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Bible Commentaries

Pett's Commentary on the Bible

1 Samuel 30

Introduction

David Arrives At Ziklag To Find It In Ruins With All Its Inhabitants Taken To Be Sold Into Slavery By The Amalekites (1 Samuel 30:1-31 ).

David and his men arrived back in Ziklag after a two day march only to discover that it had been sacked in their absence. Taking advantage of the Philistine invasion which had fully occupied the warriors of both Philistia and Israel, a confederation of tribes of the fierce and nomadic Amalekites took the opportunity to ravage the towns in the Negeb (the extreme South of Canaan). Their purpose was in order to obtain spoil and slaves to be sold in Egypt. The size of the spoil that they took demonstrates the large scale nature of their invasion. This was not just one wandering tribe, but a gathering of a good number of them.

The consequence was that all the women and children of David’s men had been taken to be sold into slavery. Indeed David’s men were so angered by the fact that they were considering stoning David. Was it not he who had persuaded them to take up residence in this vulnerable town? Was he not responsible for its defence? Why had he allowed it to be denuded of protectors? Things were looking very uncomfortable. David, however, in this emergency, sought to the only One Whom he knew could help him in these circumstance. He turned to YHWH for strength and guidance.

The writer may well have seen in this attack by the Amalekites on Ziklag, (a city which at the time contained the weak and the helpless of those who were to be the foundation of the new nation of Israel/Judah), a parallel to what had previously happened under Moses. When Moses had begun the journey through the wilderness with the new nation of Israel, and with the conquest of God’s inheritance (Canaan) in his mind’s eye, the first adversaries who had molested God’s people were the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8; Numbers 24:20; Deuteronomy 25:17-19), and they had attacked the weak and the helpless among God’s people (Deuteronomy 25:18), only to give Moses his first victory after leaving Egypt. Now the weak and the helpless of the people through whom YHWH was again shortly to deliver Israel had been molested by the Amalekites, and the Amalekites were to be defeated again, in accordance with Exodus 17:16, by the one who would then go on to take over God’s inheritance. The writer possibly saw history as repeating itself.

Analysis.

a And it came about that, when David and his men were come to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid on the Negeb, and on Ziklag, and had smitten Ziklag, and burned it with fire, and had taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great. They did not kill any, but carried them off, and went their way (1 Samuel 30:1-2).

b And when David and his men came to the city, behold, it was burned with fire, and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captive (1 Samuel 30:3).

c Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep (1 Samuel 30:4).

And David’s two wives were taken captive, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite. And 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 for his daughters (1 Samuel 30:5-6 a).

a But David strengthened himself in YHWH his God (1 Samuel 30:6 b).

Note that in ‘a’ the tragic situation is described, and in the parallel David strengthens himself in YHWH. In ‘b’ the wives, sons and daughters are carried away captive, and in the parallel David has lost his wives and David’s men are grieved at losing their sons and daughters. Centrally in ‘c’ the great grief and loss of David and his men is described.

Verses 1-6

David Arrives At Ziklag To Find It In Ruins With All Its Inhabitants Taken To Be Sold Into Slavery By The Amalekites (1 Samuel 30:1-31 ).

David and his men arrived back in Ziklag after a two day march only to discover that it had been sacked in their absence. Taking advantage of the Philistine invasion which had fully occupied the warriors of both Philistia and Israel, a confederation of tribes of the fierce and nomadic Amalekites took the opportunity to ravage the towns in the Negeb (the extreme South of Canaan). Their purpose was in order to obtain spoil and slaves to be sold in Egypt. The size of the spoil that they took demonstrates the large scale nature of their invasion. This was not just one wandering tribe, but a gathering of a good number of them.

The consequence was that all the women and children of David’s men had been taken to be sold into slavery. Indeed David’s men were so angered by the fact that they were considering stoning David. Was it not he who had persuaded them to take up residence in this vulnerable town? Was he not responsible for its defence? Why had he allowed it to be denuded of protectors? Things were looking very uncomfortable. David, however, in this emergency, sought to the only One Whom he knew could help him in these circumstance. He turned to YHWH for strength and guidance.

