Then the king said to Ittai the Gittite, "Why should you also go with us? Go back and stay with the new king, since you are both a foreigner and an exile from your homeland.
2 Samuel 15:19-22. - (BETH-HAMMERHAK.)
1. David experienced much alleviation of his trouble; as in his flight from the court of Saul (nearly forty years before). He was not left alone (1 Samuel 22:1, 2). His "servants" gathered round him, and professed their readiness to follow him (ver. 15). Halting with his household at "the Far House," he found himself accompanied by his bodyguard, the Cretans and Philistines (under Benaiah, 2 Samuel 8:18); his six hundred veterans (under Abishai, 2 Samuel 23:17-39) who had been with him in his early wanderings and followed him from Gath onward (Gittites, equivalent to "Gibborim," 1 Samuel 23:13; 1 Samuel 27:2; 1 Samuel 30:9; 2 Samuel 2:3; 2 Samuel 5:6); and a part at least of the regular soldiery - the host (under Joab, 2 Samuel 8:16; 2 Samuel 18:1, 2). His attention was arrested by the presence of Ittai the Gittite (who, from some unknown cause, had recently come from Garb) with his brethren (kinsfolk) and children. "The Lord has the hearts of all men in his hands, and if he be our friend, we shall not want friends" (Guild). "Our foremost friends are sometimes raised up among persons from whom we had the least expectations" (Scott).
2. He exhibited noble generosity in his conduct. "Wherefore goest thou with us?" etc. (vers. 19-21). "This unexpected meeting with Ittai appeared to the royal fugitive almost like a friendly greeting of his God, and dropped the first soothing balsam drops into the painful wounds of his deeply lacerated heart" (Krummacher). But David, now himself a wanderer, had no desire to make the condition of this "stranger and exile" more homeless and distressing by dragging him into his own misfortunes; released him from whatever obligations of service he may have incurred; advised him to offer his services to the new king; and expressed the wish, "Mercy and truth [from God] be with thee" (2 Samuel 2:6).
"I am a poor fallen man, unworthy now
3. He exerted a powerful attraction on his followers; as aforetime. His language was really a pathetic appeal; not unlike that of Jesus, "Will ye also go away?" etc. (John 6:66-69). "Ittai declared his resolution (with a fervour which almost inevitably recalls a like profession made almost on the same spot to the great Descendant of David, Matthew 26:35, centuries afterwards) to follow him in life and death" (Stanley). It was "a beautiful instance of loyal constancy and faithful devotion in a Philistine soldier at a time of apostasy and defection. His truth and fidelity are brought out in a stronger and clearer light by the contrast with the treachery of Absalom, Ahithophel, and eventually of Joab and Abiathar" (Wordsworth). He may be regarded, in his devotion to David, as a pattern of devotion to Christ. It was -
I. SEVERELY TESTED. Like him, the follower of Christ is often tried and proved, by:
1. The prospect of difficulties, privations, and perils in his service. These are all known to the Lord, for he has himself endured them; and he forewarns his disciples of them (Luke 9:57, 58; Luke 14:25-33). He would not have them follow him from mere impulse.
2. The promise of ease, safety, and advantage in other service; worldly pleasure, treasure, power, honour, in devotion to the prince and "god of this world."
3. The example and influence of many persons; bound by stronger ties to serve their rightful king; but forsaking their allegiance to him, joining in revolt against his authority, seeking his life, and heaping reproaches on his head (2 Samuel 16:11). "From that time many of his disciples went back," etc. (John 6:66; Mark 14:50; 2 Timothy 4:10; 2 Peter 3:17).
4. The peculiar circumstances in which he is placed, the special inducements suggested thereby, and the favourable opportunities afforded for the exercise of his freedom. There are times in which the Lord (however much he values and desires his aid) does not urge him to continue, but seems to do the opposite, and give him liberty, if he be disposed, to depart. So he tests his disciples, sifts the false from the true, and, though it cause the former to fall away, it makes the latter cling to him more closely than ever. The decision between Christ and antichrist has to be made, not only at first, but also often afterwards.
