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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 30

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-31


1 Samuel 30:1. “The south,” or the Negeb, the south country, so called by the Israelites as being the southern part of Palentine.

1 Samuel 30:2. “They slew not any.” Not from motives of humanity, but because they reserved them for slaves.

1 Samuel 30:6. “The people spake,” etc. “Because they sought the occasion of their calamity in his connection with Achish, with which many of his adherents may very probably have been dissatisfied.” (Keil.)

1 Samuel 30:9. “The brook Besor.” “Supposed to be Wady Sheriah, the deep bed of a winter torrent, which is distinctly traceable from the adjoining heights, in its sinuous course up to its source, far away in the distant hills of Judah. It is about thirty yards in width, and is flanked by high precipitous banks, pouring in the rainy season a copious volume of muddy water into the sea, but dwindling to a few stagnant pools in the dry season. The verdant bank of a stream naturally offered a convenient rest to the soldiers who, through fatigue, were unable to continue the pursuit.” (Jamieson.)

1 Samuel 30:11. “An Egyptian.” Taken by the Amalekites from his own country and retained as a slave.

1 Samuel 30:11. “Bread,” rather food, the kind being afterwards specified.

1 Samuel 30:12. “Cake of Figs,” etc. See on 1 Samuel 25:18. “Three days,” etc. According to the Oriental mode of reckoning, three consecutive parts of days were reckoned three days” (Jonah 1:7; Matthew 12:40, etc.). (Jamieson.)

1 Samuel 30:14. “Cherithites.” Doubtless a Philistine tribe (see Ezekiel 25:16; Zephaniah 2:5). “Caleb.” That portion of the Negeb which belonged to Caleb’s family. “The three regions which the Amalekites invaded are named from West to East. We hence see that the plundering expedition extended over the whole south country.” (Erdmann.)

1 Samuel 30:15. “God.” Elohim, not as in the case of Achish, by Jehovah.

1 Samuel 30:17. “From the twilight,” etc. Keil understands this to mean from one evening until the following one; but it seems more reasonable to refer the twilight to the early dawn, and so to conclude that the pursuit only lasted one day, and that David surprised them by a night march; to the evening, etc., may be read toward the next day, which according to Hebrew reckoning began in the evening. (See Erdmann.)

1 Samuel 30:20. The second clause of this verse is not, in the original, connected with the first, neither is the word other in the original. The verse is obscure, but the context shows that David not only recovered his own cattle, but took some from the Amalekites. (See 1 Samuel 30:26-31.)

1 Samuel 30:23. “My brethren.” “By this address he speaks to their hearts, and at the same time alludes to the fraternal relation in which they all stand to one another.” (Erdmann.)

1 Samuel 30:25. “So it was,” etc. A similar law in Numbers 31:27, only there the division is between the soldiery and those who stayed at home, the former having the advantage. David’s rule was perhaps a special application of the general principle; it was in force in the time of the Maccabees. (Transl. of Lange’s Commentary.)

1 Samuel 30:27-31. The inhabitants of the cities and villages here enumerated had without doubt shown kindness to David during his wanderings in the wilderness of Judah; they were all, so far as they can be identified, situated in the territory of Judah and Simeon, and with the exception of Hebron (see on 2 Samuel 2:1), they are unimportant. Bethel is not the famous city of that name, but probably Bethuel (1 Chronicles 4:30), or Bethul, in the tribe of Simeon (Joshua 19:4).



I. Return to the path of duty will not ensure deliverance from all the consequences of transgression. We may well take for granted that David had seen the folly and sin of taking his own counsel and ordering his own path, instead of seeking for Divine guidance and resting in the Divine promise; and that he left the camp of Achish, feeling that his “soul had escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowler;” that “the snare was broken,” and that his “help was in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth” (Psalms 124:7-8). But when he found what a calamity had befallen his family and his followers during his absence, and when he was upbraided as the cause of the misfortune, he learned a lesson which was repeated with a terrible emphasis in his later life, that the effects of sin often long outlive repentance and pardon.

II. But return to God in the way of duty will deliver from the worst consequences of transgression. Herein lies the all-important difference between Saul and David at this time. They had both been found in places entirely inconsistent with their calling, and unworthy of the honour which God had put upon them, and in both lack of faith in God was the cause of their fall. And chastisement had come to both in consequence—not only had Saul been brought into great straits, but David also had found himself in a position which to him must have been one of most painful perplexity. But here the analogy between them ceases, and the contrast begins. The retribution which came upon Saul drove him to yet more daring disobedience to God, even to an act of the most open defiance of His authority; but the retribution which fell upon David brought him back to the path of obedience, and when he was again in it the wall of separation which his sin had built up between God and his soul was broken down, and he could again look up to Jehovah for direction in his difficulties. Although he had not yet paid all the penalty of his wandering, the worst effect of it was done away with when he could in confidence inquire of the Lord in His appointed way. Henry says, “The only way to flee from God is to flee to Him,” and David, in common with all who have known both the bitterness of sin and the sweetness of pardon, proved this now and on many other occasions.

