The Philistines (Hebrew: פלשתים, Pĕlishtīm; Greek: Φυλιστῖνοι, Phulistinoi; "Name means::migrants" or "Name means::invaders") were a piratical, seafaring people who inhabited the southern coast of Canaan—known as Philistia (Hebrew: פלשת, Pelāshet)—around the time of the Conquest of Canaan by the Israelites. They occupied the five cities of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath, in the south-western corner of Canaan, which belonged to Egypt up to the closing days of the Nineteenth Dynasty. The Biblical accounts of Samson, Samuel, Saul and David and even the capture of the Ark of the Covenant include accounts of Philistine-Israelite conflicts. What most people fail to realize however, is the depth and complexity of Philistine culture, and how the Biblical narratives show but a blink of an eye of their extensive history.
"Mizraim begat ... Casluhim (from whom the Philistines came) and Caphtorim." — Genesis 10:13-14
They were literally the "invaders" (Philistim) of Canaan whom Nimrod used to evict Asshur. It is clear that there was a rivalry between Philistines and Caphtorites as several other scriptures read thus:
"And as for the Avvites [Abimelech's Philistines] who lived in villages as far as Gaza, the Caphtorites coming out from Caphtor destroyed them and settled in their place." — Deuteronomy 2:23
"Did I not deliver Israel from Egypt, the Philistines from Caphtor, the Arameans from Kir?" — Amos 9:7
"the LORD will spoil the Philistines who remained from the country of Caphtor" — Jeremiah 47:4
Thus it would appear that the earlier Philistines of Abimelech descended from both Casluh while the later Philistim also descended from Caphtor based on these verses which says that the Philistines were derived from the Casluhim but perhaps also others as well, such as Deuteronomy 2:23 , Jeremiah 47:4 , and Amos 9:7 , which refer to them as coming or escaping from Caphtor. Rabbinical tradition has them as descendants of the Casluhim and Pathrusim.
Biblical references in Jeremiah 47:4 and Amos 9:7 indicate that the Philistines were delivered from a place called 'Caphtor,' a place often thought to be either Crete or Cyprus (or Asia Minor in general) the homeland of the pre-Greek Pelasgians. Some ancient biblical translations interpret Caphtor to be Cappadocia, a region within the Hittite empire, causing some to postulate that the Philistines in fact came from the Hittites rather than from the northern Mediterranean.
Crete is argued to be the Philistines' homeland with references from Odyssey of the island being inhabited about 1200 BC, which correlates well with the time of the Philistine migration. Also, the ancient Philistine city of Gaza was originally called Minoah, a name identical to multiple trade centers founded by Cretans. The lack of copper and utter absence of iron and tin however, indicate that the Philistines, known for their metallurgy (1_Samuel 13:19-20 ), probably did not originate from Crete.
Excavations in Cyprus unearthed wealthy cities built on defensible points of the island rather than those ideal to trading and agriculture; this points to a militaristic culture like the Philistines. Cypriotic pottery is very similar to that of the Philistines, and both the Cypriots and Philistines were well-versed in advanced metal working. Further, the architecture on Cyprus resembles buildings in Philistia in their joint use of large ashlars (building blocks) in building construction. Further, the Cypriotic-Minoic and Philistine writings of the time period show distinct similarities. Despite this mounting evidence, most scholars believe that the Philistines perhaps sojourned at Cyprus for some time, but that their origins began elsewhere. .
Theories concerning the Philistines as being of Hittite origins are supported by various facts. For instance, both Christian and Jewish translations of the Bible (from 100-400 AD) refer to Caphtor as a Hittite province called Cappadocia. Historical texts speak of Sargon II referring to the citizens of Ashdod, a Philistine city, as 'Hittites' in 711 BC. The carefully guarded Hittite monopoly on iron also correlates to the Philistines' cherished secrets of metallurgy, and both the Philistines and Hittites called their rulers 'judges.' Even in their religion these two cultures show striking parallels. The main Philistine god Dagon and their secondary god Baal-Zebub are nearly identical to the Hittite gods 'Dagan-zipas' and 'Zababa' of 'Ziparwa.'
