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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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1 SAMUEL 30

DAVID PURSUED THE AMALEKITES AND DEFEATED THEM;

DAVID AND HIS MEN RETURNED TO ZIKLAG


 
Verses 1-6
And it came to pass, when David and his men were come to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had made a raid upon the South, and upon Ziklag, and had smitten Ziklag, and burned it with fire, and had taken captive the women [and all] that were therein, both small and great: they slew not any, but carried them off, and went their way. 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. Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep. 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 spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David strengthened himself in Jehovah his God.

David and his men came to Ziklag
(1 Samuel 30:1). Young stated that, From the probable site of Aphek to the probable site of Ziklag is about seventy miles, so David and his men must have returned by forced marches.F1 Regarding the distance between those two places, scholars do not agree. Willis gave it as 80 miles; Cook estimated it at about fifty; and Philbeck's guess was nearly 60. Whatever the distance, it is clear enough that David and his men had covered the mileage as rapidly as possible.

Women, sons and daughters…
taken captive (1 Samuel 30:2-3). It seems to be an unqualified miracle that the Amalekites killed no one. In David's many raids against them, he had exterminated whole populations, sparing no one; and now, that the Amalekites had an opportunity to do likewise to David, they did not do it. Willis explained this as, Yahweh at work, guarding the relatives of David and his men.F2 No reason can explain this except that God restrained the Amalekites.F3 The carnal and selfish motive for the Amalekites not killing anyone might very well have been their intention of selling all those captives into Egypt as slaves. Both Young and Willis pointed this out. Probably the Amalekites killed no one because they intended to sell their captives on the Egyptian slave market. The fact that an Amalekite had an Egyptian slave (1 Samuel 30:13) suggests that the Amalekites traded slaves on the Egyptian market.F4

The providential watchfulness over David is also evident in the fact of his having been dismissed by the lords of the Philistines, releasing him to come to the rescue of Ziklag just in the nick of time.

The people spoke of stoning him
(1 Samuel 30:6). This was a threatened mutiny among David's own men, and it indicates the irresponsible and lawless nature of some of David's followers. As Caird said, How slender was David's hold on his outlaw followers; his authority depended upon the sheer force of his character!F5

As for the reason why they wanted to stone David, Dummelow thought that it was because, "They probably thought he had been negligent in leaving Ziklag unguarded."F6

DeHoff pointed out that, "When things go wrong, people generally turn on their leaders. Kings, presidents and governors have often become the objects of scorn due to matters over which they had no control. Faithful ministers of the gospel have many times been pushed aside due to events that neither they nor anyone else could have prevented."F7

David strengthened himself in the Lord
(1 Samuel 30:7). Here is the true magnificence of the character of David. When things went wrong, he always turned to the Lord. And how does one do that? The next paragraph tells us how. One does so by consulting God's Word and trusting it.

DAVID SOUGHT TO KNOW THE WILL OF GOD


 
Verses 7, 8
And David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, I pray thee, bring me hither the ephod. And Abiathar brought thither the ephod to David. And David inquired of Jehovah, saying, If I pursue after this troop, shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue; for thou shalt surely overtake [them], and shalt without fail recover [all].

This is evidently an extremely abbreviated account. The answers which God gave by means of the ephod and the Urim and Thummim were conveyed to the inquirer by the mouth of the High Priest, and it seems that the answer came to only one question at a time in the form of a plain "Yes" or "No." There are given here two questions and three answers, which most likely involved asking the three questions one at a time, with the High Priest giving the "Yes" or "No" to each question in turn. Thus what we have here is a summary of the procedure.

David's response to God's will here was positive and immediate. In spite of his men being fired even to the point of exhaustion, and without any supplies except what they might have brought with them (the city had been burned), David instantly gave the order to pursue the Amalekites.

DAVID AND HIS MEN WENT AFTER THE MARAUDERS


 
Verses 9, 10
So David went, he and the six hundred men that were with him, and came to the brook Besor, where those that 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.

But David went on
(1 Samuel 30:10). These are the big words in the passage. Every argument imaginable might have been urged against David's continuation of the pursuit. His men were exhausted; they did not even know what direction the Amalekites had fled when they left Ziklag; his troops were in a bad state of mind; but Glory be! David went on! Why? God had commanded it; and David very properly decided to obey the Lord no matter how hopeless the situation might have seemed.

DAVID DISCOVERED GOD'S ANSWER TO ALL THE QUESTIONS


 
Verses 11-15
And they found an Egyptian in the field, and brought him to David, and gave him bread, and he did eat; 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. And David said unto him, To whom belongest thou? and whence art thou? 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. We made a raid upon the South of the Cherethites, and upon that which belongeth to Judah, and upon the South of Caleb; and we burned Ziklag with fire. And David said to him, Wilt thou bring me down to this troop? And he said, Swear unto me by God, that thou wilt neither kill me, nor deliver me up into the hands of my master, and I will bring thee down to this troop.

