2 Samuel 15:18
And all his servants passed on beside him; and all the Cherethites, and all the Pelethites, and all the Gittites, six hundred men which came after him from Gath, passed on before the king.
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(18) Cherethites . . . Pelethites.—See Note on 2Samuel 8:18.

Gittites.—This word in its form would naturally mean men of Gath, and it has therefore been understood by some commentators of a body of Philistines in David’s service. But the term is distinctly explained here as meaning the “six hundred men which came after him from Gath,” and called “Gittites” for that reason, a body of men with whom the previous history of David has made us very familiar. They had gathered to him during his outlawry (1Samuel 22:1-2), had been with him at Keilah (1Samuel 23:13), in the wilderness of Paran (1Samuel 25:13), and at Gath (1Samuel 27:3), “came after him from Gath” to Ziklag, and shared with him in his life and exploits there (1Samuel 27:8; 1Samuel 29:2; 1Samuel 30:1-9), and went up with him to Hebron (2 Samuel 23), and thence to Jerusalem (2Samuel 5:6). They are generally supposed to have afterwards constituted the body of “heroes” or “mighty men,” to whom frequent reference is made (2Samuel 10:7; 2Samuel 16:6; 2Samuel 20:7; 1Kings 1:8). The Vatican LXX. here, as often, adds considerably to the text.

15:13-23 David determined to quit Jerusalem. He took this resolve, as a penitent submitting to the rod. Before unrighteous Absalom he could justify himself, and stand out; but before the righteous God he must condemn himself, and yield to his judgments. Thus he accepts the punishment of his sin. And good men, when they themselves suffer, are anxious that others should not be led to suffer with them. He compelled none; those whose hearts were with Absalom, to Absalom let them go, and so shall their doom be. Thus Christ enlists none but willing followers. David cannot bear to think that Ittai, a stranger and an exile, a proselyte and a new convert, who ought to be encouraged and made easy, should meet with hard usage. But such value has Ittai for David's wisdom and goodness, that he will not leave him. He is a friend indeed, who loves at all times, and will adhere to us in adversity. Let us cleave to the Son of David, with full purpose of heart, and neither life nor death shall separate us from his love.Passed on - Rather, "crossed" the Brook Kidron, as in 2 Samuel 15:22-23.

Gittites - During David's residence in the country of the Philistines he attached such a band to himself; and after the settlement of his kingdom, and the subjugation of the Philistines, the band received recruits from Gath, perhaps with the king of Gath's consent. They were now under the command of Ittai the Gittite, a foreigner 2 Samuel 15:19, and "his brethren" 2 Samuel 15:20. The number 600 probably indicates that this band or regiment of Gittites had its origin in David's band of 600 1 Samuel 23:13; 1 Samuel 27:2. They were at first, it is likely, all Israelites, then Gittites mixed with Israelites, and at last all Gittites.

18-20. all the Gittites, six hundred men—These were a body of foreign guards, natives of Gath, whom David, when in the country of the Philistines, had enlisted in his service, and kept around his person. Addressing their commander, Ittai, he made a searching trial of their fidelity in bidding them (2Sa 15:19) abide with the new king. Of the Cherethites and the Pelethites See Poole on "2 Samuel 8:18". The Gittites were either, first, Israelites by birth, called Gittites because they went with him to Gath, and abode with him in that country. Or rather, secondly, Strangers, as Ittai their head is called, 2 Samuel 15:19, and they are called his brethren, 2 Samuel 15:20; and probably they were Philistines by birth born in the city or territory of Gath, as the following words imply, who by David’s counsel, and example, and the success of his arms, were won to embrace and profess the true religion, and had given good proof of their military skill, and valour, and fidelity to the king.

And all his servants passed on beside him,.... Or at his hand or side; his household servants walking perhaps some on one side of him, and some on the other, see 2 Samuel 16:6,

and all the Cherethites, and all the Pelethites; which were his bodyguards, see 2 Samuel 8:18,

and all the Gittites, six hundred men which came after him from Gath; which either came with him from Gath, when he conquered that city, and took it out of the hands of the Philistines, 2 Samuel 8:1; compared with 1 Chronicles 18:1; and who might become proselytes, and be incorporated into the commonwealth of Israel, and into David's army, a troop of men, of which Ittai, after mentioned, was captain, 2 Samuel 15:22; or else these were Israelites, so called, because with David they sojourned in Gath a while, when he fled from Saul; and so Josephus (l) says, they were companions of him in his first flight, when Saul was living; and this number is just the number of the men that were with him at Gath, 1 Samuel 27:2; and it may be David kept a troop of men always of the same number, to whom he gave this name in memory of them, having been a set of trusty and faithful men to him: these, with the Cherethites and Pelethites:

passed on before the king: in this form and manner David and his men marched in their flight.

(l) Ut supra, (Antiqu. l. 7. c. 9.) sect. 2.

And all his servants passed on beside him; and all the {k} Cherethites, and all the Pelethites, and all the Gittites, six hundred men which came after him from Gath, passed on before the king.

(k) These were as the king's guard, or as some write, his counsellors.

