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The Philistines, by R.A.S. Macalister, [1913], at

III. Their Decline and Disappearance.

A few simple figures will show the comparative insignificance into which the Philistines fell after their wars with David. In the first book of Samuel, the name 'Philistine' or 'Philistines' occurs 125 times. In the second book it occurs only twenty-four times, and some of these are reminiscent passages, referring to earlier incidents. In the two books of the Kings together the name occurs only six times.

Achish was still 'King of Gath', as we have already seen, at the beginning of Solomon's reign, and the coast] and strip was still outside Hebrew territory. Gezer was presented to Solomon's wife as a marriage portion. After the partition of the kingdom, Nadab son of Jeroboam I besieged Gibbethon, a now unknown Philistine village, where he was killed by his successor Baasha. The siege was apparently renewed at the end of Baasha's own reign, but why this village was made a centre of attack is a question as obscure as its topography. Ahaziah sent to consult the Oracle of Ekron. The Shunammite woman who had entertained Elisha sojourned during the seven years' famine in the land of the Philistines—a testimony to the superior fertility of that part of the country. Turning to the records of the southern kingdom, we learn from the Chronicler that certain of the Philistines brought presents and silver for tribute to Jehoshaphat: but that under his son Jehoram they revolted and carried away his substance. In the parallel version in Kings the revolt is localized in the insignificant town of Libnah. The great king Uzziah, on the other hand, broke the walls of Gath—which had probably been already weakened by the raid of Hazael of Syria

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[paragraph continues] (2 Kings xii. 18)—as well as the walls of Jabneh and of Ashdod, and established cities of his own in Philistine territory. This is the last we hear of the important city of Gath in history: henceforth it is omitted from the enumerations of Philistine cities in prophetic denunciations of the race. In the time of Ahaz there seems to have been a revival of the old spirit among the beaten people. Profiting by the Edomite raid which already harassed Judah, they took some cities from Southern Judah, including Beth-shemesh, Aijalon, Gederoth, Shocho, Timnath, and Gimzo, which are not elsewhere reckoned as Philistine property (2 Chron. xxviii. 18); certainly the first of these was a Hebrew village even at the time of the greatest extension of Philistine power. This 'Philistine revival' seems to have inspired Isaiah in a denunciation of Ephraim (Isa. ix. 12), but whether the invasion of the northern kingdom there threatened ever took place is not recorded. Probably not, as Hezekiah once more reversed the situation, smiting the Philistines as far as Gaza (2 Kings xviii. 8).

At this point we glean some welcome details of history from the annals of the Assyrian kings. Hadad-Nirari III (812–783) enumerates the Philistines among the Palestinian states conquered by him about 803 R. c., but enters into no particulars. Tiglath-Pileser III, however, (745–727) gives us fuller details. Rezōn (in the Hebrew Rezīn) of Syria, and Pekah of Samaria were in league, whereas Ahaz of Jerusalem had become a vassal of the king of Assyria. The Philistines had attached themselves to the Syrian league, so that in 734 B.C. Tiglath-Pileser came up with the special purpose of sacking Gaza. Ḫanunu, the king of Gaza, fled to Sebako, king of Egypt; but he afterwards returned and, having made submission, was received with favour. 1

Some four years earlier Mitinti, king of Ashkelon, had revolted, trusting to the support of Rezon. But the death of Rezon so terrified the king that he fell sick and died—possibly he poisoned himself, knowing what punishment would be in store for him at the hands of the ferocious Assyrian. His son Rukipti, who reigned in his stead, hastened to make submission.

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About 713 another Philistine city comes into prominence. This is Ashdod, the king of which, Azuri, refused to pay tribute and endeavoured to stir up the neighbouring princes to revolt. Sargon, king of Assyria (722–705), came down, expelled Azuri, and established in his stead his brother Aḫimiti. An attempt was made by the Philistines—Sargon's scribe calls them Hittites—to substitute one Yamani, who had no claim to the throne. But this bold usurper fled to the land of Meluḫḫa in N. Arabia when Sargon was on his way to the city. 1 These operations of Sargon against Ashdod are referred to in a note of time in Isaiah xx. 1.

The next king, Sennacherib (705–681), had trouble with the remnant of the Philistines. Mitinti's son Rukipti had been succeeded by his son Sarludâri, but it seems as though this ruler had been deposed, and a person called Zidka reigned in his stead. Sennacherib found conspiracy in Zidka, and brought the gods of his father's house, himself, and his family into exile to Assyria, restoring Sarludâri to his former throne, while of course retaining the suzerainty. In this operation he took the cities of Beth-Dagon, Joppa, Bene-Berak, and Azuri, which belonged to Zidka. These names still survive in the villages of Beit Dejan, Ibrak, and Yazur, in the neighbourhood of Jaffa.

