destroyedvillage02I Samuel 30 1. Now it happened, when David and his men came to Ziklag, on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the South and Ziklag, attacked Ziklag and burned it with fire, In order to make the long trip back to their home in Ziklag, David and his men would have probably headed west to the Mediterranean Sea and then traveled down the coast southward back to Philistia. It seems that they make the long journey in two days, no doubt hurrying both to get away from the angry Philistine lords, and to get out of Israel where they still were fugitives. This must have been a difficult journey, and the thought of the comforts of home that awaited them must have sustained them after the frightening journey with the Philistine army and the near-disaster of almost having to fight their own people. Yet when David and his men get back to their home in Ziklag, they find no such happy welcome as they were anticipating. We learn that the Amalekites had conducted a raid while the Israelite and Philistine armies were busy facing each other. Remember that David, while telling his new master Achish that he was invading Judah, had been making systematic attacks on various towns of the Amalekites, leaving none alive to bring back word to Achish of his true policy. Word of this had not reached Philistia, yet it seems that the Amalekites had somehow learned the truth of these deadly invasions, and have traced the cause back to the land of the Philistines, and even to David and the city of Ziklag. Thus when the armies of Israel and the Philistines, along with David and his forces, are busy facing each other in battle, they use the opportunity to take their revenge. Thus the Amalekites had invaded the southern part of Judah, perhaps because it had formerly been David’s home, and also David’s own town of Ziklag in Philistine territory. Thus the town is completely burned with fire when David and his men arrive. 2. and had taken captive the women and those who were there, from small to great; they did not kill anyone, but carried them away and went their way. Yet the disaster was not what it could have been. Clearly the LORD was watching out for David, for the Amalekites had taken as captives all who were in the town, from small to great, and had killed none of them. This seems to have included the women, the wives of David and his men, and their small children. All these they carried away unharmed with them. This seems a most unlikely result. Not only were the Amalekites a violent and savage lot on the whole, but they were also motivated by revenge after the merciless slaughter of their own by David and his forces. The other seemingly unlikely thing is that they found no opposition when they arrived at Ziklag. Would David truly have left his hometown completely undefended by even a single soldier? This latter problem might not truly be so difficult. David himself being a Hebrew, it must have been clear to him and his men that they were in great danger when it came to a war between the Philistines and the Hebrews. They would automatically be under great suspicion, and any sign of less than whole-hearted investment in the Philistine war might cause their protectors in exile to change to their executioners and destroy them. Thus it was probably to show solidarity with the Philistines that David had called out every last able-bodied man to join him in the campaign. Yet this might ultimately have had the result of being the means by which the LORD spared the families of David and his men. When the Amalekites found no opposition in Ziklag, this gave them no excuse to start any violence, at which they were such experts. If they had once started killing, it may have been that they would not have let up until all in the city were destroyed. Yet finding no opposition at all in the city, they had decided instead to merely capture everything as spoil in order to enrich themselves. This they had done, satisfied merely to burn the city, rather than slaughtering its inhabitants. Thus the families of David and his men were intact, though prisoners. As we said, there must also have been much of the gracious hand of the LORD in this, sparing their families for David’s sake. 3. So David and his men came to the city, and there it was, burned with fire; and their wives, their sons, and their daughters had been taken captive. So David and his men arrive, tired out from their long march home, coming soon after their long march to a war they wanted nothing to do with. However when they get there, Ziklag is no more. Imagine their horror at finding the comfortable homes they had been longing for burned to the ground! And much worse was the fact that their women and children were gone. No doubt they expected to find bodies among the rubble, but they do not. This must have provided them some comfort, but not much, for it meant they had to imagine their families in the horror of captivity, with who knows what terrible things happening to them! 4. Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep. The reaction of David and his men to this horrible discovery is quite understandable. They lift up their voices and weep until they are too tired to weep anymore. Perhaps they wept sitting upon the charred ruins of their former homes, remembering their beloved families whom they had so recently left there, now gone! The horror of the situation for them cannot be underestimated. 5. And David’s two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite, had been taken captive. We are informed that David himself was certainly not spared. David’s two wives Ahinoam the Jezreelitess and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite were also taken captive, though we do not read that he had any children as of yet. He was not spared the calamity that happened to his men. This is to set up what comes next, for it makes his men’s attitude much less excusable. 6. Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God. In such terrible circumstances, one must attempt to deal with the almost unimaginable horror, and one way of dealing with it is to seek to find someone to blame. Often the most convenient target is whoever is in charge, and so David becomes the one blamed by his men. Never mind that David suffered just as much from this as they did! Perhaps they argued that it was David whom they had followed to this land of the Philistines, and who had promoted this policy of attacking the Canaanites while they were there. Thus this whole mess was his blunder, they reasoned. Well, we cannot deny that David was not dependent on Jehovah as he should have been when he started this whole policy. Yet it seems unlikely that he did this without complaints from his men that they were tired of running from Saul in Judah and couldn’t they just sojourn somewhere, etc. Those who support a plan in the beginning often completely forget their support when the plan goes wrong. David’s men were generally loyal to him, so we must not look down on them too harshly for their attitude here. They were probably not thinking clearly because of their grief for their wives and children. Imagine how hard it would be for you to face such a situation! Yet whether their minds were clouded or not, they were still capable of stoning someone, and so David is in real trouble. We can well imagine that David was greatly distressed. His heart would have been grieved on his own behalf, just as the hearts of his men were, as he thought of his family: his two wives now in captivity. As the leader, he also would have felt keenly the loss his men were experiencing. He must have known many of the missing women and children, and as their leader he must have felt responsible for them all. On top of this, his conscience would now have smitten him for the blame he rightfully bore in this, since it was indeed his policy, undertaken without consulting his God, that now had put all of them in this terrible situation. Yet in all this David now returns to the policy that he had formerly followed, and leaving which had brought him into so much trouble. That is, he turns to Jehovah his God for strength and encouragement. It would have been far better if he had looked to Him before moving to the land of the Philistines in the first place. Yet it is good that he did turn to Him now. It was not too late for him to do this! 7. Then David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech’s son, “Please bring the ephod here to me.” And Abiathar brought the ephod to David. David calls Abiathar. Remember that he was the only priest who escaped Saul’s slaughter of the priests. Now we start to see direct contrasts between David, God’s man, in his terrible distress, with Saul in his similar terrible distress. Saul sought Yahweh, but he had so alienated Him by his long unfaithfulness that He would not answer him. Moreover, through his paranoid slaughter of Yahweh’s priests, he had seen to it that the Urim and Thummim were lost to him. David, on the other hand, though he has failed in some ways, has not turned his back on God nor disobeyed any of His commands. Thus David still has a relationship with God intact. Moreover, the Urim and Thummim that were lost from Saul had come to David, for Abiathar had brought the priestly ephod with him when he fled from Saul. Thus David has the means to contact Yahweh that Saul had lost, and he does so. David clearly wants Abiathar to bring the ephod to him so he can ask God questions with the Urim and Thummim, as they were designed to do for Yahweh’s leaders. Abiathar obediently brings the ephod, and now David can achieve the direction from God that Saul sought and failed to find. Yet note that David has had Abiathar with him, along with the ephod, since the end of I Samuel 22! Why had he not sought counsel from Yahweh before coming to Philistia, or before attacking and slaughtering the Canaanites, or before heading off to war with the Philistines? These questions occur to us, and surely they must have occurred to David as well. He had been smug in his own plans and schemes, but now they have gone terribly awry. This was a horrible check to David, and he surely must now have seen that he had made a serious mistake when he first started acting on his own without consulting Yahweh. Yet David was one who learned his lessons. He will start back on the right path he should have stayed on in the first place, and consult Yahweh now, at least. This is what he should have done, and so he will receive the direction he seeks. 8. So David inquired of the LORD, saying, “Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?” And He answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all.” David asks the LORD if he should pursue this raiding troop that has captured their families. He also asks if they will successfully overtake them. The LORD answers that they should pursue them to attempt to recover their stolen families and goods, and that they will overtake them. Yet He tells him more than that, and the LORD’s answer is the best possible under the circumstances. They not only will overtake them, but will without fail recover all! This was what David and his men would surely have looked at as the best possible outcome, almost beyond hope, yet this is what the LORD promises him will happen. Clearly the LORD had been there the whole time, ready and waiting to help and instruct David, if only he would turn back to Him. Notice that the LORD does not hold David’s long ignoring of Him against him. As soon as David returns to dependence on Him, He immediately starts helping him again, even as He had before. The LORD is indeed very longsuffering, and very forgiving. He was ready to welcome David back, and He is even ready today to welcome back all who will turn to Him from their own rebellious ways. 9. So David went, he