1 Samuel 30
Clarke's Commentary
While David is absent with the army of Achish, the Amalekites invade Ziklag, and burn it with fire, and carry away captive David's wives, and those of his men, 1 Samuel 30:1, 1 Samuel 30:2. David and his men return; and, finding the desolate state of their city, are greatly affected, 1 Samuel 30:3-5. The men mutiny, and threaten to stone David, who encourages himself in the Lord, 1 Samuel 30:6. David inquires of the Lord, and is directed to pursue the Amalekites, with the promise that he shall recover all, 1 Samuel 30:7, 1 Samuel 30:8. He and his men begin the pursuit, but two hundred, through fatigue are obliged to stay behind at the brook Besor, 1 Samuel 30:9, 1 Samuel 30:10. They find a sick Egyptian, who directs them in their pursuit, 1 Samuel 30:11-15. David finds the Amalekites secure, feasting on the spoils they had taken; he attacks and destroys the whole host, except four hundred, who escape on camels, 1 Samuel 30:16, 1 Samuel 30:17. The Israelites recover their wives, their families, and all their goods, 1 Samuel 30:18-20. They come to the two hundred who were so faint as not to be able to pursue the enemy, with whom they divide the spoil; and this becomes a statute in Israel, 1 Samuel 30:21-25. David sends part of the spoil which he had taken to different Jewish cities, which had suffered by the incursion of the Amalekites; and where David and his men had been accustomed to resort, 1 Samuel 30:26-31.

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;
On the third day - This was the third day after he had left the Philistine army at Aphek. Calmet supposes that Aphek was distant from Ziklag more than thirty leagues.

The Amalekites had invaded - These were, doubtless, a travelling predatory horde, who, availing themselves of the war between the Philistines and the Israelites, plundered several unprotected towns, and among them Ziklag. It is likely they had not heard of what David did to some of their tribes, else they would have avenged themselves by slaying all they found in Ziklag.

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.
Wept, until they had no more power to weep - This marks great distress; they wept, as says the Vulgate, till their tears failed them.

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.
The people spake of stoning him - David had done much to civilize those men; but we find by this of what an unruly and ferocious spirit they were; and yet they strongly felt the ties of natural affection, they "grieved every man for his sons and for his daughters."

David encouraged himself in the Lord - He found he could place very little confidence in his men; and, as he was conscious that this evil had not happened either through his neglect or folly, he saw he might the more confidently expect succor from his Maker.

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.
Bring me hither the ephod - It seems as if David had put on the ephod, and inquired of the Lord for himself; but it is more likely that he caused Abiathar to do it.

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.
The brook Besor - This had its source in the mountain of Idumea, and fell into the Mediterranean Sea beyond Gaza. Some suppose it to have been the same with the river of the wilderness, or the river of Egypt. The sense of this and the following verse is, that when they came to the brook Besor, there were found two hundred out of his six hundred men so spent with fatigue that they could proceed no farther. The baggage or stuff was left there, 1 Samuel 30:24, and they were appointed to guard it.

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;
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.
A cake of figs - See on 1 Samuel 25:18 (note).

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.
My master left me, because three days agone I fell sick - This was very inhuman: though they had booty enough, and no doubt asses sufficient to carry the invalids, yet they left this poor man to perish; and God visited it upon them, as he made this very person the means of their destruction, by the information which he was enabled to give to David and his men.

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.
Upon the south of the Cherethites - Calmet and others maintain, that the כרתי kerethi, which, without the points, might be read Creti, were not only at this time Philistines, but that they were aborigines of Crete, from which they had their name Cherethites or Cretans, and are those of whom Zephaniah speaks, Zephaniah 2:5 : Wo to the inhabitants of the sea-coasts, the nation of the Cherethites. And by Ezekiel, Ezekiel 25:16 : Behold, I will stretch out mine hand upon the Philistines, and will cut off the Cherethim. In 2 Samuel 15:18 we find that the Cherethites formed a part of David's guards.

South of Caleb - Somewhere about Kirjath-arba, or Hebron, and Kirjath-sepher; these being in the possession of Caleb and his descendants.

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.
Swear unto me - At the conclusion of this verse, the Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic add, that David swore to him. This is not expressed in the Hebrew, but is necessarily implied.

