Reading through the Bible together
Chapter 47 is a prophecy against the Philistines. Originally the Philistines lived in the island of Caphtor (most probably identified with Crete). And some of them moved to the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. At the time of Abraham and Isaac the Philistines were few in number, and they happened to know the power of God through Abraham, “the prophet” of God (Gen. 20:7). For some time Abraham lived at Beersheba in the land of the Philistines (Gen. 21:34).
After the Israelites came out of Egypt and settled in the land of Canaan (the present Palestine), the Philistines had vastly increased in number. There were many of the various sea people that had moved to the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea as well. Some of them invaded Asia Minor and destroyed the Hittite empire. Another large group of the sea people tried to invade Egypt. However, since the Egyptian defense was now so strong that the sea people gave up and joined the former Philistines in Palestine.
At the time of the settlement of the Israelites in the land of Canaan, the Philistines had already established five city-states according to the Greek way of forming cities. Those five cities had their own rulers (Judges 3:3). When the ark of God was captured by the Philistines there were several miraculous happenings among them (1 Sam. 5and 6). God gave them enough evidence to believe in Him by guiding the two cows pulling the cart with the ark to go all the way to the town of Beth-shemesh (1 Sam. 6:12). However, there is no record in the Bible of the Philistines repenting and believing in the God of Israel.
In spite of many opportunities to believe in the true God, why didn’t the Philistines do so? After this prophecy the Babylonian army from the north, invaded the Philistine territory, and made it a part of the Babylonian empire.
In our society today we also see people similar to the Philistines having many opportunities to believe in God and yet have difficulty believing in Him. What is the reason for their disbelief? How can we help such people to change their ways and believe in God?Yoshitaka Kobayashi, Ph.D., Japan