Visualizing Isaiah 9: the Philistines on the west

Isaiah 9 contains several geographical references. I decided to concentrate on the reference to the Philistines in verse 12. Notice that the text mentions the Syrians (Arameans) on the east, literally northeast of Israel and Judah, and the Philistines on the west (literally the southwest).

“The Syrians on the east and the Philistines on the west devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.” (Isaiah 9:12 ESV)

Both powers were perennial enemies of Israel. Both would take part in attacks on Israel. The Philistines also are mentioned in 2:6 and 11:14.

It is commonly understoos that the Philistines of the Old Testament were the Sea People. The five major cities of the Philistines were Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron (1 Samuel 6:17).

A row of signs at the entry to Tel Ashkelon picture some of the peoples who lived there. This sign represents the Philistines. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A row of signs at the entry to Tel Ashkelon picture some of the people who lived there. This sign represents the Philistines. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The temple of Medinet Habu is located near the Colossi of Memnon at Thebes (Luxor), Egypt. The temple was built during the reign of Rameses III (reigned 1186–1155 B.C.). The structures at the site were built by the Pharaoh to serve as an administrative complex and funerary temple. The most interesting aspects of the temple to me are the reliefs of the Sea Peoples that the king claims to have subjugated. Notice that some of these men are bound.

This is a portion of a wall at Medinet Habu showing the subjugation of the Sea People by Ramses III. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A portion of a wall at Medinet Habu shows the subjugation of the Sea People by Ramses III. Notice the distinctive feathered hats and animal skin skirts. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

These peoples might seem more powerful than Israel at the moment, but the LORD will punish them. Both Damascus and the Philistines fell to the Assyrians within a few years.

The LORD continued to remind Israel and Judah that He was willing to save them from the coming oppression:

For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still. (Isaiah 9:21 ESV)

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