III. A sudden transition from adversity to prosperity is a revelation of character. The sunlight not only causes the flowers to spring out of the ground, but it also draws forth many creeping things which the frost held hidden beneath the surface. And prosperity has the same twofold effect upon human souls. While it enlarges the heart of the truly great man, and causes him to remember with gratitude the friends who have helped him in the time of need, it often narrows the ignoble soul, and makes a selfish man more selfish than he was before. For men are not covetous because they are poor, nor liberal because they have abundance; that which a man has does not make him what he is, or wealth and a bountiful disposition would always go together. The sudden good fortune which came at this time to David and his followers revealed the difference in their disposition; for while he desired that as many as possible should share in it, they would have withholden a portion from those of their own company who had been unable to go with them to the battle. But the root of this difference is to be found in this case, as in all similar cases, in the opposite view which men take of the wealth which they possess. In David’s estimation it was “that which the Lord hath given us” (1 Samuel 30:23); in the eyes of his men it was “the spoil which we have recovered” (1 Samuel 30:22). It is only when men receive all from God that they use it for God, and in so doing make their abundance a blessing and not a curse to themselves.


1 Samuel 30:6. The holy man here liveth when his heart dieth. As the sap in winter retreateth to the root, and there is preserved, so the saint in crosses retireth to God, the fountain of his life; and so is comforted. When David’s table of earthly comforts, which for a long time at best had been but indifferently spread for him, was quite empty, he fetcheth sweetmeats out of his heavenly closet.… The saint in the sharpest winter sits at a good fire. When abused by strangers he can complain to and comfort himself in his Father.—Swinnock.

1 Samuel 30:8. If it was a duty under the Old Testament, in an enterprise pertaining to war, thus to turn first to God before resolving on anything, that yet the spirit of the Old Testament carried along with it, and did not absolutely forbid, how much more among Christians under the New Testament should nothing of the sort be done without the Divine consent.—Berlenberger Bible.

1 Samuel 30:13. Here is a warning to Christian nations, who have, what the Amalekites had not, a clear revelation of God’s will in the Gospel with regard to slavery. It may be expected that he will visit them with retribution in mysterious ways of His Providence, when they least anticipate it, for acts of cruelty to slaves.—Wordsworth.

1 Samuel 30:24. This decree, that they who for good reasons (see 1 Samuel 30:21) tarry with the stuff shall share alike with those who go down to the battle, is not without its meaning.

In the heavenly Church of God,

“—His state

Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”


Moses, praying on the hill, contributed to the victory even more than Joshua fighting on the plain. And in the Christian Church provision ought to be made for prayer and meditation, and for patient study of God’s word, as well as for the more active exercise of pastoral duties (see 1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 4:13).—Wordsworth.

Those that represent God upon earth, should resemble him in their proceedings. It is the just mercy of our God to measure us by our wills, not by our abilities; to recompense us graciously, according to the truth of our desires and endeavours; and to account that performed by us, which He only letteth us from performing. It were wide with us, if sometimes purpose did not supply actions. While our heart faulteth not, we that, through spiritual sickness, are fain to bide by the stuff, shall share both in grace and glory with the victors.—Bishop Hall.

1 Samuel 30:1-26. Two Pictures. I. The sorrowful return.

1. He had left home without seeking the Lord’s guidance—apparently to fight against the Lord’s people—uncertain and unhappy.
2. He had returned, because distrusted, and sent away in dishonour.
3. He found his home in ashes and his family carried away captive.
4. His personal wretchedness was enhanced by the natural wrath of his friends. II. The subsequent joyful return. I. He leaves with explicit Divine direction and promise—to fight national as well as private enemies—hopeful and happy.

2. He returns victorious and honoured.
3. He has regained greater wealth than he had lost.
4. His personal joy is increased by the privilege of sending gifts to his friends. And what unites the two pictures? His sorrowful return led him to deep penitence, revived faith, and humble prayer, and from these resulted the joyful return. Sore afflictions, when rightly borne, often open the way to life’s sweetest joy.—Translator of Lange’s Commentary.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 30". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/1-samuel-30.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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