I Samuel 30

 

 

 

DAVID UPON HIS RETURN FINDS ZIKLAG BURNT

    BY THE AMALEKITES (vs. 1-6).

 

1 “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. David evidently

could not have gone with the Philistines s 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 defenseless country.

The south. I.e. the Negeb, for which see ch. 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 ch. 27:8, and implies

that they spread themselves over the country to drive off cattle and booty, but

with no intention of fighting battles.

 

2 “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.  3 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.  4 Then David and the people that were with him

lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep.

5 And David’s two wives were taken captives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess,

and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite.”  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 defenseless that David’s people were so angry

with him. As we are told in ch. 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.

 

6 “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 soul of all the people was grieved. Hebrew, “was bitter.”

Their great sorrow is pathetically described in v. 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.

 

 

Faith Reviving in Distress (v. 6)

 

  • CORRECTION. David, being a true but faulty child of God, was

corrected by the rod. Quickly he fell stroke after stroke.

 

Ø      First he had to bear the galling scorn and suspicion of the Philistine lords.

This was all he had gained by cajoling their king.

 

Ø      Next he had to see Ziklag plundered and burnt. This was all he had gained

by attacking the Amalekites and concealing the deed.

 

Ø      Next, and in some respects most trying of all, he saw the loyalty of his

own followers swept away in their passionate grief. “The people spake

of stoning him.”

 

This was all he had gained by all his unworthy devices to save his own life.

All refuge failed him. So God in loving kindness scourges His children now

when they have faltered in faith, and, mistrusting His defense, have betaken

themselves to some Ziklag, some position unworthy of them. Their new

confidences reject them, and they have to sit like David in dust and ashes.

 

  • ITS HAPPY ISSUE. Faith revived. When all refuge failed him, David

returned to his DIVINE STRONGHOLD!   “He encouraged himself in

Jehovah his God.” Mark the contrast with Saul. When that unhappy king

was stricken he departed from God more and more, hardened his heart in

pride, found no place of repentance, and at last betook himself to

unhallowed and forbidden arts. So we find Saul passing from gloom into

thicker and blacker shadow, while David emerges into the sunshine. Such

is the happy experience of many of the children of God. FAITH revives in

distress, and darkness turns to light. This, too, as the New Testament

teaches us, always by the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit, reviving

childlike trust rekindling holy courage. The way in which David’s

recovered faith wrought in him is full of instruction for us.

 

Ø      Revived faith RESTS ON THE DIVINE WORD OF PROMISE!   David had

let the promise of the kingdom made to him through Samuel slip from his mind

when he began to despair of his life; and it is remarkable that he gave way

to this fear at a time when there was a lull in the persecution directed

against him. But when real danger was upon him, when he had lost all, and

his own followers turned against him, his faith again caught hold of the

Divine promise. He could not die then and there, for the purpose of the

Lord must stand, the word of the Lord must be fulfilled. Now those who

believe in Christ have the promise of eternal life in Him. In hours of relaxed

diligence they perhaps let it slip; but under real pressure faith revives and

grasps the promise again. They shall not perish. They may be humbled and

distressed, and they will acknowledge that they have brought this on

themselves; but they are persuaded that He is faithful who promised, and so

will not cast them off. He has said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake

thee; so that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper and I will not

fear what man can do unto me.”  (Hebrews 13:5-6)

 

Ø      Revived faith takes to prayer and to diligent effort. The first thing which

David did was to inquire of God. Faith restored always acts thus. Rising

against discouragement, it is sure that God can:

 

o        turn darkness into light,

o        loss into gain,

o        death into life,

 

and simply asks for direction. “What shall I do? Shall I sit still, or shall I

move? Shall I pursue?” There are trials and dangers in which the only

wise course is to be quite patient and passive; “their strength is to sit still.”

(Isaiah 30:7)  When Daniel was cast to the lions den his faith was

shown in not struggling with the wild beasts, but sitting among them calm

and still till rescue came at break of day. So may a Christian fall into a den

of troubles out of which no effort of his own can bring him up; and his faith

is shown in prayer and waiting on God, who is able to send His angel to

minister to the weak and protect the helpless. Those whose faith has not

failed at all may do more than pray — may sing praises, as Paul and Silas

did in the dark dungeon. (Acts 16)  Other cases there are, and more frequent,

in which prayer should be promptly followed by active exertion. David did

not ask the Lord to work a miracle, or send angels, to restore to him what

the Amalekites had taken. It was possible for him and his men to pursue,

overtake, and defeat the spoilers. So he asked the Lord whether he should

pursue; and receiving the Divine command to do so, he addressed himself

at once to the pursuit, and obtained a splendid success. Such is the

energetic action of revived faith. Difficulties go down before its

resolutions, and lost things come back to him who boldly pursues. Tears of

defeat are turned into songs of victory. The troubles that afflict the people

of God are to a large extent chastisements for UNBELIEF or

UNFAITHFULNESS.   At the time they are not joyous, but grievous;

nevertheless, afterward they yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness to

those who are exercised thereby. (Hebrews 12:11)  Such are sufferings in

sympathy with David. But to some extent those troubles are in sympathy

with and for the sake of the Son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ. In such

a case we have the comfort that:

 

“Christ leads us through no darker rooms

    Than He went through before.”

 

He is touched with a feeling of our infirmities. (Hebrews 4:15)  He has wept

and He has loved. So if we are despoiled, He is our present help (Psalm 46:1),

and through Him we may do valiantly (Psalm 108:13), and recover all.

If messengers of Satan buffet us, His grace is sufficient for us, for His

strength is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:7,9)

 

 

       DAVID’S PURSUIT OF THE AMALEKITES (vs. 7-16).

 

7 “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.  8  And David enquired 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.”

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 (ch. 28:6), the answer is

most encouraging. Literally it is, “Pursue; for overtaking thou shalt overtake,

and delivering thou shalt deliver.”

 

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.  10  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.”  Having obtained this favorable 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

v. 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.

