Who Is Ittai the Philistine in the Bible? (2024)

There are two men who go by the name of Ittai. One of them, at face value, seems far more interesting. He’s a Benjamite and one of David’s 30 mighty men who complete several quests in the name of God. Interestingly, though, this one fades into the background. Instead, there’s another man named Ittai, who earns far more favor in the minds of readers and the eyes of David.

Today, we’ll explore who Ittai, the Philistine, is in the Bible. We’ll show what he did to help David during a desperate period of life and explain how God showed him favor afterward for his actions. Let’s dive in!

Where Does the Bible First Mention Ittai?

Before discussing Ittai's story, we need to explain some background context.

King David had, to say the least, a messed-up family. Many of us remember the Sunday School story of his relationship with Bathsheba, which escalated to include killing her husband, Uriah the Hittite.

Sadly, as we learn from 2 Samuel 15, his son Absalom didn’t make family life any easier.

You see, Absalom held a grudge against his father for David’s passivity. When one of Absalom’s half-brothers, Amnon, raped Absalom’s sister Tamar, David was angry but did nothing.

Absalom stepped in to dole out justice. He killed Amnon later at a feast. Absalom then fled the scene, likely fearing that David would try to kill him. Or if David didn’t, one of his men might try.

Absalom eventually returns to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 14), but he doesn’t reconcile with David. Perhaps, since David was passive about Amnon’s behavior and about his revenge, he figures he would be a better leader than David.

So, Absalom hatches a conspiracy—a brilliant one, at that.

He starts winning people’s hearts (2 Samuel 15:1-7), and David smells trouble. If David doesn’t flee, he might see a full-fledged coup on his hands.

David gathers most of his household members and leaves the city. On the outskirts of Jerusalem, he speaks with Ittai.

Now, it appears that Ittai was living as a foreigner in Israel—he is mentioned as being a “Gitite,” someone from the Gath. Ittai has 600 other Gittites with him, already living in the city. We assume that these men had been with David for a while: they “had accompanied David from Gath” (2 Samuel 15:18). David lived in Gath when he was a fugitive from Saul.

Ittai may have had a history with David, but he wasn’t a native. He may have lived in Jerusalem for years—Absalom was born after David left Gath (2 Samuel 3:3). Still, as David reminds Ittai, he was a foreigner and newcomer in the big picture:

“Why should you come along with us? Go back and stay with King Absalom. You are a foreigner, an exile from your homeland. You came only yesterday. And today, shall I make you wander about with us when I do not know where I am going? Go back and take your people with you. May the Lord show you kindness and faithfulness.” (2 Samuel 15:19-20)

Instead, Ittai is eager to come with David: wherever God’s chosen king goes, he will also go (2 Samuel 15:21). David accepts his help.

What Does the Name Ittai Mean in the Bible?

Ittai’s name can mean “with the Lord” or “timely.”

The meaning probably wasn’t lost on King David. At that moment, on Jerusalem’s outskirts, David had to feel that the city he had conquered was no longer a great ruler. He was an exile, fearing that his rogue son would kill him. He had lost the people’s favor— those who had once rejoiced at his victories would now gladly see his head on a pike.

So when Ittai stepped in with 600 men, David probably felt God’s timeliness. God had not abandoned him; he sent just the right person to be with David during a devastating time.

How Long Did Ittai Travel with David?

Ittai and the 600 Gittites stay with David throughout his wanderings. Although about 200 of them stay behind during certain parts of the journey, Ittai never wavers in his support of David.

It appears that after David is reinstituted as king, he never forgets Ittai's kindness, loyalty, and support. In 2 Samuel 18:2, Ittai appears in the ranks of David’s armies, in an equal place with Joab.

For those who don’t know, this is a significant lead. Joab was with David throughout his kingship and was often seen as the top man in most passages.


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Unfortunately, Joab falls from grace after the events mentioned in 2 Samuel 18.


