By Mark Ledbetter
Since the defeat of Israel's third rebellion against Rome in 135 AD the land of Israel has been dubbed "Palestine." It is a name that been perpetuated in both secular and biblical history. Most have assumed that then Emperor Hadrian intentionally renamed the area Palestine to had insult to injury to the Jews. Supposedly, the name Palestine is derived from Israel's ancient arch-enemy, the Philistines.
Present-day Palestinians, especially those living in Gaza, lay hold of this assumption citing ancient history gives them a right to the land, and as descendents of the Philistines they have a legal right to the land, just as Israel stakes their claim on ancient Biblical history. It is interesting to note that, however, that the Philistines as a people group ceased to exist 3000 years ago as they were assimilated by local cultures.
When Palestine Meant Israel
In his article, "When Palestine Meant Israel," (Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2001, Vol 27, No. 3, pp. 42-47), David Jacobson brings some interesting insight into the argument regarding the origin of the name Palestine. In the article, he admits the "phonetic similarity between Palaistine and Peleshet, the Hebrew word for the "land of the Philistines." But that is as far as the comparison goes.
He points out that in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, The Septuagint (or LXX), we find a transliteration of the Hebrew and is rendered Philistieim. So, the question that begs to be asked is, how or why did the name Palaistine (Palestine) become the common reference to the Land of Israel, or 'Eretz Yisrael? The answer is surprising and has interesting implications.
The origin goes back to the story recorded in Genesis 32:22-32 where Jacob wrestled with a "man" (or an angel). After the wrestling match, God gave Jacob a new name, Israel. In verse 25 we read, "When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob's thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him."
Again we read in verse 28, "He said, 'Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed."
In each verse a different word is used to indicate a struggle. In verse 25 the word "wrestle" (Hebrew, 'abaq) and is only found in connection with Jacob's wrestling with the Angel of the Lord. In verse 28, the word "striven" is from the Hebrew sarita, which comes from the root sarah, which means "content." The name Israel is from the compound sarita-el, or Yisra'el (Israel). Again, the Hebrew is found only in connection with Jacob's encounter with the angel (see Hosea 12:4). The emphasis is upon contending, or wrestling with God.
In verse 25, the Greek word used in the LXX for "wrestle" is epalaien, "he wrestled." The Greek for "wrestler" is palaistes. Comparing this with Palaistine
- Palaistes [wrestler]
- Palaistine [Palestine]
Jacobson makes the following observation: "The striking similarity between the Greek word for 'wrestler' (palaistes) and the name Palaistine – which share seven letters in a row, including a diphthong – is strong evidence of a connection between them." He continues:
Hadrian officially renamed Judea Syria Palaestina after his Roman armies suppressed the Bar-Kokhba Revolt (the Second Jewish Revolt) in 135 C.E.; this is commonly viewed as a move intended to sever the connection of the Jews to their historical homeland. However, that Jewish writers such as Philo, in particular, and Josephus, who flourished while Judea was still formally in existence, used the name Palestine for the Land of Israel in their Greek works, suggests that this interpretation of history is mistaken. Hadrian's choice of Syria Palaestina may be more correctly seen as a rationalization of the name of the new province, in accordance with its area being far larger than geographical Judea. Instead, Syria Palaestina had an ancient pedigree that was intimately linked with the area of greater Israel.
This conclusion suggests, therefore two important thoughts. One, this position undermines the widely circulated myth that Palestine is derived from the word Philistine. Two, Arab Palestinians are actually claiming to be heirs of Jacob and are Israelites rather than Arabs. Arab Palestinians are a myth! Further, the name Syria Palaestinia almost encompasses the entire land area that God promised to Abraham and his descendants (see Genesis 15:18-21).
Prior to 1948, the British Mandate called for two "Palestines" – Jewish Palestine and Arab Palestine.
Jewish Palestine was a tiny sliver of land while Arab Palestine included present day Jordan. Before there was an Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, there was the Palestine Symphonic Orchestra. Similarly, before there was The Jerusalem Post, thee was a Palestine Post. Ironically, Syria objected to referring to the name Palestine because it was "too Jewish."
A Pseudo-Palestinian Movement
Who then, are the Palestinians? Initially, Palestinians were the 750,000 Arabs that left their homes in Israel as a result of the Arab invasion in 1948. The departed for three reasons: One, they were warned to flee because their Arab brothers warned them to remove themselves from harm's way when they invaded Israel; two, Arab intellectuals and businessmen left for Europe and America because they felt that the war would be disastrous if the remained; and three, Arabs remaining behind and proved hostile had their homes confiscated and were expelled from the land.
Arabs fleeing to neighboring Arab nations found themselves unwanted and found themselves as refugees. Through the years they were forced to live in squalid conditions in a hostile environment while living among their own. Meanwhile, many of the 650,000 Jews forced from their homes, livelihoods and fortunes in Arab nations found a home in the new State of Israel.
The designation "Palestinian" did not come into vogue until the 1967 Six-Day War. Three years prior to the '67 war, the Palestinian Liberation Organization was formed to liberate "Palestine," which included both Israel and Jordan. Arafat led the Jordanian "Palestinians" in a revolt against the Jordanian government. When defeated, he took his PLO to southern Lebanon (sound familiar) and moved to Israel in the 1980s.
Truth is at times, stranger than fiction.
Information is taken from Mark Ledbetter's book, The Road Map to Armageddon.