The origin of the Philistines is a debatable subject among scholars. But generally believed to have been part of the Sea Peoples. These were maritime raiders and settlers who arrived in the eastern Mediterranean in the late Bronze Age around 1200 BC. The Philistines likely migrated to the region from various parts of the Mediterranean, possibly including the Aegean, Cyprus, and other areas. However, it is proven that they were culturally distinct from the indigenous Canaanite peoples. Moreover, this also confirmed that these people were not the origin of Arabs, nor did they ever have any control over central or other parts of what is now Israel. Arab Muslims claim that this land belongs to them, but they cannot prove their claim, and most importantly, they cannot deny the reality of Israel.
The control region of the Philistines :
The ancient Philistines did not rule over a vast empire or territory like other ancient civilizations or kingdoms. Instead, they were concentrated in several city-states along the southern coastal plain of Canaan, part of the eastern Mediterranean region. The main cities controlled and ruled by the Philistines were the following:
- Ashkelon: One of the principal Philistine cities, Ashkelon was a substantial coastal port and an important center for trade and commerce in ancient times.
- Ashdod: one of the prominent Philistine cities, Ashdod, was strategically located along the Mediterranean coast.
- Gaza: Gaza was one of the most critical Philistine cities that has a continued historical and strategic front in the region throughout history.
- Ekron: This city was one of the five principal Philistine city-states and played a role in the conflicts between the Philistines and the Israelites.
- Gath: Gath was another of the five main Philistine cities and is particularly notable as the hometown of the biblical figure Goliath, who famously faced David in the Bible.
In the Philistine period, these city-states were not unified or ruled by a single ruler or government. Instead, they formed loose alliances and confederations for mutual defense and trade. It is important to note that they coexisted and interacted with neighboring peoples and cultures, such as the Israelites, Canaanites, and others. As time progressed, their influence waned as they were conquered and absorbed by other regional powers, such as the Assyrians and later the Babylonians.
Present-Day Palestinians’ Claim over Israel
It is a historically proven fact that Israel was never controlled or ruled by any Palestinian ruler or leader. This is a reality supported by the Bible and historical records. Although there are numerous accounts of conflicts and wars between the Palestinians and the Israelites, these wars and contentions were not related to the control of the land by the Israelites.
However, this dispute seems to be a land dispute, which is propaganda or a historical fallacy in reality.
According to many historians, scholars, and religious leaders, this is not a conflict over land but rather a conflict over the hatred of Jews by Muslim countries. Muslim leaders in the past and present oppose the control and rule of this land by the Children of Israel in the same way as the Romans did.
Muslims Cannot deny the reality of Israel, yet they want to take the land that belongs to Jews. Moreover, historical evidence proves the existence of Israel as a kingdom, as highlighted in the previous part of the article. There is ample evidence in the records of other empires that conquered the land of Israel in ancient times.
In Israel, King Saul, King David, and King Solomon ruled. Afterward, in 930 BC, the region was split into two kingdoms: the ten tribes Reuben, Simeon, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Ephraim, and Manasseh formed the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin formed the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
Captured of the Northern Kingdom of Israel:
The Assyrians captured and conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the late 8th century BC. The Assyrian conquest of the Northern Kingdom occurred in stages. The Assyrian King Shalmaneser V and later his successor, King Sargon II, besieged and captured the capital city of Samaria. The capital city of Samaria fell to the Assyrians in 722 BC. This event ended the independent Northern Kingdom of Israel. Its people were killed, deported, or assimilated into the Assyrian Empire. Israel’s period of captivity, which took place during the reign of the Assyrian empire, is commonly referred to as the Assyrian Captivity of Israel.
The fall of Samaria and the capture of the Northern Kingdom is documented in historical records and the Bible.
The Assyrian account of the conquest of Samaria and the exile of Israelites can be found in inscriptions on what is known as the “Sargon Prism,” a clay cylinder inscribed with Sargon II’s annals. This artifact is currently housed in the British Museum. It mentions Sargon’s victory over the Israelite king, Hoshea, and the deportation of the Israelites.
The Bible provides an account of the fall of Samaria and the exile of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 2 Kings 17:1-6. It describes how the Assyrians besieged Samaria, captured it, and exiled the Israelites. Here’s an excerpt from 2 Kings 17:6 (NIV):
“In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River, and in the towns of the Medes.”
These references provide a historical and biblical perspective on the capture of the Northern Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians and the subsequent exile of its people.