David asks him and other men, such as Ittai, to be gentle with Absalom when they run into him. Absalom had fled the kingdom when his short-lived rule ended, and David wanted to, if possible, make amends.

Joab directly disobeys David and kills Absalom when Absalom’s hair gets caught in a tree.

Although Ittai doesn’t appear in passages after this, we can imagine that if he had lived to tell the tale, David would have regarded him much higher than Joab.

Where Did Ittai Come from in the Bible?

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Ittai’s support is that he wasn’t just a foreigner. He was a foreigner from a people group with a messy history with David.

As mentioned earlier, he was from Gath. You may remember that the giant Goliath was from Gath. Ittai may not have been a giant (although perhaps his town was home to many of them). He was, like Goliath, a Philistine; his people had fought Israel for centuries. David’s mighty men (including Ittai the Benjamite and Uriah the Hittite) had killed Philistines on many occasions.

However, David had also lived in Gath—once by convincing the Philistines he was crazy (1 Samuel 21:10-15) and later by working with them to kill other Canaanite tribes (1 Samuel 27). It’s probably during this second period, when David lived in Philistine territory for a year and four months (1 Samuel 27:7), that Ittai and the 600 men joined him.

It was significant that David partnered with such a man. Like Uriah, Ittai was an immigrant in Israel—he almost certainly experienced some racism. Yet he sought after Yahweh, and David looked past the fact that he came from Israel’s worst enemies.

Ittai rewards David’s trust with extreme loyalty. He saw David at one of the king’s lowest moments and chose to be kind to him, and David rewarded his trust.

What Can We Learn from Ittai?

Ittai is someone we really should learn to emulate. He had every reason to be an enemy of David but served as an Old Testament version of the Great Samaritan. While the Israelites wouldn’t help their king, a foreigner more than helped out during David’s wanderings. Here’s what we can learn from Ittai the Gittite.

First, if we have resources, we ought to give them. Ittai had 600 men and offered them to David. Although David initially refused his help, Ittai knew it was the right thing for Ittai to offer. The average citizen in Jerusalem might not have expected Ittai to help, but he knew the right thing to do. It may not have been an army, but it was enough.

In the same way, there are many Christians who have “600 men” when a fellow Christian is down on their fortune. Maybe they’ve lost a job. Maybe they’ve been evicted. Maybe they’re In a family crisis. We may not be able to solve their problem, but we can use what we have. If we have 600 men and keep walking, we are no better than the Levite and the Priest in the Good Samaritan story.

Second, we give without expecting to be repaid. Things didn’t look good for David. Absalom deposed him, and the people loved Absalom. Wandering with David would’ve been hard: they would have been homeless, fearing for their lives, and often hungry. A return to the days of David wandering from Saul, but after years of happiness. And David couldn’t promise him that things would work out this time around.

Ittai does the right thing anyway.

How often do we only agree to do something if we can see a reward at the end? Ittai reminds us to do the right thing when no reward is promised.

Finally, we remember that our loyalty will be repaid in the long run. After David regains his throne, he institutes Ittai in a high position, right next to Joab. If he survived Joab killing Absalom and Solomon executing Joab years later (1 Kings 2), he probably surpassed Joab in rank. A Philistine, an enemy of God, rose to one of the highest military ranks in God’s kingdom.

God values loyalty and faithfulness. We may not always see the reward on this side of the kingdom, but we will be remembered for standing with him, even during the most difficult circ*mstances.

Photo Credit:©GettyImages/Mladen Zivkovic

Hope Bolingeris an acquisitions editor at End Game Press, book editor for hire, and the author of almost 30 books. More than 1500 of her works have been featured in various publications. Check out her books at hopebolinger.comfor clean books in most genres, great for adults and kids. Check out her editing profile at Reedsy.com to find out about hiring her for your next book project.