II. WORTHILY DISPLAYED, as it should be by every follower of "the Son of David," in:
1. The deliberate preference of his service to any other. "Just as in the great French Revolution, the famous Swiss Guard showed a brave, though mercenary fidelity, so Ittai, having eaten of the king's salt, determines that where his lord the king is, in life or death, he will be."
2. The disinterested motives by which he is actuated (Ruth 1:16). Ittai was not a mere mercenary, serving David for advantage (Job 1:9). He was influenced possibly by gratitude for the kind reception he met with on coming from Gath as "a stranger and an exile," by a sense of obligation imposed by friendship and previous engagements, by a conviction of the rectitude of the king's cause; certainly by admiration and affection for his person. Hence he wished to be with him, to share his sufferings and to aid in his defence. He was ready "to lay down his life for his sake." An intelligent, sincere, passionate love to the Person of Christ is essential to his service. "Lovest thou me?"
3. The open and solemn pledge of loyalty and fidelity. "As Jehovah liveth," etc. (1 Samuel 29:6; 2 Samuel 4:9). Ittai was doubtless a convert to the faith of Israel. "Whosoever shall confess me before men," etc. (Matthew 10:32; Romans 10:10).
4. The practical, unconditional, whole hearted consecration of himself and all he possessed to the king's service. "And Ittai the Gittite passed over, and all his men, and all the little ones that were with him." "Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day unto the Lord?" (1 Chronicles 29:5).
III. GRACIOUSLY APPROVED. "And David said to Ittai, Go and pass over" (ver. 22), "with me" (LXX.). If he said no more, his look and manner would give peculiar significance to his words. The Lord testifies his reception and approval of every devoted servant by:
1. Giving him the assurance thereof in his heart.
2. Fulfilling his desire to be with him. "If any man serve me," etc. (John 12:26).
3. Appointing him to his post of duty, and making his way plain (John 11:9, 10).
4. Exalting him to a position of responsibility and honour (2 Samuel 18:2), in which he aids the king in gaining a great victory, and shares the joy of a great triumph. The latter, like the former life of this Philistine, is wrapped in obscurity. But his devotion to "the Lord's anointed" shines like a star among the heathen, and condemns the lukewarmness, selfishness, and unfaithfulness of many "who profess and call themselves Christians."
"Lo: of those
Ittai the Gittite.
I. HIS PEOPLE. Probably in a degree in which it can be said of no other country, Palestine has been the meeting-place and battleground of nations. From earliest historical times we find wave after wave of conquerors breaking upon, settling down, or passing over it; and there are not wanting indications that long before history began to be written the monotonous process had commenced. The shadowy forms of the earlier races can be dimly discerned, ghost-like, before the rising of the historic sun. Amongst the many pre-Hebrew arrivals and settlers — and, historically, the most important of them all — was the people to whom Ittai belonged, the Philistines. Concerning their origin, the events which led to their migration into Palestine, and the development of their power there, we know almost nothing — barely sufficient to suggest a few guesses. A reference to the genealogical table in Genesis (Genesis 10:14) suggests an Egyptian origin, whilst the Book of Deuteronomy and the Prophets Amos and Jeremiah speak of them as "Caphtorim out of Caphtor"; but the endeavour to fix a site for Caphtor has not yet been attended with success. Cappadocia, Cyprus, and Crete are all claimants; but the balance of opinion seems to incline in favour of the last-mentioned of the three. From whatever race they sprung, from whatever quarter they came, we find a tribe of them at the extreme southern limit of Palestine, on the route down to Egypt, as far back as the time of Abraham, though their very name — "strangers," or "emigrants" — indicates that they were arrivals in the country, and not aboriginals. We shall probably not be far wrong if we suppose a small swarm of "Caphtorim from Caphtor" (say, Cretans from Crete) hiving off and settling down upon the southern border of Palestine, where the fertile land shades off into the desert on the way to Egypt; there multiplying their number and developing their genius for war; civilising, casting off nomadic habits, and acquiring those of dwellers in cities; and in due course acquiring a greater proficiency in the arts and arms than any of the rude tribes around them. Then comes the great commotion to the North consequent upon the invasion and conquest by Joshua and his Israelites. The Philistines are too far off in their southern corner to feel the shock in any direct way; but their next-door neighbours, the Avites — who occupied the great plain lying between them and the new-comers, and on whose rich corn-fields they had doubtless cast many a longing eye — are shaken to their centre. Already three of their principal towns have fallen; the great Tribe of Judah, under the hero son-in-law of Caleb, presses sore upon them; half of the plain ("Shefela") is no longer theirs. We can then conceive of them, in their extremity and desperation, invoking the aid of their warlike and rising rivals along their southern side, who had already begun to intermarry and mingle with themselves. Nothing loth, the desired assistance is given, and soon Philistine swords — for the first time, but not for the last, by many a score — cross and crash with Hebrew spears. Four results follow: —
1. The first is a decided stop to Hebrew extension in that quarter. The captured cities are regained, and for many a day are thorns in the side of Judah, Dan, and Simeon.