The writer may well have seen in this attack by the Amalekites on Ziklag, (a city which at the time contained the weak and the helpless of those who were to be the foundation of the new nation of Israel/Judah), a parallel to what had previously happened under Moses. When Moses had begun the journey through the wilderness with the new nation of Israel, and with the conquest of God’s inheritance (Canaan) in his mind’s eye, the first adversaries who had molested God’s people were the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8; Numbers 24:20; Deuteronomy 25:17-19), and they had attacked the weak and the helpless among God’s people (Deuteronomy 25:18), only to give Moses his first victory after leaving Egypt. Now the weak and the helpless of the people through whom YHWH was again shortly to deliver Israel had been molested by the Amalekites, and the Amalekites were to be defeated again, in accordance with Exodus 17:16, by the one who would then go on to take over God’s inheritance. The writer possibly saw history as repeating itself.

Analysis.

a And it came about that, when David and his men were come to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid on the Negeb, and on Ziklag, and had smitten Ziklag, and burned it with fire, and had taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great. They did not kill any, but carried them off, and went their way (1 Samuel 30:1-2).

b And when David and his men came to the city, behold, it was burned with fire, and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captive (1 Samuel 30:3).

c Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep (1 Samuel 30:4).

And David’s two wives were taken captive, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite. And 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 for his daughters (1 Samuel 30:5-6 a).

a But David strengthened himself in YHWH his God (1 Samuel 30:6 b).

Note that in ‘a’ the tragic situation is described, and in the parallel David strengthens himself in YHWH. In ‘b’ the wives, sons and daughters are carried away captive, and in the parallel David has lost his wives and David’s men are grieved at losing their sons and daughters. Centrally in ‘c’ the great grief and loss of David and his men is described.

1 Samuel 30:1-2

And it came about that, when David and his men were come to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid on the Negeb, and on Ziklag, and had smitten Ziklag, and burned it with fire, and had taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great. They did not kill any, but carried them off, and went their way.’

After two days fast travel David and his men arrived back at Ziklag ‘on the third day’, only to discover that it had been invaded and burned with fire in their absence. For in their absence the various Amalekite tribesmen who inhabited the Sinai peninsula, seeing their opportunity to attack the vulnerable, had gathered in a confederation and had swooped down on the Negeb, including Ziklag, and had carried off the inhabitants to be sold into slavery in Egypt. Everyone had been taken, both small and great.

1 Samuel 30:3

And when David and his men came to the city, behold, it was burned with fire, and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captive.’

Thus on their arrival David and his men were confronted with a devastating scene. Their city had been burned with fire, and all their wives, sons and daughters had been taken captive. Not one remained. This was typical of Amalekite behaviour and helps to explain why their destruction was seen as necessary by YHWH with the safety of His people in mind. While Amalekites were roving around, no one was safe.

1 Samuel 30:4

Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep.’

The sight of their desolate city and the empty houses must have been devastating to David and his men, who had arrived with such hopes. It meant that all that they lived and fought for was lost to them. In one go they had lost everything that they cared for most. It is then no wonder that they wept at what they had lost until in the end they had no more tears. All that they loved was gone, and the situation appeared hopeless.

1 Samuel 30:5

And David’s two wives were taken captive, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite.’

Among those taken were David’s two beautiful wives, Ahinoam and Abigail, who were to be founders of his dynasty. Their separate mention emphasises the importance attached to them. But he was not alone in his loss. All the married men among them had lost wives.

1 Samuel 30:6

And 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 for his daughters.’

When he saw the desolation of his men, and recognised their bitterness towards him as a result, David was grieved at heart, not so much because they considered stoning him, as because of why they considered doing so. It was because they saw him as having failed them. For, along with their wives, all their sons and daughters had also been carried of, with the result that there were mutterings among the men about stoning David who as their leader had, in their view, to bear the responsibility for this dreadful circumstance. If only he had left behind sufficient men to defend the city, or if only he had not left it in the first place when he had clearly not been wanted, this catastrophe would not have happened. (We must remember that men do not think rationally under such circumstances. They have to find someone on whom to release their anger). And to a certain extent he knew that they were right. It had been his responsibility to ensure that the city could be defended, and that enough troops had been left behind for the purpose. And he had no doubt thought that he had, but he had been proved wrong. Thus he had failed them.