and the six hundred men who were with him, and came to the Brook Besor, where those stayed who were left behind. Having received this news from Jehovah, David and his six hundred men immediately begin the chase. Yet they do not all manage to keep going. Remember they had marched out to battle with the Philistines, and then had a hard three-day’s march from the Philistine camp soon after. They had particularly hurried while coming back from the Philistine camp because of the distrust of the Philistine lords. Then, they had wept themselves out when they found their homes destroyed and their families missing. True, their concern for their families and their hopes of recovering them no doubt gave them new strength to begin this new march! Yet when they get to the brook Besor, some of them, perhaps those in poorest condition, are too exhausted to continue. Besor is variously thought to mean “Cheerful” or “Cold.” It is in the land of the Philistines near Gaza, and empties into the Mediterranean Sea. 10. But David pursued, he and four hundred men; for two hundred stayed behind, who were so weary that they could not cross the Brook Besor. David continues the pursuit with the four hundred men who still have the strength to go on. The remaining two hundred do not have the strength to cross the Brook Besor, and so remain there. This was probably because the brook was high enough to require swimming. This, when loaded down with armor and weapons for battle, would be no easy thing. These men might have been able to continue going on dry ground, but they could not possibly cross the water they were so weary. Thus, they are left behind, and the four hundred go on with David. 11. Then they found an Egyptian in the field, and brought him to David; and they gave him bread and he ate, and they let him drink water. As they journey on, some of them, perhaps their scouts, find an Egyptian, apparently in bad condition and possibly dying, in a field. They bring him to David. They find there is nothing wrong with him that some food and water cannot aid, and so they feed him bread and give him water to drink. 12. And they gave him a piece of a cake of figs and two clusters of raisins. So when he had eaten, his strength came back to him; for he had eaten no bread nor drunk water for three days and three nights. Besides the bread and water, they give him from their supplies a piece of a cake of figs and two clusters of raisins. We can see from this the kind of supplies that soldiers carried at that time. When the Egyptian has eaten, he revives. In Hebrew this literally says that his spirit returned to him, for the Hebrew word here is ruach, the word for “spirit.” He had had neither food nor water for three days and nights, and so his very life force was departing from him because of this. Yet it came back when he was given this food and water by David. 13. Then David said to him, “To whom do you belong, and where are you from?” And he said, “I am a young man from Egypt, servant of an Amalekite; and my master left me behind, because three days ago I fell sick. Now that he has recovered, David questions him. He asks him whom he belongs to, and where he is from? The man replies that he is from Egypt, and was a slave of an Amalekite. His master had left him behind three days ago when he fell sick. We can see the tender mercies of this man, to leave his slave to die in a field because he had fallen sick. The Amalekites were not caring people! Remember, these were people whom Yahweh Himself had promised to destroy. We can see some of their character in this. 14. We made an invasion of the southern area of the Cherethites, in the territory which belongs to Judah, and of the southern area of Caleb; and we burned Ziklag with fire.” The Egyptian tells David of their invasion. They had attacked the southern area of the Cherethites. This word is thought to mean “Executioners,” and was apparently a clan of the Philistines, perhaps especially in the south of Philistia. David had a group of followers called “Cherethites,” and apparently they carried out and executed his will, as well as carrying his messages. The Amalekites had also raided southern Judah, the Egyptian reports, and the southern area of the Judahite clan of Caleb. Finally, he reports the burning of Ziklag which was so much on the minds and hearts of David and his men. Here the LORD has brought them a good thing: a messenger from the very heart of the enemies they sought, who will also be glad to turn against his former masters and lead them to them. He was watching out for their pathways indeed. 15. And David said to him, “Can you take me down to this troop?” So he said, “Swear to me by God that you will neither kill me nor deliver me into the hands of my master, and I will take you down to this troop.” David immediately sees this chance, and so asks the Egyptian if he will lead them to the troop of Amalekite raiders he had formerly been a part of, knowing that this slave will be privy to the route they were likely to take. The Egyptian responds that he will agree to do this if David promises neither to kill him, nor to return him to his master. This might seem like a strange request to us, but we need to realize that at the time (particularly among the Gentiles) being a runaway slave was almost a capital offense, and a runaway could be killed. Of course, this slave had not run away, but David and his men only had his own word on that. Even if they chose not to kill him, one was almost duty-bound to return a runaway slave to his master. Thus this slave begs David to promise that he will not do either to him. Notice that to him, to be delivered back to his master was almost as bad a fate as being killed. He obviously had no love lost upon his cruel master! That master had left him to die once, showing that he had no care for him at all. No doubt his life would not have ended well had he been returned to him.