And it came to pass, when David and his men were come to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the south, and Ziklag, and smitten Ziklag, and burned it with fire;
Verse 1. - On the third day. David evidently could not have gone with the Philistines As far as to Shunem; for, as noticed in the previous chapter, it would have been impossible to march back to Ziklag in so short a time. But as he had gone first to Gath, where no doubt Achish collected his vassals, and then marched northwards with the army for two days, he must altogether have been absent from Ziklag for some little time. The Amalelkites. Doubtless they were glad to retaliate upon David for his cruel treatment of them; but, besides, they lived by rapine, and when the fighting men of Philistia and of Judaea were marching away to war, it was just the opportunity which they wished of spoiling the defenceless country. The south. I.e. the Negeb, for which see 1 Samuel 27:10. It was the name especially given to the southern district of Judah, whence these freebooters turned westward towards Ziklag. They would probably not dare to penetrate far into either territory. The word for invaded is the same as in 1 Samuel 27:8, and implies that they spread themselves over the country to drive off cattle and booty, but with no intention of fighting battles.
And had taken the women captives, that were therein: they slew not any, either great or small, but carried them away, and went on their way.
Verses 2-5. - They slew not any. No resistance was made, as the men of war were all away. It was probably for thus leaving their wives and families absolutely defenceless that David's people were so angry with him. As we are told in 1 Samuel 27:3 that the refugees with David had brought each his household with him into the Philistine territory, the number of women must have been large. The Amalekites spared their lives, not because they were more merciful than David, but because women and children were valuable as slaves. All the best would be picked out, and sent probably to Egypt for sale.
So David and his men came to the city, and, behold, it was burned with fire; and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captives.
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 captives, 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 encouraged himself in the LORD his God.
Verse 6. - The soul of all the people was grieved. Hebrew, "was bitter." Their great sorrow is pathetically described in ver. 4. But, as is often the case with those in distress, from grief they turned to anger, and sought relief for their feelings by venting their rage upon the innocent. Possibly David had not taken precautions against a danger which he had not apprehended; but, left almost friendless in the angry crowd who were calling out to stone him, he encouraged himself in Jehovah, his God. Literally, "strengthened himself in Jehovah, and summoned the priest to ask counsel and guidance of God by the ephod. DAVID'S PURSUIT OF THE AMALEKITES (vers. 7-16).
And David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech's son, I pray thee, bring me hither the ephod. And Abiathar brought thither the ephod to David.
Verses 7, 8. - Looking only to Jehovah for aid, David sends for Abiathar, who seems to have remained constantly with him, and bids him consult Jehovah by the Urim. In strong contrast to the silence which surrounds Saul (1 Samuel 28:6), the answer is most encouraging. Literally it is, "Pursue; for overtaking thou shalt overtake, and delivering thou shalt deliver."
And David inquired at the LORD, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all.
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.
Verses 9, 10. - Having obtained this favourable answer, David starts in pursuit with his old band of 600 men. So rapid was his march that one third of these dropped out of the ranks, so that the newcomers from Manasseh would have been useless, nor had they lost wives or children. The brook (or rather "torrent") Besor practically remains unidentified, as the site of Ziklag is unknown; but possibly it is the Wady-es-Sheriah, which runs into the sea a little to the south of Gaza. As there was water here, those that were left behind stayed. Hebrew, "the stragglers stayed." It seems also to have been wide enough to cause some difficulty in crossing, as it is said that these 200 were too faint, or tired, to go over the torrent Besor. From ver. 24 we find that David also left with them as much as possible of his baggage. Stragglers had no doubt been falling out for some time, but would here be rallied, and obtain rest and refreshment.
But David pursued, he and four hundred men: for two hundred abode behind, which were so faint that they could not go over the brook Besor.
And they found an Egyptian in the field, and brought him to David, and gave him bread, and he did eat; and they made him drink water;
Verses 11, 12. - An Egyptian, the slave, as we read in ver. 13, of some Amalekite, left in the field, in the open common, to perish. He had become faint and could not travel as fast as they did, and so was left behind with no supplies of food, for he had eaten nothing for three days and three nights. The Amalekites had thus a start of at least this time, or even more, as this slave would probably have carried some food away with him from Ziklag.
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 agone I fell sick.
Verse 13. - To whom belongest thou? As he was probably unarmed, and his garb that of a slave, David asks who is his owner and what his country. He learns from him besides that he was left behind three days ago because he fell sick. The word does not imply more than temporary faintness, and is that translated sorry in 1 Samuel 22:8. But his life was of too little value for them to mount him on a camel, or even to leave with him supplies of food, and so their inhumanity led to their destruction.
