1 Samuel 30
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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;
Ch. 1 Samuel 30:1-6. Sack of Ziklag in David’s absence

1. on the third day] After leaving the Philistine army. Evidently he had not accompanied them far beyond the frontier. See note on 1 Samuel 29:2.

the Amalekites] Possibly they had got information of David’s absence, and took the opportunity to make reprisals for his raids on them (1 Samuel 27:8).

the south, and Ziklag] The Negeb or “south country” is the technical name for the district between the hills of Judah and the actual desert. It is a series of rolling hills, clad with scanty herbage here and there. In places there is fine upland pasture, but not a tree nor a shrub to relieve its bareness. See Tristram, Land of Israel, pp. 360–373. In this district Ziklag was situated.

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.
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.
4. wept] See on 1 Samuel 11:4.

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.
6. spake of stoning him] Cp. Exodus 17:4; Numbers 14:10. They laid the blame on him, because he had left no force to guard Ziklag.

was grieved] Was exasperated, lit. “was bitter.” Cp. 1 Samuel 22:2.

encouraged himself] Strengthened himself. Cp. 1 Samuel 23:16; Ephesians 6:10; and many of the Psalms, e.g. Psalm 18:2, Psalm 27:14, Psalm 31:1 ff., Psalm 31:24, &c.

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.
7–20. The pursuit

7. bring me hither the ephod] He desired to consult God by means of the Urim and Thummim, as before at Keilah (1 Samuel 23:9).

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.
8. inquired at] = inquired of. Cp. Genesis 24:57.

pursue … overtake] Cp. Exodus 15:9.

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.
9. the six hundred men] For a rapid pursuit a small force of picked men was most suitable. Cp. 1 Samuel 27:2. No doubt by this time he had a much larger force at his command.

the brook Besor] The Heb. word is nachal, which means a ravine, or torrent-bed, with a stream at the bottom. The brook Besor is mentioned here only, and has not been identified with certainty. Perhaps it was the Wady es Sherîah, which runs down to the sea a few miles south of Gaza.

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.
10. abode behind] Stayed, as in 1 Samuel 30:9. The condensed expression of the last clause of 1 Samuel 30:9 is explained by 1 Samuel 30:10.

were so faint] A verb found only here and in 1 Samuel 30:21, connected with a substantive meaning a corpse; as we should say, they were dead-beat.

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;
11. bread] Food: what it was is specified in the next verse: a piece of fig-cake and two lumps of raisins. See on 1 Samuel 25:18. The Sept. (B) omits the raisins.

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.
12. his spirit came again to him] He revived. Cp. Jdg 15:19.

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.
13. To whom belongest thou] His appearance shewed that he was a slave.

servant] Slave: captured in some Amalekite foray.

three days agone] So that more than three days had elapsed since the sack of Ziklag, for they had gone at least one long day’s march before he was deserted. “Agone,” now usually written ago, is the past participle of an obsolete verb agon, to go away.

my master left me] “A barbarous act, to leave him there to perish, when they had camels good store, for the carriage of men as well as of their spoil (1 Samuel 30:17): but this inhumanity cost them dear; for by this means they lost their own lives.” Patrick.

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.
14. the Cherethites] Evidently a tribe of Philistines living on the southern border of Philistia, as the spoil is said in 1 Samuel 30:16 to have been taken “out of the land of the Philistines.” Cp. 2 Samuel 8:18 (note); Ezekiel 25:16; Zephaniah 2:5. The name may possibly be connected with Crete,

coast] Border. See on ch. 1 Samuel 5:6.

the south of Caleb] Joshua’s faithful companion received Hebron for his inheritance (Joshua 14:13), and when he ceded the city to the priests for a city of refuge, retained the surrounding land in his own possession (Joshua 21:11-12; cp. 1 Samuel 25:3). Apparently he gave his name to part of the Negeb (1 Samuel 30:1), which was known as the Negeb of Caleb.

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.
15. company] Troop, as in 1 Samuel 30:8, and again in 1 Samuel 30:23. It is the regular word for a band of roving plunderers. Cp. Psalm 18:29. Is it fanciful to think that David there refers to this successful pursuit of the Amalekites? He must always have remembered it as one of the signal mercies of his life.

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.
16. dancing] Or, feasting.

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.
17. And David smote, &c.] He reached the neighbourhood of their camp in the evening, and found them scattered about in disorder, carousing over the spoil. As soon as the morning began to dawn he attacked them (cp. 1 Samuel 11:11), and the fight lasted till nightfall. After the first surprise, the Amalekites made a stubborn resistance.

the evening of the next day] The battle can scarcely have lasted two whole days. If the reading is right, the phrase the evening towards the morrow may denote the evening with which the next day commenced, Jewish days being reckoned from sunset to sunset, so that the fight lasted from early dawn till past sunset.

young men] Perhaps servant, as in 1 Samuel 16:18. The Amalekites were famous for camels. Cp. Jdg 7:12; 1 Samuel 15:3.

And David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away: and David rescued his two wives.
18. recovered … rescued] Different renderings of the same Heb. word, used also in 1 Samuel 30:8. Rescue is the best equivalent. “Recovered” in 1 Samuel 30:19 is a different word; literally meaning “brought back.”

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.
19. that they had taken to them] i.e. which the Amalekites had taken for themselves. They carried off the women and children alive to use or sell for slaves.

And David took all the flocks and the herds, which they drave before those other cattle, and said, This is David's spoil.
20. This verse as it stands admits of no satisfactory explanation. It is best to follow the Vulgate, with which the Sept. in the main agrees, and read, And he took all the flocks and the herds, and drave them before him: and they said, This is David’s spoil: i.e. he not only recovered his own property, but took a rich booty besides, which his men drove off with shouts of triumph. The number of places to which he sent presents (1 Samuel 30:26-31) shews how large it must have been.