 

The Spiritual Uses of Calamity (vs. 1-10)

 

The facts are:

 

1. David, on returning to Ziklag with his men, discovers that the

Amalekites had smitten it and carried off the families as captives.

2. In their deep distress David and his men weep bitterly.

3. On a mutiny arising among his men, threatening his life, David betakes

himself to God for comfort and guidance.

4. Inquiring of God through the high priest, he receives assurance of

success in pursuing the Amalekites, and therefore, leaving the faint at

Besor, he presses on with the rest of his force.

 

The sojourn of David in the country of the Philistines had thus far been conducive to

his safety, and events had seemed to justify the step taken when, from fear of being

slain by Saul, he without positive Divine direction left his native land. It is true

the ambiguous position into which he had brought himself exposed him for

a while to a danger of being treacherous to his protector or hostile to his

countrymen, but this peril had at last been providentially obviated by the

opening of a door of escape. It must, therefore, have been intensely

mortifying, and, as the event proved, impressively instructive, to learn, just

when the joy of escape was at its height, that his self-chosen course had

issued in a terrible disaster. A great calamity had come, but religiously it

proved a blessing, which fact may be generalized by saying that calamities

brought on by the mistakes of good men have important religious uses.

 

  • THE AVOIDANCE OF ONE CALAMITY BY THE ADOPOTION OF OUR

OWN POLICY OF DISTRUST OF GOD’S CARE IS NO GUARANTEE

FOR FREEDOM FROM ANOTHER. David, without good reason distrusting

the care of God, thought he should one day perish by the hand of Saul

(ch. 27:1), and therefore, taking his own course, sought safety under the

protection of Achish. We know how groundless was his fear; but, apart

from that, events proved that though the dreaded evil was escaped, another

most terrible one came. Nor is there much defense for the self-chosen

policy in saying that his own life was secure, for escape from Saul gave no

immunity from death by the hands of other men, and there are calamities

even worse than death. We are too often influenced by present dangers,

forgetful that though we avoid them we have no security in that avoidance

from others equally fearful. The Israelites feared the giants reported to

occupy the promised land, and escaped being, as they groundlessly

thought, slain by them; but they saw not the physical miseries and the

exclusion from the promised land consequent on choosing thus to escape.

David ought to have profited by their example, as also should we from his.

The application of this to common life is obvious.

 

  • OUR SELF-CHOSEN POLICY MAY BE LONG BEFORE IT

REVEALS ITS CHARACTER IN ANY POSITIVE DISASTER. The

ambiguous position of David rendered the months during which he was

with Achish a season for verifying the wisdom of his policy. Although

slight inconveniences arose which necessitated minor expedients, as when

he sought a separate city and made raids apparently on the south of Judah

(ch. 27:5, 10), yet no event transpired to awaken manifest regret

for the course pursued. It was only toward the end of the sojourn in the

land of the Philistines that his policy bore the bitter fruit referred to in this

section. Trouble came at last in addition to the mental embarrassments

which had been a secret in his own breast. So long as moral laws have

force will every false policy tend to disaster, the form and degree of it

being determined by the nature of the case. Men may go on hoping for

exemption from trouble, concealing the occasional fears and

embarrassments of their own heart, successful escape may be well nigh

assured, there may be even joy at the thought of providential deliverance

from impending perils; but just then, from unexpected quarters, a blow may

fall which confirms the truth that it is better to trust in the Lord than to

listen to the fears of a wayward heart. Lot’s ungenerous policy toward

Abraham, successful at first, issued in loss of ALL IN SODOM!   Jonah’s

timid policy avoided the scorn and stones of the Ninevites, and bid fair to

secure life and peace; but the storm arose, and a trouble quite unforeseen

sprang forth. In commerce, in Church action, and domestic arrangements,

distrust of God and self-seeking cannot but issue in evil, though the evil

seem to tarry and be beyond calculation.

 

  • THE FORM OF CALAMITY MAY PROVE TO BE A NEAR

APPROACH TO THAT WHICH SELF-CHOSEN POLICY WAS

DESIGNED TO AVOID. David lost his family and his property, the next

best things to his own life, and also was put in as much danger of being

slain by his own men as ever he had been by Saul. He virtually found

himself as he was when the distrust of God’s care suggested a flight from

Judah. The same was true of the Israelites, who, avoiding the “giants” of

the promised land, encountered the physical giants, famine and plague, and

at last left their carcasses in the wilderness. A merchant, by irreligious

policy, may for a season avoid ruin, and yet by the means devised

ultimately bring on an event equally disastrous.

 

  • THE FIRST EFFECT ON A GOOD MAN OF THE PRESSURE OF

CALAMITY IS TO REVEAL TO HIM THE FOLLY AND EVIL OF

HIS SELF-CHOSEN POLICY. It often requires a heavy blow to awaken

us from our complacent belief in our own wisdom. Such a blow fell on

David in the desolation of his city, the loss of his wives, the injury to his

adherents, and the mutiny of his own friends and admirers. The well woven

veil of expediency which imagination and reason had fabricated during the

past sixteen mouths was thus rudely rent, and he saw at once how much

better it would have been for him and his people to have continued trusting

to the care of God in Judah, till, at least, specific directions were given to

depart. The reference to David encouraging himself in God (v. 6) implies

the prostration of his spirit in the new light which had broken in upon him.

He had not sought the Lord on leaving Judah, and now he sees the

mistake. Here notice the diverse effect of calamity on men of real piety and

men of no vital religion. David is humbled before God, sees his error, is

bitterly penitent; whereas Saul in all his calamities persists in his self-will,

and hardens his heart against God. The truly religious spirit may err, may

become wretched in its wanderings from God, may for a long season

cleave to its self-produced miseries, but when brought face to face with

great calamity that bespeaks the judgment of God, at once bows in sorrow

and shame, recognizing what an evil and bitter thing it is to depart from the

living God. How many a backslider and erring man has had occasion to

bless the disaster that rent the delusion of their life and revealed their sin!