We made an invasion upon the south of the Cherethites, and upon the coast which belongeth to Judah, and upon the south of Caleb; and we burned Ziklag with fire.
Verse 14. - The Cherethites. The interest in this people arises from David's bodyguard having been composed of foreigners bearing the name of Cherethim and Pelethim. We here find the Cherethim inhabiting the southern portion of the land of the Philistines, and such was still the case in the days of Zephaniah (Zephaniah 2:5, and compare Ezekiel 25:16). As David retained Ziklag (1 Samuel 27:6), he appears to have chosen the men who were to guard his person from this neighbourhood, having probably been struck by their stature and martial bearing when dwelling among them. Hence it is probable that the Pelethim were also a Philistine race. Whether the Cherethim and the Philistines generally came from Crete to Palestine is a very disputed question, but they were certainly not indigenous, but immigrants into Canaan. Caleb. Upon the settlement of the Israelites in Canaan, Hebron with a large district in the south of Judah was assigned to Caleb the Kenezite, who with his clan had been incorporated into the tribe of Judah. Though the town was afterwards assigned to the priests, the whole country round remained subject to Caleb (Joshua 21:11, 12), and continued to bear his name. Evidently the Amalekites, beginning on the east, had swept the whole southern district of Judah before entering the country of the Philistines, where they no doubt burnt Ziklag in revenge for David's cruel treatment of them.
And David said to him, Canst thou bring me down to this company? And he said, Swear unto me by God, that thou wilt neither kill me, nor deliver me into the hands of my master, and I will bring thee down to this company.
Verse 15. - To this company. Better, "troop." The word signifies a band of soldiers, robbers, or the like. Required by David to act as his guide, the Egyptian consents upon condition that David bind himself neither to kill him, it being one of the unscrupulous customs of ancient warfare to put deserters, persons forced to act as guides, and even noncombatants, to death to save trouble; nor give him up to his master, who would treat him in the same way.
And when he had brought him down, behold, they were spread abroad upon all the earth, 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.
Verse 16. - When he had brought them down. Though left behind, the Egyptian knew the course which the Amalekites intended to take, and was thus able to bring David quickly up to them, as they would move slowly because of their large booty of cattle. On overtaking them David found them dispersed in scattered groups abroad upon all the earth (literally, "over the face of all the land"), eating and drinking, and dancing. More probably, "feasting." The word literally means keeping festival; but though they had solemn dances at festivals, yet, as is the case with our word feasting, good eating was probably the uppermost idea; still the word may have only the general sense of "enjoying themselves as on a festival." DEFEAT OF THE AMALEKITES AND RECOVERY OF THE WOMEN AND SPOIL (vers. 17-20).
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, which rode upon camels, and fled.
Verse 17. - From the twilight. It has been debated whether this means the evening or the morning twilight; but the words which follow, "unto the evening of the next day," literally, "of (or for) their morrow," seem to prove that it was in the evening that David arrived. Moreover, in the morning they would not have been feasting, but sleeping. David probably attacked them at once, and slew all within reach until nightfall. The next morning the battle was renewed; but as David had but 400 men, and the Amalekites covered a large extent of country, and probably tried to defend themselves and their booty, it was not till towards the next evening that the combat and the pursuit were over. As they would need pasture and water for their cattle, they had evidently broken up into detachments, which had gone each into a different place with their herds. The pursuit must have been prolonged to a considerable distance, as no more than 400 young men escaped, and even they only by the aid of their camels.
And David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away: and David rescued his two wives.
Verses 18, 19. - Recovered. Hebrew, "rescued," or "delivered." The word occurs again in the second clause of the verse, and is there translated "rescued." Had carried away. Hebrew, "had taken." In ver. 19 recovered is literally "caused to return," i.e. restored.
And there was nothing lacking to them, neither small nor great, neither sons nor daughters, neither spoil, nor any thing that they had taken to them: David recovered all.
And David took all the flocks and the herds, which they drave before those other cattle, and said, This is David's spoil.
Verse 20. - This verse, which is made unintelligible in the A.V. by the insertion of the unauthorised word which, is really free from difficulty. After David, as related in vers. 18, 19, had recovered the cattle carried oft by the Amalekites, he also took all the flocks and herds belonging to them; and his own men "made these go in front of that body of cattle, and said, This is David's spoil," i.e. they presented it to him by acclamation. It was this large booty which he distributed among his friends (vers. 26-31). DAVID ENACTS A LAW FOR THE DIVISION OF THE SPOIL (vers. 21-25).
And David came to the two hundred men, which were so faint that they could not follow David, whom they had made also 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.
