WHO OR WHAT ARE THE “CHERETHITES” AND “PELETHITES?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
The “Cherethites” (“executioners”) appear 9 times in the King James Bible, and the “Pelethites” (“couriers, messengers”) show up 7 times (often paired):
- 1 Samuel 30:14: “We made an invasion upon the south of the Cherethites, and upon the coast which belongeth to Judah, and upon the south of Caleb; and we burned Ziklag with fire.”
- 2 Samuel 8:18: “And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over both the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and David’s sons were chief rulers.”
- 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.”
- 2 Samuel 20:7: “And there went out after him Joab’s men, and the Cherethites, and the Pelethites, and all the mighty men: and they went out of Jerusalem, to pursue after Sheba the son of Bichri.”
- 2 Samuel 20:23: “Now Joab was over all the host of Israel: and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and over the Pelethites:….”
- 1 Kings 1:38: “So Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites, and the Pelethites, went down, and caused Solomon to ride upon king David’s mule, and brought him to Gihon.”
- 1 Kings 1:44: “And the king hath sent with him Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites, and the Pelethites, and they have caused him to ride upon the king’s mule:….”
- 1 Chronicles 18:17: “And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and the sons of David were chief about the king.”
- Zephaniah 2:5: “Woe unto the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites! the word of the LORD is against you; O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy thee, that there shall be no inhabitant.”
These were King David’s bodyguards (like the United States Secret Service protecting the President). As far as Scripture is concerned, no other king had such an elite force. They were Philistine in origin (1 Samuel 30:14; Zephaniah 2:5?)—perhaps even part Philistine and part Hebrew. Both Cherethites and Pelethites were King David’s allies when he fled from Absalom (2 Samuel 15:18). David had them accompany his son Solomon to be anointed as his successor to the throne (1 Kings 1:38).
Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was their captain (2 Samuel 8:18; 2 Samuel 20:23; 2 Samuel 23:20-23; 1 Chronicles 18:17). The Cherethites—or at least Benaiah their leader—was from the island of Crete (2 Samuel 23:20). After David’s death, however, King Solomon ordered Benaiah to kill evil General Joab (1 Kings 2:28-34; cf. 1 Chronicles 27:34), and Benaiah became Joab’s successor as general of the king’s army (verse 35).