1 Samuel 30:6 b

‘But David strengthened himself in YHWH his God.’

But it is in such circumstances that combined spiritual and leadership qualities come out. Instead of despairing David promptly looked to YHWH and found strength. He knew that YHWH was with him and that while YHWH lived there was hope, even if he himself had made a mess of it. He knew that in his extremity YHWH was there with him.

Verses 7-20

David And His Men Pursue The Amalekites And Destroy Them, Recovering All That They Had Lost And More In Abundance (1 Samuel 30:7-20 ).

The Amalekites, aware that any opposition to what they had done was safely out of the way taking part on one side or another in the Philistine invasion of Israel, were no doubt quite relaxed and thus not as careful as they might have been, both in respect of getting their captives to Egypt as quickly as possible, and of ensuring that they put as great a distance as possible between them and any pursuers. Indeed they were so confident that there would be no pursuers that they found time to stop for a period of celebration at the multiplicity of their spoils. They were totally confident that by the time the invasion was over and David returned they themselves would have split into their separate tribes and have been long gone. What they did not allow for was the intervention of YHWH.

Thus when David consulted YHWH through the ephod he received the message that there was yet time to recover all the womenfolk and children, together with all their spoils. As a result, greatly encouraged, he set out with all haste with his partly exhausted men (who had already just endured a three day march), and was able to overtake the Amalekites while they were celebrating, (and had no doubt got themselves into a drunken state), and give them a thorough trouncing, so thorough indeed that the only ones who were able to make their escape were four camel units of young men. The remainder of the tribe were mercilessly slaughtered. It should be noted that this was simply carrying out the requirements of YHWH with respect to these merciless brigands, brigands who were a constant threat towards all civilised people. They were the terrorists of their day. Thus while Saul was facing disaster because of his prior disobedience in respect of the Amalekites, David was obeying YHWH with respect to them. He was being obedient to God’s commandments

Analysis.

a And David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, “I pray you, bring me here the ephod. And Abiathar brought there the ephod to David (1 Samuel 30:7).

b And David enquired of YHWH, saying, “If I pursue after this troop, will I overtake them?” And he answered him, “Pursue, for you will surely overtake them, and will without fail recover all” (1 Samuel 30:8).

c So David went, he and the six hundred men who were with him, and came to the brook Besor, where those who were left behind stayed. But David pursued, he and four hundred men, for two hundred stayed behind, who were so faint that they could not go over the brook Besor (1 Samuel 30:9-10).

d And they found an Egyptian in the field, and brought him to David, and gave him bread, and he ate, and they gave him water to drink, and they gave him a piece of a cake of figs, and two clusters of raisins, and when he had eaten, his spirit came again to him, for he had eaten no bread, nor drunk any water, three days and three nights (1 Samuel 30:11-12).

e And David said to him, “To whom do you belong? And from where are you?” And he said, “I am a young man of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite, and my master left me, because three days ago I fell sick” (1 Samuel 30:13).

f “We made a raid upon the Negeb of the Cherethites, and on that which belongs to Judah, and on the Negeb of Caleb, and we burned Ziklag with fire” (1 Samuel 30:14).

e And David said to him, “Will you bring me down to this band?” And he said, “Swear to me by God, that you will neither kill me, nor deliver me up into the hands of my master, and I will bring you down to this band” (1 Samuel 30:15).

d And when he had brought him down, behold, they were spread abroad over all the ground, eating and drinking, and dancing, because of all the great spoil that they had taken out of the land of the Philistines, and out of the land of Judah (1 Samuel 30:16).

c And David smote them from the twilight even to the evening of the next day: and there escaped not a man of them, save four hundred young men, who rode on camels and fled (1 Samuel 30:17).

b And David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and David rescued his two wives. And there was nothing lacking to them, neither small nor great, neither sons nor daughters, neither spoil, nor anything that they had taken to them, David brought back all (1 Samuel 30:18-19).

a And David took all the flocks and the herds, which they drove before those other cattle, and said, “This is David’s spoil” (1 Samuel 30:20).