The Fall of the Kingdom of Judah:
The Southern Kingdom of Israel, known as the Kingdom of Judah, fell to the Babylonians. The fall of the Kingdom of Judah occurred in 586 BCE when the Babylonian Empire conquered it.
Babylonian Empire (586 to 538 BC):
The Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II laid siege to Jerusalem, the capital of Judah. After a long siege, Jerusalem fell, Babylonians destroyed the city, and desecrated Solomon’s Temple. They looted everything in the temple and took it to Babylon.
The Conquest of Judah by the Babylonians Its Impact:
1. Destruction of Jerusalem: The city of Jerusalem, including the First Temple, was destroyed by the Babylonians, demolishing a central religious and cultural symbol for the Jewish people.
2. Captivity & Exile: The Babylonian Captivity, also known as the Babylonian Exile, refers to the forced enslavement of thousands of Israelites who were taken captive and relocated to Babylon for several decades. The Babylonian Exile had a lasting impact on Jewish history. While in exile, the Jewish people adapted their religious practices and preserved their cultural and religious identity. It also marked the beginning of the Jewish diaspora, as some Jews chose not to return to their homeland even after the exile ended.
3. End of the Kingdom of Judah: The fall of Judah marked the end of the Kingdom of Judah as a political power. Although some Israelites remained in the region, and the territory later became part of other empires, the independence and sovereignty of the Kingdom of Judah did not return. This was the end of the Davidic dynasty.
This event is well-documented in both historical records and the Bible.
The fall of the Southern Kingdom of Israel, or the Kingdom of Judah, occurred in 586 BC when the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II captured Jerusalem. This event is recorded in Babylonian cuneiform inscriptions, including the Babylonian Chronicles, which mention the capture of Jerusalem and the exile of the Judahite people.
The Bible provides a detailed account of the fall of the Kingdom of Judah, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the exile of its people in 2 Kings 25 and 2 Chronicles 36. These passages describe the siege of Jerusalem, the breach of its walls, and the destruction of the First Temple. The Babylonians took many Judahites into exile in Babylon.
Babylon was conquered by the Persian ruler Cyrus the Great, who ended the reign of the Babylonian Empires in 538 BC, and another empire took the Land belonging to the children of Israel.
The Achaemenid Empire (The Persian Empire) 538-333 BC:
In 539 BC, Cyrus the Great of Persia defeated the Babylonians and captured the city of Babylon. This marked the beginning of the Achaemenid Empire’s rule over the Babylonian territory, which included Judah. The Persian Empire policies were generally religious tolerance, which allowed the Jewish people to rebuild their temple and return to their homeland.
- Edict of Cyrus: Cyrus is known for his policy of religious tolerance and his willingness to allow conquered peoples to return to their homelands. In the case of the Jewish people, he issued a proclamation known as the “Cyrus Cylinder” or the “Cyrus Edict,” which allowed Jews to return to Judah and rebuild their temple in Jerusalem.
- Return from Exile: Many Jews exiled in Babylon during the Babylonian Captivity chose to return to Judah. The reconstruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, under the leadership of figures like Zerubbabel and Ezra, was a significant event in Persian history.
- Achaemenid Rule in the Region: The Achaemenid Empire organized its territories into satrapies, which granted autonomy to Judah and allowed Jews to practice their religion.
The Persian Empire was defeated by Alexander the Great, between 334 BC and 330 BC. And once again, the land of the Israelis was ruled by the other empire.
Greek Kingdom or Hellenistic Period (333 BCf-164 BC):
During his conquest of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, Alexander the Great captured Jerusalem in 332 BCE. Following his decisive victory in the Battle of 333 BC, he continued his campaign through the region, eventually entering the Land of Israel, which included the city of Jerusalem.
According to Greek history, Jerusalem was taken very peacefully without any bloodshed.
During his conquests, Alexander the Great reached the city of Jerusalem, where he was met by the Jewish High Priest of the time, Jaddua. According to reports, Jaddua showed Alexander the Book of Daniel, which contained a prophecy predicting his conquest and greatness. This gesture impressed Alexander so much that he decided to spare the city. He allowed the Jewish people to maintain a degree of autonomy and continue their religious practices.
After the Death of Alexander, his empire was divided among his generals. Jerusalem and Judea fell under Ptolemaic control under Ptolemy I.