 

  • THE SUBSEQUENT EFFECT OF SUCH CALAMITY IS TO

THROW A GOOD MAN MORE ENTIRELY UPON GOD FOR HELP

AND GUIDANCE. David, humiliated, self-condemned, looking on to the

future not knowing what best to do, took heart by casting his burden on

the Lord, and seeking through the appointed channel specific directions as

to the future. Affliction worked the fruit of righteousness. This is the

proper religious use of all calamity, whether in the nation, the Church, our

business, our domestic affairs, or the unrecorded events of private life.

Jacob’s trouble consequent on his falsehood brought him nearer to God at

Bethel. The sorrows that came on Israel in the days of Nehemiah

developed a trust in God and earnest looking for His guidance not known in

former days. There is good reason for all who are smitten with sorrow

brought on by folly and sin to encourage themselves in God; for, as to

David so to all His children, He is a covenant keeping God, having prepared

for us a kingdom that cannot be moved. He it is who allows the trial to fall

not for our injury, but for our profit, that we may be partakers of His

holiness; the abandonment to ourselves and to the suffering of trouble is all

in mercy, and specially intended to remind us of the security and rest to be

found in Him; and He is willing to hear our cry, and to cover all the sins of

the past, as well as to vouchsafe the aid necessary to escape from the

present anguish, and even to make it issue in some permanent spiritual

advantage. We may therefore “hope in God” when all help fails (compare

Psalm 42:5; 56:13; Isaiah 54:8; Jeremiah 3:12; Hebrews 12:5-12).

 

 

Confidence in God (vs. 1-10)

 

“But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God” (v. 6). Delivered

from their embarrassing position in the Philistine army, David and his men

set out early in the morning, and by forced marches (evident from the

exhaustion of one third of them, v. 10) arrived at Ziklag on the third day.

Instead of being welcomed by their wives and children, they found the city

a smoking and desolate ruin. “When we go abroad we cannot foresee what

evil tidings may meet us when we come home again. The going out may be

very cheerful, and yet the coming in very doleful” (Matthew Henry). The

Amalekites (whom Saul had failed to exterminate, and David often

attacked) had been there, and, in revenge for what they had suffered, had

carried off the undefended people and property, and given the place to the

flames. Deeming their recovery hopeless, the strong men wept like children

until they had no more power to weep.” Then their grief turned to

exasperation, and seeking a victim on which to expend their wrath, they

fixed on David, and spake of stoning him” as the cause of all their misery.

He was reduced to the utmost extremity, and could not fail to see in his

trouble a just chastisement for his unbelief, prevarication, and cruelty.

Possibly the reinforcements that “fell to him as he went to Ziklag

(I Chronicles 12:20) rendered him valuable service. But his hope was not in

man; and instead of resigning himself to despair (like Saul), he was

impelled by his distress and deprivation of human help to seek help in God

alone. “The long misery of the first stage of his public career seems to have

reached its culminating point. When things are at the worst, as the common

proverb says, they must mend. And from that moment when he believingly

cast all his dependence upon the Lord his God only, whom he had found

faithful in all His promises, and whose providence had never failed him in

his deepest dangers, from that moment he was safe, from that moment he

was prosperous” (Kitto). Concerning the confidence in God which he

exhibited (therein setting an eminent example to others), observe that:

 

  • IT SPRINGS OUT OF CONSCIOUS HELPLESSNESS. Few men have

an adequate conviction of their own helplessness; and one aim of the

Divine discipline is to produce it. “When I am weak,” said Paul, “then am I

strong— when I feel my utter weakness under the pressure of trial, then I

am constrained to depend on the Lord, and become imbued with his

strength (II Corinthians 12:10). In the exercise of “the same spirit of

faith” others “out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight,

turned to flight the armies of the aliens” (Hebrews 11:34). True faith

and spiritual power have their foundation amidst the “dust and ashes” of

self-abasement and self-distrust. Confidence in God began to revive in

David when Ziklag was reduced to ashes. The same thing is often

occasioned in others by means of:

 

Ø      Sudden and severe bereavement; wife and children, it may be, taken

away with a stroke.

 

Ø      The failure of cherished plans and purposes; the loss of property through

robbery by men or accidents by fire or flood, the breakdown of health, the

disappointment of long expectation.

 

Ø      The falling away of friends; their unreasonable anger and bitter

reproaches. It must have been peculiarly painful to David to bear the

mutiny of his own men, to witness the selfishness of many of them

(v. 22), and to learn what little confidence could be put in man (Psalm

146:3). He was left almost alone.

 

Ø      The upbraiding of conscience for past sin. Trouble is a powerful means

of bringing sin to remembrance (I Kings 17:18).

 

Ø      The threatening of danger; the presence of “the king of terrors” (Job

18:14).

 

Ø      The lack of wisdom and power to deliver from distress. When we

become fully aware of our utter helplessness, two courses lie open before

us:

o        either to sink into despair or

o        to cast ourselves wholly upon God.

 

That the latter may be taken trial is sent; it is taken by him whose heart is in

the main right with God, and it is never taken in vain.

 

  • IT LAYS HOLD OF ALL-SUFFICIENT HELP. “When David could

not comfort him self in his wives, nor his children, nor his goods, nor in

anything under the sun, he could in something above the sun. And the

reason is at hand: God is the God of all consolation, the spring of comfort;

if any water, it is in the sea; if any light, it is in the sun; if any comfort, it is

in God — there it rests, there it is when nowhere else. GOD IS ALL-

SUFFICIENT, here the heart finds every want supplied, every good thing

lodged. As God is all-sufficient to furnish us with all necessaries, so infinite

in power, wisdom, goodness to help us against all evils feared or felt”

(R. Harris).  Faith strengthens the soul by uniting it to God and making it

partaker of his strength. It has respect to:

 

Ø      His great name (see ch. 1:3). “Hope thou in God” (Psalm

9:10; 42:5; 124:8).

 

“Hope, said I,

Is of the joy to come a sure expectance,

The effect of grace Divine and merit preceding.

This light from many a star visits my heart;

But flow’d to me, the first, from Him who sang

The songs of the Supreme; Himself supreme

Among His tuneful brethren. ‘Let all hope

In thee,’ so spake His anthem, ‘who have known

Thy name’” (Dante, ‘Par.’ 25.).

