Who Were the Philistines?

Dr. Platypus

According to the Hebrew text of Genesis 10:13-14, the Philistines were descendants of the Casluchim, a people of disputed identity, who were in turn descendants of Mizraim, i.e., Egyptians. Many scholars and several English translations (NRSV, NLT, Tanakh) emend the text to make Philistine derive from Caphtorim instead. They take the phrase, “from which the Philistines come” to be a misplaced scribal gloss that belongs with the last name on the list rather than the next to last. This comports with other strands of biblical evidence that unquestionably link the Philistines with Caphtor, but either way the text leaves us with Philistines who can trace their origins ultimately back to North Africa. Is this at all tenable?

Biblical Evidence

To answer this question, we must first survey what the Bible says about Philistine origins. The Bible tells us where the Philistines came from, but not when. In Deuteronomy 2:23, the…

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