Egyptian point of view
In any case, Egyptian records tell of migrants from the north, known as the 'Sea Peoples,' invading the Canaanite and Egyptian coast and devastating entire kingdoms. Between ~1300-1170 BC, waves of migration occurred in which northern Mediterranean peoples moved en masse to the south. The invasion of Balkan tribes, famine in Anatolia and Greece, and earthquakes are potential causes for this exodus. Other factors, including the fall of the Hittite empire (around 1200 BC), the destruction of Troy (1185 BC) and the military campaigns into Egypt (1207 and 1175 BC), contributed to a precarious situation in the general region, incurring widespread ruin in many Late Bronze Age (1150-1200 BC) cultures. The arrival of the Philistines and other Sea Peoples in Canaan ended Egyptian control over the area.
As an interesting side note, some researchers, like L. Stranger, are comparing the characteristics of Greek heroes like Homer's Odysseus or Achilles to those of biblical players like Samson and Goliath (a name of Lydian origins). Notable things such as exceptional strength, a suit of armor, fateful decisions, and feelings of loneliness point to, at the very least, similarities of stories from the same historical era (1150-1000 BC) from two entirely separate cultures.
Mode of Migration
Most scholars agree that the Philistines originated in the Aegean world, journeying into Canaan shortly after 1200 BC when city-states like Mycenae, Tiryns, and Miletus were in decline. There are two theories as to how the Philistines migrated to Canaan: by land or by sea. Supporters of the land route argue that the city-states did not have the resources to successfully launch a maritime trek across the Mediterranean Sea. They point out that the penteconters (50-oared galleys) of these Aegean civilizations could only hold a relatively small number of migrants; a problem thus arises in that the women and children would have to have been left behind, which is incongruent with the evidence of mass migration. An Egyptian relief in the mortuary temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu portraying Philistine men, women and children with oxcarts entering Canaan, appears to support the theory of a land route migration rather than one on the seas. Based upon current findings, land-route supporters also claim that there is a noticeable lack of evidence to support Philistine seafaring activities in association with their initial settlement in southern Canaan. 
Those that advocate for migration via the sea concede that sleek warships could hardly support oxcarts or many people, but they also refer to the documented use of large cargo ships to haul oxen, horses, chariots, and people. These "merchantmen" ships are depicted in a relief from the palace of Sennacherib in Nineveh. The only artifact to portray a seaborne exodus in the ancient Near Eastern region, this relief shows the Tyrians fleeing in both cargo ships and war galleys. Two Late Bronze Age shipwrecks at Cape Gelidonya and Uluburun off Turkey's western coast also support the widespread use of merchantmen throughout the Mediterranean at that time. Further, the discovery of several inscriptions and reliefs indicating the maritime involvement of these "Sea People" bolsters this theory. Numerous references to various archaeological finds, such as a naval battle relief at Medinet Habu involving the Egyptian army opposing Philistine and Sherden (another "Sea People" group) warriors, or inscriptions referring to these different groups as being "of the sea" or those "who live on ships." Both arguments present compelling archaeological and historical evidence but, as of yet, there is not conclusive verification of the accuracy of either.
The Philistines' entrance into Canaan and their resulting confrontation with the Egyptians is highly debated. The traditional view theorizes that Ramesses III defeated the Sea Peoples (including the Philistines) in northern Phoenicia about 1775 BC. Following this victory, Ramesses III sought tighter control over Palestine and established his Sea People captives on the coast in Egyptian cities. The opposing argument suggests that Philistine settlement in Palestine occurred after the invasion and conquer of coastal Canaan from Egyptian forces. 