1 Samuel 30:7

And David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, “I pray you, bring me here the ephod. And Abiathar brought there the ephod to David.’

Having had time to consider the situation in which they found themselves David called for Abiathar the High Priest so that he could consult YHWH. And he called on him to bring the ephod, which incorporated the breastpouch in which were the Urim and Thummim. For while Saul could obtain no answer through the Urim (demonstrating that Saul had set up a rival High Priest (Zadok) and had provided parallel vestments for him), David was able to do so. This was the difference between the two men. One was rejected by YHWH and out of touch, the other was in constant touch with YHWH (compare 1 Samuel 23:9).

1 Samuel 30:8

And David enquired of YHWH, saying, “If I pursue after this troop, will I overtake them?” And he answered him, “Pursue, for you will surely overtake them, and will without fail recover all.” ’

Once Abiathar had brought the ephod David then submitted his questions. If it is correct that the Urim and Thummim could only answer ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘no answer’ he must clearly have asked two questions. Firstly whether they would overtake the Amalekites, and then whether they would recover all, these being then interpreted in depth by Abiathar. But what matters is that either way David obtained YHWH’s answer, “Pursue, for you will surely overtake them, and will without fail recover all.”

1 Samuel 30:9

So David went, he and the six hundred men who were with him, and came to the brook Besor, where those who were left behind stayed.’

Immediately on receiving the answer David summoned his men and set off after the Amalekites, not resting until they came to the Wadi Besor, where they no doubt stopped to refresh themselves. We do not know the identity of the Wadi Besor but we can presume that they must have travelled a good number of miles. We are given minimum information about what happened there, but we must probably see that David rapidly summed up the situation, recognised that a number of his men, through no fault of their own, were too exhausted to travel quickly enough and were thus holding them up, and that they were also being slowed down by the baggage that they had necessarily brought with them for a trip into the desert, and decided to reorganise his men into four active units of the most fit, and leave two units behind to recover themselves and guard the baggage (1 Samuel 30:24), while he and the four slimmed down units proceeded forward at all speed. (We may possibly see that the six units were under the command of ‘the first three’ and ‘the second three’, although that is only surmise (2 Samuel 23:8-23)). It is far more likely that David as a good general quickly summed up the situation, than that the exhausted men themselves, who had their pride to consider, drew back from crossing the wadi.

1 Samuel 30:10

But David pursued, he and four hundred men, for two hundred stayed behind, who were so faint that they could not go over the brook Besor.’

Now aware that they must be catching up with the Amalekite raiders David and his four reorganised units sped onwards, less encumbered by baggage, leaving behind them the two units made up of the men who had found crossing the Wadi Besor a step too far. These last would provide the base to which the remainder could return when their provisions ran out, or when victory had been accomplished.

1 Samuel 30:11

And they found an Egyptian in the field, and brought him to David, and gave him food, and he ate, and they gave him water to drink.’

David’s scouts then came across an Egyptian in the countryside, in the last stages of exhaustion and unable to communicate, and brought him to David, who arranged for him to receive the basic food and water which he clearly needed in his exhausted state. This discovery was of huge importance, for it was to identify who their enemies were, and where they had taken refuge. It was evidence that YHWH was aiding their search.

1 Samuel 30:12

And they gave him a piece of a cake of figs, and two clusters of raisins, and when he had eaten, his spirit came again to him, for he had eaten no bread, nor drunk any water, three days and three nights.’

The food that they gave him was energy producing food (as they would know by experience), easily digestible, with the result that he soon showed signs of coming back to full consciousness and eventually sat up. Their hope, of course, was that he might be able to give them some information about who had passed that way.

“Three days and three nights” is a phrase that, in spite of its seeming preciseness, can in fact simply indicate a day, two part days and two nights, e.g. in our terminology Monday to Wednesday, or Tuesday to Thursday, etc (compare 1 Samuel 30:13 - ‘three days ago’). A part day could be spoken of as ‘a day and a night’ because the day was seen as including the night. It was simply a way of speaking. This was certainly so later among the Jews. (We can compare how Jesus was to be in the grave ‘three days and three nights’ (Matthew 12:40) and was yet raised again on ‘the third day’).

