By DAVID RICHARDSON
The history of the Philistines occupies considerable space in
the records of Scripture, the reason doubtless being that there are details to
which the Spirit of God would invite our attention. The Philistines were descendants of Ham through
Migraim and Casluhim (Gen. 10: 14), but not nations of
The Philistines occupied a small strip
of country on the south-west border of
* Probably not one and the same person, as the name Abimilech is used in a similar way to the name Pharaoh.
The Philistines come into greater prominence when Israel enters into the possession of Canaan, and they were amongst those who were not driven out but were left to prove the descendants of the chosen people who had not known all the wars of Canaan (Judges 3: 1).
The lengthy details which are given concerning Samson and the Philistines suggest that the Spirit of God has much to unfold to those who are willing to pay attention to them. We are all slow learners and most of us know by experience that we can only attain spiritual knowledge by growth, and the moral history of Samson has much to teach us if we diligently seek the Truth. The plain teaching is, we think, that the Philistines are diligently seeking to ascertain the secret of our power that they may dispossess us of it. The history of Samson shows what devices the Philistines resorted to in order to nullify the exceptional physical powers which the Lord had given to Samson. The Philistines are set to destroy the special powers any servant of God may have, as those gifts are used of God for the enemies’ discomfiture. Each saint of God has some peculiar gift because he is not exactly like any other saint, and it is this individual character which the Philistine seeks to know that he may destroy if possible. There is much in the life of Samson which is hard to understand, but it surely shows that if any man upon whom the power of God may come in a very marked and distinctive way follows a course which is subversive to the exercise of it, then the end is the same morally as that reached by Samson. The Philistines at last discovered the strong man’s secret, and they cut off his hair, put out his eyes, and tortured him in the prison house. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him,” and it should be our daily concern to keep that secret, knowing that if the subtle foe discovers covers it and dispossess us of it, our end will be that our eyes will be put out and the moral torture of the prison house will be ours also.
later captured the “ark of God,” and Scripture furnishes us with remarkable details of its
subsequent history. This seems to
indicate the nearness with which the Philistine enemy is associated with that
which stood as the solemn and sacred symbol of Jehovah. Sore judgment fell upon the Philistines whilst
the Ark was in their possession, and their idol-god Dagon was dismembered, the
head and palms of the hands falling upon the threshold of the house of Dagon,
whilst the Ark was in the idolator’s temple. In sending back the Ark to the
The trespass offering made by the Philistines of the golden emerods and the golden mice “which mar the land” (see 1 Sam. 6.) would evidently teach us that religious men have no conception of what is due to God from them as sinners; as the emerods spoke of God’s chastising visitation, and the mice which marred the land as that which destroyed the bread of man.
How instructive is 1 Samuel 7., in which we
see that in the days of Samuel, when the Philistines were sorely pressing the
The later history still of the Philistines records their slaying Saul, the anointed of the Lord, and Jonathan his son, which drew forth the poetic lament of David - “How are the mighty fallen ... for there the shield of the mighty was vilely cast away.” Yes, truly, and how many since have fallen morally upon Mount Gilboah, slain by the same enemy into whose hands they have been permitted to fan because, like Saul, “they have done foolishly and have not kept the commandment of the Lord their God.” In their fall, alas, they have, like Saul, caused the death of a Jonathan and many others who were in the line of battle. “He that hath ears to hear let him hear.” David finally subdued the Philistines by defeating their champion, Goliath, the details of which we hope to study separately; but they come again into the land after David had passed away.
Prophetically the Philistines come under review (Jer. 47.; Ezek. 25: 15-17), and like all the enemies of God and His people, they historically perish. There may possibly yet remain a revival of the Philistine as Scripture sets him forth in a figurative way; and as his historical details were written aforetime for our learning, we should pay careful heed to his characteristics that we may be overcomers of a foe which is permitted in the land. Thank God, he will be finally cast out when the Lord shakes not the earth only but heaven also.