To begin with, the location of the naval Philistine-Egyptian confrontation took place in the "river mouths." The correct translation of these "river mouths" however, is questioned. Traditionalists refer to the translation of John Wilson in which he writes:
|“||Normally ["river mouths" is] used for the mouths of the branches of the Nile in the Delta, hence probably the line of defense in Egypt. Just possibly, the word might have been extended to harborages on the Asiatic coast.||”|
Supporters of a maritime battle outside of the Nile Delta also point to a land conflict in the Land of Amurru (northern Lebanon), asserting that it is logical that the two concurrent battles would have been waged in the same region (rather than separated by ~300 miles). An Egyptian war this far north eliminates the possibility of Philistines settled in Palestine prior to this military campaign in 1175 BC The establishment of the Philistines in the southern coast of Palestine, the area most dominated by the Egyptians (especially Gaza, the Egyptian capital of Canaan), also bolsters the theory that the Egyptians either allowed the settlement or initiated it themselves.
A passage in the Papyrus Harris I documents the treatment of Sea People captives by the Egyptians but, once again, different interpretations render conflicting meanings. The opponents of the traditional theory note the exclusion of the Philistine and Tjeker peoples in the list of Sea People prisoners. Traditionalists counter this with reliefs at Medinet Habu and other inscriptions that indicate the capture of both the Philistines and Tjekers, claiming that the ancient text list is merely "rhetorical hyperbole used to vary the description." The location where captives were taken is also up for debate. The Papyrus Harris I account notes that the prisoners were transported to Egypt (Km.t) and stationed in strongholds. Whether or not these strongholds were in the land of Egypt proper or the greater Egyptian empire is the main point of contention. Those favoring the traditional theory interpret "Egypt" in this particular context to include all of Egypt and her provinces. Cuneiform documents for example, refer to the Egyptian empire as the "Land of Misri" which incorporates all regions under Egypt's control. Opponents to this interpretation follow the literal reading of the text and believe it to speak of the land of Egypt proper.
Advocates for the invasion theory cite the abundance of Philistine pottery in Palestine as evidence that the Philistines were not military prisoners stationed in fortresses, whose pottery would have been provisioned by the Egyptian government, but rather a settled people producing their own pottery. Traditionalists however, argue that war captives often become foreign mercenaries, and that the ceramic artifacts that have been uncovered are too intricate and aesthetic to be that of commonplace standard pottery issued by a government. It should also be noted that the archaeological record has proven inconsistent and that a lack of clear-cut evidence concerning Philistine-Egyptian relations contributes to this ongoing controversy between the two theories. 
"At that time Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, 'God is with you in everything you do. Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you are living as an alien the same kindness I have shown to you.' Abraham said, 'I swear it.' Then Abraham complained to Abimelech about a well of water that Abimelech's servants had seized. But Abimelech said, 'I don't know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I heard about it only today.' So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelech, and the two men made a treaty. Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, and Abimelech asked Abraham, 'What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?' He replied, 'Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.' So that place was called Beersheba, because the two men swore an oath there. After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called upon the name of the LORD, the Eternal God. And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time. — Genesis 21:22-34
Abraham and Isaac's interactions with the Philistines as mentioned in Genesis 21 and 26 have sparked controversy among scholars, causing some critics to question the authenticity of such accounts and claim these reports to be mistaken anachronisms details from a later age inappropriately inserted into the patriarchal account). Such assertions however, are derived from a mistaken assumption that the Philistines found in the Genesis accounts are the same powerful people and arch-enemies of Israel in Judges and 1 and 2 Samuel. In later times, the Philistine nations is greatly feared, but the Genesis text shows no evidence of intimidation felt by either Abraham or Isaac in their dealings with the Philistines. Surprisingly, it is the Philistine leader Abimelech that seeks the peaceful alliance of both Abraham and Isaac. Such relations with two mere, albeit wealthy, men would have been of inconsequential importance to the Philistines had they truly been a mighty nation at that time. In addition to this, none of the five cities of the Philistine pentapolis (Ashkelon, Ekron, Ashdod, Gaza, and Gath) are mentioned in the Genesis narrative. The only reference to a Philistine settlement, Gerar, presents a relatively small Philistine presence in Canaan during the time of the patriarchs. 