 

Ø      His intimate relationship to His people. “Jehovah his God.”

 

Ø      His past doings on their behalf. When David formerly fell into

despondency (ch. 27.) he seems to have forgotten all these, and failed to

receive the encouragement which they were adapted to impart. But now

he remembered them and “took courage.”

 

Ø      His faithful promises. “The free expressions of His goodness and

beneficence,” the unchangeable assurances of His almighty help in time of

need. “The mistake we make is to look for a source of consolation in

ourselves; self-contemplation instead of GAZING UPON GOD! 

(I have been depressed on two occasions in my life and I would not

wish it upon anyone.  I remember how obsessed I was with myself,

I tried and did look to God and He delivered me both times, but until

I hit bottom and looked away from myself and to Him, I was floundering.

CY – 2016)  God is not affected by our mutability, our changes DO NOT

ALTER HIM!   When we are restless He remains serene and calm; when

we are low, selfish, mean, or dispirited He is still the unalterable I AM.

What God is in Himself, not what we may chance to feel Him in this or

that moment to be, that is our hope” (Robertson).

 

  • IT MAKES USE OF APPROPRIATE MEANS. “He encouraged

(strengthened) himself,” etc. by:

 

Ø      Repressing fear and unbelief. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?”

 

Ø      Directing the thoughts toward God, the ever-present, invisible, eternal

Protector of his servants, and stirring up the heart to renewed trust in Him.

“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?”

(Psalm 118:6; 121:1).

 

Ø      Inquiring of the Lord. (vs. 7-8).  He sought Him as he had not done on

the previous occasion; sought Him in a right spirit, and therefore (unlike

Saul) received an answer: — “Pursue, for thou shalt surely overtake and

deliver.” He was thereby further strengthened. His confidence, moreover,

was expressed and perfected in:

 

4. Obeying the will of the Lord (vs. 9-10), and cooperating toward the

fulfillment of His promise. Despondency led him to flee from difficulty and

danger, but faith and hope incited him to go into their midst, and made him

as bold as a lion.” (Proverbs 28:1)  “I will fear no evil, for thou art

with me.”  (Psalm 23:4)

 

  • IT IS CROWNED WITH COMPLETE SUCCESS. By the help

obtained of God:

 

Ø      fear is removed,

Ø      strength renewed, and

Ø      confidence inspired (v. 9).

 

After a brief delay and some untoward events by which faith is still further

tested (v. 10):

 

Ø      The object which is sought is providentially discovered (v. 11).

Ø      The enemy is completely defeated (v. 17).

Ø      That which has been lost is recovered (v. 19).

Ø      Much more than has been expected is gained (v. 20).

“A few days after David’s own people were about to stone him on the

ruins of Ziklag the royal crown was laid at his feet.”

 

  • OBSERVATIONS:

 

Ø      When good men transgress they must expect to be “chastened of the

Lord,” and wicked men are sometimes used as a rod for the purpose.

 

Ø      The wickedness of the wicked is mercifully restrained (v. 2), often

turns to the benefit of those whom they seek to injure, and returns upon

their own heads.

 

Ø      The chief purpose of chastisement is to bring men to God:

 

o        in humility,

o        penitence,

o        submission, and trust, and

o        prepare them for future service and exaltation.

 

Ø      The difference in the effects of calamity upon men (as upon Saul and

David) manifests the difference of their character.

 

Ø      The more heavily trouble presses upon men, the more closely should

they cling to God, that it may be rightly borne and accomplish its

intended moral end.

 

Ø      God never disappoints the confidence of His children, but fulfils His

promises to them more richly than they dare to hope.

 

11 “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;

12  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.”

An Egyptian, the slave, as we read in v. 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.

 

13 “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.”  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 ch. 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.

 

14 “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.”  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 (ch. 27:6), he appears to have chosen

the men who were to guard his person from this neighborhood, 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.

 

15 “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.”  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.

 

16 “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.”  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

                       (vs. 17-20).

 

17 “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.”  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.

 

18 “And David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away: and

David rescued his two wives.  19 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.”  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 v. 19 recovered is literally “caused to return,” i.e. restored.

 

20 “And David took all the flocks and the herds, which they drave

before those other cattle, and said, This is David’s spoil.”  This verse,

which is made unintelligible in the Authorized Version by the insertion

of the unauthorised word which, is really free from difficulty.

After David, as related in vs. 18-19, had recovered the cattle carried off

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 (vs. 26-31).

 

 

An Egyptian Slave (vs. 11-20)

 

“I was reminded of the poor Egyptian whom David found half dead, and

brought to life again by giving him ‘a piece of cake of figs and two clusters

of raisins’ to eat, and water to drink, by an incident which occurred to me

when crossing the plain of Askelon. Far from any village, a sick Egyptian

was lying by the road side in the burning sun, and apparently almost dead

with a terrible fever. He wanted nothing but ‘water! water!’ which we were

fortunately able to give him from our traveling bottle; but we were obliged

to pass on and leave him to his fate, whatever that might be” (Thomson,

‘The Land and the Book’). How the “young man of Egypt became “slave

to an Amalekite is not stated, but it is probable that he fell into his hands

in some marauding expedition, like the Hebrew women and children in the

raid on Ziklag. His condition was an involuntary, hard, and degrading one.

He was:

 

  • ABANDONED BY HIS MASTER:

 

Ø      With indifference and contempt. His worth as a man created in the image of

God was disregarded (as is generally the case in the odious institution of

slavery). He was treated as the absolute property of his master, “an

animated tool” (Aristotle), and when deemed no longer useful, thrown away.

 

Ø      With injustice. Every claim in return for his services was ignored. He was

entirely at the mercy of his master, and unprotected by any law (such as

existed among the Hebrews).

 

Ø      With inhumanity. “My master left me three days agone because I fell sick”

(v. 13). He might have been easily carried forward on one of the camels

(v. 17), but the Amalekites were hard and cruel, and he was left to perish

with hunger or to be devoured by wild beasts. “He that is higher than the

highest regardeth (Ecclesiastes 5:8), and the meanest slave cannot be

despised and neglected with impunity.

