[b-hebrew] Wellhausen and "Philistines"

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Sun Dec 30 09:17:08 EST 2007

Yitzhak  Sapir: 
You wrote:  “There were no Philistines in  Canaan during the time of the 
    1.  The Classic Philistines Are Not Depicted  in the Patriarchal 
The “Philistines” depicted in the  Patriarchal narratives bear no relation 
to the classic Philistines.  The classic Philistines lived in five  grand 
cities on the southwest coast of Canaan, beginning about 1190 BCE.  None of those 
five cities is mentioned  in Genesis.  “Gerar” has no  connection to the 
classic Philistines.  And the Patriarchs never sojourn on the southwest coast of  
Rather than take my word for it, let me here  quote what some people 
apparently see as being the “bible”, that is John Van  Seters, “Abraham in History 
and Tradition” (1975), at pp.  53-54: 
“Genesis…does not use the term seren, the  oldest term for the ruler of a 
Philistine city, even though this title was in  use as late as the united 
monarchy.  Genesis also speaks about a Philistine king of Gerar, but this is not one 
 of the five royal [Philistine] cities, and there is no other historical 
record  of a Philistine monarchy at Gerar or at any other city apart from the  
pentapolis.  Furthermore, when  Abraham and Isaac enter into treaties with the 
Philistines no other ruler except  Abimelech (with a Semitic name!) is 
mentioned.  Yet in the book of Judges and in the  stories from the time of Saul and 
David, the five rulers of the Philistines  always act in concert.” 
The classic Philistines were very well known  to J, E, P and D.  But the 
classic  Philistines are completely unknown to the author of the Patriarchal  
    1.  The “Philistines” in the Patriarchal  Narratives Are Foreign 
Mercenaries in Lebanon, Namely the Sherden in the  Mid-14th Century BCE
While nothing about the “Philistines” in the  Patriarchal narratives matches 
the classic Philistines, everything matches the  Sherden, who operated 
exclusively in Lebanon, between Qadesh and Sur, as foreign  mercenaries in the 
mid-14th century BCE.  The name “Philistines” is probably  derived from the Hebrew 
word for “invaders”, and is a derogatory Hebrew nickname  for these 
nefarious foreign mercenaries. 
The Hebrews first meet the “Philistines”  when Abraham settles “between 
Qadesh and Sur”, per Genesis 20: 1.  The Sherden operated as foreign  mercenaries 
exclusively between Qadesh and Sur in Lebanon, including at Garu  (compare “
Gerar”).  Abimelech is not  an ethnic Philistine, but rather is a west 
Semitic-speaking Canaanite princeling  (historical “Abimilki” of the island city-state 
of Sur in southern Lebanon), who  has hired foreign mercenaries/Sherden/“
Philistines” to try to make sure that he  has access to the invaluable water wells 
on the mainland.  Eight Amarna Letters depict the constant  fierce squabbling 
over these water wells near Sur, just as reported in chapters  21 and 26 of 
Genesis.  The only  person in the text with a “Philistine” name, that is, a 
non-west Semitic name,  is Phicol, who as a Sherden is of course a military man. 
 None of Abimelech’s herdsmen, etc. are  ever described in the text as being “
Philistines”, because they were Canaanites,  not “Philistines”. 
As noted by Van Seters above, the five  rulers of the classic Philistines 
always acted in concert in dealing with the  Hebrews.  By sharp contrast, the  
Sherden foreign mercenaries were routinely hired by both sides in disputes, so  
the Sherden often as not ended up fighting on both sides of disputes in  
Lebanon.  Here are the key lines of  text: 
“Now all the wells which his  father's servants had digged in the days of 
Abraham his father, the Philistines  had stopped them, and filled them with 
earth.  …And Isaac digged again the  wells of water, which they had digged in the 
days of Abraham his father;  for the Philistines had stopped them  after the 
death of Abraham”.  Genesis 26: 15, 18   
There is no way that the classic Philistines  would stop up their own wells!  
No,  these are Sherden foreign mercenaries hired by rival princelings who 
have  stopped up Abimelech’s wells.  Abimelech has hired some “Philistines”
/Sherden/foreign mercenaries,  headed by Phicol, and so Abimelech is somewhat 
derisively called “king of the  Philistines” in the text.  Yet par  for the 
course, Abimelech’s rivals have also now hired Sherden foreign  mercenaries, so you 
have Sherden/”Philistines” fighting on both sides of a  conflict.  That never 
happened with  the classic Philistines. 
    1.  Conclusion
Anyone who can read text can readily see  that the classic Philistines are 
never depicted in the Patriarchal  narratives.  So there is no  historical 
anachronism here for an historical mid-14th century BCE  Patriarchal Age. 
Jim  Stinehart 
Evanston,  Illinois

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