At the same time the Ekronites had revolted against the Assyrian. Their king, Padi, had remained a loyal vassal to his overlord, but his turbulent subjects had put him in fetters and sent him to Hezekiah, king of Judah, who cast him into prison. The Ekronites summoned assistance from North Arabia and Egypt, and met Sennacherib in El-Tekeh. Here they were defeated, and Sennacherib marched against Ekron, slaying and impaling the chief officers. Padi was rescued from Jerusalem, his deliverance being no doubt part of the tribute paid by Hezekiah (2 Kings xviii. 14).

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[paragraph continues] Sennacherib then cut off some of the territory of Judah and divided it among his vassals, Mitinti, king of Ashdod, Padi the restored king of Ekron, and Zilbel, king of Gaza. 1

Sennacherib was assassinated in 681, and his son Esarhaddon (681–668) reigned in his stead. In the lists of kings in subjection to this monarch we find Mitinti, king of Ashkelon (the Assyrian records seem to confuse Ashkelon and Ashdod), and Zilbel, king of Gaza, of whom we have heard before. Padi has disappeared from Ekron, and to him has succeeded a king with the old Philistine name of Ikausu (= Achish). On the other hand a king with the Semitic name of Aḫimilki (Ahimelech) is king of Ashdod. All these kings survived into the reign of Assurbanipal, who began to reign in 668. 2

According to Jeremiah xlvii. 1 (not the Greek Version) 'Pharaoh smote Gaza' in the time of that prophet. This most likely was Necho, on his way northward when Josiah, with fatal consequences to himself, tried to check him. Herodotus is supposed to refer to this when he says (ii. 159) that Necho took a great city of Syria called 'Kadytis', which elsewhere (iii. 5) he describes as a city in his opinion not smaller than Sardis. It is a possible, but not a convincing,

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hypothesis, that Kadytis may represent some form of the name of Gaza. 1

Here the Assyrian records leave us. We have, however, one more Biblical reference, in the last paragraph of the book of Nehemiah, which is of very great importance (xiii. 23, 24). The walls of Jerusalem had been restored; the law published and proclaimed; all the steps had been taken to establish an exclusive theocratic state in accordance with the priestly legislation; when the leader was dismayed to discover certain Jews who had married women of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab, the very communities that had put so many obstacles in the way of the work of restoration. 2 Not only so, but there were already children; and as is usual in such cases of mixed marriage, these children spoke the language of their mothers only. Nehemiah indulged in a passionate display of temper, treating the culprits with personal violence, and probably he compelled them to put away their wives, as Ezra did in a similar case. But the interest for us is not in Nehemiah's outburst, but in his reference to the speech of the children. They spoke half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews’ language. In spite of Sennacherib's transportations and deportations; in spite of the long and exhausting siege of twenty-nine years which the city (according to Herodotus ii. 157) sustained in the following century at the hands of Psammetichus; yet the ancient tongue of the Philistines lingered still in Ashdod, the town which probably retained exotic characteristics the longest. The distinction which Strabo (XVI. ii. 1) draws between the Γαζαῖοι and the Ἀζώτιοι ('Jews, Idumaeans, Gazaeans, and Azotii' being the four minor races of Syria which he enumerates) may possibly be founded on a reminiscence of these linguistic survivals. No doubt the language was by now much contaminated with Semitic words and idioms, but still it possessed sufficient individuality to be unintelligible without special study. It had of course lost all political importance, so that it was not as in the days of Samson and Jonathan, when every Hebrew of position was obliged to know something of the tongue of the powerful rivals of his people: it was now a despised patois, much as are the ancient Celtic languages in the eyes of the average Saxon. In the chatter of these little half-breeds the stern Jewish puritan was perhaps privileged to hear the last accents of the speech of Minos, whose written records still 'mock us, undeciphered'.

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It is true that some critics have explained the 'speech of Ashdod' as being the tongue of Sennacherib's colonists. If so, however, Nehemiah (himself a returned exile from a neighbouring empire to Sennacherib's) would probably have had some understanding of it and of its origin, and would have described it differently. The Semitic speech of the children of the Ammonite and Moabite mothers does not seem to have caused him so much vexation.

In Gaza, too, Philistine tradition still survived. Down to the time of the Maccabean revolt there remained here a temple of Dagon, destroyed by Jonathan Maccabaeus (1 Macc. x. 83, 84; xi. 4). But these traditional survivals of religious peculiarities are mere isolated phenomena: apart from them the absorption of Philistia in the ocean of Semitic humanity is so complete that its people ceases to have an independent history. It were profitless to trace the story of Philistia further, through the campaigns of Alexander, the wars of the Maccabees and the Seleucids, the Roman domination, and the complex later developments: the record is no longer the history of a people; it is that of a country.

