[most Pe'lethite] (Heb. Pelethi', פּלֵתַי; Sept. Φελετύ, Φελεθί; but 1Ch 18:17, Φαλλεθθί), a class of persons mentioned only in the phrase והֲפּלֵתַי הִכּרֵתַי, rendered in the A.V. "the Cherethites and the Pelethites." These two collectives designate a force that was evidently David's body-guard. Their names have been supposed either to indicate their duties or to be Gentile nouns. Gesenius renders them "executioners and runners." comparing the הִכָּרַי וַהָרָצַים, "executioners and runners" of a later time (2Ki 11:4,19); and the unused roots כָּרִת and פָּלִת, of both of which we shall speak later, admit this sense. In favor of this view, the supposed parallel phrase, and the duties in which these guards were employed, may be cited. On the other hand, the Sept. and Vulg. retain their names untranslated; and the Syriac and Targ. Jon. translate them differently from the rendering above and from each other. In one place, moreover, the Gittites are mentioned with the Cherethites and Pelethites among David's troops (2Sa 15:18); and elsewhere we read of the Cherethim, who bear the same name in the plural, either as a Philistine tribe or as Philistines themselves (1Sa 30:14; Eze 25:16; Zep 2:5). Gesenius objects that David's bodyguard would scarcely have been chosen from a nation so hateful to the Israelites as the Philistines. But it must be remembered that David in his later years may have distrusted his Israelitish soldiers, and relied on the Philistine troops, some of whom, with Ittai the Gittite, who was evidently a Philistine, and not an Israelite from Gath, SEE ITTAI, were faithful to him at the time of Absalom's rebellion. He also argues that it is improbable that two synonymous appellations should be thus used together; but this is on the assumption that both names signify Philistines, whereas they may designate Philistine tribes. (See Thesaur. p. 719, 1107.)
The Egyptian monuments throw a fresh light upon this subject. From them we find that kings of the 19th and 20th dynasties had in their service mercenaries of a nation called Shayretana, which Rameses III conquered, under the name "Shayretana of the Sea." This king fought a naval battle with the Shayretana of the Sea, in alliance with the Tokknari, who were evidently, from their physical characteristics, a kindred people to them, and to the Pelesatu, or Philistines, also conquered by him. The Tokkari and the Pelesatu both wear a peculiar dress. We thus learn that there were two peoples of the Mediterranean kindred to the Philistines, one of which supplied mercenaries to the Egyptian kings of the 19th and 20th dynasties. The name Shayretana, of which the first letter was also pronounced Kh, is almost letter for letter the same as the Hebrew Cherethim; and since the Shayretana were evidently cognate to the Philistines, their identity with the Cherethim cannot be doubted. But if the Cherethim supplied mercenaries to the Egyptian kings in the 12th century B.C., according to our reckoning, it cannot be doubted that the same name in the designation of David's body-guard denotes the same people or tribe. The Egyptian Shap'etana of the Sea are probably the Cretans. The Pelethites, who, as already remarked, are not mentioned except with the Cherethites, have not yet been similarly traced in Egyptian geography, and it is rash to suppose their name to be the same as that of the Philistines, פּלֵתַי, for פּלַשׁתַּי; for, as Gesenius remarks, this contraction is not possible in the Shemitic languages. The similarity, however, of the two names would favor the idea which is suggested by the mention together of the Cherethites and Pelethites, that the latter were of the Philistine stock as well as the former. As to the etymology of the names, both may be connected with the migration of the Philistines. As already noticed, the former has been derived from the root כָּרִת, "he cut, cut off, destroyed;" in Niphal, "he was cut off from his country, driven into exile, or expelled," so that we might as well read "exiles" as "executioners." The latter, from פָּלִת, an unused root. the Arab. palata, "he escaped, fled," both being cognate to פָּלִט, "he was smooth," thence "he slipped away, escaped, and caused to escape," where the rendering "the fugitives" is at least as admissible as "the runners." If we compare these two names so rendered with the Gentile name of the Philistine nation itself, פּלַשׁתַּי, "a wanderer, stranger," from the unused root פָּלִשׁ, he wandered or emigrated," these previous inferences seem to become irresistible. The appropriateness of the names of these tribes to the duties of David's body-guard would then be accidental, though it does not seem unlikely that they should have given rise to the adoption in later times of other appellations for the royal body-guard, definitely signifying "executioners and runners." If, however, הִכּרֵתַי והִפּלֵתַי. meant nothing but executioners and runners, it is difficult to explain the change to הִכָּרַי והָרָצַים. SEE CHERETHITE.