2. The next is a permanent occupation by the Philistines of the territory into which they had come as allies. It was the richest part of all Palestine, excelling even the beautiful Esdraelon, and, moreover, its coast embraced the two best harbours between Egypt and Phoenicia.
3. Another result is a new name for that portion, and eventually for the whole, of Canaan. Henceforth the Plain is known from them as "Philistia" — a name which, thus derived from a heathen tribe in its south-western corner, has, curiously enough, in a slightly altered form, spread over, and to this day covers all of the Holy Land. It is an illustration of the irony of history that a name which we fondly cherish as a name holy and revered, should be thus a child of a pure heathen parentage. In vain Israel cultivated exclusiveness; ever and anon God compelled an indication of the universalism that was wrapped up in His Call. The very name which the Holy Land bears is a standing memorial of that "making of both one," which, being one of the counsels of God from the beginning, became realised in Him in whom Jew and Gentile find their meeting-place with one another and both with Him.
4. The fourth result is a great and rapid development of the Philistine power. The supposition of a second migration from .Crete, though quite possible, does not seem to be necessary. The fertility of their new possessions — the granary of Palestine — their commercial advantages, the great increase of numbers through the absorption of the Avites, Anakim, and possibly other tribes, including an influx of fugitive Amorites and Canaanites, and the separation of the dominant race as a warrior or fighting castle to the art and practice of war — these are considerations quite sufficient to account for such rapid development of power as the facts of the narrative require. With the institution of the monarchy and the establishment of a central authority in Israel, implying some amount of national cohesion in place of tribal isolation, the tables were turned. Saul inflicted many grievous defeats upon them; and after the accession of David and the perfecting of his military system they had small chance of success, in aggressive warfare at least, against their mere numerous foes. But, cooped up within their narrow borders, and forbidden aggressive war, this nation of soldiers seeks an outlet for its superfluous manhood in foreign service. As it was with Scotland and Switzerland three centuries ago, so was it with Philistia in Ittai's time. What the Scottish and Swiss Guards were at the Court of France, what the Varangian Guard was to the Greek Emperors at Constantinople, what the "Free Companies" were to the cities and princes of Italy, that was the Philistine guard at the Court of Pharaoh and the Court of David — a reliable body of mercenaries, whose duty it was, in a general way, to fight the sovereign's battles, and, in a special way, to guard the royal person. The nucleus of this guard appears to have been enlisted by David during his sojourn at Gath, where for a time he found a refuge from the persecuting jealousy of Saul.