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.
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.
21–25. The division of the spoil

22. Then answered, &c.] Then answered every wicked man and every worthless man … Because they went not with me. Each spoke for himself, in the true spirit of selfishness.

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.
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.
24. For who, &c.] Better, And who will hearken unto you as regards this saying? A negative answer is implied: No one; for, &c. The Sept. adds, “for they are not inferior to us.”

as his part, &c.] The rule for the division of the spoil between combatants and non-combatants was an ancient one. See Numbers 31:27; and cp. Joshua 22:8. David now enforced a special application of it with reference to the divisions of the army. A similar law existed at Rome. According to Polybius (x. 16. 5), Scipio after the sack of New Carthage directed the tribunes to divide the booty in equal portions to all, including the reserves, the guards of the camp, and the sick.

the stuff] The baggage. See on 1 Samuel 10:22.

they shall part alike] “Part” = share. The use of the verb in this sense is an archaism. Cp. Acts 2:45.

And it was so from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel unto this day.
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;
26–31. The presents sent to the elders of Judah

26. he sent of the spoil, &c.] In gratitude for the assistance he had received from them during his wanderings, and to secure their good will when Saul’s death should open the way for him to the throne. On the elders see at 1 Samuel 8:4.

a present] Lit. a blessing, as in 1 Samuel 25:27.

the spoil of the enemies of the Lord] Since Israel was Jehovah’s people, the enemies of Israel were the enemies of His kingdom and His cause, and every war against them was a holy war. Cp. 1 Samuel 18:17, 1 Samuel 25:28.

To them which were in Bethel, and to them which were in south Ramoth, and to them which were in Jattir,
27. Bethel] Not the well known Bethel in the tribe of Benjamin, but Bethul or Bethuel, called also Chesil, a city in the neighbourhood of Ziklag and Hormah, originally assigned to Judah, and subsequently transferred to Simeon (Joshua 15:30; Joshua 19:4; 1 Chronicles 4:30).

south Ramoth] Ramoth-Negeb, or Ramoth in the south country, as distinguished from Ramoth Gilead, is probably the same as Ramath-Negeb in Joshua 19:8. Perhaps “Shimei the Ramathite,” the overseer of David’s vineyards, came from it (1 Chronicles 27:27).

Jattir] A priestly city in the mountains of Judah (Joshua 15:48; Joshua 21:14), probably the modern Attîr, 4½ miles S.W. of Eshtemoa. It may have been the native place of David’s heroes Ira and Gareb the Ithrites (2 Samuel 23:38).

And to them which were in Aroer, and to them which were in Siphmoth, and to them which were in Eshtemoa,
28. Aroer] Obviously not the famous city on the R. Arnon. Perhaps the name survives in the Wady Arârah, some 20 miles south of Hebron, where Robinson found evident traces of an ancient village or town (II. 199). “Shama and Jehiel the sons of Hothan the Aroerite” are mentioned in the catalogue of David’s valiant men (1 Chronicles 11:44).

Siphmoth] mentioned nowhere else, unless it was the home of Zabdi the Shiphmite, the steward of David’s wine-cellars (1 Chronicles 27:27).

Eshtemoa] A priestly city (Joshua 15:50; Joshua 21:14); now Es Semûa, nine miles S.S.W. of Hebron, “a considerable village, situated on a low hill, with broad valleys round about, fall of flocks and herds. In several places there are remains of walls built of very large stones, marking the site of an extensive ancient town.” Robinson, Bibl. Res. II. 204.

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,
29. Rachal] Nowhere else mentioned. The Sept. reads Carmel, but its list is corrupt and not to be trusted.

the Jerahmeelites] See on 1 Samuel 27:10.

the Kenites] See on 1 Samuel 15:6.

And to them which were in Hormah, and to them which were in Chorashan, and to them which were in Athach,
30. Hormah] Or Zephath (Jdg 1:17), an ancient Canaanite city (Joshua 12:14), assigned to Judah (Joshua 15:30) and transferred to Simeon (Joshua 19:4).

Chor-ashan] The true reading is Bor-ashan (= Cistern of Ashan). It was doubtless the same as Ashan, a Simeonite city in the Negeb originally given to Judah (Joshua 15:42; Joshua 19:7).

Athach] Nowhere else mentioned. Perhaps a corruption for Ether, the letters of which are very similar, (Joshua 15:42, where the Sept. reads Ithak; 1 Samuel 19:7), another city of Judah transferred to Simeon.

And to them which were in Hebron, and to all the places where David himself and his men were wont to haunt.
31. Hebron] One of the most ancient cities in the world (Numbers 13:22). When Abraham entered Canaan it was already existing under the name of Kirjath Arba. In its neighbourhood he often sojourned, and there he bought the cave of Machpelah from Ephron the Hittite for a family sepulchre for himself and his posterity (Genesis 23:2 ff.). On the conquest of Canaan it became the inheritance of Caleb (Joshua 14:13-15), and was made a priestly settlement and a city of refuge (Joshua 21:11-13). It was soon to attain greater importance as the capital of David’s kingdom during the first seven years and a half of his reign. It lies 20 miles south of Jerusalem, picturesquely situated in a narrow valley surrounded by rocky hills, whose sides are clothed with luxuriant vineyards. Its modern name is El Khulîl = “The Friend,” in memory of Abraham who was called “the friend of God” (2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:13).

all the places, &c.] It is evident that David’s outlaw life must have lasted for some considerable time, and have proved an important factor in preparing the men of Judah to welcome him as their king. The instances quoted above indicate that it was during this period that he gained many of the faithful friends who afterwards filled offices of trust in his kingdom.

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