I Samuel 30 Continued
16. And when he had brought him down, there they were, spread out over all the land, eating and drinking and dancing, because of all the great spoil which they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from the land of Judah.
The former slave brings David down to where the Amalekites were camping. David finds them spread out in a very large camp over all the land. They are in the midst of eating and drinking and dancing in celebration of their successful raids against the Philistines and Judah. While these two nations were at war with each other, these Amalekites had sneaked into their lands and taken from them great spoil, enriching themselves. Thus David finds them celebrating, in disarray and not ready for battle.
17. Then David attacked them from twilight until the evening of the next day. Not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men who rode on camels and fled.
David catches them unawares and attacks them for an entire day morning to evening. The result is that the Amalekite forces are wiped out. None of the Amalekites escape, except four hundred young men who fled on camels. From this comment we can judge the relative sizes of David’s army and the Amalekites. Remember that David only had six hundred men, and two hundred of those had been left behind at the ford of Besor. Thus David only had four hundred men, and of the Amalekites, four hundred was just a small remnant of their army who managed to escape after David slaughtered all the rest. Thus David had wiped out a far larger and superior force. While it is true that they were busy celebrating and in no readiness for war, it does not seem possible that none of them could have gotten ready in fighting for an entire day. Clearly this shows us the reality that the LORD was with David. In no other way could he have defeated a force so much larger than his own that the small remnant that escaped was the same size as his own entire force!
18. So David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away, and David rescued his two wives.
In this way, David gets everything back from the Amalekites that they had taken from the town of Ziklag, including all the people. The families of his men were restored, and David’s own two wives were rescued. Thus what was nearly a disaster for David because of his lack of trust in Jehovah and all his plotting and scheming in the end turned out without David suffering significant loss. True, their city was burned to the ground, but cities can be rebuilt, and David and his men were wandering men anyway. What they really could not afford to lose was their families, and these were restored to them safe and sound. God was truly gracious to David!
19. And nothing of theirs was lacking, either small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything which they had taken from them; David recovered all.
We learn here the full extent of Yahweh’s watchfulness and care for David. Not a single thing was lacking from David and his men. None of his men were lost in the battle, and every person of the families of every one of them and all the goods they had had in the town which were lost were recovered completely by David after his attack on the Amalekites. When we consider the violent and cruel nature of the Amalekites, it is amazing that not a single one of the prisoners had been killed out of hand. Not a single one of David’s men had fallen in the battle, even though far outnumbered. God’s care for David and His rescuing power had been total and unreserved.
We might well contrast what happened here with what happens to Saul in the very next chapter. Though these events are given in two separate chapters, they might well have been happening at the very same time. Saul, like David, faced a foe much larger than his own force. David, with the favor of God upon him, experienced total victory, complete route of the enemy, and absolute safety for himself and his men. Saul, on the other hand, having spurned Yahweh’s favor and rejected His ways, experienced what might be expected when fighting a battle when greatly outmatched: defeat and destruction. How good it is to have the true God on your side! David surely experienced that reality here.
20. Then David took all the flocks and herds they had driven before those other livestock, and said, “This is David’s spoil.”
David finds many flocks and herds among the spoil of the Amalekites that had not originally come from his own town of Ziklag. He takes these other flocks and herds and counts them as his own spoil of battle. The Amalekites had won this spoil by preying on two lands emptied of their protectors when they went to war with each other. David, however, had won it by defeating a far superior force. Of course, this was not David’s doing, but truly this victory was a gift given to him by the LORD.
21. Now David came to the two hundred men who had been so weary that they could not follow David, whom they also had made to stay at the Brook Besor. So they went out to meet David and to meet the people who were with him. And when David came near the people, he greeted them.
David and his men, returning victorious, come back to the two hundred men who were too tired to cross the Brook Besor, and so had stayed behind there with the supplies. These men go out to meet David and the people who were with him. They have not seen the mighty victory David has gotten over his enemies, and have remained here all this time, sick at heart for their missing family members, and also no doubt ashamed at their inability to join the effort to recover them. Now they see their families returning with David, and no doubt go out with eagerness and joy to meet them, finding their loved ones safe and sound. David greets his two hundred men as he comes near them.
22. Then all the wicked and worthless men of those who went with David answered and said, “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except for every man’s wife and children, that they may lead them away and depart.”
