tags:  Bible name Semitic pun spook enemy · name   —   by Gerry · Jun 2019 · 464 words

The Philistines are very often portrayed as the arch-nemesis of the Israelites, but there is never any reason given. But the name Philistine is related to פלש plš for “drilling through” & “perforating”, related to בלש blš for “investigation” & “detection”. So they may simply be a parable for someone “detecting” the spook’s secrets.

Like all Biblical places, Philistia very likely existed under that name, but in the Bible it was mostly used for its name in a spooky pun: The official derivation of “Philistine” is from פלש plš for “migrating” & “invading”, probably because the Philistines had in some early time been migrants & invaders to the Levantine coast, before settling there permanently. Amos 9:7 explicitly says they came from Kaphtor, often said to be Crete. The Hebrews are likewise derived from “crossing over”, so all these might have been an actual terms for migrants.

But the basic meaning of the root פלש plš is “rotating”, a migrant explained as “rolling in”. And the root has many other derivations related to “drilling”, “digging” & “breaking through”. The spelling פלש plš overlaps with בלש blš, which has more figurative & abstract meanings such as “investigating” & “detection”. And that’s what the spooks hate & fear most: when their veil of secrecy is investigated & detected. As we are doing right now.

Much as I’d like to imagine a historical enemy doing that, I think the Biblical Philistines rather represent the concept of such investigation & detection. It’s a pun. The ancient spook authors of the Bible seem to have used Philistia as a parable to teach their spookling readers how to defend against such detection.

Hebrew, Aramaic plš, blš = Philistine, rolling, drilling, penetrating, perforating

פלשת plšt : Philistia, a region of Syria; From palash, rolling, i.e. migratory — Old Hebrew (Strong)

פלש plš : to break through; to break into a secure place; to inquire; to aim at; to dig through; to perforate; to be dug through; broken into; to be open — Aramaic (CAL)

פלש plš : to divide, go through; to penetrate, go from end to end, perforate; to dig after; to be perforated — Hebrew (Jastrow)

פולש pwlš : breaking in — Aramaic (CAL)

פולשה pwlšh : breach, hole — Aramaic (CAL)

פלש plš : to open through; penetrate, invade; invaded, intruded; opened through, dug through; made a passage through; caused to invade; Aram.–Syr. פלש (= he broke through, dug), Arab. fallasa (= he cleft, split), Akka. palāshu (= to dig through), pilshu (= hole). cp. the related base בלש — Hebrew (Klein)

בלש blš : to search; to seek, to ask; to investigate, search thoroughly; to be searched, to be examined; to be sought, searched for; (of treasure) to be discovered — Aramaic (CAL)

בלש blš : to search, examine, investigate, detect — Hebrew (Klein)

בלש blš : investigator, excise-man; detective — Hebrew (Klein)

בלשות blšwt : detection — Hebrew (Klein)

tags:  Bible name Semitic pun spook enemy · name