1 Samuel 30:13

And David said to him, “To whom do you belong? And from where are you?” And he said, “I am a young man of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite, and my master left me, because three days ago I fell sick.” ’

Seeing that the young man was now able to speak David immediately questioned him, asking him who he was and where he had come from. His answer must have quickened all their hearts, for he revealed that he was an Egyptian and that he had indeed been the slave of one of the men who had attacked Ziklag. But he had fallen sick and so had callously been left behind to die by his master, seemingly without any provision for his welfare. As a slave he was simply seen as dispensable. That had been a day or so before.

1 Samuel 30:14

We made a raid upon the Negeb of the Cherethites, and on that which belongs to Judah, even on the Negeb of Caleb, and we burned Ziklag with fire.”

He also identified the nature of the expedition that his master had been on. They had raided the Negeb of the Cherethites (like the Pelethites, the Cherethites were a section of the Philistines, compare 2 Samuel 15:18; Ezekiel 25:16; Zephaniah 2:5) and the Negeb of Caleb which belonged to Judah (Caleb was a sub-clan of Judah - Joshua 21:11-12), and had then burned Ziklag with fire. This last was probably as a specific reprisal against David, because of what he had previously done to them, carried out when his back was turned and the opportunity had thus arisen. (With regard to the descriptions of the places attacked compare with them 1 Samuel 30:16 - ‘the great spoil that they had taken out of the land of the Philistines, and out of the land of Judah’).

The Negeb was the large area of half barren land, half pastureland which lay between Israel/Judah (and Philistia) proper and the Sinai desert. It had low rainfall but many oases (for the Negeb of Caleb compare Judges 1:15), and was suitable for pasturing flocks, and when irrigated through careful conservation of water from the Judean hills, could also be successfully cultivated. It was at this time seemingly occupied by the Calebites and other Judean sub-clans, by the Kenites and the Jerahmeelites, semi-independent allies of Judah, and by the Cherethites (Philistines).

1 Samuel 30:15

And David said to him, “Will you bring me down to this band?” And he said, “Swear to me by God, that you will neither kill me, nor deliver me up into the hands of my master, and I will bring you down to this band.” ’

Then David asked the Egyptian if he would lead them to where he knew the Amalekites would go, and the young man replied that if they would swear on oath that they would not kill him or hand him over to his master (whom he clearly hated and feared), then he would show them.

“This band.” The word is the regular one which indicates a band of roving plunderers, compare 1 Samuel 30:8 and 1 Samuel 30:23. See also Psalms 18:29.

1 Samuel 30:16

And when he had brought him down, behold, they were spread abroad over all the ground, eating and drinking, and dancing, because of all the great spoil that they had taken out of the land of the Philistines, and out of the land of Judah.’

True to his word the young man led them to the Amalekite encampment which would be at a well known oasis. And there they found the Amalekites rapturously celebrating their victories, gloating in their success and over the number of valuable slaves that they had taken, and quite content that there would be no pursuit, because all knew that David and his men were far away fighting against Saul and Israel. It had all been so easy, and they had brought back with them huge spoils, as well as the many slaves for the Egyptians to buy, both from the land of the Philistines (the Negeb of the Cherethites) and the land of Judah (the Negeb of Caleb). They were expecting no trouble and had thus decided to have a rest stage at this oasis, no doubt in order to divide the spoil and go their separate ways Thus as twilight came on they were almost certainly in a very drunken state.

1 Samuel 30:17

And David smote them from the twilight even to the evening of the next day: and there escaped not a man of them, save four hundred young men, who rode on camels and fled.’

They soon, however, discovered their error, for, waiting until twilight, David launched his attack catching them totally unprepared. They must have wondered who or what had hit them, and would certainly have had no idea of their numbers. They would be totally disoriented. (After all, in their view this was what they did, not what people did to them). The size of the Amalekite band comes out in that even so it took a full night and day before David’s men could finally stop the slaughter, for they were determined to search out and kill every last man wherever they hid themselves, so that no other roving band would ever dare to do the same thing again. It was in accordance with YHWH’s curse (Exodus 17:14-15; Numbers 24:20; Deuteronomy 25:19). The only ones who escaped were four camel units of young men who fled on their camels, which again emphasises how large the band had been. When they fled they no doubt assumed that they were being attacked by a much larger force. The surprise had been complete.

