Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Who were the Philistines?

In writing David and Jonathan, an M/M romance from the Bible, I did a lot of reading of the Old Testament and various other sources, and after spending a long time on the battle between David and Goliath, I was curious to see who exactly the Philistines were.

There are a number of other tribes mentioned in the Book of Samuel. Chief among them, of course, are the Philistines. Sources indicate they were an Aegean people, perhaps from Crete, who settled in Canaan around the same time as the Israelites, in the 12th century BCE.

The Philistine confederacy was composed of five major cities (the Pentapolis): Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron and Gath (as we later learn, home of Goliath). And eventually they gave their name to Palestine.

The Philistines are often called “the uncircumcised ones” in Samuel, but I’ve expanded that definition to all the other tribes that are mentioned, particularly because I wanted to give David some experience with a foreskin before Saul commands him to provide 100 foreskins as a bride price for his daughter Michal.

These other tribes include the Jebusites, an ancient Canaanite people that lived in an area called Jebus, on the site of current-day Jerusalem.

The Amalekites were a nomadic tribe living in the Negev, who are frequent enemies of the Israelites, even though they are said to be descended from Esau. One of the many inconsistencies I found in the Biblical story of David concerns the Amalekites. Adonai commands Saul to kill all the Amalekites and destroy all their possessions (1 Samuel 15). Saul disobeys, however, leaving Agag, the king of the Amalekites, alive, and confiscating the tribe’s best livestock.

This leads Samuel to curse Saul, tearing his garments and claiming him unfit to rule Israel. Then Samuel blesses David and anoints him as the future king.

Mount Gilboa
All that’s fine to me. However, when Saul is wounded at the battle of Mount Gilboa, an Amalekite slave finds him. Saul asks the slave to kill him, and then take his gold crown to David. There’s a lovely symmetry to having an Amalekite handle this task.

But if Saul had all the Amalekites other than their king killed, where did this slave come from? My guess is that there were other Amalekite tribes floating around, or that this slave was captured before Saul killed all his people. But it’s a weird anomaly to me.

The Edomites, also descendants of Esau, were an ancient people living in Edom, a region south of the Dead Sea.

The Kenites were a tribe of itinerant metalsmiths related to the Midianites and the Israelites who plied their trade while traveling in the desert rift valley extending from the Sea of Galilee to the Gulf of Aqaba. Before Saul kills the Amalekites, he tells the Kenites to leave from among them, because they have been good to the Israelites in the past. Moses’s father-in-law, Jethro, was a Kenite, so it seems like these tribes lived peacefully together and occasionally intermarried.

The Ammonites lived east of the Jordan river, and their chief city was Rabban Ammon – or Amman, the current capital of Jordan.

Adriel the Meholathite marries Saul’s oldest daughter, Merab—but all I can find is that this means he was from the town of Meholath, in the same way that David’s father Jesse is called a Bethlehemite.

I hope this gives readers some background into the various tribes who play a part in David and Jonathan's story, and my attempt to create a modern M/M romance out of one of the iconic relationships in the Old Testament.

You can buy the book from Amazon, or from other retailers here.


Jina Bacarr said...

Wonderful, heartfelt insight into your research. Great job!

Holly Bargo said...

What an ambitious project to tackle not only history, but biblical history. I'm impressed.

Hywela Lyn said...

Fascinating history and I'll bet the research was really interesting, if time consuming I would think!