It'tai (Heb. Ittay', אַתִּי, perh. szea. or timely, otherwise possessor), the name of two men.
1. (Sept. Ε᾿σθαϊv.) Son of Ribai, a Benjamite of Gibeah, one of David's thirty heroes (2Sa 23:29), called in the parallel passage (1Ch 11:31) ITHAI (Heb. Ithaly, אַיתִי, a fuller form; Sept. ᾿Ηθού). B.C. 1046.
2. (Sept. Ε᾿θί [and so Josephus] v.r. Ε᾿θθεί). "ITTAI THE GITTITE,' i.e. the native of Gath, a Philistine in the army of king David. He appears only during the rebellion of Absalom, B.C. cir. 1023. 'We first discern him on the morning of David's flight, while the ῥ king was standing under the olive-tree, below the city, watching the army and the people defile past him. SEE DAVID. Last in the procession came the 600 heroes who had formed David's band during his wanderings in Judah, and who had been with him at Gath (2Sa 15:18; comp. 1Sa 23:13; 1Sa 27:2; 1Sa 30:9-10; and Josephus, Ant. 7:9. 2). Among these, apparently commanding them, was Ittai the Gittite (5. 19). He caught the eye of the king, who at once addressed him and besought him as "a stranger and an exile," and, as one who had but very recently joined his service, not to attach himself to a doubtful cause, but to return "with his brethren" and abide with the king (5. 19,20). But Ittai is firm; he is the king's slave (עֶבֶד, A.V. "servant"), and wherever his master goes he will go. Accordingly, he is allowed by David to proceed, and he passes over the Kedron with the king (xv, 22, Sept.), with all his men, and "all the little ones that were with him." These"' little ones" (כָּלאּהִטִּŠ, "all the children") must have been the families of the band-their "households" (1Sa 27:3). They accompanied them during their wanderings in Judah, often at great risk (1Sa 30:6), and they were not likely to leave them behind in this fresh commencement of their wandering life.
When the army was numbered and organized by David at Mahanaim, Ittai again appears, now in command of a third part of the force, and (for the time at least) enjoying equal rank with Joab and Abishai (2Sa 18:2,5,12). But here, on the eve of the great battle, we take leave of this valiant and faithful stranger; his conduct in the fight and his subsequent fate are alike unknown to us. Nor is he mentioned in the lists of David's captains and of the heroes of his body-guard (see 2Sa 23; 2Sa 1
Chronicles 11), lists which are possibly of a date previous to Ittai's arrival in Jerusalem.
An interesting tradition is related by Jerome (Quaest. Hebr. on 1Ch 20:2). "David took the crown off the head of the image of Milcom (A.V. 'their king'). But, by the law, it was forbidden to any Israelite to touch either gold or silver of an idol. Wherefore they say that Ittai the Gittite, who had come to David from the Philistines, was the man who snatched the crown from the head of Milcom; for it was lawful for a Hebrew to take it from the hand of a man, though not from the head of the idol." The main difficulty to the reception of this legend lies in the fact that if Ittai was engaged in the Ammonitish war, which happened several years before Absalom's revolt, the expression of David (2Sa 15:20), "thou camest but yesterday," loses its force. However, these words may be merely a strong metaphor.
From the expression "thy brethren" (15:20) we may infer that there were other Philistines besides Ittai in the six hundred; but this is uncertain. Ittai was not exclusively a Philistine name, nor does "Gittite" — as in the case of Obed-edom, who was a Levite — necessarily imply Philistine parentage. Still David's words, "stranger and exile," seem to show that he was not an Israelite. — Smith. Others, however, have hazarded the supposition that this Ittai is the same as the preceding, having been called a Gittite as a native of Gittaim, in Benjamin (2Sa 4:3). and a "stranger and an exile" as a Gibeonite, who, having fled from Beeroth, a Gibeonitish town (Jos 9:17), had, with his brethren, taken up his residence in Gittaim. All this. is very improbable. SEE GITTITE.