Now all the wicked and worthless men in David’s company resent these two hundred men who were too weary to cross the brook and join with them in the victory. They want to send these men away with nothing but their wives and children in punishment for failing to aid them in recovering the spoil! Of course, this meant all the more spoil for them. Yet it would have reduced David’s forces by a third, and would have shamed good and loyal men whose only fault was being too exhausted to cross the brook. Truly this was an unkind and ungracious attitude, and showed a good deal of arrogance as well. No spoil would have been recovered without Jehovah’s help. This was Jehovah’s spoil truly, and not theirs at all. Yet they begrudge it to their weaker brothers!
The phrase “worthless men” here is the Hebrew “sons of Belial,” or representatives of a worthless character. We might wonder who these “wicked and worthless men” were, and what they were doing among David’s men? Why did he have wicked and worthless men in his company? In answer to this, we would point out several things. First of all, it is easy for any of us, no matter how loyal and true we are under normal circumstances, to adopt a selfish and unfair attitude toward others at times. There are no doubt times when all of us can act like sons of Belial in the wrong circumstances. It is good, when our wrong attitudes are pointed out to us, as David did to these men here, that we admit our wrong and adopt a more kindly attitude in the future. So it need not necessarily be that these men were always wicked and sons of Belial. This just means they were that in this instance. At other times, these men were most loyal to David, and even decades later during his flight from Absalom these same six hundred men remain loyal to him. We cannot say from this that they were totally bad.
We must remember too that these men were no doubt quite worn out themselves, and have faced much hardship. They have been running on emotion for a long time, and if they show a miserly and unsympathetic attitude, we cannot say that this was necessarily spoken by them with premeditation and good judgment. The troubles they had passed through were partially talking here, and later after David’s rebuke they perhaps realized that their suggestion had been unkind and inappropriate.
23. But David said, “My brethren, you shall not do so with what the LORD has given us, who has preserved us and delivered into our hand the troop that came against us.
David is not in agreement with these men, but forbids them to carry out their ungracious plan. He reminds them that the LORD was the One Who gave them victory and spoil. He had preserved them from dying in the battle, and He had delivered into their power the enemy company that came against them. Yet for them to act as they suggested would be like saying that this was their spoil that they had won with their own hand. This would not be right, and would be an insult against the One Who saved them.
24. For who will heed you in this matter? But as his part is who goes down to the battle, so shall his part be who stays by the supplies; they shall share alike.”
David insists that no one will listen to them in this matter. He surely means that he himself would not listen, and perhaps includes with himself his own loyal commanders. Then he declares that the one who guards the provisions for the army gets the same spoil as those who go to battle. Their share will be equal.
They who go into the battle face the greater danger, so one can see why it might be thought they should get a greater reward. Yet David insists they are not to be rewarded above those who guard their camp. Indeed, guarding the supplies was an important job, so that a victorious army would not return to a camp that had been looted during their absence. Therefore David made it a rule for all who serve.
In many ways we still follow much the same policy today, for soldiers in our armies are paid for doing their jobs, whether they are front-lines jobs or not. Yet there is such a concept as combat pay. Perhaps it is to be taken into account that, with Jehovah on their side, the soldiers who went into combat were just as safe as those who stayed behind. They could not be harmed without Jehovah allowing it, and at least in this case, He did not.
25. So it was, from that day forward; he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel to this day.
David did not only apply this rule for this present situation, but made it a statute and an ordinance to be followed by Israel from then on. Moreover, the writer of the book assured us that they did follow this rule until the day on which he wrote this part of this book. The author here was probably either Nathan the prophet or Gad the seer, and so this could be referring to the days of Solomon, unless it was a later prophet who actually finished compiling the book, or who was inspired to later add this note to the text.
26. Now when David came to Ziklag, he sent some of the spoil to the elders of Judah, to his friends, saying, “Here is a present for you from the spoil of the enemies of the LORD”—
David and his men return to their ruined city of Ziklag. They would now need to go about rebuilding the city. In that part of the world, where their houses were not built mostly of wood, rebuilding might not have been as difficult as rebuilding a town in the United States would be, for much of the town would still have been standing, though damaged by fire.