Verses 21, 22. - On returning David finds the 200 stragglers, whom they had made to abide at the brook Besor. Rather, "whom he had, made to abide," as it was David's office to give such a command. The singular is supported by all the versions except the Chaldee, and by some MSS. David had made such men as were growing weary halt at the torrent, because it was a fit place where to collect the stragglers, and also, perhaps, because it would have required time and labour to get the baggage across. All the more wicked and worthless (see on 1 Samuel 1:16) members of the force now propose to give the 200, only their wives and children, and send them away with no share of the spoil. Besides the sheep and oxen given to David, there would be camels and other animals, arms, gold and silver, clothing, and other personal property.
Then answered all the wicked men and men of Belial, of those that went with David, and said, Because they went not with us, we will not give them ought of the spoil that we have recovered, save to every man his wife and his children, that they may lead them away, and depart.
Then said David, Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the LORD hath given us, who hath preserved us, and delivered the company that came against us into our hand.
Verse 23, 24. - Ye shall not do so, my brethren. David rejects their unjust proposal kindly, but firmly. With that which. i.e. in respect of that which, etc. Who will hearken unto you in this matter? Literally, "this word," this proposal of yours. David then enacts that those left to guard the baggage are to share in the booty equally with the combatants. Patrick in his commentary quotes a similar rule enacted by Publius Scipio after the capture of New Carthage (Polybius, 10, 15:5).
For who will hearken unto you in this matter? but as his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike.
And it was so from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel unto this day.
Verse 25. - That he made it. I.e. David. Having been thus enacted by him and practised during his life, no king henceforward would venture to change it. In the war with the Midianites Moses had ordered that half the spoil should belong to the combatants and half to the congregation who remained in the camp (Numbers 31:27). This enactment of David was in the same spirit. DAVID PROPITIATES HIS FRIENDS BY SHARING WITH THEM HIS BOOTY (vers. 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 the LORD;
Verse 26. - The elders of Judah. The spoil taken from the Amalekites and assigned to David must have been very large, as it was worth distributing so widely. He did not, however, send to all the elders of Judah, but to such only as were his friends. A present. Hebrew, "a blessing" (see on 1 Samuel 25:27).
To them which were in Bethel, and to them which were in south Ramoth, and to them which were in Jattir,
Verse 27. - Bethel cannot be the famous city of that name, but is probably the Bethul of Joshua 19:4, where it is mentioned as lying near Hormah and Ziklag. South Ramoth. Hebrew, "Ramoth-Negeb," called Ramath-Negeb in Joshua 19:8. Like Bethul, it was a Simeonite village. Jattir belonged to Judah (Joshua 15:48), and was one of the cities assigned to the priests (Joshua 21:14).
And to them which were in Aroer, and to them which were in Siphmoth, and to them which were in Eshtemoa,
Verse 28. - Aroer, a different place from that on the eastern side of the Jordan, mentioned in Joshua 12:2, is probably the ruin 'Ar'arah, twelve miles east of Beer-sheba. Siphmoth. Some village in the Negeb, but unknown. Eshtemoa (Joshua 15:50), the present village Semu'ah, south of Hebron.
And to them which were in Rachal, and to them which were in the cities of the Jerahmeelites, and to them which were in the cities of the Kenites,
Verse 29. - Rachal. Rather Racal, unknown, The supposition that it may be Camel is untenable. The Jerahmeelites; see on 1 Samuel 27:10, as also for the Kenites.
And to them which were in Hormah, and to them which were in Chorashan, and to them which were in Athach,
Verse 30. - Hormah. Anciently called Zephath. For the reason of the change of name see Judges 1:17. Chor-ashan. More correctly Cor-ashan, the same place as Ashan (Joshua 15:42), a Simeonite town (1 Chronicles 4:32) assigned to the priests (Joshua 6:59). Athach, never mentioned elsewhere, may be a false reading for Ether (Joshua 19:7).
And to them which were in Hebron, and to all the places where David himself and his men were wont to haunt.
Verse 31. - Hebron, destined soon to become David's capital (2 Samuel 2:1), lay about fourteen miles south of Jerusalem. For an account of it see Conder, 'Tent Work,' 2:79, sqq. In comparing the list of David's heroes (1 Chronicles 11:26-47) with this catalogue of friendly towns, it will be found that several of them came from them, and had probably shared his exile at Ziklag. Such were Ira and Gareb, Ithrites from Jattir, Shama and Jehiel from Aroer; perhaps also Zabdi the Shiphmite (1 Chronicles 27:27) came from Siphmoth. We find David in this narrative acting justly as a soldier, generously to those who had been kind to him in his wanderings, and forming friendships which he retained and cherished long afterwards, when from being a fugitive he had become a king.