Obvious differences between the two "Philistines" peoples in the Bible further imply that these two peoples are, in fact, separate groups entirely. For instance, the Philistines described in Genesis appear cordial and have mostly Semitic (Hebrew/Arabic) names like Abimelech and Ahuzzath. The other group however, is pugnacious and imperialistic, and has Hurrian (Mesopotamian) names. Further, the city of Gerar, the home of the Genesis Philistines, lies south-east of the later Philistines' central region of power. Should this be the case, the identical name given to the two groups is most likely the work of a biblical author in reference to the people living in the general region rather than the two peoples' individual ethnicities. If these two populations are unrelated, then either the Semites were the original inhabitants of the land and the Hurrians arrived and dominated the region, or the Hurrians arrived for a lengthier period of time. The traditional rabbinical explanation is that the earlier Philistines closely associated with Rephaim such as the Avvites lost their peaceful attitudes after they had been oppressed by the Caphtorim of Anactoria.
Various Egyptian inscriptions, including reliefs in Rameses III's temple and the Papyrus Harris I, also address the Philistines in Canaan. Egyptian military campaigns against the Philistines around 1177 BC, shed light on the time period in which the Philistines or Pelashet possessed a powerful influence in the region. Documents mention the presence of Philistine towns, indicating that the Pelashet were by no means newcomers to the Palestinian coast. One explanation for the strong Philistine nation is that the Pelashet had occupied the region for some time prior to the military conflict. An alternative is that the Philistines settled in stages so that the attacking force comprised both residents of and migrants to Palestine.
The mixed (Cypriot, Canaanite, Mycenaean, and Egyptian) style of Philistine pottery supports this interpretation in that two distinct pottery styles were uncovered. The older style is simple compared with the later style of bichrome (two-colored). It is questioned whether or not these two styles portray a gradual development in craft or of two separate immigrant groups. The former seems more likely in that the emergence of bichrome pottery is dated to approximately 1550 BC, or roughly four centuries prior to the documented arrival of the Pelashet ("Sea-people"). Additional archaeological evidence reveals the settlement of immigrants in southern Palestine, originating from Cyprus, thereby proving the Canaan-Philistine connection beyond that of just an established trade route.
As for the ancient city of Gerar, which has been identified as Tel Haror, it is located in the western Negev seventeen miles to the east of Gaza. A massive, 38-acre settlement during the Middle Bronze Age (2000–1750 BC), Gerar contained earthen ramparts and large wells, the latter of which being a source of contention between the Philistines and both Abraham and Isaac. Amidst the excavated ruins of a holy precinct, archaeologists uncovered a Minoan graffito dating back to 1600 BC. On the graffito were Minoan signs depicting a cloth, figs, branch, and a bull's head. In another room of the sacred complex, a chalice of a Canaanite shape but with Minoan handles was also discovered. Needless to say, the connection between the Minoan and Philistine cultures is quite apparent. The existence of artifacts dating back to the Middle Bronze Age proves the early presence of the Philistine people in Canaan.
Trude Dothan of Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Seymour Gitin of the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research unearthed one of Tel Miqne's most significant finds during their thirteenth and final year of excavations in 1996. The royal dedicatory inscription, found in a strata of rubble associated with the Babylonian conquest of 603 BC, is complete and remarkably legible. It measures slightly more than fifteen inches wide and nearly two feet long, and records the temple's dedication to its patron goddess.  The rectangular block of limestone was found in the sanctuary of a temple complex and, based upon the location of its discovery, it appears to have been part of the sanctuary's western wall and may have been the focal point of the entire structure. The complete, five-line inscription reads:
|“||The temple (which) he built ‘Kys son of Padi, son of Ysd, son of Ada, son of Ya’ir, ruler of Ekron, for Ptgyh his lady. May she bless him, and prote[ct] him, and prolong his days, and bless his [l]and.||”|
The importance of this find cannot be underestimated. To date, it is the only known artifact to confirm that Tel Miqne is, in fact, the ancient city of Ekron as proposed by Joseph Naveh in 1957.  The chronology listed here provides invaluable information concerning this era of Philistine history. "‘Kys", or Achish, built the temple according to the inscription. Assyrian records refer to him as Ikausu, and document his dealings with several Assyrian kings. For example, Ikausu furnished building materials to King Esarhaddon (680-669 BC) for the construction of his palace in Nineveh. In 667 BC, Ikausu also aided Ashurbanipal's (668-627 BC) military campaign against Egypt. The name Achish in the Bible refers to the Philistine ruler of Gath that David united with when fleeing from King Saul 1_Samuel 21:11 and 1_Samuel 27:2 . The biblical Achish ruled in Gath around 1000 BC. The inscription then is not attributed to this particular Achish of Gath, but it does however reveal the recurrence of names given to the Philistine rulers. It may also imply that the city of Ekron inherited the culture and territory of its neighbor Gath. An Assyrian text also records Ikausu/Achish's father, Padi, during the time of Sennacherib and King Hezekiah of Judah. The three previous rulers, Ysd, Ada, and Ya'ir, help to fill in the Philistine dynasty in Ekron during the 7th and 8th centuries BC.  Their existence also helps to establish the founding date of the temple complex to about 650 BC. 
