A. David’s distress.
1. (1-2) Ziklag is plundered by the Amalekites.
Now it happened, when David and his men came to Ziklag, on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the South and Ziklag, attacked Ziklag and burned it with fire, and had taken captive the women and those who were there, from small to great; they did not kill anyone, but carried them away and went their way.
a. Now it happened: It certainly happened, but it didn’t happen by accident. God had a purpose for all of this in David’s life.
i. “On the third day indicates that David and his men covered about twenty-five miles a day on the march south from Aphek to Ziklag, where they would have arrived tired, hungry and expecting all the comforts of a welcome home.” (Baldwin)
b. The Amalekites had invaded the South and Ziklag, attacked Ziklag and burned it with fire: While David and his men were to the north trying to join the Philistine army, their own city of Ziklag was unguarded. The opportunistic Amalekites took advantage of the defenseless city, attacked it and burned it with fire.
c. Taken captive the women and those who were there, from small to great: Not only was the city burned, but all their women and children were taken away. There is a touch of the LORD’s poetic justice in all this. David brought this exact calamity on other cities. 1 Samuel 27:8-11 says during his time among the Philistines, David made his living as a bandit, robbing cities and whenever David attacked the land, he left neither man nor woman alive. The Amalekites were more merciful than David was.
i. God, who is great in mercy, does not discipline us as much as we deserve. Like a compassionate father He tempers the stroke of His hand with kindness and love.
2. (3-6) David and his men come upon the empty, burned city.
So David and his men came to the city, and there it was, burned with fire; and their wives, their sons, and their daughters had been taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep. And David’s two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite, had been taken captive. Now 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 his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.
a. So David and his men came to the city: As they came within a few miles of their city the hearts of David and his men must have brightened. As soldiers they were discouraged that they hadn’t been allowed to fight alongside the Philistines. But they knew they were coming home, and home meant family and familiar surroundings. But that bright thought quickly turned black as night.
b. And there it was, burned with fire: Even off in the distance they saw something was wrong. Smoke rose from their city, but it wasn’t the smoke of cooking fires. It was too much smoke for that, and the smoke was too black. They wondered why no one had come to greet them from afar off – where were their wives and children? Weren’t they glad to see them? But when they came to the city and saw it was a ghost town, a pile of burned rubble with no voice of the survivors, it seemed that everything was lost.
c. Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep: All was lost. At this point, David had nothing more to support him. No one in Israel could help him. The Philistines didn’t want him. His family was gone; all he owned was gone. Even his friends turned against him (the people spoke of stoning him). Every support was gone, except the LORD. That is a good place to be in, not a bad place.
i. David did not weep only because everything and everyone was lost. He also wept because he knew that he was responsible for it. No wonder David was greatly distressed. He is about as low in his backslidden state as a man can be; David is like the prodigal son who now sits in the pigpen.
d. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God: It took a lot to bring David to this place, but now he is here – God is his only strength.
i. David strengthened himself in the LORD his God. This was backslidden and wayward David. Why would God strengthen him? Because God is rich in mercy and grace, and because David was now completely broken, ready to be filled. Sometimes we think we have to achieve God’s blessing or strength, but David shows us another way.
ii. David strengthened himself in the LORD his God. He received the strength and felt it flow through himself, and was bold enough to ask for it and receive it from God. Before this, he didn’t see himself as weak but after coming home to a burned-out ghost town, David knew he was weak and needed God’s strength.
iii. David strengthened himself in the LORD his God. He didn’t wait for someone else to strengthen him. He didn’t say, “Well LORD, if You want to strengthen me, that’s fine. I’ll just wait here until You do it.” David knew that the LORD’s strength was there for those who wait upon Him, so he strengthened himself in the LORD his God. God’s strength was there for David all the time, but now he takes it for himself and will strengthen himself in the LORD his God.
iv. David strengthened himself in the LORD his God. This was much more than having a positive attitude. This was the strength of the living God making itself real in the life and heart of a hurting man. This was strength for recognition, strength for brokenness, strength for repentance, strength for determination to win back what the enemy has stolen. This is the same strength that would raise Jesus from the dead!
e. David strengthened himself in the LORD his God: How did David strengthen himself in the LORD?
i. David could remember God’s love. At this point of total loss, David now saw the love of the LORD in the rejection of the Philistine leaders. If God had not sent him back home through the rejection of the Philistines, it would have been months and months until he returned, and the situation would have been far worse. That which stung him before became sweet to him now, and a most precious expression of the LORD’s love.
