As with most allegations brought against the Scriptures, those who claim that the Philistine nation was not around in Abrahams day are basing their conclusion on at least one unprovable assumptionnamely, that the Philistines living in the days of the patriarchs were a great nation, similar to the one living during the time of the United Kingdom. The evidence suggests, however, that this assumption simply is wrong. The Bible does not present the Philistines of Abrahams day as the same mighty Philistine nation that would arise hundreds of years later. Abimelech, the king of Gerar, is portrayed as being intimidated by Abraham (cf. Genesis 21:25). Surely, had the Philistine people been a great nation in the time of the patriarchs, they would not have been afraid of one man (Abraham) and a few hundred servants (cf. Genesis 14:14). Furthermore, of the five great Philistine city-states that were so prominent throughout the period of the Judges and the United Kingdom (Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath, and GazaJoshua 13:3; 1 Samuel 6:17), none was mentioned. Rather, only a small village known as Gerar was named. To assume that the Bible presents the entire civilization of the Philistines as being present during Abrahams day is to err. In reality, one only reads of a small Philistine kingdom.
The word Philistine was a rather generic term meaning sea people. No doubt, some of the Aegean Sea people made their way to Palestine long before a later migration took placea migration that was considerably larger. In commenting on these Philistines, Larry Richards observed:
While there is general agreement that massive settlement of the coast of Canaan by sea peoples from Crete took place around 1200 B.C., there is no reason to suppose Philistine settlements did not exist long before this time. In Abrams time as in the time of Moses a variety of peoples had settled in Canaan, including Hittites from the far north. Certainly the seagoing peoples who traded the Mediterranean had established colonies along the shores of the entire basin for centuries prior to Abrahams time. There is no reason to suppose that Philistines, whose forefathers came from Crete, were not among them (1993, p. 40).
No archaeological evidence exists that denies various groups of sea people were in Canaan long before the arrival of the main body in the early twelfth century B.C. (see Unger, 1954, p. 91; Archer, 1964, p. 266; Harrison, 1963, p. 32). To assume that not a single group of Philistines lived in Palestine during the time of Abraham because archaeology has not documented them until about 1190 B.C. is to argue from negative evidence and is without substantial weight. In response to those who would deny the Philistines existence based upon their silence in the archeological world before this time, professor Kitchen stated: Inscriptionally, we know so little about the Aegean peoples as compared with those of the rest of the Ancient Near East in the second millennium B.C., that it is premature to deny outright the possible existence of Philistines in the Aegean area before 1200 B.C. (1966, p. 80n). Likely, successive waves of sea peoples from the Aegean Sea migrated to Canaan, even as early as Abrahams time, and continued coming until the massive movement in the twelfth century B.C. (Archer, 1970, p. 18).
Based on past experiences, it would seem that critics of the Bibles inerrancy would refrain from making accusations when arguing from silence. For years, modernists and skeptics taught that the Hittite kingdom, which is mentioned over forty times in Scripture (Exodus 23:28; Joshua 1:4; et al.), was a figment of the Bible writers imaginations, since no evidence of their existence had been located. But those utterances vanished into thin air when, in 1906, the Hittite capital was discovered along with more than 10,000 clay tablets that contained the Hittites law system. Critics of the Bibles claim of divine inspiration at one time also accused Luke of gross inaccuracy because he used the title politarchas to denote the city officials of Thessalonica (Acts 17:6,8), rather than the more common terms strateegoi (magistrates) and exousiais (authorities). To support their accusations, they simply pointed out that the term politarch was found nowhere else in all of Greek literature as an official title. Once again, these charges eventually were dropped, based on the fact that term politarchas has now been found in 32 inscriptions from the second century B.C. to the third century A.D. (Bruce, 1988, p. 324n), with at least five of these inscriptions being from Thessalonicathe very city about which Luke wrote in Acts 17 (Robertson, 1997).
Although critics accuse biblical writers of revealing erroneous information, their claims continue to evaporate with the passing of time and the compilation of evidence.
Archer, Gleason (1964), A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Archer, Gleason L. (1970), Old Testament History and Recent Archaeology from Abraham to Moses, Bibliotheca Sacra, 127:3-25, January.
Bruce, F.F. (1988), The Book of Acts (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), revised edition.
Burrows, Millar (1941), What Mean These Stones? (New Haven, CT: American Schools of Oriental Research).
Frank, H.T. (1964), An Archaeological Companion to the Bible (London: SCM Press).
Gottwald, Norman (1959), A Light to the Nations (New York: Harper and Row).
Harrison, R.K. (1963), The Archaeology of the Old Testament (New York: Harper & Row).
Kitchen, Kenneth (1966), Ancient Orient and Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Inter-Varsity Press).
Richards, Larry (1993), 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered (Grand Rapids, MI: Revell).
Robertson, A.T. (1997), Word Pictures in the New Testament (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Unger, Merrill (1954), Archaeology and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
We are happy to grant permission for items in the "Alleged Discrepancies" section to be reproduced in their entirety, as long as the following stipulations are observed: (1) Apologetics Press must be designated as the original publisher; (2) the specific Apologetics Press Web site URL must be noted; (3) the authors name must remain attached to the materials; (4) any references, footnotes, or endnotes that accompany the article must be included with any written reproduction of the article; (5) alterations of any kind are strictly forbidden (e.g., photographs, charts, graphics, quotations, etc. must be reproduced exactly as they appear in the original); (6) serialization of written material (e.g., running an article in several parts) is permitted, as long as the whole of the material is made available, without editing, in a reasonable length of time; (7) articles, in whole or in part, may not be offered for sale or included in items offered for sale; and (8) articles may be reproduced in electronic form for posting on Web sites pending they are not edited or altered from their original content and that credit is given to Apologetics Press, including the web location from which the articles were taken.
For catalog, samples, or further information, contact:
230 Landmark Drive
Montgomery, Alabama 36117
Phone (334) 272-8558