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Cherethite [1]

(Heb. Kerethi ´ , כְּרֵתַי ) occurs alone only in 1. Samuel 30:14 (A. V. "Cherethites"), where the people so designated are meant. (See Cherethim). The word is elsewhere, and always in the same form, found only in the formula, "The Cherethites And The Pelethites" ( הִכְּרֵתַי וְהִפְּלֵתַי , without the final ם of the plural; Sept. Χερεθὶ Καὶ Φελεθί , but v. r. in 1 Chronicles Χερηθὶ Καὶ Φαλλεθθί ; Vulg. Cerethi Et Phelethi), a collective term for the lifeguards (Josephus Σωματοφύλακες , Ant. 7:5,4) of king David ( 2 Samuel 8:18;  2 Samuel 15:18;  2 Samuel 20:7;  2 Samuel 20:23;  1 Kings 1:38;  1 Kings 1:44;  1 Chronicles 18:17). Prevailing opinion (Talmud Bab. tit. Zerach. p. 18, ed. Rabe; see Carpzov in Ugolini Thesaur. 27:432) translates their names "headsmen and foot-runners." The former word (from כָּרִת , Karath ´ , to Cut) is used for Woodcutters ( 2 Chronicles 2:10), and it might seem probable that the Cherethites, like the victors of the Roman dictator, carried axes, both as a badge of office and for prompt use. In the later years of David, their captain, Benaiah, rose to a more commanding importance than the generals of the regular troops, just as in imperial Rome the praefect of the prsetorian guards became the second person in the empire. It is evident that, to perpetrate any summary deed, Benaiah and the guards were chiefly relied on. That they were strictly a body-guard is distinctly stated in  2 Samuel 23:23.

The grammatical form of the Hebrew words is nevertheless not quite clear; and as the Cherethites are named as a nation of the south ( 1 Samuel 30:14), some are disposed to believe Crethi and Plethi to be foreign Gentile names used collectively. No small confirmation of this may be drawn from  2 Samuel 15:18 : "All the Cherethites, and all the Pelethites, and all the Gittites, six hundred men," etc. If the first two words were grammatical plurals, like the third (Gittites), it is difficult to see why final ם should be added to the third, and not also to the other two (yet see Gesenius, Lehrgeb. p. 526). As the word all is repeated three times,- and 600 men is the number intended the third time, the Cherethites and Pelethites must have been reckoned by the hundred; and since the Gittites were clearly foreigners, all the a priori improbability which some have seen in David's defending himself by a foreign guard-falls to the ground. His Gittite satellites are one more proof of the intensity of the tyrannical principle already come in, since equally among the Greeks and Romans (Herod. 2:152; 5:66, 111; Livy, 37:40), and in modern -Europe, for a prince to trust the care of his person to foreign guards has ever been looked on as the most evident mark that he is keeping down his own subjects by force. It would seem that the office of the Cherethi was of the same nature as that of Capigis among the Turks and other Orientals (see L Ü decke, Beschr. des t Ü rk. Reichs, p. 293), who are bearers of the sultan's orders for punishing any one, by decapitation or otherwise (Le Bryn, Voyage, 1:184 sq.; 2:253); an office which is very honorable in the East, though considered as degrading among us. It appears that Herod made use of an officer of this description in beheading John the Baptist. Of a like nature, probably, were the "footmen" of Saul ( 1 Samuel 22:17). At a later date they were called "the captains and the guard" ( כָּרַים וְרָצַים ,  2 Kings 11:4;  2 Kings 11:19; comp.  1 Kings 14:27). It is plain that these royal guards were employed as executioners ( 2 Kings 11:4), and as couriers ( 1 Kings 14:27). Similarly Potiphar was captain of the guard of Pharaoh, and also chief of the executioners ( Genesis 37:36), as was Arioch, Nebuchadnezzar's officer ( Daniel 2:14). See Elsner, in the Biblioth. Brem. Nov. I, in, 464 sq.; Schwarz, in the Nov. Miscell. Lips. II, 1:95 sq.; Opitz, De Davidls Et Solomonis Satellitio, Crethi Et Plethi (Jen. 1672); also in Crenii Dissert. Hist. Philol. (Rotterd. 1692); also in Ugolino, 27; Iken, De Crethi et Plethi, in, his Dissert. philol. theol. p. 102 sq.; Elsling, in Winckler's Animadver. philol. 2:382 sq.; Lund, Diss. de Crethi et Plethi (Upsal.,1704) i Carpzov, Disputatt. acad. p. 187 sq. (See Pelethite); (See Executioner).