Certain Hebrew lexicographers believe that kere·thimʹ comes from the root word ka·rathʹ (meaning “cut off”) and should be rendered “executioners.” The majority of Bible commentators, however, consider the Hebrew term for “Cherethites” (kere·thimʹ) to refer to nationality. But they do acknowledge that ka·rathʹ may be the correct root of kere·thimʹ and that Jehovah, at Ezekiel 25:16, may be making an alliterative play on words when pledging, “I will cut off [hikh·rat·tiʹ] the Cherethites [kere·thimʹ],” or, in effect, ‘I will slay the slayers.’
An affinity between the Cherethites and the Philistines seems indicated by their mention together at Ezekiel 25:15-17 and Zephaniah 2:5-7. The Greek Septuagint rendering of these verses substitutes the term “Cretans” for “Cherethites,” perhaps attempting thereby to link them with the Philistines who came “out of Crete [Caphtor].” (Am 9:7) Because of this and the apparent connection of the Cherethites with “the land of the Philistines” at 1 Samuel 30:14, 16, most scholars conclude that the Cherethites and Philistines were either the same people or two closely associated peoples. Others reason that the Cherethites may have been a principal Philistine tribe.
One suggestion advanced is that, though originally two peoples, the Philistines were either the more powerful of the two or were the earlier arrivals in Canaan and so eventually predominated, giving their name to the section of land called Philistia, although the name Cherethites did not entirely fade out. According to this view, the meaning of the above-cited prophecies of Ezekiel and Zephaniah would be that Jehovah was going to bring vengeance and woe upon all the inhabitants of the cities of Philistia, both the Philistines and the Cherethites, prophecies apparently brought to fulfillment by the Babylonians.
Some of the Cherethites came to be among David’s armed forces, and they and the Pelethites (often mentioned with them) may have served as the royal bodyguard under Benaiah. (2Sa 8:18; 20:23; 1Ch 18:17; compare 2Sa 23:22, 23; 1Ch 11:25.) In view of this, scholars often seek to connect them with “the Carian bodyguard” of the time of priest Jehoiada, more than 100 years later. (2Ki 11:4, 19; see CARIAN BODYGUARD.) Though apparently foreign born, the Cherethites of David’s day were not mere mercenaries, acting solely out of personal gain (as is often wrongly argued), but they were genuinely devoted to David as Jehovah’s anointed. This was amply demonstrated by their faithfully sticking with David when he was forced to evacuate Jerusalem because “the heart of the men of Israel” had come to be with rebel Absalom. (2Sa 15:13, 18) Similarly, the Cherethites later obediently aided in suppressing the revolt of Sheba the Benjamite, and in supporting Solomon, David’s choice as Israel’s royal successor.—2Sa 20:7; 1Ki 1:38, 39, 44.