ii. David could remember God’s promise and calling. He could shake his head, clear the fog and say, “I am a man anointed by God, called by God, and promised by God to be the next king of Israel. I have a high calling and promise from God, and He hasn’t taken it away. I need to start living according to that destiny.”
iii. David could remember God’s past deliverances. He could say, “This is a terrible spot, no doubt. But remember all the times when the LORD delivered me out of bad spots before? If He did it then, He will do it now. He didn’t deliver me before to let me perish now.”
iv. David took his only encouragement from the LORD. 1 Chronicles 12:19-20 gave David a reason for encouragement – men from the tribe of Manasseh came to him at this time and stood with him when others turned on David. But that wasn’t mentioned as an encouragement to David at all. “God was beginning to cure his servant by a bitter dose of distress, and the evidence of the cure was that he did not encourage himself by his new friends, or by the hope of others coming; but he encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” (Spurgeon)
v. What David said in his heart in 1 Samuel 27:1 got him into this whole mess; now, what he said to himself to strengthen himself in the LORD helped bring him out. “Some of the best talks in the world are those which a man has with himself. He who speaks to everybody except himself is a great fool.” (Spurgeon)
B. David wins back what was lost – and more.
1. (7-8) David inquires of the LORD.
Then David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech’s son, “Please bring the ephod here to me.” And Abiathar brought the ephod to David. So David inquired of the LORD, saying, “Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?” And He answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all.”
a. Then David said: In 1 Samuel 30:6, David strengthened himself in the LORD his God. Now it was time to do something with that strength from the LORD. First, David uses that strength when he inquired of the LORD. Of all the time David spent among the Philistines, this is the first time we read of him seeking God in any way. During his time of compromise and backsliding, David simply didn’t inquire of the LORD in this way.
b. Please bring the ephod here: David sought God with the help of the priest, almost certainly using the Urim and Thummim that were part of the priest’s ephod. An ephod was a special apron that priests would wear, to cover over their clothing, so the sacrificial blood and gore would splash on the ephod, not so much on their clothing.
i. It is likely that this wasn’t just any ephod; this was the ephod of the high priest, which had the breastplate of judgment (Exodus 28:15) attached to it (Exodus 28:28). The breastplate had in it a pouch with two stones, known as the Urim and Thummim (Exodus 28:30). When David inquired of the LORD, he probably asked Abiathar to use the Urim and Thummim.
ii. If the Urim and Thummim were discovered today, God would no more bless their use than He would bless a re-establishment of the Old Testament priesthood. The day for the Old Testament priesthood is past for us today, being perfectly fulfilled in Jesus Christ. But in David’s day it was commanded by the LORD. The Urim and Thummim were effective because God’s word gave them. In seeking God through the Urim and Thummim, David was really going back to God’s word for guidance, because it was the word of God that commanded their place and allowed their use. Today, if we have the same focus on God’s word, He will guide us also.
c. Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them? At one time David would not bother to even ask these questions. He would simply do it because when a soldier is attacked, he attacks back. But in returning from his backsliding, David brought everything to the LORD. Nothing was done just because it was done before. He asked God about everything.
d. Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all: God gave David something to do (pursue). Then, God gave David a promise in the doing (you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all). When God gives us something to do, He also gives us a promise in the doing.
2. (9-10) David pursues the Amalekites who conquered Ziklag.
So David went, he and the six hundred men who were with him, and came to the Brook Besor, where those stayed who were left behind. But David pursued, he and four hundred men; for two hundred stayed behind, who were so weary that they could not cross the Brook Besor.
a. So David went: God told David to go and pursue them, and David did exactly that. Obedience to the LORD is often that simple.
b. He and the six hundred men who were with him: David’s men were almost at a place of mutiny against him (the people spoke of stoning him, 1 Samuel 30:6). But now since he strengthened himself in the LORD his God (1 Samuel 30:6) and since he inquired of the LORD (1 Samuel 30:8) and since he did what God told him to do, his men are totally back on his side.
i. David went, he and the six hundred men who were with him implies that David said, “Men, I’m going. I have a promise from God for victory, and I’m going to believe it. It doesn’t matter if you come with me or not, because God is on my side, and if I have to beat the Amalekites all by myself, God’s promise will not fail.” Such faith stirred the hearts of the six hundred men, and they went with David.
ii. It was a magnificent sight – David and the six hundred men on the march again, this time not hoping to fight for the Philistines or for themselves, but off again on a mission from God. There wasn’t an army on earth that could beat David and his six hundred men when they walked in God’s will.
