A people in South Palestine whose territory bordered upon that of Judah (
(executioners) and of King David. (
CHERETHIM, CHERETHITES (PELETHITES) kĕr’ ə thĭm, kĕr’ ə thīts, pĕl’ ə thīts (כְּרֵתִי, H4165, פְּלֵתִי, H7152, meaning uncertain, but they were troops in David’s army).
Despite the fact that ancient VSS (Targum, Syriac) and modern commentators (KD, Samuel, 367) have understood the words as common nouns (“executioners,” “runners”), they are to be taken as proper names for the following reasons: the formation of the words is unexplained on the alternate hypothesis in that the ending is denominative (not deverbal) while it is frequently employed in proper names. The words are evidently in the same sense as Gittites, which is clearly a proper name (
The Cherethites are generally said to have been Cretans on the basis of the similarity of the two names (Crete bore that name already in Homeric times) and the connection between the Cherethites and the Philistines. On the other hand, Prignaud feels that, although they are related to the Philistines, the Cherethites are never directly associated with Crete and may have had another origin but were subsequently assimilated by the Philistines. The Pelethites are generally held to be Philistines, the difference of name being explained in a number of ways: (1) The term Pelethites, which is always used in conjunction with Cherethites, is formed by analogy to the latter term (Greenfield, IDB); (2) Phonetic assimilation took place by which pəlištī became pəlētī (Montgomery, ICC, Kings); (3) The form Pelethites was intentionally created to avoid the suggestion that the Philistines were too intimately associated with David (Prignaud).
Whatever their identification, the Cherethites and Pelethites appear in the Bible as parts of David’s army. They seem to have been esp. active in times of crisis for David, remaining loyal to him in all three revolts against the king. They went with him when he had to flee from Absalom (
J. Montgomery, Kings (1951), 86; J. Prignaud, “Caftorim et Kerétim,” RB (1964), 215-229.