David now starts to act in a very wise way to work to ingratiate himself to the elders of his tribe of Judah. Perhaps he figured they might hear that he and his men had marched out to war with the Philistines. Though they had not actually fought with them, this could certainly be seen as a black mark against him. Thus, he sends a present to the rulers of Judah from the spoil they had taken from the Amalekite raiders. He tells them that this gift is from the spoil taken from the enemies of Yahweh. Remember, this is what the Amalekites were, for Yahweh had declared them so. We can read of this in Exodus 17:14-16.
14. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” 15. And Moses built an altar and called its name, The-LORD-Is-My-Banner; 16. for he said, “Because the LORD has sworn: the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”
Thus, the Amalekites truly were the enemies of Yahweh above all other peoples of the earth. He had sworn to blot them out and to have war with them. This was a drastic statement of His attitude towards these people. Thus David spoke truly and not hyperbole when he called these people the enemies of Yahweh.
27. to those who were in Bethel, those who were in Ramoth of the South, those who were in Jattir,
Now we have a list of the towns in Judah to which he sends these gifts. First is Bethel, meaning “House of God,” and not to be confused with the more famous Bethel on the border of Ephraim and Benjamin north of here. This Bethel was in Judah near Ziklag and Beersheba. The next town is Ramoth-Negeb, which means “South Heights.” The location of this town in not known today, except that it was in Judah. Next was Jattir, meaning “Plenty.” This town was in the hill country of Judah, and was a city of the priests given to them out of Judah.
28. those who were in Aroer, those who were in Siphmoth, those who were in Eshtemoa,
The next town is named Aroer, which means “Ruins.” Three towns in the Bible had this name, and all we know of this one is that it was in Judah. The next town is Siphmoth, which means “Fruitful.” This was another town in the southland of Judah. The next town is Eshtemoa, which means either “I Will Make Myself Heard” or “Obedience.” This was a city belonging to the Levites in the tribal territory of Judah.
29. those who were in Rachal, those who were in the cities of the Jerahmeelites, those who were in the cities of the Kenites,
The next city is Rachal (not to be confused with the woman’s name “Rachel”), meaning “Trade.” Again, this was a town of southern Judah. Next were the cities in the territory of the Jerahmeelites. Jerahmeel means “May God Have Pity” or “Whom God Loves.” Jerahmeel was a great-grandson of Judah, so these were cities belonging to his descendants. Next were the cities of the Kenites. Kenites means “Smiths.” These people were not actually Israelites, but were descended from the tribe of Moses’ father-in-law Jethro. They had come with the Israelites into the land, and now dwelt mostly in the southern part of Israel’s territory. Remember when Saul fought the Amalekites south of Israel in I Samuel 15, he sent a message to the Kenites to leave their land before he did so. Therefore, the Kenites had not been careful to only live among the Israelites and not among the Canaanites. Yet these Kenites spoken of here were living in Judah and were associated with God’s people, and so David sends a present to them as well.
30. those who were in Hormah, those who were in Chorashan, those who were in Athach,
The next city is Hormah, which means “Devotion.” This was one of the major cities of the Canaanites conquered by Joshua, as we read in Joshua 12:14. It was conquered by Judah and Simeon together, and was in the same territory as the other cities David had been sending presents to. Remember, however, that the Simeonites actually had their territory within the territory of Judah and encircled by it, so this may have been a Simeonite town rather than a Judahite town. The next city is Chor-ashan, which means “Smoking Furnace.” This was in the same territory, and may also have been Simeonite rather than Judahite. The next city is Athach, which means “Lodging Place.” We know little of this city, but it appears to have been a Judahite town.
31. those who were in Hebron, and to all the places where David himself and his men were accustomed to rove.
The final city named that David sent presents to is Hebron, which means either “Joining,” “Association,” or “Conjunction.” This was the city that David when he was King of Judah would make his capital until the time that he became king over all Israel. It had originally been conquered by Caleb, the faithful spy who sided with Joshua against the people. Later, it was made one of the cities of refuge for the slayer.
David also sent presents to other, smaller places, not worth mentioning here, but places where David and his men had been and had taken refuge during their days as fugitives from Saul. All these places were from Hebron south, and David and his men had been protecting them when they were still hiding in Judah. Now David, recalled by the severe jar that the burning of Ziklag had given him both to his trust in the LORD and remembrance of his mission for Him, works to bring himself back into the minds of these people to prepare himself for the office that the LORD intends him to hold.