1 Samuel 30:18

And David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and David rescued his two wives.’

The fighting finally over David took stock and discovered that they had recovered everything that had been stolen from them, and more besides, and that that very importantly included David’s two wives, the future queens of Israel, and founders of his dynasty. YHWH was watching over David.

1 Samuel 30:19

And there was nothing lacking to them, neither small nor great, neither sons nor daughters, neither spoil, nor anything that they had taken to them, David brought back all.’

Indeed it is emphasised by the writer that nothing of what had been taken was lacking. As YHWH had promised (1 Samuel 30:8) they had recovered everything, including their sons and their daughters whose delight and joy must have been beyond imagining. One moment they had been in a state of darkest despair and hopelessness, awaiting only life-long slavery, and the next they had realised that they were in process of being rescued and would soon be back in their fathers’ arms. They would no doubt have recognised the war cries of David’s men.

This preservation of captives was in fact common among such raiding tribesmen. One of the purposes of their raids was in fact in order to obtain slaves for sale. They had not been spared because of any idea of morality. The thought had been cynical and commercial. David’s concern, in contrast, was in order to prevent further raids. he was not looking for slaves.

1 Samuel 30:20

And David took all the flocks and the herds, which they drove before those cattle, and said, “This is David’s spoil.” ’

The idea here is presumably that ‘those cattle’ represented the cattle of their own which had been recovered, while ‘all the flocks and herds’ were those over and above what had been stolen from them, and were thus ‘David’s’ and evidences of his triumph.

The stress is on the size of the spoil and in the fact that it now belonged to David. something which was proudly and distinctly made clear by his men as they drove them before them and declared ‘This is David’s spoil’. This is in striking contrast with YHWH’s requirement to Saul when he slew the Amalekites, that no spoil should be taken because it was ‘devoted to YHWH’. But the circumstances were very different. That had been a solemn religious and sacred expedition, specifically carried out by YHWH’s anointed at His command, having in view the need to deal with the Amalekites as a people as a whole, as under YHWH’s curse because of their general behaviour towards Israel and others. All had had to see in those circumstances that Saul was not seeking any benefit for himself but was acting as YHWH’s judge and avenger. It was an act of sacred judgment being carried out as a direct result of YHWH’s command. Here on the other hand it was aggrieved and retaliatory parties who were recovering their own spoil, along with the extra which was to be returned to its presumed erstwhile owners (1 Samuel 30:26-31), but which meanwhile could be seen as ‘David’s spoil’. It was not an act of judicial and sacred judgment.

Verses 21-31

David Declares That All Must Share The Credit For The Victory, Both Those Who Fought And Those Who Guarded The Baggage, because The Victory Was YHWH’s (1 Samuel 30:21-31 ).

David’s concern for all his men is brought out by his treatment of the exhausted men whom he had left to guard the baggage at the Wadi Besor. He insisted that because all that had been won had been given to them by YHWH, all should be divided equally among all who had come on the expedition, both to those who had fought, and to those who had guarded their baggage and had thus ensured that they could move on swiftly and have somewhere to which they could turn if they ran out of supplies, or anything went wrong.

He then also proceeded to return to neighbouring friendly tribes and clans, something of what had been stolen from them, as a gesture of friendship and gratitude in return for the friendship that they had shown to him and his men when they had been hiding among them.

This last fact emphasises the huge amount of spoil that had been recovered. And it further indicates the large number of Amalekites who must have taken part in the raiding trips, almost certainly the result of the gathering together of a number of sub-tribes of Amalekites in a confederation, partly gathered in order to gain revenge on David because he had attacked and slaughtered their ‘brothers’, and also in order to take maximum advantage of the fact that Israelite and Philistine forces had been elsewhere.. This had been no ordinary raid by one tribe, as the fact that they had been able to take a fortified city like Ziklag demonstrated.

