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

p. xv


Among the Nations that came within the purview of the Old Testament Writers—nations seldom mentioned without stricture, whether for idolatry, immorality, or cruelty—perhaps none were the object of so concentrated an aversion as were the Philistines. The licentiousness of the Amorites, the hard-heartedness of the Egyptian taskmasters, the fiendish savagery of the Assyrian warriors, each of these in turn receives its due share of condemnation. But the scornful judgement passed by the Hebrews on the Philistines has made a much deeper impression on the Bible-reading West than have their fulminations against other races and communities with which they had to do. In English, from at least the time of Dekker, 1 the word 'Philistine' has been used in one or other of the senses of the modern colloquialism 'outsider'; and, especially since the publication of the essays of Mr. Matthew Arnold, it has become almost a technical term for a person boorish or bucolic of mind, impervious to the higher influences of art or of civilization. In French and German—probably, indeed, in most of the languages of Europe—the word is used in familiar speech with a greater or less approximation to the same meaning.

The following little book is an attempt to collect in a convenient form the information so far available about the Philistine people. It is an expansion of a course of three lectures, delivered in 1911 before the British Academy under the Schweich Fund. In preparing it for publication, the matter has been revised and re-written throughout; and the division into lectures—primarily imposed by the exigencies of time-allowance—has been abandoned for a more systematic and convenient division into chapters and sections.

It is hoped that the perusal of these pages will at least suggest

p. xvi

a doubt as to the justice of the colloquial use of the name of this ancient people.

As it may be well to preserve a record of the syllabus of the original lectures, a copy of it is subjoined.

Lecture I (15 December, 1911). The evil reputation of the Philistines. Recent researches and discoveries. A sketch of the development of Cretan civilization. The Keftiu in the Egyptian records. The sack of Cnossos and subsequent developments. The 'Peoples of the Sea'. Their raid on Egypt. Its repulse. Recovery of the 'Peoples of the Sea' from their reverse. The adventures of Wen-Amon. The earliest reference to the Philistines in the Old Testament. The Abraham and Isaac stories. The references in the history of the Exodus. Shamgar. Samson.

Lecture II (18 December, 1911). The domination of the Philistines. The capture of the Ark and the outbreak of plague. Samuel and Saul. Relative culture of Philistines and Hebrews during the reign of Saul. The incidents of David's outlawry. Achish, king of Gath. Gilboa. The Philistine domination broken by David. The various versions of the story of Goliath. The Philistines under the later monarchy. The Philistines in the Assyrian records. Nehemiah. The Maccabees. Traditions of the Philistines among the modern peasants of Palestine. Theories of the origin of the Philistines. Caphtor and the Cherethites.

Lecture III (22 December, 1911). The Organization of the Philistines. Their country and cities. The problem of the site of Ekron. The language of the Philistines. Alleged traces of it in Hebrew. Their religion and deities. Their art. Recent discoveries. The place of the Philistines in History and civilization.

I have to express my acknowledgements to my friends and colleagues, the Rev. P. Boylan, Maynooth, and the Rev. Prof. Henry Browne, S. J.; also to the Very Rev. Principal G. A. Smith, Aberdeen, and Mr. E. H. Alton, of Dublin University, for allowing me to consult them on various points that arose in the course of this work. The first and last named have most kindly read through proof-sheets of the work and have made many valuable suggestions, but they have no responsibility for any errors that the discerning critic may detect.

The figures on pp. 118, 119 are inserted by permission of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

R. A. S. M.

New Year, 1913.


xv:1 The New English Dictionary quotes, inter alia, 'Silke and satten, you mad Philistines, silke and satten' (Dekker, 1600): 'They say, you went to Court last Night very drunk; nay, I'm told for certain you had been among Philistines' (Swift, 1738): 'The obtuseness of a mere English Philistine we trust is pardonable' (The Examiner, 1827): 'Philistinism! we have not the expression in English. Perhaps we have not the word because we have so much of the thing' (M. Arnold. 1863): and the quotation from the Quarterly Review, which is printed on the title-page.

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