1 Samuel 30



David Destroys the Amalekites (30:1–31)

1–2 The Lord not only saved David from having to fight fellow Israelites but He also enabled him to arrive back in Ziklag earlier than expected—and it was a good thing. The Amalekites108 had just attacked Ziklag and carried off the families of David and his men. True, David’s men arrived too late to save their town, but they didn’t arrive too late to catch the Amalekite attackers and retrieve their families and property (verses 18–20). If David and his men had not arrived when they did, the Amalekites would have escaped and sold the captured women and children into slavery.

3–6 Naturally David’s men were bitter in spirit because of the loss of their families, but surely David was most distressed of all: not only had he lost his own two wives, Ahinoam and Abigail (1 Samuel 25:4243); but also his men were blaming him, as their leader, for their own losses. They even talked of stoning David to death (verse 6). However, David turned to the Lord and found strength.

7–15 David didn’t merely “find strength”; he found strength to act. And his first act was to consult God: David inquired of the LORD (verse 8). He did this by asking Abiathar the priest to bring him the ephod with the Urim and Thummim (see 1 Samuel 22:20; 23:6,9). Yes, David was trusting in the Lord, but he was also ready to step out in obedience to the Lord’s guidance. The Lord gives us both the strength and the guidance, but our action is also required for His plan to be carried out (see Exodus 17:10–13 and comment).

The Lord instructed David to pursue the Amalekites. David and his men were guided to the Amalekites’ location by an Egyptian slave who had been left behind to die by his Amalekite master (verses 11–13). The slave told David that the Amalekites had been attacking the southern desert area (the Negev) of the territory of Judah, including the Negev of Caleb109 (verse 14). The slave agreed to lead David to the Amalekite raiding party as long as David promised to protect him (verse 15).

16–20 God gave David success in destroying the Amalekites; only four hundred of them escaped (verse 17). Everything the Amalekites had plundered from Ziklag was recovered, including all the wives and children of David and his men.

21–25 When David was pursuing the Amalekites, two hundred of his men stopped partway because of exhaustion; they stayed behind with some of the supplies (verses 9–10,24). On the way back from the battle, David came to the place where the two hundred men had been waiting. But some evil men and troublemakers110 among David’s followers were opposed to sharing the plunder with those who hadn’t actually shared in the fighting (verse 22).

But David laid down a lasting principle: all of his men would share equally in the plunder, whether they had fought on the “front line” or not (verse 24). All were valuable members of the team. Those who stayed with the supplies had made an essential contribution to the overall effort; therefore, they too should be rewarded.

This principle is valid for all Christians today. Some are called to be on the “front line” of spiritual warfare; others are called to support those at the front. The “front-liners” couldn’t fight without the support of those in the rear. From this principle, the Apostle Paul drew the analogy of the church as a body, in which each member plays a different but important role (see 1 Corinthians 12:12–27). And God will reward each member not according to his or her role but rather according to his or her faithfulness in carrying out that role.

David also laid down a second principle: the goods that David’s men retrieved from the Amalekites were given by the Lord and were to be distributed according to His will (verse 23). It was the Lord who had given the victory; therefore no man had a greater right to the plunder than any other man.

This principle applies to us as well. All of our abilities, our gifts, our possessions—our “plunder”—are given to us by God; and we need to use and distribute these gifts and possessions as God sees fit. In fact, though God has “given” us all these good things, they really belong to Him; we are merely stewards of God’s gifts, and we must use them according to His will.

26–31 David sent some of the plunder to the elders of the tribe of Judah who were his friends; David had made many friends in Judah by attacking Judah’s enemies (1 Samuel 27:8). These friends would become his loyal supporters once he became king.