c. For two hundred stayed behind, who were so weary that they could not cross the Brook Besor: This might have discouraged David. As he pursued a significantly larger Amalekite army, he found that one-third of his men couldn’t continue. But David didn’t let this trial stop him. He set the one-third to work guarding the supplies, lightening the load of the 400 who continued, and he set out again, full of faith.
i. “But mark this, he was not delivered without further trial…. Many a leader would have given up the chase with one out of three of his troop in hospital, but David pursued with his reduced force. When God means to bless us, he often takes away a part of the little strength we thought we had. We did not think our strength equal to the task, and the Lord takes away a portion even of the little power we had. Our God does not fill till he has emptied. Two hundred men must be rent away from David’s side before God could give him victory…. Expect then, O troubled one, that you will be delivered, but know that your sorrow may yet deepen, that you may have all the greater joy by-and-by.” (Spurgeon)
3. (11-15) David and his men befriend a helpless Egyptian.
Then they found an Egyptian in the field, and brought him to David; and they gave him bread and he ate, and they let him drink water. And they gave him a piece of a cake of figs and two clusters of raisins. So when he had eaten, his strength came back to him; for he had eaten no bread nor drunk water for three days and three nights. Then David said to him, “To whom do you belong, and where are you from?” And he said, “I am a young man from Egypt, servant of an Amalekite; and my master left me behind, because three days ago I fell sick. We made an invasion of the southern area of the Cherethites, in the territory which belongs to Judah, and of the southern area of Caleb; and we burned Ziklag with fire.” And David said to him, “Can you take me down to this troop?” So he said, “Swear to me by God that you will neither kill me nor deliver me into the hands of my master, and I will take you down to this troop.”
a. Then they found an Egyptian in the field: As David and the 600 men pursued the Amalekites, they came across a man collapsed in the wilderness. It would be easy and logical, to ignore this man because they had a “much greater” mission in pursuing the Amalekites. But David and his men showed unexpected kindness and they gave him bread and he ate, and they let him drink water.
b. Then David said to him, “To whom do you belong, and where are you from?” David took a caring interest in this man. He showed simple care and kindness to a nobody. They didn’t just give this Egyptian food and water; they gave him care and kindness.
c. I am a young man from Egypt, servant of an Amalekite…. we burned Ziklag with fire: In showing unexpected kindness to this Egyptian, God showed David unexpected blessing. The Egyptian promised to guide David to the camp of the Amalekites.
i. “The emphatic ‘we’ at the beginning of verse 14 suggests that the slave participated personally in the Amalekites’ raids.” (Youngblood)
4. (16-20) David routs and spoils the Amalekites, winning back everything.
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. 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. So David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away, and David rescued his two wives. 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. Then David took all the flocks and herds they had driven before those other livestock, and said, “This is David’s spoil.”
a. Attacked them from twilight until the evening of the next day: As they caught the Amalekites in the midst of their victory celebration, David surprised them. They supposed that all the Philistine and Israelite armies were far to the north, preparing to fight each other.
i. Twilight is probably a bad translation here, and it should be from dawn until evening of the next day. “The Hebrew word nesep, translated ‘dawn’ in Job 7:4 and Psalm 119:147, has this sense here…. Having noted the situation, David and his men took some rest and attacked at first light, when the Amalekites would be suffering from the soporific effects of the feast, and least able to defend themselves.” (Baldwin)
ii. It was wise to attack the Amalekites when they were hungover from the party the night before. “Whom they found it no hard matter to stab with the sword, who were cup-shot before.” (Trapp)
b. David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away: Everything that the enemy took David took back. God gave him a complete victory because David strengthened himself in the LORD his God (1 Samuel 30:6), David inquired of the LORD (1 Samuel 30:8), David did what God told him to do, and David showed unexpected care and kindness to others.
i. God’s promise was proved true. When David inquired of the LORD, God promised You shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all (1 Samuel 30:8). The promise was fulfilled exactly, but it wasn’t fulfilled as David sat back passively and said, “All right God, now You can do it.” The LORD fulfilled His promise, but He used David’s actions to fulfill the promise. God’s promise didn’t exclude David’s cooperation, the promise invited his cooperation.
ii. “Brother, you will have to work and labour to extricate yourself from debt and difficulty, and so the Lord will hear your prayer. The rule is to trust in God to smite the Amalekites, and then to march after them, as if it all depended upon yourself.” (Spurgeon)
c. This is David’s spoil: God gave David even more than what He promised. He received spoil from the battle, beyond what was taken from Ziklag. This was a blessing straight from the grace of God.