What a providence was this! The Egyptian slave of an Amalekite knew the plans of the marauders, exactly where they would be, because, thinking themselves safely out of the reach of any enemy, they were indulging themselves in some kind of an uninhibited "fiesta," celebrating their supposed "victory" with eating, drinking and celebrating. Such an occasion might have lasted several days.

My master left me. because I fell sick three days ago
(1 Samuel 30:13). Here is the Biblical picture of the Amalekites. To them, a sick slave was of no more importance than a crippled horse.F8 His master left him to die in the desert without even a flask of water to sustain him; it must be that God Himself kept that Egyptian young man alive to be the key instrument in the vengeance of God upon those heartless Amalekites. Here, then, is the reason that God commanded David to move at once upon his return to Ziklag.

As Henry supposed, "That Amalekite, thinking that he should now have servants enough from all those captives from Ziklag, cared nothing at all for his Egyptian slave whom he left to die in a ditch without even a drink of water, while he himself was feasting and drinking"!F9

We made a raid upon the Negeb of the Cherethites
(1 Samuel 30:14). The other raids mentioned here were upon the territory of Judah; but, here, The word Cherethites is used as a synonym for the Philistines.F10

Armed with the marvelous information which this rescued slave gave David, he and his men arrived quickly at the camp of the celebrating Amalekites.

DAVID SLAUGHTERED THE AMALEKITES, RESCUED HIS PEOPLE, AND RECOVERED MUCH BOOTY


 
Verses 16-20
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. And David smote them from the twilight even unto the evening of the next day: and there escaped not a man of them, save four hundred young men, who rode upon camels and fled. 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. And David took all the flocks and the herds, [which] they drove before those [other] cattle, and said, This is David's spoil.

And when he had taken him down, behold, they…
(1 Samuel 30:16). Sometimes the Biblical use of pronouns is amazing. Here he stands for the Egyptian slave; him stands for David, and they refers to the celebrating Amalekites!

They were spread abroad over all the land
(1 Samuel 30:16). H. P. Smith believed that this feast they were having, Was very possibly a religious feast.F11 Their being deployed over such a wide area shows that they were utterly helpless against the kind of ferocious attack David and his men brought against them.

From twilight till the evening of the next day
(1 Samuel 30:17). Twilight may mean the morning twilight or the evening twilight. If the attack began in the morning twilight, it ended in the evening of the same day, as we would reckon the time; but the Jewish day began at sundown, so it is called the evening of the next day here.

Not a man. escaped, except the four hundred
(1 Samuel 30:17). From this, we must conclude that perhaps as many as a couple of thousand made up the force of the raiding Amalekites; and, in answer to the question of how could David and only four hundred men have killed so many people, the answer is simple enough. As Henry suggested: They were celebrating, eating and drinking; many of them were doubtless drunk; they were off their guard; they might not even have had their weapons ready, and they were completely surprised;F12 and David's 400, angry, hardened soldiers would have had no difficulty at all in killing four men each, which is all it might have taken.

This is David's spoil
(1 Samuel 30:20). Caird's comment here is important. The text here is corrupt beyond recovery, but it is clear that David and his men captured additional booty besides recovering their own possessions. However, it is not necessary to accept this libel on David that he appropriated all the cattle for himself. Indeed, it is abundantly clear from the sequel that he did not.F13 PorterF14 also concurred in this judgment, quoting Kennedy that, To the suggestion that this sounds selfish, he says, `A corrupt and unintelligible text is responsible.'F15

THE KEEPERS OF THE BAGGAGE SHARED THE PLUNDER ALONG WITH THE FIGHTERS


 
Verses 21-25
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. Then answered all the wicked men and base fellows, of those that went with David, and said, Because they went not with us, we will not give them aught of the spoil that we have recovered, save to every man his wife and his children, that he may lead them away, and depart. Then said David, Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which Jehovah hath given unto us, who hath preserved us, and delivered the troop that came against us into our hand. And who will hearken unto you in this matter? for as his share is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his share be that tarrieth by the baggage: they shall share alike. And it was so from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel unto this day.

All the wicked and base fellows who had gone with David
(1 Samuel 30:22). We believe this to have been a small minority of David's men; and, Possibly David's question in 1 Sam. 30:24 implies this, `Who (i. e., of the rest of the men who continued) would listen to you in this matter'? The proposal that the two hundred depart apparently meant that they would no longer be allowed to be David's soldiers.F16 Thus that wicked minority in David's men were willing to treat two hundred of their fellow-soldiers just like the cruel Amalekites had treated that Egyptian slave.

