The Word Made Fresh
1David and his men reached Ziklag three days later and found that the Amalekites had raided Ziklag and the area around the Negeb wilderness. They had burned Ziklag 2and had taken the people captive, the women, the young and the old. None were killed, but they were captured. 3When David and his men returned they found the town in ashes and their wives and children gone. 4They wept bitterly until they were exhausted with grief. 5David’s wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal from Carmel had also been taken. 6David found himself in danger from his own men, who were angry with him because their families were gone, but he took courage in the LORD his God. 7He asked the priest, Abiathar son of Ahimelech, to bring the sacred vestments. 8Then he asked the LORD, “Should I chase the raiders? If I do, will I catch them?”
The LORD’s answer was, “Yes. Go after them quickly and you will surely overtake them and rescue your people.”
9Then he and his men, six hundred of them, went after the raiders. When they came to the Besor wadi some of them were exhausted. They remained there, two hundred of them, 10but David and the other four hundred continued their pursuit.
11Some of his men came across an Egyptian in the wilderness and brought him to David, who gave him bread and water 12and a cake of figs and two clumps of raisins, and he was revived. He said he hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for three days and nights. 13David asked him, “Who do you belong to? Where are you from?”
“I’m from Egypt,” he said. “But an Amalekite owns me. He left me behind because I became ill three days ago. 14We had raided the Cherethites, some settlements in Judah and parts of the Negeb belonging to the Calebites, and we burned Ziklag to the ground.”
15“Will you lead me to this raiding party?” David asked.
He said, “Promise me in God’s name that you won’t kill me or return me to my master,” he answered, “and I’ll take you to them.”
16The Amalekites were having a big party when they found them scattered about their camp, eating and drinking and dancing, celebrating their raids on the Philistines and on the land of Judah. 17It was almost dark when David attacked them, and the fighting went on until the next evening. Only four hundred of the Amalekites escaped on camels. 18David recovered everything they had taken, including his wives. 19Nothing that had been taken was missing. All was there, sons and daughters, young and old, and all the spoils. 20He also captured their flocks and herds, and his men drove them ahead of their cattle, and the people said all of it belonged to David. 21They came to the two hundred men they had left, exhausted, at the Besor wadi, and David greeted them.
22Some of his men, corrupted by their success, said, “Since they didn’t go with us, they can have their wives and children, but they don’t deserve anything else we captured.”
23David wouldn’t hear of it. “Not so, brothers,” he said. “The LORD has protected us and given this to us from our enemies. 24Who would support such an idea? The men who stayed with and protected our supplies will receive the same share as the ones who fought. Everybody gets the same share.” 25And that is a general rule that has been observed since that day.
26When David returned to Ziklag he sent some of the spoils to his friends who were leaders in Judah. “This is a gift to you, taken from the LORD’s enemies,” he told them. 27Some of the goods were sent to friends in Bethel, in Ramoth Negev, and Jattir, 28to Aroer, Siphmoth, Eshtemoa, 29and Racal, and to the villages of the Jerahmeelites and the Kenites 30in Hormah, Bor Ashan, Athach, 31and Hebron, as well as other places David and his men had roamed.
1-6: When David and his men returned to Ziklag, they found that the Amalekites (the very people David had raided and whose women and children David had slaughtered — see 27:8-12) have raided the town and carried off the women and children. David’s men are distraught, and angry with David. But note that the text now says that God is David’s God, no longer Saul’s.
7-10: And now David has God’s counsel — the high priest and the priestly vestments to discern God’s will. He seeks and gains God’s approval for pursuing the Amalekites. Along the way 200 of his men collapse with exhaustion, leaving him with 400.
11-15: They come across an Egyptian slave in the wilderness. It turns out that he has been part of the group that raided Ziklag! In exchange for his safety, he agrees to lead them to the Amalekite camp.
16-20: David attacks the camp and kills all but 400 of the Amalekites and recovers his wives and all the families of his men, along with all their animals and other belongings that were taken.
21-25: Returning to the wadi where they left the 200 men behind, there is a brief disagreement about whether those men should benefit from the battle. David institutes as a general rule that all the troops would be paid the same whether they were in combat or merely providing support. We learn that the 200 had been put in charge of protecting some of their supplies.
26-30: It was recognized earlier that whatever wealth they gained in the battle belonged to David (verse 20), and now David puts it to good use. The Amalekites had ravaged the countryside of Judah, and now David acts as benefactor, restoring to the people of Judah much of what they had lost. His political skills are obviously considerable. He will benefit from this later, of course.
God had chosen David from among Jesse’s sons to be king of Israel, and God is slowly bringing things to a point where Saul’s reign will end, and David’s begin. This was a violent world, and as much as we might recoil at all the bloodshed, we have to accept the reality that it was necessary to move history forward and firmly establish Israel as the only people on earth to acknowledge and worship God, the only true God, so that faith could then spread through the rest of the world.