18. all the Gittites] If the text is sound, we must infer that David had brought with him a body of Philistine followers from Gath, a supposition which is in accordance with the view that the Cherethites and Pelethites were Philistines. See note on ch. 2 Samuel 8:18. But it is possible that we should follow the LXX. in reading Gibbôrîm in place of Gittites. During his wanderings David formed a corps of six hundred picked men, who were particularly distinguished as “David’s men.” They appear first at Keilah (1 Samuel 23:13, cp. 1 Samuel 22:2), were with him in the wilderness of Paran (1 Samuel 25:13), followed him to Gath (1 Samuel 27:2-3) and Ziklag (1 Samuel 27:8, 1 Samuel 29:1, 1 Samuel 30:1; 1 Samuel 30:9), came up with him to Hebron (1 Samuel 2:3), and finally to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 15:6). This corps seems to have been afterwards maintained as a guard with the title of “the Gibbôrîm,” that is, “the Heroes” or “the Mighty Men” (cp. ch. 2 Samuel 10:7, 2 Samuel 16:6, 2 Samuel 20:7; 1 Kings 1:8), and it is natural to identify the six hundred here mentioned with that body. Some critics think that without altering the reading, we should identify the Gittites with the Gibbôrîm, and suppose that they were called Gittites either because they had followed David ever since his residence in Gath; or because the corps had at this time been largely recruited from the natives of Gath.

The Sept. text of 2 Samuel 15:18 is as follows: “And all his servants passed on beside him, and all the Cherethites and all the Pelethites, and halted at the olive tree in the wilderness. And all the people marched by close to him, and all his attendants, and all the mighty men, and all the warriors, six hundred men, and were present by his side; and all the Cherethites and all the Pelethites, and all the Gittites, the six hundred men who came after him from Gath, marched on before the king.” This appears to be the rendering of a text differing somewhat from the present Hebrew, to which has been added a rendering of the present Hebrew text, with some further glosses or alternative renderings. “The olive tree in the wilderness,” which marked the scene of the second halt, (if the reading is genuine and not a mere mistranslation), was probably beyond the Mount of Olives on the road to the Jordan.

Verse 18. - All the Gittites, air hundred men which came after him from Gath. The Septuagint reads "Gibborim," and without doubt these are the persons meant; but while they were styled Gibborim, the "mighties," for honour's sake, because of their prowess, they probably were popularly called David's Gittites, because they were the six hundred men who had formed his little army when he sought refuge with Achish, King of Gath (l 1 Samuel 27:2; 1 Samuel 30:9). They were not Philistines, but Israelites of desperate fortune (1 Samuel 22:2); and it is a proof of David's great ability, and of the moral influence of his character, that he was successful, not only in controlling them and maintaining discipline, but also in forming them into as noble a set of heroes as ever existed, and who were faithful to him in all his fortunes. To their number belonged the thirty-seven champions end-merated in ch. 23, and possibly the title "Gibborim" strictly belonged to them only. As they are still called "the six hundred," it is probable that the corps was maintained at this number by new appointments, and that they had special privileges which made their position very desirable. Certainly David would never forget men who had shared all his fortunes, and been so true and so useful to him; and it is evident, from Hushai's counsel (2 Samuel 17:8), that Absalom feared their resolute valour, and hesitated to attack without overwhelming numbers. Thenius compares these veterans to Napoleon's Old Guard. 2 Samuel 15:18And all his servants, i.e., his state officers and attendants, went along by his side, and the whole body-guard (the Crethi and Plethi: see at 2 Samuel 8:18); and all the Gathites, namely the six hundred men who had come in his train from Gath, went along in front of the king. David directed the fugitives to all into rank, the servants going by his side, and the body-guard and the six hundred old companions in arms, who probably also formed a kind of body-guard, marching in front. The verb עבר (passed on) cannot be understood as signifying to file past on account of its connection with על־ידו (beside him, or by his side). The expression Gittim is strange, as we cannot possibly think of actual Gathites or Philistines from Gath. The apposition (the six hundred men, etc.) shows clearly enough that the six hundred old companions in arms are intended, the men who gathered round David on his flight from Saul and emigrated with him to Gath (1 Samuel 27:2-3), who afterwards lived with him in Ziklag (1 Samuel 27:8; 1 Samuel 29:2; 1 Samuel 30:1, 1 Samuel 30:9), and eventually followed him to Hebron and Jerusalem (2 Samuel 2:3; 2 Samuel 5:6). In all probability they formed a separate company of well-tried veterans or a kind of body-guard in Jerusalem, and were commonly known as Gathites.

(Note: The Septuagint also has πάντες οἱ Γεθαῖοι, and has generally rendered the Masoretic text correctly. But כּל־עבדיו has been translated incorrectly, or at all events in a manner likely to mislead, viz., πάντες οἱ παῖδες αὐτοῦ. But in the Septuagint text, as it has come down to us, another paraphrase has been interpolated into the literal translation, which Thenius would adopt as an emendation of the Hebrew text, notwithstanding the fact that the critical corruptness of the Alexandrian text must be obvious to every one.)

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