Tracing The Footprints Of The Philistines To Minoan Knossos On Crete

The year 1185 BC heralded a diaspora of the so-called Sea Peoples to the south-western coast of the Levantine. From the west they came in ships via the Mediterranean Sea and from the north they crossed the land over what is now Syria. They were not only warriors, but they trekked with their whole communities including their livestock, to settle in the region, bringing their cultures and religions with them. Pharaoh Ramses blocked their invasion into Egypt and drove them back to the coast of the Levant. Thus, the descendants of these people became Philistia, encompassing the pentapolis of Ekron, Gaza, Gath, Ashkelon and Ashdod. The last two settlements’ prefixes interestingly remind of the goddess Asherah, revered in the region during the Iron Age.  Biblical references of Amos 9:7 and Jeremiah 47:4 state the Philistines came from Kaftor, the Hebrew name for Crete, the island of the Minoan Knossos. But the Bible is not the only source, as archaeological evidence also supports cross-cultural pollination.

The Philistine Cult Of The Goddess Ashera

The term ‘Asherah’ appears 40 times in the nine books of the Torah, sometimes as Asherah referring to the goddess herself and sometimes as ‘asherah’, referring to a wooden pilar or tree representing the goddess.  I Kings 15:13 refers to the “ repulsive image for the worship of Ashera ”; I Kings 18:19 refers to the 400 prophets of Ashera; II Kings 23:4 refers to icons of Baal and Asherah in the temple, II Chronicles 15:16 refers to the “ detestable image for Asherah ” and Judges 3:7 refers to the worshippers of Baals and Asherahs.

Archaeologists such as William G Denver in What did the Biblical writers know and when did they know it (2002) and Judith M Hadley in The Cult of Asherah in ancient Israel and Judah (2000) did not doubt that by the eighth century BC, Asherah was regarded as the consort of Yahweh.  For several centuries the wooden pillar representing Asherah stood in the Temple of Solomon and her icons were discovered all over Palestine.  Hadley mentioned the lions and snakes which were recognized emblems of Asherah.

Painting on a jar found at Kuntillet Ajrud, under the inscription "Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah" (Public Domain)

Painting on a jar found at Kuntillet Ajrud, under the inscription “Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah” ( Public Domain )

At Kuntilet ‘Ajrud in the northern Sinai-peninsula inscriptions referring to ” Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah ” and ” Yahweh of Teman and his Asherah” were found. 


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Dr Micki Pistorius has an Honours Degree in Biblical Archaeology

Top Image : Fresco of the Bull Horns and Minoan women of Priestesses (Image: Courtesy Micki Pistorius)

By Micki Pistorius


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