II. ITTAI'S POSITION. He was captain of these mercenaries, the Philistine guard, "the Cherethites and Pelethites," in David's service. We must conceive of him as a stranger among strangers, a soldier in a foreign employ, an exile from home and country — either voluntarily, through a desire to push his fortunes, or by necessity, because of some disagreement or quarrel with the "Lords of the Philistines." He is among those who, however much they may appreciate his sword, hate himself, his race, and his religion. He and his comrades belonged to a people who, possessing the qualities of strength and pertinacity, were by temperament sluggish, heavy, and dull-witted. Such is the character everywhere implied in the pictures of them given in Scripture: "They were almost the laughing-stock of their livelier and quicker neighbours — the easy prey of the rough humour of Samson, or the agility and cunning of the diminutive David" (Stanley's "Jewish Church.") In the city, and at the Court of Jerusalem, he and they would feel and would be regarded very much as Hereward and his Varangians felt and were regarded in the City and at the Court of Constantinople, as conceived by the historic imagination and pictured by the faithful pen of Scott in his "Count Robert of Paris." Ittai and his guard would be the objects and the butts at once of the contemptuous civility of the courtiers, and the stinging spite of the citizens. Almost inevitably, they would draw off, isolate themselves, and as a caste, hated and hating, live there lives by themselves, reserving all their sympathies for those within the limits of their own order. Thus were these "Cherethites and Pelethites" — outside the sympathy of the people and remote from the gossip of the bazaar — when the shameful rebellion of Absalom bursts upon the astonished guard as a bolt out of a clear sky. Meanwhile David and Ittai have met. The king looks into the face, illumined with the light of the noblest feelings that shine out from the heart through the windows of the eyes: nobility meets nobility; magnanimity accepts what magnanimity offers. Two great souls meet, embrace, and grapple each to each with hooks of steel. The simple acceptance of the service proffered; the delicate recognition that further remonstrance would have been almost an outrage; the tacit treatment of the question as closed; and the renewed enrollment into a service that is to last for life — all this and much more is enwrapped in the "Go, and pass over." The king's son was a rebel, his counsellor a traitor; how heart must have swelled and eye filled in the presence of devotion so unselfish and so strong in the stranger.
III. THE PERSONALITY THAT IS HERE PRESENTED TO US. We know nothing concerning him save what we gather from these scenes. We see him only twice: once as, beside the brook Kedron, within stone-cast of Gethsemane, he vows the fealty he kept so well, and once as he marches out of Mahanaim at the head of his well-drilled corps. But as the naturalist from a single typical bone can construct the whole physical frame of the animal, so from these scanty yet typical facts the moralist can give the whole moral build of the man. We experience no difficulty in the endeavour to reproduce Ittai's moral structure. He is simplicity, fidelity, and affection embodied.
1. Simplicity, for there was no double purpose in his mind, nor double speech in his tongue; he had one loyalty and one only, a soldier's surrender to the king whose soldier he was; one aim and one only, a servant's service to the master whose man he was.
2. Fidelity, for selfish views and considerations seem to have found in him no place at all; he never asked, "Where is the sunny side of fortune, that I may seek it?" or, "Where the shady side, that I may shun it?" but, "Come weal or woe, be it life or be it death, I follow where faith leads."
3. Affection, too, for manifestly this wondrous poet-king had won his love and held his heart. There was about this David a marvellous power of attracting, subduing, and holding men.
(G. M. Grant, B. D.)
Homiletic Review.It is the darkest period of David's life. He is fleeing, barefooted, in fear of Absalom's approaching army. Yet he is not altogether alone. A few loyal hearts cling to him. And, amid the desolating sorrow, appears this Ittai. He is not a Hebrew; he is a Gittite — that is, a Philistine. But he is among those who will cast in their fortunes with the fleeing king. Only recently he seems to have come to Jerusalem. David sees the resolve of splendid devotion in Ittai. It will be useless to try to dissuade him further. The noble devotion of Ittai teaches these lessons: —
I. THAT SUCH DEVOTION I SHOULD SHOW TOWARD JESUS CHRIST. There must have been a singular attractiveness and winningness about the personality of David inspiring devotion to him. There is more attractiveness in Jesus Christ, and to Him, therefore, I ought to be more devoted than Ittai was to David.
1. Think of the purity of Jesus. Tennyson wrote: "I am amazed at Christ's purity and holiness, and at His infinite beauty. The forms of religion may change, but Christ will grow more and more in the roll of the ages. His character is more wonderful than the greatest miracle."
2. Think of Christ's sympathy. I have read how, before they knew of mines of diamonds there, a boy in South Africa flung a stone at a stranger. The man picked up the stone, and found it diamond, and it became his treasure. So Christ finds the diamond in us. Whom others cast away He regards, receives, redeems. Matthew the publican; the woman taken in her sin, etc.
3. Think of the sacrifice of Christ. His atoning cross tells it. This Christ of purity, sympathy, sacrifice, is worthy limitless devotion.
