What happened to the Philistines after David? Although their military superiority was shattered, and their distinctive material culture disappeared from the archaeological record soon afterwards, the Philistine people and culture did not vanish. They are referred to in the Assyrian Annals and the Books of Kings and Chronicles as well as by the later Biblical prophets. There is also literary and numismatic evidence that their descendants continued to perpetuate some native Philistine traditions right into the Roman and Byzantine periods.

The Assyrian Annals are the official historical records of the Assyrian kings written in cuneiform script on clay and stone. They date from c. 900–600 B.C. Mentioned in the Annals are several major Philistine cities. The Annals also refer to payments made by Philistine cities to the Assyrian kings.

In the Biblical sources we read of continued tension between the Philistines and Israel and Judah.

“Some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat [King of Judah, 871–849 B.C.] presents and silver for tribute.”

(2 Chronicles 17:11)

“And the Lord stirred up against Jehoram [King of Judah, 849–841 B.C.] the anger of the Philistines … and they came up against Judah and invaded it.”

(2 Chronicles 21:16, 17)

“He [Hezekiah, King of Judah, 715–687 B.C.] smote the Philistines as far as Gaza and its territory, from watchtower to fortified city.”

(2 Kings 18:8)

“He [Uzziah, king of Judah, 780–741 B.C.] went out and made war against the Philistines, and broke down the wall of Gath and the wall of Jabneh and the wall of Ashdod; and he built cities in the territory of Ashdod and elsewhere among the Philistines.”

(2 Chronicles 26:6)

“And the Philistines had made raids on the cities in the Shephelah and the Negev of Judah.”

(2 Chronicles 28:18)

References to Philistines in the books of the late prophets Amos and Isaiah indicates that even at that time the Philistines had an independent existence.

“Thus says the Lord: For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they carried into exile a whole people to deliver them up to Edom. So I will send a fire upon the wall of Gaza, and it shall devour her strongholds. I will cut off the inhabitants from Ashdod, and him that holds the scepter from Ashkelon; I will turn my hand against Ekron; and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish, Says the Lord God.”

(Amos 1:6–8)

“The Syrians on the east and the Philistines on the west devour Israel with open mouth.”

(Isaiah 9:12)

An administrative tablet found at Babylon, dating from the reign of Nebuchadnezzer II (early sixth century B.C.), speaks about the Kings of Ashdod and Gaza as well as the inhabitants of Ashkelon.

Subsequently, in the fifth century B.C., the Greek historian Herodotus (2.157) describes the capture of the city of Azotus (Ashdod) after a 29 year siege by an Egyptian king, Psammitichus. Moreover, Judah the Maccabee (second century B.C.) destroyed the pagan temples at Azotus (1 Maccabees 5:68).

At Gaza in the Roman period there was a temple and local cult of a god called Mama. The coins of Gaza minted under the Roman Emperors show both this deity and a figure labelled MEINO—apparently referring to Minos the ancient ruler of Crete. Gaza also bore the epithet MINOA, like other cities in the Mediterranean which tradition connected with Minos of Crete. The tradition of Caphtor/Crete as the homeland of the Philistines was, therefore, still perpetuated in Gaza some 1,500 years after their settlement in Canaan.