Note: Much of this material was taken from the Easton Dictionary of the Bible.]

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