II. WHAT DOES DEVOTION MEAN AND INVOLVE?
1. Definite decision for its object. Ittai decided for David. There were no ifs or buts, about his decision. It was downright. So I should decide for Christ.
2. Confession. "And Ittai answered the king and said." A real devotion does not hesitate about telling itself forth.
3. Marching under the standard of its object. Ittai followed David's flag. If I have real devotion to Christ I will join and march with His church and people.
4. Persistence. Ittai went the whole way with David in that long march from Jerusalem to Mahanaim. So I should persistently follow Christ.
5. Service. Ittai was one of the commanders for David in the subsequent battle with Absalom. So I should give myself to service for Christ. Christ will accept my devotion as David did that of Ittai. And the object of one's devotion is the discriminating and deciding test for life. The ignoble life has other than the highest object of devotion.
I. WHAT GRAND PASSIONATE SELF-SACRIFICE MAY BE EVOLVED OUT OF THE ROUGHEST NATURES.
1. A passionate personal attachment; then, that love, issuing as such love always does, in willing sacrifice that recks not for a moment of personal consequences.
2. And we see in these words a supreme restful delight in the presence of Him whom the heart loves. And wherever, in some humble measure, these emotions are realised, there you get weakness springing up into strength, and the ignoble into loftiness. Astronomers tell us that, sometimes, a star that has shone inconspicuous, and stood low down in their catalogues as of fifth or sixth magnitude, will all at once flame out, having kindled and caught fire somehow, and will blaze in the heavens, outshining Jupiter and Venus. And so some poor, vulgar, narrow nature, touched by this Promethean fire of pure love that leads to perfect sacrifice, will "flame in the, forehead of the morning sky," an undying splendour, and a light for ever more, You have all that capacity in you, and you are all responsible for the use of it. What have you done with it? Is there any person or thing in this world that has ever been able to lift you up out of your miserable selves? Is there any magnet that has proved strong enough to raise you from the low levels along which your life creeps? Have you ever known the thrill of resolving to become the bondservant and the slave of some great cause not your own? Or are you, as so many of you are, like spiders living in .the midst of your web, mainly intent upon what you can catch in it? You have these capacities slumbering in you. Have you ever set a light to that inert mass of enthusiasm that lies in you? Have you ever woke up the sleeper?
II. THESE POSSIBILITIES OF LOVE AND SACRIFICE POINT PLAINLY TO GOD IN CHRIST AS THEIR TRUE OBJECT.
III. THE TERRIBLE MISDIRECTION OF THESE CAPACITIES IS THE SIN AND THE MISERY OF THE WORLD. I will not say that such emotions, even when expended on creatures, are ever wasted. And I am not going to say that when men love each other passionately and deeply, and sacrifice themselves for one another, or for some cause or purpose affecting only temporal matters, the precious elixir of love is wasted. God forbid! But I do say that all these objects, sweet and gracious as some of them are, ennobling and elevating as some of them are, if they are taken apart from God, are insufficient to fill your hearts: and that if they are slipped in between you and God, as they often are, then they bring sin and sorrow. And so let me gather all that I have been saying into the one earnest beseeching of you that you would bring that power of uncalculating love and self-sacrificing affection which is in you, and would fasten it where it ought to fix — on Christ who died on the cross for you. Such a love will bring blessedness to you.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I. IN WHAT FORM AND MANNER WAS THIS DECLARATION MADE?
1. It was made at. a time when David's fortunes were at their lowest ebb, and consequently it was made unselfishly, without the slightest idea of gain from it. To take up with Christ when everybody cries up His name is what a hypocrite would do, but to take up with Christ when they are shouting, "Away with him! away with him!" is another matter. There are times in which the simple faith of Christ is at a great discount. It is such a season that we must stand out for God's.
2. Ittai gave himself up wholly to David when he was but newly come to him. David says, "Whereas thou camest but yesterday, should I this day make thee go up and down with us?" But Ittai does not care whether he came yesterday or twenty years ago, but he declares, "Surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether In death or life, even there also will thy servant be." It is best to begin the Christian life with thorough consecration. Have any of you professed to be Christians, and have you never given yourselves entirely to Christ? It is time that you began again. This should be one of the earliest forms of our worship of our Master — this total resignation of ourselves to him.