i. We should come to Jesus, and by our free will give Him everything we have, everything we are. We give our lives to Him and say, “This is Jesus’ spoil.” We give our gifts and abilities to Him and say, “This is Jesus’ spoil.” We give our possessions to Him and say, “This is Jesus’ spoil.” We give our praise to Him and say, “This is Jesus’ spoil.” We give our time to Him and say, “This is Jesus’ spoil.”
ii. Some wonder why David was allowed to keep the spoil of the Amalekites when Saul was expressly commanded to not keep any spoil from that nation (1 Samuel 15:1-3) and was judged by God for not obeying that command (1 Samuel 15:13-23). The answers are simple: First, David had no specific command from God to destroy all the spoil from the Amalekites, as Saul did. Second, David recovered what the Amalekites took from others, though he recovered far beyond what was taken from his city. Third, David was not acting as the king of Israel representing the LORD’s nation, as Saul did. Simply put, in this case, the rules were different for David.
C. The spoil from the battle is divided.
1. (21-25) The spoils are distributed equally among those who fought and those who supported.
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. 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.” 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. 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.” So it was, from that day forward; he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel to this day.
a. Now David came to the two hundred men who had been so weary they could not follow David: When David was in swift pursuit of the Amalekites, 200 men among his company could not continue on. They made a camp where they were and lightened the supply load from the soldiers who continued. Now David returned to the two hundred men who stayed by the supply camp.
b. Then all the wicked and worthless men of those who went with David answered and said: When David returned, these men of the supply camp saw their own possessions among the spoils of battle and they wanted them back. The wicked and worthless men (apparently, there were some among David’s men) protested and said they could only have back every man’s wife and children, but none of their possessions.
c. My brethren, you shall not do so with what the LORD has given us…. 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 declared an important principle: the supply lines are just as vital as the soldiers and God will reward both “soldiers” and “supporters” properly.
i. Many people serve the LORD in invisible, behind-the-scenes ways, often supporting a much more visible aspect of the LORD’s work. God will support the hidden servant with the same reward as the prominent servant.
ii. The wicked and worthless men looked at the spoil and said, “We fought for this spoil and it is ours.” David looked at the spoil and said, “Look at what the LORD has given us.” When looked at from this perspective, it made sense to share. When the LORD gave David a great victory he saw it as the LORD’s victory more than his own.
d. A statute and an ordinance for Israel to this day: It became a standing principle in Israel. This principle should be declared and believed among God’s people today.
i. There is encouragement for the weary here. “You Little-Faiths, you Despondencies, you Much-Afraids, you Feeble-Minds, you that sigh more than you sing, you that would but cannot, you that have a great heart for holiness, but feel beaten back in your struggles, the Lord shall give you his love, his grace, his favour, as surely as he gives it to those who can do great things in his name.” (Spurgeon)
2. (26-31) David mends strained relationships.
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”—to those who were in Bethel, those who were in Ramoth of the South, those who were in Jattir, those who were in Aroer, those who were in Siphmoth, those who were in Eshtemoa, those who were in Rachal, those who were in the cities of the Jerahmeelites, those who were in the cities of the Kenites, those who were in Hormah, those who were in Chorashan, those who were in Athach, those who were in Hebron, and to all the places where David himself and his men were accustomed to rove.
a. When David came to Ziklag, he sent some of the spoil to the elders of Judah, to his friends: David knew that his time among the Philistines had strained his relationships with God’s people. Now he knew he must do whatever he could to put things right again so he sent some of the spoil to the elders of Judah.
i. This is the final step in David’s getting things right after his time of backsliding among the Philistines.
· David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.
· David inquired of the LORD.
· David believed God’s promise.
· David did what God told him to do.
· David showed unexpected care and kindness to others.
· David saw it as the LORD’s victory.
· David shared the reward with others.
· David did what he could to mend relationships.
b. Here is a present for you from the spoil of the enemies of the LORD: David sent spoil from the battle to more than 13 cities. Obviously, there was spoil to spare from the battle. In this David is a picture of his greater Son, Jesus Christ. When Jesus triumphed on the cross He won the greatest battle and He had “spoil to share.” He shared the spoil with His people, as it says in Ephesians 4:7-8: But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.” Jesus has spoil from His victory to give you!
i. David is a remarkable picture of Jesus in this chapter. Note these five points of association:
· We are like David’s men, David is like Jesus.
· We are like the weary ones left behind, David is like Jesus.
· We are like the Egyptian slave, David is like Jesus.
· We are like the spoil David recovered, David is like Jesus.
· We are like the elders of Judah, and David is like Jesus.
© 2022 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org