Following the death of Alexander the Great, one of his generals, Ptolemy founded the Ptolemaic Kingdom in Egypt. This kingdom encompassed territories in the eastern Mediterranean, such as parts of the southern Levant, which included Jerusalem and Judea. During Ptolemaic rule, Greek culture and administration had a significant impact on the region, with Greek being the common language used for governance. Ptolemaic control in the region was replaced by Seleucid rule over Israel.
Hellenistic Seleucid Empire (175 BC To 164 BC):
The Seleucid dynasty governed Israel during the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes from 175 BC to 164 BC. However, his policies that promoted Greek culture and religious oppression against the Jewish population resulted in the Maccabean Revolt. The uprising led to the establishment of the Hasmonean dynasty in the 2nd century BC.
Hasmonean Dynasty (164-63 BC):
The Maccabean Revolt led to the establishment of the Hasmonean Dynasty, a Jewish ruling family that gained independence from the Seleucids. This revolt led by Mattathias and his five sons, Simon, Yochanan, Eleazar, Jonathan, and Judas Maccabeus, who were also known as the Maccabees. After Mattathias passed away, Judas Maccabee took over as the leader of the revolt. Eventually, in 164 BC, he was able to capture Jerusalem and restore temple worship. To this day, the Jewish Festival of Hanukkah celebrates this significant event. This dynasty ruled over a semi-autonomous Jewish state for a time.
In the Roman Republic era, Pompey’s forces captured Jerusalem, marking the end of the Hasmonean dynasty’s rule over Judea and the city.
Roman Rule (63 BC – 4th century AD):
The Roman Republic and later the Roman Empire took control of the region, which included Judea. They appointed governors to administer the territory. During this time, there were several revolts and uprisings, including the First Jewish-Roman War, that led to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD.
Here is an overview of the Roman governance in Jerusalem:
Roman rule over Jerusalem began in 63 BCE when the Roman general Pompey the Great conquered the city. This marked the end of Hasmonean rule in Judea and the beginning of Roman control over the region.
Here’s an overview of Roman rule in Jerusalem:
While the Romans directly controlled Jerusalem, they often allowed local client rulers to govern as long as they remained loyal to Rome. Herod the Great was one of the most well-known client kings appointed by the Romans to rule over Judea.
Herod the Great is known for his extensive building projects in and around Jerusalem. He is particularly famous for renovating and expanding the Second Temple, which became known as Herod’s Temple.
Following the demise of Herod the Great in 4 BC, Judea was divided into various administrative areas and later became a province under the Roman Empire, known as Judea. The region was ruled by Roman procurators and subsequently by Roman governors like Pontius Pilate.
Emperor Hadrian’s rule:
Hadrian’s policies and actions towards the Jewish people and their homeland are often perceived as hateful due to several key factors.
Jewish-Roman War (Bar Kokhba Revolt):
Hadrian’s hostility towards Jews was largely driven by the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-135 BC), a violent Jewish uprising against Roman rule in Judea. The Roman authorities reacted harshly, brutally suppressing the rebellion and causing widespread devastation and loss of life. This event had a substantial impact on the relationship between Jews and Romans, and its ramifications were felt for years to come.
Destruction of Jerusalem:
After the Bar Kokhba Revolt, Jerusalem was destroyed and renamed “Aelia Capitolina.” Jews were banned from the city, which was seen as an insult to Jewish culture. He was the first person in history to attempt to erase the names of Israel, Judea, or Jerusalem. He was well aware of the history between the Israelites and Philistines. He changed the name of the state of Judea to Syria Palaestina. He imposed strict laws to prevent Jewish religious practices, including Sabbath observance, dietary restrictions, and Torah study. And forced Jewish to study Roman Culture and religion.
Revocation of Jewish Sovereignty:
To prevent Jews from rebuilding the Second Temple, Hadrian revoked their traditional rights and privileges initially granted for its maintenance. The Romans had already destroyed the Jewish religious center in 70 BC, but Hadrian’s actions further hindered any future efforts by the Jews to reconstruct it.
Roman rule over Jerusalem and Judea continued until the early 4th century AD when the Roman Empire officially adopted Christianity. Following this, Jerusalem became a significant Christian pilgrimage site. Throughout the centuries, the city’s status and governance changed due to historical events and rulers, including the Byzantines, the Islamic conquest, and, later, the Crusaders.
In the final part of this article series, we will explore the other empires, kingdoms, and rulers that have governed this land with historical evidence and proof that Israel is a reality, and no one can deny its existence.