Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 30

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-10

First Samuel - Chapter 30

Sack of Ziklag, vs. 1-10

On the third day from the departure of David and his men from Aphek they arrived back at Ziklag to a shocking discovery. In their absence the Amalekites took advantage of the opportunity to avenge themselves for some of the raids they had suffered at David’s hands. They had taken the town and burned it to the ground. However, the Lord had caused them to spare the lives of the women and children, though the distraught men probably did not know it at the time. David’s wives were among those missing, and all the men wept bitterly, until they were powerless to weep any more.

Some of David’s mistakes were beginning to catch up with him in this trail, for he must have been out of the place the Lords wanted him here in the Philistine country. The Scriptures state, "David was greatly distressed." There were several reasons for this: 1) His own wives, Ahinoam and Abigail, were among those captured; 2) there were threats against his life by the deeply aggrieved men, some of whom wished to stone him; 3) it was clearly a chastisement of the Lord. Very likely the men, or some of them, were opposed to going to the war against Israel in the first place. David’s insistence on going with the pagan army had led to this terrible catastrophe. It was very uncommon for the boys not to have been slaughtered, the women ravished, and the girls put into slavery. Thus one can appreciate the feeling of the poor men of David.

One of the marks of David’s greatness, so stressed later in his life, appears here. He repented and sought the will of the Lord. He sent for Abiathar the priest with the ephod to inquire of the will of God. David inquired whether he would overtake the enemy if he pursued after them. Not only did the Lord respond that he should pursue and would overtake them, but informed him also that he would recover all that the Amalekites had taken.

So David and his men pressed on immediately and came to the brook Besor. This was fifteen to twenty miles south to southwest of Ziklag in the wilderness area allotted to the tribe of Simeon. At this place two hundred of the men were too tired to get across the brook. After all they had marched many miles during the last four or five days, and the rapid pursuit from Ziklag totally exhausted them. These two hundred were left here at Besor with the camp gear while the remaining four hundred men pressed on in hot pursuit of the enemy.

Verses 11-20

The Abandoned Servant Leads David to Victory, vs. 11-20

In their pursuit David and his men found an abandoned Egyptian from the raiding party wandering in the field, or perhaps lying exhausted. It appears that he was unable to communicate with them in his weakness. So they brought him to David, fed him and gave him water. As he grew stronger they gave him cakes of dried figs and raisins until his spirit was revived. They found that he had had nothing to eat or to drink for three days and nights. When they inquired of him it was found that he had fallen ill, and being too sick to travel, had been abandoned by his master lest he deter them in their flight.

The Egyptian servant informed David of the activities of the marauders. They had struck all along the border area of southern Canaan, against the Cherethites, who were a kindred tribe of the Philistines, but also friends of Judah; against the southern areas of the tribe of Judah; and against the southern lands allotted to Caleb (Joshua 15:15 and context). In the course of their pillage they had struck Ziklag and burned it.

David inquired whether the servant could direct him to the encampment of the Amalekites and the man agreed to do so if David swore not to kill him or return him to his master. David must have agreed, for they soon overtook the raiding party and surprised them in celebration of their success. They were scattered over the area, feasting and drinking, dancing and enjoying the spoil they had taken. David began a slaughter of them which continued that night and until the evening of the next day. They were utterly smitten, only four hundred escaping on camels.

David and his men recovered all the things he had lost, including all the wives and children, with the loss of no life. They "recovered all." In addition to the animals of David’s men which they had taken there were droves of other animals which fell into their hands. These they drove before those recovered, calling it "David’s spoil," as they returned.

Verses 21-31

The Spoil Distributed, vs. 21-31

As David and his four hundred triumphant men returned with their recovered families, and goods and with a great amount of spoil in addition, they met the two hundred who had been left at Besor coming to meet them. They had been too exhausted to continue the pursuit and were left guarding the baggage while the others went on to victory. Doubtless they were as anxious for the -welfare of their loved ones as had been the stronger who had persisted, and as soon as sufficiently recovered set out to meet their comrades. David greeted them pleasantly.

There were those in David’s army, in the majority who had borne the brunt of the battle, who held a grudge against these two hundred who had not participated in the fight. They are characterized as wicked and men of Belial. It is to be remembered that many such shady characters as these had been with David from the beginning of his exile (1 Samuel 22:2). These did not wish to divide the spoil with the two hundred, but only to give them their wives and children and to dismiss them from the company. David, however, would not allow this and sternly rebuked the fault finders.

!n answering the men who did not wish to divide the spoil with the two hundred who remained at Besor David reminded them that it was the Lord who enabled them to win the victory and who had therefore given them the spoil. They had been preserved by a clear act of God, and the majority of all the men would not hearken to such an evil proposal. David decreed that those who tarried by the stuff should share in the spoil in the same measure as did those who went to the battle. From that day it became an established law in Israel that the warriors who fought should share equally of the spoil with those who guarded the stuff.

Back in Ziklag David took portions of the spoil and sent it to cities and towns in areas from which his men had come and where they had found shelter when fleeing form Saul. It is interesting to note that Ziph and Keilah whose inhabitants had informed on David and aided Saul in his pursuit (1 Samuel 23:9-12,1 Samuel 23:19-20: 1 Samuel 26:1) were not included in those which received presents. Of the thirteen cities, towns, and areas mentioned, most are in the southern parts of the tribes of Judah and Simeon. Some of them are very little known, or are known by somewhat different names usually. Thus Bethel is Bethu.l (Joshua 19:4), Chorashan is probably the same as Ashan (Joshua 19:7). Hebron was the chief city of Judah, was allotted to Caleb (Joshua 14:13-15), and became a Levite city of refuge (Joshua 21:13). Jattir and Eshtemoa were also Levite cities in Judah (Joshua 21:14).

Lessons to be learned from chapter 30: 1) Chastisement will fall on those who veer from the path of Christian conduct; 2) in such situations it is always right to repent and seek the Lord’s will; 3) the Lord is ever ready to bless those who will rely on Him for help; 4) we should not falter in our battle because some cannot go on; 5) the eventual victory is for those who persist to the end; 6) one must not take credit for the victory, but give God the honor for making it possible; 7) those who must "tarry by the stuff" will share in the blessing of those won to the Lord on far fields.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 30". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. 1985.