Deuteronomist sources describe the land of the Philistines as a pentapolis in southwestern Levant comprising the five city-states of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath, from Wadi Gaza in the south to the Yarqon River in the north. This description portrays them at one period of time as among the Kingdom of Israel’s most dangerous enemies. In contrast, the canon of Eastern Christianity, the LXX, uses the term “allophuloi” (Greek: ἀλλόφυλοι) instead of “philistines”, which means simply “other nations”.
Several theories are given about the origins of the Philistines. Some Biblical passages connect the Philistines to other biblical groups such as Caphtorim and the Cherethites and Pelethites, which have both been identified with Crete which has led to the tradition of an Aegean origin, although this theory has been disputed, with other scholars claiming a Luwian origin in western Asia Minor. In 2016, the discovery of a huge Philistine cemetery, containing more than 150 burials, seems to point toward their Aegean origin. Genetic testing of the human remains will provide further information.
The area contained the five cities (the Pentapolis) of the Philistine confederacy (Gaza, Ashkelon [Ascalon], Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron) and was known as Philistia, or the Land of the Philistines. It was from this designation that the whole of the country was later called Palestine by the Greeks.
Ham, according to the Table of Nations in the Book of Genesis, was a son of Noah and the father of Cush, Mizraim, Phut and Canaan. The Bible refers to Egypt as “the land of Ham” in Psalms.78:51; 105:23,27; 106:22; 1 Chronicles 4:40.
Mizraim is the Hebrew and Aramaic name for the land of Egypt, with the dual suffix -āyim, perhaps referring to the “two Egypts”: Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt.
Neo-Babylonian texts use the term Mizraim for Egypt. The name was for instance inscribed in the famous Ishtar gate of Babylon. Ugaritic inscriptions refer to Egypt as Msrm, in the Amarna tablets it is called Misri, and Assyrian records called Egypt Mu-ṣur. The Arabic word for Egypt is Miṣr (pronounced Maṣr in Egyptian colloquial Arabic), and Egypt’s official name is Gumhuriyyat Miṣr al-‘Arabīyyah (the Arab Republic of Egypt).
According to Genesis 10, Mizraim (a son of Ham) was the younger brother of Cush and elder brother of Phut and Canaan, whose families together made up the Hamite branch of Noah’s descendants. Mizraim’s sons were Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, Pathrusim, Casluhim (out of whom came Philistim), and Caphtorim.
According to Eusebius’ Chronicon, Manetho had suggested that the great age of antiquity in which the later Egyptians boasted had actually preceded the flood, and that they were really descended from Mizraim, who settled there anew. A similar story is related by medieval Islamic historians such as Sibt ibn al-Jawzi, the Egyptian Ibn Abd-el-Hakem, and the Persians al-Tabari and Muhammad Khwandamir, stating that the pyramids, etc. had been built by the wicked races before the deluge, but that Noah’s descendant Mizraim (Masar or Mesr) was entrusted with reoccupying the region afterward. The Islamic accounts also make Masar the son of a Bansar or Beisar and grandson of Ham, rather than a direct son of Ham, and add that he lived to the age of 700. Some scholars think it likely that Mizraim is a dual form of the word Misr meaning “land”, and was translated literally into Ancient Egyptian as Ta-Wy (the Two Lands) by early pharaohs at Thebes, who later founded the Middle Kingdom.
But according to George Syncellus, the Book of Sothis, supposedly by Manetho, had identified Mizraim with the legendary first Pharaoh Menes, said to have unified the Old Kingdom and built Memphis. Mizraim also seems to correspond to Misor, said in Phoenician mythology to have been father of Taautus who was given Egypt, and later scholars noticed that this also recalls Menes, whose son or successor was said to be Athothis.
In Judaism, Mitzrayim has been connected with the word meitzar, meaning “sea strait”, possibly alluding to narrow gulfs from both sides of Sinai peninsula. It also can mean “boundaries, limits, restrictions” or “narrow place.”
However, author David Rohl has suggested a different interpretation: “Amongst the followers of Meskiagkasher (Sumerian Ruler) was his younger ‘brother’– in his own right a strong and charismatic leader of men. He is the head of the falcon tribe – the descendants of Horus the ‘Far Distant’. The Bible calls this new Horus-king ‘Mizraim’ but this name is, in reality, no more than an epithet. It means ‘follower of Asr’ or ‘Asar’ (Egyptian Arabic m-asr with the Egyptian preposition m ‘from’). Mizraim is merely m-Izra with the majestic plural ending ‘im’. Likewise, that other great Semitic-speaking people – the Assyrians – called the country of the pharaohs ‘Musri’ (m-Usri).”
The Casluhim or Casluhites were an ancient Egyptian people mentioned in the Bible and related literature. According to Genesis 10:14 and 1 Chronicles 1:12, they were descendants of Mizraim (Egypt) son of Ham, out of whom originated the Philistines.
The Egyptian form of their name is preserved in the inscriptions of the Temple of Kom Ombo as the region name Kasluḥet. Tradition preserved by Saadia Gaon placed the land of the Casluhim in the northern Sa’id region (not to be confused with Port Said). In the Aramaic Targums their region is called Pentpolitai understood to be derived from the Greek Pentapolis which more precisely locates the area as the northwest. Another name for their region is Pekosim used in Bereshit Rabbah 37.
Josephus mentions the Casluhim in his Jewish Antiquities I, vi, 2 as one of the Egyptian peoples whose cities were destroyed during the Ethiopic War and who thus disappeared from history.