(Gen. 21:32-34) Were the Philistines around at this time or not (c.f. Gen. 26:1-18)?

CLAIM: Critics note that the Philistine nation did not exist until the 12th century BC. This, they charge, is an anachronism on behalf of the author of Genesis.

RESPONSE: The author of Genesis does not claim that the Philistine nation was large (as it was in the 12th century or later). Instead, the Philistines were most likely a small tribe at this time. We detect this from the text in Genesis 21:25, when the Philistine king (Abimelech) is intimidated by Abraham and his tribe of a couple hundred men! Moreover, these passages only mention Gerar, which was the smallest of the Philistine city-states. The bigger city-states are not mentioned (e.g. Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath, and Gaza –Josh. 13:3; 1 Sam. 6:17). Kitchen notes, “We know so little about the Aegean peoples as com­pared with those of the rest of the Ancient Near East in the second mil­lennium BC, that it is premature to deny outright the possible existence of Philistines in the Aegean area before 1200 BC.”[1]

[1] See footnote in Kitchen, Kenneth Anderson. Ancient Orient and Old Testament. London: Tyndale, 1966. 80.