Nevertheless, the tradition of the Philistines still lives, and will continue to live so long as the land which they dominated three thousand years ago continues to be called 'Palestine', and so long as its peasant parents continue to tell their children their tales of the Fenish. One accustomed to the current English pronunciation of the name of the Phoenicians might for a moment be misled into supposing that these were the people meant: but the equation is philologically impossible. There can be no doubt that this people of tradition, supposed to have wrought strange and wonderful deeds in the land, to have hewn out its great artificial caves and built its castles and even the churches and monasteries whose fast-decaying ruins dots its landscape—that this people is none other than the mighty nation of the Philistines.


63:1 . . . The town of . . . over the land Beth-Omri . . . I cast its whole extent under the rule of Assyria: I put my officials as lieutenants over it. Ḫanunu of Gaza fled before my arms, and escaped to Egypt. Gaza I plundered, its possessions and its gods . . . and I put my royal image (?)—in his palace. I laid the service of the gods of his land under the service of Asshur. I laid tribute upon him . . . As a bird he flew hither (made submission) and I set him again to his place.'—Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek, ii, pp. 32, 33; Schrader, Keilinschriften3, p. 56. See also Rost, Keilinschr. Tiglath-Pilesers, p. 78.

64:1 'Azuri, king of Ashdod, devised in his heart to bring no more tribute, and sent an invitation to the kings of his neighbourhood to hostility against Asshur. On account of the misdeeds he wrought, I removed him from the lordship of the people of his land and put his brother Aḫimiti in lordship over them. But evil-plotting Hittites were hostile to his lordship and set over themselves Yamani, who had no claim to the throne, who like them had no respect for my lordship. In my fury I did not send the whole body of my troops. . . . I led merely the body-guard, who follows me wherever I go, to Ashdod. But Yamani fled as I approached to the border of Egypt, which lies beside Meluḫḫa, and was seen no more. I besieged and plundered Ashdod, Gath, and Ashdodimmu ["The port of Ashdod," ‏אשדוד הים‎ or, "Gath of the Ashdodites," according to some interpreters], and carried off as booty their goods, women, sons and daughters, property, the palace treasures, and the people of the land. I re-peopled those towns anew . . . and put my lieutenants over them and counted them to the people of Assyria.'—Keil. Bibl. ii, pp. 66, 67. KAT3. p. 71.

65:1 Menahem of the town of Samaria, Ethba’al of Sidon, Mitinti of Ashdod [and a number of others] all the kings of the West brought rich presents . . . and kissed my feet. And Zidḳa, the king of Ashkelon, who had not submitted to my yoke, the gods of his house, himself, his wife, his sons, his daughters, his brothers, the seed of his house, I dragged off and brought them to Assyria. Sarludari, the son of Rukipti, their former king, I set again as king over the people of Ashkelon, took tribute and submission from him, and he became obedient to me. In the course of my expedition, I besieged Beth-Dagon, Joppa, Bene-Barka, Azuri, the towns of Zidḳa, which had not promptly submitted to me: I plundered them and dragged booty away from them. The principal men of Amḳarruna (Ekron) who had cast Padi, who by the right and oath of Assyria was the king, into fetters and delivered him up to Hezekiah of Judah, who had shut him in prison—their heart feared. The kings of the land of Egypt sent archers, chariots, and horses of the king of Meluḫḫa, a countless army, and came to help them. Their army stood against me before the town El-Tekeh, they raised their weapons. Trusting in Asshur, my Lord, I fought with them and subdued them; I took the chiefs of the chariots and the son of one of the kings of Egypt, and the chief of the chariots of the king of Meluḫḫa prisoners with my own hand in the mêlée: I besieged El-Tekeh and Timnath, and plundered them and took away their booty. Then I turned before Ekron, the chief men who had done evil I slew and hung their bodies on poles round the city: the inhabitants who had done evil I led out as prisoners: with the rest, who had done no evil, I made peace. Padi their king I led from Jerusalem and put him again on the throne of his lordship. I laid the tribute of my lordship upon him. Of Hezekiah . . . I besieged forty-six fortified towns . . . his towns which I had plundered, I took from his land and gave them to Mitinti, king of Ashdod, Padi, king of Ekron, and Zilbel, king of Gaza, and I cut his land short. To the former tribute I added the tribute due to my lordship and laid it upon them.'—KḄ. ii, pp. 90–95.

65:2 KḄ. ii, pp. 148, 149, and 238–241.

66:1 See Meyer's History of the City of Gaza, p. 38. Noordtzij, De Filistijnen, p. 171, identifies it with Kadesh, which is reasonable.

66:2 Neb. iv. 7. See also Ps. lxxxiii, which, according to the most likely view, was composed during the anxieties attending the restoration of Jerusalem.

Next: Chapter III: The Land of the Philistines