They shall share and share alike
(1 Samuel 30:24). H. P. Smith, and apparently Briggs, classified these words among the almost countless additionsF17 and interpolations they pointed out in First Samuel, but true to the knee-jerk conduct of radical critics, they missed the only expression in the whole paragraph that most probably is an interpolation. As we have frequently pointed out, any expression such as the words, to this day should be viewed with suspicion as an addition from some copyist. Caird gives us an excellent example of the critical use of a passage like 1 Sam. 30:25.

"David here initiates a piece of case law, which, once promulgated, became a precedent for all future occasions. This is quite obviously the first time that the question has arisen in Israel, and David's pronouncement is the source and not a repetition of the law found in Num. 31:27-47."F18 A comment like this has only one purpose, i.e., the establishment of the false theory of a late date for the Pentateuch, which is the darling of radical critics. We thank God that a very high ranking scholar in the person of John Willis has effectively denied and refuted such allegations.

"The principle that those who fight must share the spoil with the people appears in Num. 31:27-47 and in Josh. 22:8. David is not establishing a new law here, but enforcing an earlier law or principle which had been established long before his time."F19

Thus, Caird's comment that, "This was the first time the question had arisen in Israel," can be explained only as a denial of what God's Word plainly says. Joshua (and he was a long time before David) sent the troops back home with the command that they were to, "Divide the spoil of your enemies with your brothers"! (Joshua 22:8). It is the apparent implication of 1 Sam. 30:25 that this action of David was some kind of a precedent that strongly supports the proposition that the passage might be an interpolation.

Another very questionable line in 1 Sam. 30:25 is the mention that "from that day" David made it a statute and an ordinance in Israel. Indeed! Indeed! How could an outlaw have done that? David was not yet king, but a fugitive, a vassal of a Philistine overlord; and the proposition that "from that day" David enforced a law over all Israel is simply not true. It was a prior injunction in the Law of Moses that David here honored.

DAVID'S DISTRIBUTION OF THE ABUNDANT SPOIL


 
Verses 26-31
And when David came to Ziklag, he sent of the spoil unto the elders of Judah, even to his friends, saying, Behold, a present for you of the spoil of the enemies of Jehovah: To them that were in Beth-el, and to them that were in Ramoth of the South, and to them that were in Jattir, and to them that were in Aroer, and to them that were in Siphmoth, and to them that were in Eshtemoa, and to them that were in Racal, and to them that were in the cities of the Jerahmeelites, and to them that were in the cities of the Kenites, and to them that were in Hormah, and to them that were in Bor-ashan, and to them that were in Athach, and to them that were in Hebron, and to all the places where David himself and his men were wont to haunt.

Part of the spoil to his friends
(1 Samuel 30:26). That David was able from the spoil of the Amalekites to send substantial gifts to all of the friends mentioned in this extensive list emphasizes the enormity of that wealth which he had been able to seize. Dummelow cited two reasons for David's action in this: Gratitude for those people of Judah who had fed and supported him while he was a fugitive from Saul and also policy, cultivating the friendship and support of those whom he would need during his move toward the throne.F20

All of the places mentioned here were from Hebron and southward. H. P. Smith identified Aroer with a place near Beersheba,F21 and although Racal is said to be unknown, the same scholar noted that it probably means Carmel, which, of course, we should have expected to be in the list.

Hebron
(1 Samuel 30:21). It is significant that David sent part of the spoil to Hebron, because later when he became king over Judah, he made Hebron his capital.F22

For all the places where David and his men roamed
(1 Samuel 30:31). Thus this is only a partial list of the places receiving gifts from the spoil of the Amalekites. During the twenty-two years following the death of Samuel, David had wandered to many different places. It is a marvel of providence that David was able to survive, and that when his fortunes began to change, he remembered all of those who had befriended and aided him.


Footnotes for 1 Samuel 30
1: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, Samuel, p. 292.
2: John T. Willis, p. 269.
3: Matthew Henry's Commentary, Vol. 2, 437.
4: John T. Willis, p. 270
5: The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 2, p. 1033.
6: J. R. Dummelow's Commentary, p. 195.
7: George DeHoff's Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 178.
8: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, op. cit., p. 292.
9: Matthew Henry's Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 440.
10: Albert Barnes, Samuel, p. 69.
11: International Critical Commentary, Samuel, p. 247.
12: Matthew Henry's Commentary, Vol. 2, 440.
13: The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 2, p. 2036.
14: The New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 404.
15: A. R. S. Kennedy, Samuel, The Century Bible. (Edinburgh, 1904), p. 185
16: John T. Willis, p. 273.
17: International Critical Commentary, Samuel, p. 249.
18: The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 2, p. 1038.
19: John T. Willis, p. 274.
20: J. R. Dummelow's Commentary, p. 195.
21: International Critical Commentary, op. cit., p. 250.
22: John T. Willis, p. 276.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 30". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=1sa&chapter=030>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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