The goddess, Ptgyh, unto whom the temple is dedicated, is speculated by some to be of Indo-European or Philistine origin rather than Semitic, but others believe it refers to the Canaanite goddess Asherah. The conflict arises from the fact that the translation of the middle letter in the goddess's name, the gimel (g), is arguable. The script can be interpreted as an aborted letter, as if the scribe was unsure of the spelling or there was a flaw in the stone. If the 'g' is omitted and the name is spelled 'Ptyh', it could possibly be a Canaanite translation for Artemis (in Greek "Pytheie"), inscriptions of which have been discovered, but dated to a later period. Another potential spelling is 'Ptnyh', which uses Canaanite letters to spell the word 'Potnia,' a formal Greek title meaning "lady", that often accompanies ancient Mycenaean, Greek, and Minoan texts (some as far back as the Late Bronze Age) concerning different goddesses. This latter spelling ('Ptnyh') is also supported by the discovery in Ekron of a jar from the 7th century BC that reads "holy to the goddess Asherat", proving the Philistines' adoption of various Canaanite deities. In any case, this royal dedicatory inscription provides a wealth of history and information regarding the religion and rulers of Ekron during that era. 
One of the five ancient cities in the Philistine pentapolis, Ashkelon is a treasure trove of a wide array of artifacts from multiple periods of its history. For the earliest Philistine era, the people of Ashkelon manufactured monochrome pottery out of native clay. This pottery was decorated with black or red paint and resembled Mycenaean ceramics. The second generation of Philistines developed bichrome pottery, incorporating elements of the red and black painting styles of Canaan and Mycenae. The pottery strata patterns of Ashkelon clearly trace the arrival of foreigners and their transition to the local techniques and styles of the region. A number of clay cylinders used as loom weights also indicate an Aegean origin of the Philistines. These loom weights are pinched in the middle in Aegean/Mycenaean fashion, and do not bear any resemblance to Canaanite loom weights of that time period. At Ashkelon, the Philistines reconstructed the glacis—a slope extending down from a fortification—and rampart first built by the Canaanites for the city's defense. The Philistines also erected a large tower formed of mud bricks near the Middle Bronze Age gate. The base of this massive structure is 34 by 20 feet.
Continued archaeological digs have uncovered a Philistine winery, comprised of three or more workrooms and storage closets. Among the artifacts found—wine-jars, vats, platforms, dipper juglets, and cobbled, waterproof plaster basins—unbaked, perforated clay balls were discovered that are thought to be stoppers for the wine jugs. A wine shop was also found amidst rubble located near a small plaza or bazaar. Based upon cut marks in animal bones, a former butcher shop was found as well. An excavated office contained portions of bronze weighing scales, a dozen stone and bronze scale-weights, bunches of charred wheat, and an ancient receipt for grain paid for in silver. Among the roof debris of this "office," archaeologists discovered a small incense altar of sandstone, confirming the Jeremiah 32:29 reference to incense altars to Baal on rooftops.