 

  • BEFRIENDED BY STRANGERS (vs. 11-12).

 

Ø      Out of compassion and desire to save his life by every means in their

power.

 

Ø      In fulfillment of the law of God, which required that kindness should be

shown to the poor, the stranger, and the slave. “Love ye therefore the

stranger, for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt (Deuteronomy

10:19; 23:7,15,-16).

 

Ø      With appreciation of the service he might render (v. 15). The more

helpless any one is, the more urgent his claim to assistance; yet no one is so

helpless but that he may be capable of requiting the kindness shown to him.

Slavery among the Hebrews differed widely from slavery among other

ancient and modern peoples (ch. 25:10; Ewald, Ginsburg, ‘Ecclesiastes,’

p. 283; ‘Ecce Homo’). “By Christianising the master the gospel

enfranchised the slave. It did not legislate about mere names and forms,

but it went to the root of the evil, it spoke to the heart of man.  When the

heart of the master was filled with Divine grace and was warmed with the

love of Christ the rest would soon follow. The lips would speak kind words,

the hands would do liberal things” (Wordsworth, ‘Commentary on Philemon’).

 

  • SERVICEABLE TO HIS BENEFACTORS.

 

Ø      From gratitude for the benefit received. No human heart is wholly

insensible to the power of kindness.

 

Ø      Under a solemn assurance of protection. After his abandonment by his

master he could have no scruple concerning his right to his continued

service, if any such right ever existed; but experience had made him fearful

and suspicious of men, and therefore he said, “Swear unto me by God,

that thou wilt neither kill me, nor deliver me into the hands of my

master (ver. 15). He had a sense of religion, and believed that Divine justice

would avenge the violation of an oath, though it should be taken to a slave.

 

Ø      With efficient and faithful performance of his engagements. He not only

gave David the information he sought, but guided him to the camp of the

enemy, and contributed to a result which repaid him a hundredfold (v.18).

 

  • PRESERVED AND EMPLOYED BY DIVINE PROVIDENCE.

 

Ø      Which cares for the lowliest. “Behold, God is mighty, and despiseth not any”

(Job 36:5). “Neither doth God respect any person” (II Samuel 14:14).

 

Ø      Which often makes use of the feeblest instrumentality for the chastisement of

the “wicked in great power.”  (Psalm 37:35)

 

Ø      For the promotion of the welfare of the people of God, and the

establishment of His kingdom. What a rich harvest may spring from a single

act of kindness toward even the most despised!

 

“He prayeth well who loveth well

    Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best who loveth best

    All things both great and small:

For the dear God who loveth us

    He made and loveth all”

 (Coleridge).

 

 

   DAVID ENACTS A LAW FOR THE DIVISION OF THE SPOIL

(vs. 21-25).

 

21 “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.  22 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.”  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 manuscripts.

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 labor to get the baggage across. All the more

wicked and worthless (see on ch. 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.

 

23 “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.  24  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.”

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).

 

 

The Consequences of Kindness (vs. 11-24)

 

The facts are:

 

1. Pursuing the Amalekites, David finds an Egyptian slave in distress, and

administers to him food and drink.

2. On being questioned, the man states that his master, who was one of the

force destroying Ziklag, had left him there three days before.

3. On promise of not being delivered up to his master, he engages to act as

guide to the rendezvous of the Amalekites.

4. On coming upon them in the midst of their revels, David smites them,

and recovers all that his force had lost, and acquires also much spoil.

5. David keeps the captured flocks and herds as his portion of the spoil.

 

The incidents of this section suggest:

 

  • THE UNKNOWN RESULTS OF KINDNESS. Here was a case of a

sick, starving foreigner a poor waif nigh unto death; and the kind attentions

of David and his men not only were appreciated by a fellow creature, but

issued in important results which, prior to the act of kindness, were not,

perhaps, deemed possible. The feeble man, well used, led on to victory. At

the close of that eventful day David must have felt how useful as well as

how holy a thing it is to act the part of a good Samaritan. Men are often

under temptation to be indifferent to the sorrows of others; but good

always comes out of an exhibition of the law of kindness. No man ever lost

anything by binding up the wounds of another; and often the healer has

obtained an inward blessing as a pledge of some still further good that is to

flow from his deed. The blessing of those ready to perish is worth more

than the applause and favor of the rich and strong. By single acts of

kindness hard hearts have been touched, and a new and blessed course of

life has been entered on. Many a waif, fed and nourished by Christian

benevolence, has become an honorable and holy member of society,

aiding to overthrow an evil power worse than that of the ancient

Amalekites. Who can tell the vast and blissful consequences that may ensue

if only Christians would care more constantly and wisely for the outcast

and degraded?

 

  • THE VALUE OF DETAIL IN SCRIPTURE HISTORY. The historian

is specific in the account of what was given to this poor slave — “bread,”

water,” “a piece of a cake of figs,” and two clusters of raisins.” This

occasional detail indicates the pure historic character of the Biblical

narrative, and invests the Bible with a human interest. This circumstantial

character of narrative is especially seen in the Gospel by Mark, and

more or less in every writer. As a book designed for all degrees of culture,

and in all ages and climes, the Bible wins its way to the heart and

commends itself to the common sense of mankind by the air of reality with

which its great facts are incorporated with an incidental setting of

circumstances; and it is singular that its occasional detail is never

contradicted by well established fact, but, on the other hand, is being

constantly confirmed by discoveries concerning manners, customs, natural

productions, and international relations.