3. Ittai surrendered himself to David in the most voluntary manner. No one persuaded Ittai to do this; in fact, David seems to have persuaded him the other way. David tested and tried him, but he voluntarily, out of the fulness of his heart, said, "Where my lord, the king is, there also shall his servant be." If you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is yours, give yourselves up to him by a distinct act and deed. Feel that one grand impulse without needing pressure or argument — "The love of Christ constraineth me."
4. Ittai did this very solemnly. He took an oath which we Christians may not do, and may not wish to do, but still we should make the surrender with quite as much solemnity.
5. And this Ittai did publicly. At any rate, he so acted that everybody saw him when David said, "Go over," and he marched in front — the first man to pass the brook.
II. WHAT DID THIS DECLARATION INVOLVE?
1. He was henceforth to be David's servant, Of course, as his soldier, he was to fight for him, and to do his bidding, What sayest thou, man? Canst thou lift thy hand to Christ and say, "Henceforth I will live as thy servant, not doing my own will, but thy will. Thy command is henceforth my rule?" Canst thou say that? If not, do not mock him, but stand back. May the Holy Ghost give thee grace thus to begin, thus to persevere, and thus to end.
2. He was to do his utmost for David's cause, not to be his servant in name, but his soldier, ready for scars and wounds and death, if need be, on the king's behalf. That is what Ittai meant as. in rough soldier-tones, he took the solemn oath that it should be so. Now, if thou wouldst be Christ's disciple, determine henceforth by His grace that thou wilt defend His cause.
3. His promise declared that he would give a personal attendance upon the person of his master. That was, indeed, the pith of it. "In what place, my lord, the king, shall be, even there also will thy servant be." Brethren, let us make the same resolve in our hearts, that wherever Christ is, there we will be.
4. He intended to share David's condition. It David was great, Ittai would rejoice. If David was exiled, Ittai would attended his wanderings. Our point must be to resolve in God's strength to keep to Christ in all weathers and in all companies, and that whether in life or death.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
PeopleAbiathar, Absalom, Ahimaaz, Ahithophel, Aram, Arkite, Cherethites, David, Gittites, Hushai, Israelites, Ittai, Jonathan, Kerethites, Levites, Pelethites, Zadok
PlacesAram, Gath, Geshur, Giloh, Hebron, Jerusalem, Kidron, Mount of Olives
TopicsAbide, Absalom, Along, Besides, Birth, Dwellest, Emigrated, Exile, Foreigner, Gittite, Goest, Hast, Home, Homeland, Ittai, It'tai, Return, Stay, Stranger, Turn, Wherefore
Outline1. Absalom, by fair speeches and courtesies, steals the hearts of Israel.
7. By pretense of a vow, he obtains leave to go to Hebron
10. He makes there a great conspiracy
13. David upon the news flees from Jerusalem
19. Ittai will leave him
24. Zadok and Abiathar are sent back with the ark
30. David and his company go up mount Olivet weeping,
31. He curses Ahithophel's counsel
32. Hushai is sent back with instructions
Dictionary of Bible Themes2 Samuel 15:19-21
LibraryA Loyal Vow
'And the king's servants said unto the king, Behold, thy servants are ready to do whatsoever my lord the king shall appoint.'--2 SAMUEL xv. 15. We stand here at the darkest hour of King David's life. Bowed down by the consciousness of his past sin, and recognising in the rebellion of his favourite son the divine chastisement, his early courage and buoyant daring seem to have ebbed from him wholly. He is forsaken by the mass of his subjects, he is preparing to abandon Jerusalem, and to flee as an …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
Ittai of Gath
Pardoned Sin Punished
Loyal to the Core
The Will of God
A Light to Lighten the Gentiles
The Daily Walk with Others (iii. ).
And V the Kingdom Undivided and the Kingdom Divided
That Whereas the City of Jerusalem had Been Five Times Taken Formerly, this was the Second Time of Its Desolation. A Brief Account of Its History.
King of Kings and Lord of Lords
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