Analysis.

a And David came to the two hundred men, who were so faint that they could not follow David, whom also they had made to abide at the brook Besor, and they went forth to meet David, and to meet the people that were with him, and when David came near to the people, he saluted them (1 Samuel 30:21).

b Then answered all the wicked men and base fellows, of those who went with David, and said, “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them anything of the spoil that we have recovered, save to every man his wife and his children, that he may lead them away, and depart (1 Samuel 30:22).

c Then David said , “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what YHWH has given to us, who has preserved us, and delivered the band that came against us into our hand” (1 Samuel 30:23).

b “And who will listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be that tarries by the baggage. They will share alike.” And it was so from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel to this day (1 Samuel 30:24-25).

a And when David came to Ziklag, he sent of the spoil to the elders of Judah, even to his friends, saying, “Look, a present for you from the spoil of the enemies of YHWH.” To those who were in Beth-el, and to those who were in Ramoth of the Negeb, and to those who were in Jattir, and to those who were in Aroer, and to those who were in Siphmoth, and to those who were in Eshtemoa, and to those who were in Racal, and to those who were in the cities of the Jerahmeelites, and to those who were in the cities of the Kenites, and to those who were in Hormah, and to those who that were in Bor-ashan, and to those who were in Athach, and to those who were in Hebron, and to all the places where David himself and his men were wont to haunt (1 Samuel 30:26-31).

Note that in ‘a’ David saluted those who were his fellow-comrades and who guarded the baggage, and in the parallel he greeted the elders of Judah who were his friends and who had shown him and his men friendship in their time of need. In ‘b’ the base among the four hundred sought to hold all the spoils for themselves, because the others had not fought but had merely watched the baggage, and in the parallel David forbids it and lays down the rule the at the spoil will always be divided between all, both those who fought and those who watched over the baggage. Centrally in ‘c’ he emphasises that all the credit must go to YHWH,. and that therefore all is a gift from Him.

1 Samuel 30:21

And David came to the two hundred men, who were so faint that they could not follow David, whom also they had made to abide at the brook Besor, and they went forth to meet David, and to meet the people that were with him, and when David came near to the people, he saluted them.’

Returning triumphantly with their spoils David and his four hundred came back to the two hundred who had had to take time to rest and recover, the ones whom they had left at the Wadi Besor to watch over the baggage that they had stripped themselves of so that they could advance all the faster. And the two hundred, now fully recovered, came forward to meet and greet their comrades, and were themselves saluted by David. He knew that they had done all that they could, and did not want them to feel at all dishonoured. It was the act of a true leader.

The true man of God never despises those who do what they can, but are unable to reach the standard of others. He knows that very often they are the people whom God uses in His own way.

1 Samuel 30:22

Then answered all the wicked men and base fellows, of those who went with David, and said, “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them anything of the spoil that we have recovered, save to every man his wife and his children, that he may lead them away, and depart.” ’

But not all were as kind as David. There were some among the four hundred who, while doughty fighters, were lacking in compassion and human feeling. And these came to David and suggested that none of the spoil be given to the two hundred, apart from the returning to them of their wives and children. These should be given to them and then they should depart empty handed, made aware of their shame. They wanted all the spoil for themselves.

1 Samuel 30:23

Then David said , “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what YHWH has given to us, who has preserved us, and delivered the band that came against us into our hand.” ’

But David would have none of it. He pointed out that the spoil had been given to them by YHWH. It was YHWH who had preserved them and delivered the marauding band who had come against them into their hand. It was YHWH who had brought them back to Ziklag in time to be able to rectify matters. It was YHWH Who had sent them forth with the guarantee of victory. It was YHWH Who had arranged for them to find an Egyptian in the desert who could lead them to the marauders. It was YHWH who had arranged for the marauders to remain at the oasis in order to celebrate, and had got them into such a condition that they were in no condition to fight. All had been of YHWH.

1 Samuel 30:24

And who will listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be that tarries by the baggage. They will share alike.” ’

Then he asked them whom they thought would support them in their suggestion. He was confident that most of his men would agree that all who had taken part in the expedition should receive a fair share of the spoils. Indeed all had been necessary. They could never have left the excess baggage behind, knowing that it would be there when they came back, had it not been for those who were left to watch over it. So all were to share alike.

1 Samuel 30:25

And it was so from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel to this day.’