 

  • THE BARBARITIES OF SLAVERY AND OF WAR. This

unfortunate man had a master, but longed not to be restored to him. The

barbarous manner in which he had been left to die justified his horror of his

former owner. Slavery necessarily hardens the heart and debases the entire

nature of all who promote it. The horrors that have been perpetrated under

its influence more befit a hell than an earth like this. Christianity has proved

its beneficent character in removing from many a fair region this accursed

evil: and it enjoins on masters of the free to manifest towards their servants

a kind, generous spirit, worthy of the Saviour they profess to follow. It is

well when servants care to return to employers, and there is something

wrong where there is aversion and reproach. The barbarities of war, which

in this section and elsewhere are conspicuous, are among the foulest blots

on human nature. In nothing as in war do the vilest passions of men break

forth in wild license. The ease and complacency with which many so called

Christians speak and read of war is really shocking to one who enters

deeply into the spirit of Christ. More care ought to be taken in preventing

our children from imbibing a love of war and its literature, and in the

Christian state its manifold, incipient, and actual evils ought to be removed

or avoided by the most energetic measures. It is doubtful whether the

Church rises to a due sense of its solemn obligations in this respect.

 

  • THE RESTORATION SUBSEQUENT TO REPENTANCE AND

OBEDIENCE. David had repented of the course to which he had

committed himself, and, encouraging himself in God, he had followed the

direction conveyed through the high priest. The result was a restoration of

all he had lost by his folly and an acquisition of much besides. Of course

this was a case of material loss, through misconduct, attended with much

anguish of spirit, and the restoration was of the same character; but have

we not here something analogous with the result of our repentance and

renewal of life? The loss and damage occasioned by our sins are removed

when we turn to God and follow the guidance of our High Priest. In due

time we recover purity, peace with God, most blessed joys, varied spiritual

treasures, and even convert the weapons of our great enemy into means of

moral advancement. Much has been ruined by our sins, and the whole race

has suffered from THE CURSE, but the effect of our restoration of soul to

God through Christ is a recovery of the lost position and blessedness, with also

an attainment of a bliss surpassing anything known by our first parent in his

state of innocence. The promise reads, “I will restore to you the years that

the locust hath eaten, the canker worm, and the caterpillar, and the palmer

worm, my great army which I sent among you” (Joel 2:25).

 

  • PRUDENT FORESIGHT IN ANTICIPATION OF COMING

EVENTS. David’s consideration for his followers in allowing them a large

share in the spoil was attended also with a wise prevision of what was soon

to take place, and no doubt it was on this account that he kept for himself

the cattle taken from the enemy. Having repented of his former self-

choosing, and having drawn nearer to his God (v. 6), his soul rose to the

old confidence in his call to the kingdom, and, calm in the fresh assurance

of God’s care, he saw from impending events that the end of Saul’s reign

was nigh at hand. Hence, to pave the way for an easy and prosperous

return to Judah, he selected what would prove suitable gifts to elders and

friends (v. 20; compare v. 26). Them we see how recovery from backsliding

tends to a healthy tone and balance of ordinary mental operations, and how

prudent anticipation of requirements becomes one called to high service in

the kingdom of God. Faith in God’s purposes concerning us should be

accompanied with wise effort to obviate difficulties in the realization of that

purpose. Our elevation in the service of Christ’s kingdom is to be secured

on our part by the vigorous use of our best powers in dependence on God.

 

  • GENERAL LESSONS:

 

Ø      Amidst the hurry and excitement of our life we, like David, should turn

aside to care for the poor and destitute, and shall find in so doing a blessing

for ourselves.

 

Ø      In so far as men are convinced of the certainty and glory of Christ’s

kingdom will they exercise all their utmost powers to hasten it on and win

men over to it. Indifferent action is a sure sign of spiritual decay

 

25 “And it was so from that day forward, that he made it a statute and

an ordinance for Israel unto this day.”  That he made it. I.e. David. Having

been thus enacted by him and practiced 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

     (vs. 26-31).

 

26 “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;” 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 ch. 25:27).

 

27 “To them which were in Bethel, and to them which were in south

Ramoth, and to them which were in Jattir,” 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 ibid. v. 8. Like Bethul, it was a Simeonite village.

Jattir belonged to Judah (ibid. ch. 15:48), and was one of the cities assigned to

the priests (ibid. ch. 21:14).

 

28 “And to them which were in Aroer, and to them which were in

Siphmoth, and to them which were in Eshtemoa,”

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 (ibid. ch. 15:50), the present village Semu’ah,

south of Hebron.

 

29 “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,”

Rachal. Rather Racal, unknown, The supposition that it may be Carmel is

untenable.  The Jerahmeelites; see on ch. 27:10, as also for the Kenites.

 

30 “And to them which were in Hormah, and to them which were in

Chorashan, and to them which were in Athach,  Hormah. Anciently called

Zephath. For the reason of the change of name see Judges 1:17. Chor-ashan.

More correctly Corashan, the same place as Ashan (Joshua 15:42), a Simeonite

town (I Chronicles 4:32) assigned to the priests (ibid. ch. 6:59). Athach,

never mentioned elsewhere, may be a false reading for Ether (Joshua 19:7).

 

31 “And to them which were in Hebron, and to all the places where

David himself and his men were wont to haunt.”  Hebron, destined soon to

become David’s capital (II 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 (I 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 (I 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.

 

 

The Law of Service (vs. 21-31)

 

The facts are:

 

1. On returning to the men who had remained at Besor, some of David’s

followers oppose his intention to give them a share of the spoil, and are

even desirous of sending them away.

 

2.  David resists this spirit as being inconsistent with gratitude to God for His care

and aid, and with strict justice to those who serve in humble form according to

their strength.

 

3. David’s decision becomes a standing ordinance in Israel’s future national life.

 

4. He sends presents to the elders of cities that had befriended him during

the days of his persecution.

 

David’s course all through was wonderfully checkered. He had good reason for

saying, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth

him out of them all.” No sooner had he rejoiced in the triumph of victory, and

was devising in his heart kind and generous deeds, than he has to experience the

annoyance and pain of contending with a murmuring and mutinous spirit

among his own followers. As we look at him, the “man after God’s own

heart,” bent on a noble mission for Israel, generous in spirit to all around,

rising high above others in integrity of purpose and spiritual aspiration, and

surrounded by a motley group of men, hard to control, and often low in

tendency, we cannot but think of One greater, who later on stood among

wayward, ignorant men, the Holy One, intent on establishing a throne

never to be shaken, and wearied and wounded by the incessant

contradiction of sinners.” But God teaches mankind through lessons

evolved from the varied and often painful experience of His servants, and it

is a consolation to them that the fires which try them should also emit light

for the benefit of coming generations. There are three truths practical in

bearing brought out by this part of David’s experience.

