Imitate the Loyalty of Ittai
“GREAT and wonderful are your works, Jehovah God, the Almighty. Righteous and true are your ways, King of eternity. Who will not really fear you, Jehovah, and glorify your name, because you alone are loyal?” This song, sung in heaven by “those who come off victorious from the wild beast and from its image,” draws attention to God’s loyalty. (Rev. 15:2-4) Jehovah wants his worshippers to imitate him in displaying this desirable quality.—Eph. 4:24.
Satan the Devil, on the other hand, does everything in his power to separate God’s earthly servants from the love of the God whom they worship. Still, many have maintained loyalty to God even under very harsh conditions. How grateful we can be that Jehovah highly esteems such devotion! Indeed, we are assured: “Jehovah is a lover of justice, and he will not leave his loyal ones.” (Ps. 37:28) To help us remain loyal, he has included in his Word a record of the acts of many loyal ones. One such account is that of Ittai the Gittite.
‘A Foreigner and an Exile’
Ittai was presumably a native of the renowned Philistine city of Gath, the home of the giant Goliath and other formidable foes of Israel. Without introduction, the seasoned warrior Ittai steps into the Bible record at the time of Absalom’s rebellion against King David. Ittai and 600 Philistine men who had followed him were then living in exile in the vicinity of Jerusalem.
The situation of Ittai and his followers may have caused David to recall his own days as an exiled fugitive when he and 600 Israelite warriors relocated to Philistine territory and entered the domain of Achish, the king of Gath. (1 Sam. 27:2, 3) What would Ittai and his men do as David faced his son Absalom’s revolt? Would they side with Absalom, remain neutral, or throw in their lot with David and his men?
Picture the scene as David, fleeing Jerusalem, comes to a halt at a place called Beth-merhak, meaning “The Far House.” It is perhaps the last house in Jerusalem in the direction of the Mount of Olives before crossing the Kidron Valley. (2 Sam. 15:17; ftn.) Here David reviews his forces as they pass by. Look! With him are not only loyal Israelites but also all the Cherethites and all the Pelethites. Moreover, there are all the Gittites—Ittai and his 600 warriors.—2 Sam. 15:18.
With heartfelt empathy, David says to Ittai: “Why should you yourself also go with us? Go back and dwell with the king [evidently meaning Absalom]; for you are a foreigner and, besides, you are an exile from your place. Yesterday was when you came and today shall I make you wander with us, to go when I am going wherever I am going? Go back and take your brothers back with you, and may Jehovah exercise toward you loving-kindness and trustworthiness!”—2 Sam. 15:19, 20.
Ittai’s declaration of unflinching loyalty rings out. He answers: “As Jehovah is living and as my lord the king is living, in the place where my lord the king may come to be, whether for death or for life, there is where your servant will come to be!” (2 Sam. 15:21) This may have reminded David of similar words spoken by his great-grandmother Ruth. (Ruth 1:16, 17) His heart touched by Ittai’s statement, David tells him: “Go and cross over” the Kidron Valley. At that, “Ittai the Gittite crossed over, and also all his men and all the little ones that were with him.”—2 Sam. 15:22.
“For Our Instruction”
“All the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction,” states Romans 15:4. So we do well to ask, What lessons can we learn from Ittai’s example? Consider what may have prompted him to be loyal to David. Even though he was a foreigner and an exile from Philistia, Ittai recognized Jehovah as the living God and David as Jehovah’s anointed one. Ittai was able to look beyond the animosity that existed between the Israelites and the Philistines. He viewed David as more than someone who had killed the Philistine champion Goliath and many more of Ittai’s countrymen. (1 Sam. 18:6, 7) Ittai saw David as a man who loved Jehovah and no doubt took note of David’s remarkable qualities. In turn, David came to have high regard for Ittai. Why, David even placed one third of his forces “under the hand of Ittai” in the climactic battle against Absalom’s forces!—2 Sam. 18:2.
We too should strive to look beyond cultural, racial, or ethnic differences—any lingering prejudices and animosities—and recognize the good qualities in others. The bond that formed between David and Ittai illustrates that our coming to know and love Jehovah can help us to overcome such barriers.
As we reflect on Ittai’s example, we can ask ourselves: ‘Do I display a similar loyal attachment to the Greater David, Christ Jesus? Do I show my loyalty by having a zealous share in the work of Kingdom preaching and disciple making?’ (Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20) ‘How far am I willing to go to prove my loyalty?’
Family heads also benefit by meditating on Ittai’s example of loyalty. His allegiance to David and his decision to go with God’s anointed king affected Ittai’s men. Likewise, the decisions that family heads make in support of true worship affect their families and may even bring temporary hardships. Yet, we are assured: “With someone loyal [Jehovah] will act in loyalty.”—Ps. 18:25.
Following David’s battle with Absalom, the Scriptures say nothing more about Ittai. The glimpse of him in God’s Word nevertheless provides remarkable insight into his character during that difficult time in David’s life. Ittai’s inclusion in the inspired record is proof that Jehovah recognizes and rewards such loyalty.—Heb. 6:10.