I is for Ittai the Gittite
2 Samuel 15:19-22: "Then said the king to Ittai the Gittite, Wherefore goest thou also with us? return to thy place, and abide with the king: for thou art a stranger, and also an exile.
20 Whereas thou camest but yesterday, should I this day make thee go up and down with us? seeing I go whither I may, return thou, and take back thy brethren: mercy and truth be with thee.
21 And Ittai answered the king, and said, As the LORD liveth, and as my lord the king liveth, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be.
22 And David said to Ittai, Go and pass over. And Ittai the Gittite passed over, and all his men, and all the little ones that were with him."
I have always wondered about this guy with the funny name. I remember reading these verses to my children when they were younger, and sharing in their laughter over "that guy with the silly name". As I pondered about him just a little more, I started thinking about what his life might have been like, and that is how he ended up as one of my 'obscure Bible heroes'.
First of all, Ittai was a Gittite. That means he was a native of the land of Gath. What other famous Bible character was from Gath? If you guessed Goliath, you are right! (1 Samuel 17:4) The same Goliath that David killed with his slingshot. Both of these men lived in the same era, were from the same town, and likely knew each other.
The Philistines, including the men of Gath, mocked the Israelites and chose Goliath as their hero to fight and conquer the Israelites. David was not yet king, but as a young man, had the faith in God to know that God would help him to fight and win that battle.
When David won, the Israelites routed the Philistines, and the men of Gath were defeated as well. In fact, they ran away fearing for their lives.
It makes me wonder, then, how this 'stranger', Ittai, became associated with David and his mighty men. David's mighty men were known to be a ragtag group of rough men, but to have a former enemy now turned into a loyal servant is a pretty neat story.
While the Bible doesn't give the details of how Ittai and his family became servants of David, it is very clear on where their loyalties lie. In the verses mentioned above, David is going out to battle, and Ittai is getting ready to join him. David encourages Ittai to stay behind, but Ittai refuses, choosing instead to remain loyal and do his part to help the king.
It is also clear that he shares David's faith in the true, living God. At some point, Ittai had to have renounced his citizenship and connection to Gath, and joined forces with the Israelites, pledging his allegiance to the Lord and the king. It is obvious that David trusts him, as he gives Ittai the approval to join the mission. Ittai must have been an inspirational leader, because his family and other men joined in and followed him as well.
I love this story because it shows us that no matter what our background is, we can become true servants and loyal followers of the living God. Onward Christian soldiers!!