 

  • THE DIVERSE CHARACTER OF MEN IS SEEN IN THE EFFECT

OF SUCCESS UPON THEIR SPIRIT AND CONDUCT. David and his

men had achieved a great success, and were returning full of the joy of

victory. The record tells us nothing of the bearing of the leader and of the

men on the first flush of success; no doubt the wild excitement over the

spoil of many of his followers was in striking contrast with the tremulous

joy which found vent in his private thanksgiving to God. But on their

return to Besor, the depraved, irreligious spirit of those termed “men of

Belial” appeared in the love of greed and the cruel indifference to the wants

of the weary which drew forth David’s remonstrance. Success revealed the

iniquity of their hearts, while it drew forth the grateful, tender qualities of

David’s character. Prosperity is as real a test of what men are as is

adversity. (Adversity will make one bitter or better.)  It draws forth a

different set of qualities, but is not the less a means of proving and

intensifying a man’s character, be it good or bad.  When we say that

sometimes success in commerce, literature, science, or military skill

makes a man vain and scornful of others, or humble and considerate,

we really mean that it has developed hidden weakness in the

one case, and moral strength in the other. When the character deteriorates

or improves under the influence of prosperity, it depends on casual

circumstances as to how the deterioration or improvement will manifest

itself. Here the presence of feeble men unable to engage in conflict

happened to be the occasion of an outburst of selfish feeling. The same

occasion furnished a manifestation of kindly consideration and love of

justice. While few things create in generous hearts more disgust and

sorrow than the selfishness, luxurious indulgence, and purse proud bearing

of men whose struggles in life have brought material success, few qualities

are more admired than those of large hearted benevolence, simplicity of

habit, compassion for the destitute, and the grateful, lowly spirit which

ascribes all good to God, and proves the sincerity of the ascription by

deeds of self-denial on behalf of others. He who can conquer prosperity is

often a greater man than the conqueror of adversity. Only the spirit of him

who “made himself of no reputation” (Philippians 2:7-11), who

became poor” that we “might be rich” (II Corinthians 8:9),will enable

us to subdue all things to His glory (compare Psalm 73:3-12; Proverbs

1:32; Mark 10:23-25; Philippians 3:7-8).

 

  • THE LAW OF SERVICE IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD. The selfish

spirit of some of David’s men gave occasion for the exercise of his

authority in a right royal manner, and issued in the establishment of an

ordinance in relation to service in his cause which became a law in Israel,

and fitly foreshadows the principle on which all service in Messiah’s

kingdom is based. David would not allow the men who, through

exhaustion in the hasty march, had remained at Besor to care for the

baggage to be deprived of their share of the spoil through the greed of the

actual combatants. His principle was that they were all engaged in one

enterprise, that their position had been determined by the circumstances of

the case, and that all honor should be done them. The ruling faculty in

David was beginning to bear good fruit for the poor and needy —

beautifully typical of One who is the Refuge and Defender of the

oppressed! Considering the passage in its bearing on service in Christ’s

kingdom, we may notice:

 

Ø      That all His people aye equally His servants, and have their proper

work. The equality in Christ’s kingdom is that of oneness of spirit, aim, and

relationship to Him. All true Christians are zealous for His supremacy, eager

to see Him triumph over powers of evil, and on the same level as servants

of one Lord and Leader. They are all workers, warriors, contending in

accordance with their power and position for a common issue. Every

member of the body has its function in securing the purposes of the head

(I Corinthians 12:12-14).

 

Ø      That diversity of employment is necessary to the execution of His

purposes. The care of the “stuff” was as necessary in so dangerous a

country as the pursuit and attack on the foe. In accomplishing the purposes

of Christ on earth there are diversities of operations. The analogy of the

body is used by the Apostle Paul to enforce this truth on the Church

(I Corinthians 12:12-31). (“....may grow up unto Him in all things,

which is the head, even Christ:  From whom the whole body fitly

joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth,

according to the effectual working in the measure of every part,

maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”

Ephesians 4:15-16)  It is an instructive study to notice how the manifold

agencies and gifts of the Church and of individual Christians have worked

together in producing the complex result we witness in the present

advanced position of Christ’s kingdom. The recognition of diversity should

stimulate and encourage all, whatever their powers and opportunities.

 

Ø      That incapacity for rendering conspicuous service is compatible with

quiet yet important service. Those who by Providence are hindered from

fighting in the high places of the field have good work to do in a quieter

form. Missionaries, popular preachers, diligent pastors, and men of high

literary culture may be in the forefront; but the mothers who train children

in the fear of God, fathers who live godly lives in the world, quiet, wise

men who conduct religious movements, widows who cast in their mite, and

even sick and weary ones who in the solitude of their chamber offer daily

prayers for the hosts of God — render most valuable service in the

common enterprise (My paternal grandmother, Clara Moreland Simpson,

was an invalid for the last sixteen years of her life, and without going into

detail, I believe is in this catergory – CY – 2016).

 

Ø      Where thee is loyalty in service, whatever its lowly form, there is to be

honorable recognition. David would not overlook the claims of the feeble

men in charge of the “stuff.” In this he was true to the principles and

precedents of Israel’s greatest leaders (Numbers 31:27; Joshua 22:8).

In Christ’s kingdom there is to be, after His great example in the case

of the widow’s mite ()and the hosannas of children(), a recognition by all of

the need and value of services apparently insignificant. This is further

taught in the blessing pronounced on the giver of a cup of cold water

(Matthew 10:42), the mention in the day of judgment of the care bestowed

on the sick and needy (Matthew 23:31-46), and also in the equal welcome

which the Lord declares he will give to the gainer of ten and two talents

(Matthew 25:14-30). The rewards of the advancing kingdom

are shared in the joy and satisfaction which all true workers experience,

and in the material improvement of the world consequent on its advance;

and while He makes all “kings and priests” (Revelation 1:6) now, He will

at last honor them with a vision of the glory He had with the Father before

the world was (John 17:24).