Philistine Ashkelon was devastated by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in the December of 604 BC. The Babylonian Chronicle describes the capture of the Philistine king, as well as the looting and utter destruction of the city to mere mounds of stones and debris. Many significant finds have been unearthed in the rubble of Ashkelon. Excavators have found a skeleton of a middle-aged woman on her back with her limbs akimbo and her skull crushed, as if from a hard, blunt object. Analysis has revealed that she was killed by and buried under the roof and walls of the building in which she had sought safety. Large amounts of charred remains tell of the citywide fire set by the Babylonians. The majority of Ashkelon's valuables were plundered, but the scattered remains confirm the wealth of Ashkelon's residents in addition to their rapid departure from their homes. Several Egyptian artifacts, which included a faience plaque portraying the pagan god Bes and a small bronze figurine of the god Osiris, were uncovered in a winery. The destruction of Ashkelon was a strategic offensive move for the Babylonians as they obliterated any potential allies of Egypt in Palestine. The Israelite prophet Jeremiah predicted the fall of Ashkelon in Jeremiah 47 as well.
In recent years, excavators at Ashkelon have discovered the literacy of the Philistines through the examination of nineteen ceramic storage jars, pots, and other pieces. The inscriptions painted on the ceramic containers are of no currently known language, although some of the signs correspond with Cypro-Minoan scripts such as those uncovered at Ugarit (Syria) and Cyprus. Researchers hypothesize that the Philistines initially followed a variation of Cypro-Minoan writing and that, over time, they altered it to such an extent that it became its own language. More samples of this script are necessary in order to decipher it, although the writing is undeniably of an Aegean origin. Prior to this discovery, the Philistines were not known to have a written language, despite their use of measures, weights, and even primitive coinage for commercial purposes. One of the storage jars is of additional significance because it is composed of local clay, indicating the Philistines' production of pottery. This jar was uncovered beneath mudbrick debris, and is dated to 1000 BC or later. Around the 10th century BC, the Philistines adopted the Old Hebrew alphabet and script as the foundation for their own linguistic pursuits.
- The Philistines I J. Bosland. Bible, History and Archaeology. Dutch Foundation for Biblical Archaeology. 27 November 1999.
- by Tristan Barako. “Philistines Upon the Seas.” Biblical Archaeology Review. July/August 2003: Vol. 29 No. 4.
- How Did the Philistines Enter Canaan? A Rejoinder Itamar Singer. BAR 18:06. Nov/Dec 1992. Biblical Archaeology Review. Center for Online Judaic Studies. cojs.org.
- Philistines in the Time of Abraham—Fallacy or Fact? Eric Lyons, M.Min. Apologetics Press :: Alleged Discrepancies. Apologeticspress.org. Copyright © 2004 Apologetics Press, Inc.
- The Philistines OldTestamentStudies.net.
- The Genesis Philistines Bryant G. Wood, Ph.D. Biblearchaeology.org. Associates for Biblical Research. 31 May 2006. First published in ABR Electronic Newsletter: March 2006.
- Discovering a Goddess Aaron Demsky. BAR 24:05. Sep/Oct 1998. Biblical Archaeology Review. Center for Online Judaic Studies. cojs.org.
- New Discoveries Among the Philistines: Archaeological and Textual Considerations Michael G. Hasel. Southern Adventist University. Journal of the Adventist Theological Society, 9/1-2 (1998): 57-70. © 2000.
- Recent Discoveries At Ashkelon by David Schloen, Assistant Professor of Syro-Palestinian Archaeology—The Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Originally published in The Oriental Institute News and Notes, No. 145, Spring 1995. 30 July 2007.
- Philistines, but Less and Less Philistine by John Noble Wilford. The New York Times. Nytimes.com. 13 March 2007.
- Distribution Map
- Archaeology of Philistia (The Philistines)
- The Philistines: Their History and Civilization by R.A.S. Macalister.
- The Philistines Enter Canaan by Bryant B. Wood.
- Who Were the Philistines? by Richard T. Ritenbaugh.
- Philistines in the Time of Abraham—Fallacy or Fact? by Eric Lyons.
- The Philistines: The Archaeological Evidence Powerpoint lecture.