And that was the ordinance and statute that he established in Israel from that day forward, and was true ‘to this day’. That those who fought, and those who watched the baggage, would all share equally.

1 Samuel 30:26

And when David came to Ziklag, he sent of the spoil to the elders of Judah, even to his friends, saying, “Look, a present for you from the spoil of the enemies of YHWH,” ’

In his victory David did not forget those who had been friends to them in their greatest time of need, the elders of Judah in the Negeb towns. Much of the spoil had been stolen from them, and so once they had reached Ziklag, he returned it to them in an act of reciprocal friendship, indicating that it was a present to them from YHWH, and from the spoils that YHWH had taken from his adversaries (who were His enemies because they were the enemies of His people).

1 Samuel 30:27-31

To those who were in Beth-el, and to those who were in Ramoth of the Negeb, and to those who were in Jattir, and to those who were in Aroer, and to those who were in Siphmoth, and to those who were in Eshtemoa, and to those who were in Racal, and to those who were in the cities of the Jerahmeelites, and to those who were in the cities of the Kenites, and to those who were in Hormah, and to those who that were in Bor-ashan, and to those who were in Athach, and to those who were in Hebron, and to all the places where David himself and his men were wont to haunt.’

There then follows a list of all the places which benefited, and their very number indicates the amount of spoil recovered (and therefore the size of the band of plunderers that they had defeated). Here we learn that all these peoples had welcomed David and his men when they had been fleeing from Saul. They were the places which David and his men ‘had been wont to haunt’, i.e. had been in the habit of sheltering near. Not all had been like the Ziphites.

The names are all of towns and cities in the Negeb, or in the mountains of Judah. ‘Bethel’ was also known as Bethuel or Bethul, and was in the neighbourhood of Ziklag and Hormah, being shared by Judah and Simeon (Joshua 15:30; 1 Chronicles 4:30). For Ramoth of the Negeb compare Joshua 19:8. It was possibly the home of Shimei the Ramathite, overseer of David’s vineyards (1 Chronicles 27:27). Jattir was a priestly city on the south-west escarpment of the mountains of Judah (Joshua 15:48; Joshua 19:4), possibly the home of Ira and Gareb the Ithrites (2 Samuel 23:38). Aroer (not the one near the Arnon) is probably still commemorated by the Wadi Ararah, being some miles south-east of Beersheba. Shama and Jehiel, the sons of Hothan the Aroerite, are mentioned among David’s mighty men (1 Chronicles 11:44). Siphmoth is unknown, but may connect with Zabdi the Shiphmite, steward of David’s wine cellars (1 Chronicles 27:27). Eshtemoa was a priestly city (Joshua 15:50; Joshua 21:14), some miles south-south-west of Hebron. Racal is unknown. The Jerahmeelites (see 1 Chronicles 2:9; 1 Chronicles 2:25) and Kenites (see Judges 1:16) were semi-independent peoples linked with Judah. Hormah (which means ‘put under the Ban, devoted’; compare Numbers 21:2-3) was a former Canaanite city in the Negeb assigned to Judah and Simeon (Joshua 15:30; Joshua 19:4). Borashan means ‘cystern of Ashan’ (compare Joshua 15:42; Joshua 19:7) and was in the Negeb. Athach is unidentified. Hebron was a very ancient city (Numbers 13:22), known to Abraham and later captured by Caleb (Joshua 14:13-15). It was the major city in the mountains of Judah, and would later become David’s first capital.

There is much discussion as to David’s motives in this distribution of spoil, but there is no real reason for doubting that it mainly arose from gratitude to those who had treated him and his men well in the past. That he also did it as a prospective king of Israel, a position that had been promised to him a number of times in the past, we need not doubt, for he had the heart of a king, but it is only said to be to those who had welcomed him and his men in the past. It should also be remembered that he had refused to kill Saul and claim the kingship, even when he knew that he had the support of Jonathan, and that even his later approach to Hebron was only made after consulting YHWH. Thus while he was certainly a man aware of his destiny, he was also one who was prepared for YHWH to bring it about when he willed. He was not just a cynical politician or a power-seeker. He was a man who was aware that YHWH had His hand upon him, and he acted accordingly.

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Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 30". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/1-samuel-30.html. 2013.