From the time of the judges and lasting through the reign of the kings, the Philistines were a thorn in Israel’s side… proving themselves to be Israel’s most consistent – and most dangerous – enemies. They had settled in the Promised Land long before God’s chosen people arrived; but, like the Israelites, they started out as immigrants from a distant land.
The Philistines – from which we get the word “Palestine” – were also known as the Sea People. It is believed they came from the Aegean Sea region; Greece, Turkey, and the islands in between. Being accustomed to the sea, the Philistines settled the coastal region of the Promised Land, from the border with Egypt to Gaza in the north.
On their way into the Promised Land, the Israelites took the longer route in order to avoid “Philistine country” (Ex. 13:17). In an allusion to what was to come, the writer of Exodus noted that the Israelites were not yet prepared for war.
Eventually war happened. Wars happened. Over and over and over again.
Having decided not to take on the Philistines when they took possession of the Promised Land, the Israelites found themselves in constant battle with them starting during the time of the judges. Samson killed many Philistines and had many skirmishes with them… including those he took with him at his death.
The Philistines even captured the Ark of the Covenant for a few years.
It was probably the constant threat of the Philistines that caused God’s people to desire a king. After 300 years of conflict, they wanted a strong ruler to fight for them (1Sam. 8:20). Their choice, Saul, proved to mostly be ineffective – in fact, he and his 3 sons were eventually killed in a battle with the Philistines. But, his successor, David, burst onto the scene when he defeated a giant named Goliath – of the Philistines – and David subdued the Philistines during his reign.
You can read of the Philistines throughout the Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Chronicles, and 1 & 2 Kings.