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.
Out of the land of the Philistines - That these Amalekites were enemies to the Philistines is evident, but it certainly does not follow from this that those whom David destroyed were enemies also. This, I think, has been too hastily assumed by Dr. Chandler and others, in order the better to vindicate the character of David.

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.
There escaped not a man of them - It is well known to every careful reader of the Bible, that the Amalekites were a proscribed people, even by God himself, and that in extirpating them it has been supposed David fulfilled the express will of God. But all this depends on whether he had an express commission to do so, received from God himself, as Saul had.

And David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away: and David rescued his two wives.
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.
And David took all the flocks - He and his men not only recovered all their own property, but they recovered all the spoil which these Amalekites had taken from the south of Judah, the Cherethites, and the south of Caleb. When this was separated from the rest, it was given to David, and called David's spoil.

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.
Men of Belial - This is a common expression to denote the sour, the rugged, the severe, the idle, and the profane.

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.
That which the Lord hath given us - He very properly attributes this victory to God; the numbers of the Amalekites being so much greater than his own. Indeed, as many fled away on camels as were in the whole host of David.

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.
He made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel - Nothing could be more just and proper than this law: he who stays at home to defend house and property, has an equal right to the booty taken by those who go out to the war. There was a practice of this kind among the Israelites long before this time; see Numbers 31:27; Joshua 22:8; and the note on this latter verse.

Unto this day - This is another indication that this book was composed long after the facts it commemorates. See the hypothesis in the preface.

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;
Unto the elders of Judah - These were the persons among whom he sojourned during his exile, and who had given him shelter and protection. Gratitude required these presents.

To them which were in Bethel, and to them which were in south Ramoth, and to them which were in Jattir,
To them which were in Beth-el - This was in the tribe of Ephraim.

South Ramoth - So called to distinguish it from Ramoth Gilead, beyond Jordan. This Ramoth belonged to the tribe of Simeon, Joshua 19:8.

In Jattir - Supposed by Calmet to be the same as Ether, Joshua 15:42, but more probably Jattir, Joshua 15:48. It was situated in the mountains, and belonged to Judah.

And to them which were in Aroer, and to them which were in Siphmoth, and to them which were in Eshtemoa,
In Aroer - Situated beyond Jordan, on the banks of the river Arnon, in the tribe of God.

Siphmoth - Supposed to be the same with Shepham, Numbers 34:10, on the eastern border of the promised land.

Eshtemoa - Another city in the tribe of Judah. See Joshua 15:50.

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,
Them which were in Rachal - We know not where this place was; it is mentioned nowhere else in the Bible. Calmet conjectures that Hachilah, 1 Samuel 23:19, may be the same place; here we know David did conceal himself for some time, till the Ziphites endeavored to betray him to Saul.

The cities of the Jerahmeelites - See before, 1 Samuel 27:10 (note).

And - the cities of the Kenites - A very small tract on the southern coast of the Dead Sea.

And to them which were in Hormah, and to them which were in Chorashan, and to them which were in Athach,
Hormah - The general name of those cities which belonged to Arad, king of Canaan; and were devoted to destruction by the Hebrews, and thence called Hormah. See Numbers 21:1-3.

In Chor-ashan - Probably the same as Ashan in the tribe of Judah: see Joshua 15:42 (note). It was afterwards ceded to Simeon, Joshua 19:7.

To them which were in Athach - Probably the same as 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.
To them which were in Hebron - This was a place strongly attached to David, and David to it, and the place where he was proclaimed king, and where he reigned more than seven years previously to the death of Ishbosheth, Saul's son, who was, for that time, his competitor in the kingdom.

David's having sent presents to all these places, not only shows his sense of gratitude, but that the booty which he took from the Amalekites must have been exceedingly great. And we learn from this also that David sojourned in many places which are not mentioned in the preceding history; for these are all said to be places where David and his men were wont to haunt.

We are not to suppose that the transactions mentioned here and in the preceding chapter took place after Saul's interview with the woman of En-dor, they were considerably antecedent to this, but how long we do not know. What is recorded in the following chapter must have taken place the next day after Saul left En-dor.

Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke [1831].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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