 

  • THERE IS A WISE POLICY IN THE EXPRESSION OF GRATITUDE.

The tenor of David’s life shows that the sending presents from the spoil taken

to those who had befriended him in his time of need was the genuine expression

of a grateful heart. At the same time this was coincident with a wise policy, and,

in his mind, distinctly blended with it.  Had the gifts been the product of a mere

calculation of results, the act would only command the respect due to

expediency, but having its root in feeling, it rises to a higher value. The

recompense of kindnesses when occasion offers is the suggestion of a true

heart, and though utilitarian ideas may not enter into the recompense,

yet it is always useful in view of future contingencies. A prudent man called

to a great work, is bound to prepare the way for its realization by securing

as far as possible the good will and cooperation of others.

 

  • GENERAL LESSONS:

 

Ø      It behoves us to be on our guard against the perils of success, and to

remember that as God is a refuge from the storm, so he is a shade

upon our right hand to tone down the fight of prosperity (Psalm 121:5-6).

 

Ø      Those who render aid to the people of God in their time of distress are

sure to be recompensed on earth as in heaven (Luke 6:31-38; 14:13-14).

 

 

The Fruits of Victory (vs. 21-31)

 

When David overtook the Amalekites in the evening twilight he found

them given up to riotous indulgence, undefended, and little thinking how

near they were to destruction. He forthwith fell upon them, and after a

severe conflict, which lasted till the evening of the next day, gained a

complete victory. He “recovered all” that had been carried away. In

addition he obtained much spoil, consisting of flocks and herds, and of

arms, ornaments, jewels, money, clothes, camels, accoutrements, and so

on.” The former were assigned to David (according to his wish, and as

better adapted to the end he had in view), and driven in front of the

recovered flock with the exclamation, “This is David’s spoil.” The latter

were carried away for distribution among his men. By his victory a

crushing blow was inflicted on a bitter enemy of the people of Israel, and a

great deliverance wrought for them. He evidently regarded himself as (not

merely engaged in a private enterprise, but as) acting on their behalf, and

carrying out God’s purpose; and his conduct after the battle was marked by:

 

1. Considerate sympathy with the faint and weary who had been disabled

from taking an active part in the conflict. “He saluted them” (v. 21). As

he had not previously urged them beyond their strength, so now he

exhibited a kindly interest in them, and a marked respect toward them. His

heart was not lifted up by success. They had “done what they could,” and

formed part of his following. “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

 

2. Strenuous resistance to the arrogant, selfish, and unjust procedure of

some of his followers (v. 22). “Rough, wild men were many among them,

equally depressed in the day of adversity, and recklessly elated and insolent

in prosperity. Nor is it merely the discipline which David knew how to

maintain in such a band that shows us ‘the skillfulness of his hands’ (Psalm

78:72) in guiding them, but the gentleness with which he dealt with them, and

above all the earnest piety with which he knew how to tame their wild passions,

prove the spiritual ‘integrity’ or ‘perfectness of his heart’” (Edersheim).

The spirit which these “wicked and worthless men” displayed is sometimes

found even in the Church of Christ, and requires to be met with firm and

uncompromising opposition (I Peter 5:9).

 

3. Devout recognition of the hand of God, in bestowing whatever good is

possessed, preserving from harm, and delivering from dangerous

adversaries. “Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the Lord

hath given us,” etc. (v. 23). “Man could not boast of his own merit in

obtaining these possessions” (Ewald). They were a gift of God, and should

be used for His honor and the good of all. There is a higher law than that

of self-interest. Men are only “stewards” (not absolute owners) of

property, ability, time, influence, etc., and as such it behoves them to “be

found faithful” (I Corinthians 4:2).  “Freely ye have received, freely give.”

(Matthew 10:8)

 

4. Equitable distribution. “And who will hearken unto you in this matter?”

etc. (vs. 24, 25). The course proposed was as contrary to the common

convictions of men concerning what is reasonable and just as to the

benevolent purpose of God. “The equity of this law appears from hence —

that by common consent these 200 men were left behind to look after the

baggage; were part of the same body of men, linked together in the same

common society; hindered by mere weariness from going to fight, which

otherwise they would have done; their will was accepted for the deed; and

they were in the same common danger, for if the 400 had been routed their

enemies would have soon cut them off” (Patrick). “The members should

have the same care one for another” (I Corinthians 12:25).

 

5. Grateful acknowledgment of friendly aid during his “wanderings in the

wilderness.” “He sent of the spoil unto the elders of Judah, his friends,”

etc. (vs. 26-31). They had suffered from Amalekite raids, but it was not

to make restitution for their losses so much as to testify his gratitude and

strengthen their attachment. His victory enabled him to display a princely

munificence. It is a remarkable proof of the grateful nature of David, and

his fidelity to his early friendships, as well as a curious instance of

undesigned coincidence, that we find among those employed by David in

offices of trust in the height of his power so many inhabitants of those

obscure places where he found friends in the days of his early difficulties”

(‘Speakers Commentary).

 

6. Commendable policywise, generous, patriotic, and religious.

“Behold a present” (blessing, gift) “for you of the spoil of the enemies of

Jehovah.” The elders of Judah and others looked to him as their future

theocratic ruler. He himself felt that the time of patient waiting was nearly

gone, and the time of active effort for the fulfillment of the Divine purpose

concerning him well nigh come, if, indeed, the tidings of the death of Saul

had not already reached him. He also foresaw that he must look for his

chief support in his own tribe, and adopted the best method of securing it.

“Piety without policy is too simple to be safe; policy without piety is too

subtle to be good.” “This was already a royal act in vivid anticipation of his

impending accession to the throne. Already the crown of Israel was

unmistakably though dimly visible above his head” (Krummacher). “Whilst

Saul’s star sinks in the north, the star of David rises in the south, and there

begins the long line of fulfillments of the prophecy concerning the Star that

should come out of Jacob” (Numbers 24:17) (Erdmann).

 

 

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