A group of mercenaries loyal to David. As a military unit separate from the regular army, the Cherethites and the Pelethites were under the command of Benaiah (2 Sam. 8.18; 20.23). They followed David on his flight from Absalom (2 Sam. 15.18), fought for him during the revolt of Sheba (2 Sam. 20.7), and supported Benaiah's efforts to crown Solomon as his father's successor (1 Kings 1.38, 44). Although this personal mercenary unit seems to disappear after David's death and the elevation of Benaiah to commander‐in‐chief of Solomon's army (1 Kings 2.29–35), some scholars connect the Cherethites with the Carites mentioned in 2 Kings 11.4, 19.

Research on the Cherethites and the Pelethites has focused on their origins and ethnic affiliations. Most commonly, but by no means universally, the terms are understood as Cretans and Philistines, respectively. In two later prophetic passages (Ezek. 25.16; Zeph. 2.5) the Cherethites appear in poetic parallelism with the Philistines. Oracles of doom against the Philistines also make use of word play on the Hebrew root krt, “to (be) cut off,” with which the word for Cherethites was associated (e.g., Jer. 47.4; Amos 1.8). From 1 Samuel 30.14 it can be surmised that the Cherethites were settled in southern Philistia and were engaged by David while he was in Ziklag as a vassal to Achish, the Philistine king of Gath (1 Sam. 27; 29). Although the exact relationship between the Cherethites and the Pelethites and the Philistines is unresolved, it is likely that they were all descended from the various sea peoples of Aegean origin who first settled on the southwestern coastal strip of Palestine at the beginning of the Iron Age (twelfth century BCE).

Carl S. Ehrlich