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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 30

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-6

David’s crisis and his response 30:1-6

David took three days to return from Aphek (1 Samuel 29:11) to Ziklag. The Amalekites, whom David had previously raided (1 Samuel 27:8), took advantage of the Philistines’ and David’s absence to retaliate in the Negev and on Ziklag. They plundered both Philistine and Judahite territory (1 Samuel 30:16). When David and his men arrived back home, they discovered Ziklag empty of inhabitants and burned down. David joined his men in weeping over the tragedy that the enemies of God’s kingdom had caused (cf. Matthew 23:37). David’s supporters then turned on him and almost stoned him, giving him trouble on two fronts simultaneously. In his distress David, as usual, strengthened himself in the Lord by relying on Yahweh and inquiring of Him (1 Samuel 30:6-8). From the Psalms we know that David often did this by looking back on God’s past faithfulness, looking up in prayer, and looking forward with God’s promises in view.

"David’s genius was his spiritual resilience." [Note: Baldwin, p. 169.]

"Both David and Saul are portrayed as persons in deep crises of leadership, and both are deeply at risk. What interests us is the difference of response. . . . Saul seeks refuge in a medium [but David inquired of the Lord]." [Note: Brueggemann, First and . . ., p. 201.]

Verses 7-10

God’s provision of guidance 30:7-10

David obtained an answer through the Urim and Thummim, which the high priest carried in the breast pocket of his ephod (cf. 1 Samuel 23:2; 1 Samuel 23:4; 1 Samuel 23:9). God no longer responded to Saul’s prayers (1 Samuel 28:15), but He did answer David’s (1 Samuel 30:8). David divided his troops into two groups as he had when he organized his attack against Nabal (1 Samuel 25:13). The many comparisons and contrasts between this chapter and chapter 25 point out the differences between foolish Nabal and wise David. The Besor Brook is probably the Wadi el Arish, which flows west into the Mediterranean Sea a few miles south of Ziklag. This stream marked the southwestern border of the land that God had promised to Abraham’s descendants.

Verses 11-15

David’s kindness to the Egyptian servant 30:11-15

David and his men were undoubtedly very angry and ready to kill anyone who proved to have had a hand in kidnapping their family members. To his credit David did not kill this Egyptian, as he planned to kill Nabal earlier. Instead he treated him kindly, in contrast to the man’s Amalekite master’s treatment of him, and won his favor and cooperation. Contrast Nabal’s disdain for David, whom Nabal regarded as a runaway servant (1 Samuel 25:10-11). The Egyptian wanted a guarantee of safety from David, as had Saul (cf. 1 Samuel 24:2). Receiving this he agreed to lead David and his men to the Amalekites’ camp.

Verses 16-20

David’s successful victory over the Amalekites 30:16-20

The Amalekites were feasting on the plunder that they had taken, although the Egyptian servant had received nothing to eat or drink when he fell ill (cf. 1 Samuel 30:12). David launched his attack early in the morning the next day and continued fighting until night fell. Since 400 of the Amalekites escaped, as many as the total number of David’s soldiers (1 Samuel 30:10), they obviously had a much larger army than David did. The camel was the vehicle of choice at this time; it was the fastest means of transportation (cf. Judges 7:12). David recovered everything substantial (cf. 1 Samuel 30:16) that the Amalekites had taken plus booty from this enemy (cf. 1 Samuel 30:26).

Verses 21-25

Sharing spoil with David’s followers 30:21-25

The rest of the chapter describes the distribution of plunder from this battle. The amount of space the writer devoted to this revelation shows that he intended to stress it.

David returned to his 200 exhausted followers at the Besor Brook and greeted them (cf. 1 Samuel 17:22; 1 Samuel 25:5-6). David was a greeter who saw the importance of initiating friendly contact with others. The New Testament frequently exhorts believers to greet one another. Some of the soldiers who had participated in combat with the Amalekites did not want to share the booty with those who had guarded the baggage (cf. 1 Samuel 30:24). Saul had had his critics too (cf. 1 Samuel 10:27). David, however, took a different view of things. He saw that God had given them this victory; the spoil was not essentially what the combat soldiers had won but what the Lord had given His people, along with protection (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:8; Matthew 20:12-15). Yahweh was the real deliverer of Israel (cf. 1 Samuel 17:46-47). Again, this illustrates David’s perception of God’s relation to Israel and to himself, which was so different from Saul’s view. His generous policy of dividing the spoils of war so the non-combatants would receive a portion (1 Samuel 30:24-31) was in harmony with the Mosaic Law (Numbers 31:27). This policy further prepared the way for the Judahites’ acceptance of David as Saul’s successor.

Verses 26-31

Sharing spoil with the Judahites 30:26-31

David also distributed some of the war plunder to the elders of Judah. [Note: See Youngblood, "1, 2 Samuel," p. 795, for the locations of the sites named in 1 Samuel 30:27-30.] He evidently did so because he viewed the booty as coming from the enemies of all Judah, even the enemies of the Lord (1 Samuel 30:26). He may have also done this to curry favor with the elders. They later anointed David king over the house of Judah (2 Samuel 2:4; 2 Samuel 5:1-3). David’s propensity to give made his new kingdom possible.

"Many victorious kings have used surplus plunder to enrich themselves and to build grandiose palaces; David used these first spoils to show his gratitude to the citizens of those areas and towns in Judah where he and his men had wandered when being pursued by Saul." [Note: David Payne, p. 153.]

This chapter presents many qualities that mark strong, effective leadership. These include empathy (1 Samuel 30:4), faith (1 Samuel 30:6; 1 Samuel 30:8; 1 Samuel 30:23; 1 Samuel 30:26), decisiveness (1 Samuel 30:10), kindness (1 Samuel 30:12), persistence (1 Samuel 30:17), integrity (1 Samuel 30:23), fairness (1 Samuel 30:24), and generosity (1 Samuel 30:21-31), to name a few. We can also see development in David’s restraint as compared to his dealings with Nabal (cf. ch. 25). David’s effectiveness also contrasts with Saul’s ineffectiveness as a leader.

"Saul, disobeying God’s prophet, defeated the Amalekites but lost his kingdom (ch. 15); David, seeking God’s will, defeats the Amalekites and embarks on his reign (ch. 30)." [Note: Youngblood, "1, 2 Samuel," p. 791.]

One of the strongest emphases in this chapter is David’s generosity. When God gives blessings, His people should view them as His gifts to us. We should share them with our fellow spiritual warriors and with our fellow spiritual citizens (cf. Hebrews 13:16; Romans 12:13; 1 Corinthians 12:14-26; Galatians 6:10).

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 30". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/1-samuel-30.html. 2012.
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