This article is part of our People of Christianity catalog that features the stories, meaning, and significance of well-known people from the Bible and history. Here are some of the most popular articles for knowing important figures in Christianity:

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Who Is Ittai the Philistine in the Bible? (2024)


Who was Ittai in the Bible? ›

Easton's Bible Dictionary - Ittai

A native of Gath, a Philistine, who had apparently the command of the six hundred heroes who formed David's band during his wanderings ( 2 Samuel 15:19-22 ; Compare 1 Samuel 23:13 ; 27:2 ; 1 Samuel 30:9 1 Samuel 30:10 ).

What can we learn from Ittai? ›

Ittai the Gitite, shows us what true loyalty is all about; when there is NO allegiance Owed, No Benefits Promised, and No Conditions Attached.

Who was Gittite? ›

A Gittite was an inhabitant of Gath, one of the five Philistine cities.

How many wives did King David have? ›

8 wives: 18+ children, including: According to Jewish works such as the Seder Olam Rabbah, Seder Olam Zutta, and Sefer ha-Qabbalah (all written over a thousand years later), David ascended the throne as the king of Judah in 885 BCE.

What is the meaning of Ittai in the Bible? ›

Meaning:The Lord is with me. Ittai is a boy's name of Hebrew origin. Meaning “the Lord is with me,” Ittai gets its faith-inspired translations from the biblical name Itai, which appears throughout the Book of Samuel and is also known for one of King David's most loyal commanders.

What does itai mean? ›

Itai is a masculine name with Hebrew and Zimbabwean roots. One translation is “the Lord is with me,” making it a classic choice if you want to help baby celebrate your faith with you. Itai can also mean “friend” or “friendly,” always reminding your little one to be open to meeting new people.

Is a Gittite a Philistine? ›

A Gittite is not Jewish, he's a Philistine. Don't forget that, not too long ago, the Ark was in the hands of the Philistines and God brought such a judgment of plagues on them that they quickly returned the Ark to Israel.

Was Goliath a Philistine or a Gittite? ›

Goliath, the Gittite, is the most well known giant in the Bible. He is described as 'a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, whose height was six cubits and a span' (Samuel 17:4). From Samuel and Chronicles (table I), we have drawn Goliath's pedigree (figure 1).

Is a Gittite a levite? ›

Interesting question: The bible says a “gittite” from the family of Korah a member of the levite gate keepers. From an examination of Obed-Edom in 1 Chronicles 26, it is clear that he was an immensely important person as one of the chief gatekeepers of the temple of Solomon [1].

Who was David's favorite wife? ›

The Scroll of Esther is read on Purim from a parchment scroll. Megillah 15a). They claim that she was David's favorite wife and was therefore called “Eglah” (calf), because she was as beloved to him as a calf. Eglah, the name of one of David's wives, is mentioned in II Sam.

How many wives did Noah have? ›

Noah's wife is one of the four wives aboard Noah's Ark. While nameless in the Bible (Genesis 4:22; Gen. 7:7), apocryphal literature lists 103 variations of her name and personality.

What tribe was Jesus from? ›

Answer: Even though Joseph is Jesus' foster father, his marriage to Mary illustrates that Jesus is of the tribe of Judah according to his paternal line, and thus indeed a member of the tribe of Judah, as St. Matthew makes clear in recounting Jesus' paternal genealogy (Matt. 1:1-6; 16-18).

Who was Gaius with Matthew in the Bible? ›

Given how common the name "Gaius" was in ancient Rome, it is entirely possible that one of these figures was named Gaius. In The Chosen, Gaius is a Roman soldier who is stationed in Capernaum and charged with guarding Matthew's tax booth.

Is Enoch the father of Irad? ›

Enoch (/ˈiːnək/; Hebrew: חֲנוֹךְ; Ḥănōḵ) is a person in the Book of Genesis. He is described as a son of Cain, and father of Irad.

Who was Elijah in Matthew? ›

Later, however, Jesus said of John the Baptist: “He is Elijah who is to come” (Matt 11:14).


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