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The search for a Palestinian Homeland

by Robert Randle  
4/10/2010 / Bible Studies

Every ethnic group, clan, or tribe wants to preserve its unique cultural identity and history, so the designation of an ancestral land of origin and statehood is critical to achieving that end result. Since the Palestinians trace their ancestry back to the people known as "Philistines," it is prudent then, to find out where in the Bible as well as what the spade of archaeology first unearths as evidence of these people whose indomitable spirit is very much alive in their descendants.

Genesis 20: 1, 2b
And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country [NEGEB??], and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar. And Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.

Genesis 32: b-34
Then Abimelech rose up, and Phichol the chief captain of his host [army] and they returned into the land of the Philistines. And Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God [JHVH olam]. And Abraham sojourned in the land of the Philistines many days.

NOTE: This is the earliest period in which the Philistines are mentioned, and they are established in Gerar, in the south country [NEGEB]. Gerar is identified with Tell Jemmeh about 8 miles south of Gaza. More recent archaeological research places this site with Tell Abu Hurreira, which lies on the banks of Wadi esh-Sheira, 11 miles southeast of Gaza. Beersheba seems to be nearby, on the border of its territory near its limit toward the northeast.

Amos 9 7b
Have I not brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt? And the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir?

Genesis 10: 14
And Pathrusim, and Casluhim (out of whom came the Philistines) and Caphtorim.

Deuteronomy 2: 23
And the Avim, who dwelt in villages [Hazarim] as far as Gaza [Azzah], the Caphtorim, which came forth out of Caphtor, destroyed them and dwelt in their place.

NOTE: Caphtor is thought to be in Egypt or near it in Africa. The 'Avim' are the early inhabitants of Palestine in the southwest corner of the seacoast, and they may have made their way northward from the desert. They are probably identified with the "Hivites." The Philistines displaced the indigenous people and dwelt in Gaza. Gaza is one of the five chief cities of the Philistines. It was situated on the great coastal highway between Egypt and Mesopotamia, and at a junction of the trade route from south and central Arabia. It is the last town in the southwest of Palestine, on the frontier toward Egypt. From their presence in the lower southern country, the Philistines pressed into territories more northward.

2 Chronicles 26: 6
Now he [King Uzziah] went out and made war against the Philistines, and broke down the wall of Jabneh, and the wall of Ashdod; and he built cities around Ashdod and among the Philistines.

Joshua 15: 1a, 45-47a
So this was the lot of the tribe of the children of Judah according to their families. Ekron with its towns and villages; from Ekron to the sea, all that lay near Ashdod, with their villages; Ashdod with its towns and villages, Gaza with its towns and villages-

NOTE: Ashdod was about 30 miles from the southern frontier of Palestine, 3 miles from the Mediterranean Sea, and nearly midway between Gaza and Joppa. Ekron was the most northern of the five major Philistine cities located in Palestine, east of Ashdod.

1 Samuel 13: 3a, 16b
And Jonathan attacked the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. But the Philistines encamped at Michmash.

1 Samuel 14: 31
Now they had driven back the Philistines that day from Michmash to Ajalon. So the people were very faint.

1 Samuel 17: 52
Now the men of Israel and Judah arose and shouted, and pursued the Philistines as far as the entrance of the valley [of Elah??] and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell along the road to Shaaraim, even as far as Gath and Ekron.

NOTE: The valley of Elah, where David slew Goliath was somewhere near Socoh of Judah and Azekah, west of Timnah. Gath was about 10 miles east of Ashdod and equal distance east from Ekron. Geba is 6 miles north of Jerusalem, on the very edge of the great Wadi Suweinit, looking northward to the ancient city of Michmash. Michmash is a village about 7 miles north of Jerusalem which still bears the ancient name Mukhmas.

2 Samuel 5: 18, 20a, 25
The Philistines also went up and deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim. So David went up to Baal Perazim, and David defeated them there. And David did so, as the LORD commanded him; and he drove back the Philistines from Geba as far as Gezer.

COMMENTARY: From what can be ascertained from the Jewish Scriptures and doubtless corroborated with Archaeological and historical records, the ancestors of the Palestinians migrated from either somewhere around Egypt, or that part which touches Africa. The Genesis narrative starts with the Philistines having a king named Abimelech whose capital is in Gerar, in the southern country or NEGEB. From that area they move ever northward and establish 5 main cities, and a few other villages. The closest that any of the Philistines get toward Jerusalem is within 6 or 7 miles to the north; and even then, it is uncertain how long they lived there, and if in fact it was a permanent settlement. There certainly is no compelling reason that the Palestinians could or should claim East Jerusalem as well as any other part of the Holy City as their homeland; God's promised allotment of the land to the tribe of Judah as well as the remaining parcels to all the children, notwithstanding.

One of the things which make this issue a little bit more complex is that although God promised a vast amount of acreage to the Israelites, they had certain requirements or obligations as an inheritance, such as: make no covenants or intermarry with the other nations (Cp. Ezra 9: 1-2a); do not worship their gods; drive the people out of the land or utterly destroy them; and lastly, but most importantly, to obey God's commandments and worship Him only. After the death of Joshua and when the monarchy split apart into the kingdoms of Judah [including Benjamin] and Israel [remaining10 tribes] after the reign of King David and Solomon, the history of the Jews or Hebrews was one long and sad narrative of rebellion, apostasy, and rejection of God and His holy Law [Torah]. Yes, God would deliver them time and time again from their enemies but they would fall right back into their pattern of forgetting to reverence God and treat Him as their One and only sovereign LORD. For their punishment, God ultimately removed them from the very land which He had bequeathed to them; Israel being led into Assyrian captivity and Judah into Babylonian exile.

Of course, as with any massive deportation of people there are always a few remnant people left behind to be farmers and vinedressers. The land then became repopulated with citizens of foreign nations [it doesn't seem that the Philistines were among these people], which are found recorded in 2 Kings 17: 1-41; Ezra 4: 1-2. Although the prophets during "the exile" promised that God would once again bring the Israelites scattered from among all the nations of the Earth back to be resettled in the "Promised Land" and never to be uprooted again, does this necessarily mean that the descendants of those Gentile nations who were deported or relocated to the land of Samaria, Israel and Judah should just walk away from everything they have worked hard all their lives to acquire instead of living in peace side by side with their returning Jewish neighbors?

Finally, pertaining to the Palestinians, if indeed they want to stake out a claim of territory as their ancestral homeland or for a politically-sovereign nation and Statehood, then somewhere in the NEGEB would be a more legitimate claim, and they have just as compelling a right to do so as their Semitic cousins, the Israelis do for settling in Jerusalem/Judea and the surrounding territory.

Robert Randle
776 Commerce St. #B-11
Tacoma, WA 98402
April 8, 2010

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