And when he had taken him down, behold, they were spread abroad over all the land, eating and drinking and dancing, because of all the great spoil they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from the land of Judah. And David struck them down from twilight until the evening of the next day, and not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men, who mounted camels and fled. David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and David rescued his two wives. Nothing was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that had been taken. David brought back all. David also captured all the flocks and herds, and the people drove the livestock before him, and said, “This is David’s spoil.”
Then David came to the two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow David, and who had been left at the brook Besor. And they went out to meet David and to meet the people who were with him. And when David came near to the people he greeted them. Then all the wicked and worthless fellows among the men who had gone with David said, “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except that each man may lead away his wife and children, and depart.” But David said, “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what the Lord has given us. He has preserved us and given into our hand the band that came against us. Who would listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage. They shall share alike.” And he made it a statute and a rule for Israel from that day forward to this day.
When David came to Ziklag, he sent part of the spoil to his friends, the elders of Judah, saying, “Here is a present for you from the spoil of the enemies of the Lord.” It was for those in Bethel, in Ramoth of the Negeb, in Jattir, in Aroer, in Siphmoth, in Eshtemoa, in Racal, in the cities of the Jerahmeelites, in the cities of the Kenites, in Hormah, in Bor-ashan, in Athach, in Hebron, for all the places where David and his men had roamed. – 1 Samuel 30:16-31 ESV
This chapter appears to mark a turning point in David’s life. He had been through a lot since his early days as a young shepherd boy, tending his father’s flocks. There had been his surprising anointing by the prophet, Samuel. That had been followed by his unimaginable defeat of the Philistine champion, Goliath. Not long after that, he had found himself serving as the court musician for the king of Israel, Saul. Then he had been promoted to his bodyguard and eventually to the role of commander in the army of the Israelites. But then everything had gone south when Saul’s suspicions of David caused him to seek his death. That had led to David’s flight and the subsequent years of hiding in the wilderness and, eventually, to his escape to the safety of the land of Philistia, where he had been the last 16 months. But with the sack and plunder of his home base of Ziklag and the capture of his wives, along with the wives and children of all of his men, David had hit an all-time low point in his life. With his city burned, his wives taken captive by the Amalekites, and his men threatening to stone him, David was faced with one of the most difficult decisions of his entire life. And it was at this critical juncture of his life that David, rather than letting his emotions get the better of him and making an unwise decision, turned to God. He sought the Lord’s help and received it. God told him to pursue the Amalekites and guaranteed his success in the endeavor.
With the help of a captured Amalekite servant, David learned the whereabouts of the Amalekite raiding party. As the Amalekites were busy celebrating the success of their raids, David and his men attacked. While 400 of the Amalekites were able to escape, the passage tells us that David was able to get back all that had been taken.
David got back everything the Amalekites had taken, and he rescued his two wives. Nothing was missing: small or great, son or daughter, nor anything else that had been taken. David brought everything back. He also recovered all the flocks and herds, and his men drove them ahead of the other livestock. – 1 Samuel 30:18-20 NLT
God had given him victory. They were able to free every single woman and child, and recover every single item that had been stolen, along with an abundance of livestock and loot that the Amalekites had taken from other cities they had plundered. By seeking God’s will and doing things God’s way, David had experienced God’s blessing. No deception had been necessary. Complete, not partial, success had been the outcome. And David’s men went from threatening to stone him to offering him all of the plunder as his reward for saving their wives and children.
But what David does next is what reveals the life-transformative nature of this moment in his life. He returns to the 200 men who had been too exhausted to join him in the fight, and shares the plunder with them. And he did this against the wishes of a group of “wicked and worthless fellows” who had greedily advised that these men get nothing back but their wives and children. But David recognized that their victory had been God-given, and that everyone, even those who stayed back and protected the baggage, were to enjoy in the blessing God had provided. David knew that this whole affair had been God’s doing. He had given them success over their enemies – in spite of them. David knew he did not deserve what God had just done. This entire mess had been of his own making and, yet, God had graciously responded in mercy and provided victory. So he told his men:
“No, my brothers! Don’t be selfish with what the Lord has given us. He has kept us safe and helped us defeat the band of raiders that attacked us. Who will listen when you talk like this? We share and share alike—those who go to battle and those who guard the equipment.” – 1 Samuel 30:23-24 NLT
David wanted everyone to share in the joy of the moment and experienced the material blessings that God had provided. So he not only shared the plunder with his men, but had portions of what had been taken from the Amalekites sent to the elders of Judah. As far as he was concerned, this had been God’s victory and it was only right to share it with all of God’s people.
This passage is a turning point in the life of David. It provides an important transition in the story of David’s life. Yes, he is still persona non grata in Israel. He is still a fugitive, living on the run and Saul has not given up his desire to see David dead. But his transformation from shepherd boy to king was rapidly coming to an end. Saul was still on the throne, but God’s preparation of David to take his place was almost done. And Saul’s demise and David’s rise was much nearer than either man knew.
It is sometimes at the lowest points of our lives that God chooses to step in and reveal His grace and mercy in abundance. It is at our moments of greatest need that God appears, because it is at those moments that we tend to call out to Him. When our capacity to solve our problems diminishes and our resources of self-preservation finally run out, we typically call out to God. And He hears. And He answers. And He rescues. It is the very same principle that applied to our salvation. Paul reminds us that, “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8 NLT). At the point of our greatest need – in the midst of our sin-saturated, self-centered, death-deserving hopelessness – God stepped in and did what only He could do. He saved us. He gave us victory over sin and death. He blessed us beyond our wildest dreams. And we are to share those blessings with others. We are to share the love of God with others.
Jesus told His disciples: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 ESV). Our salvation is to mark a turning point in our lives, when we move from selfishness and self-centeredness to selflessness and love for others.
In many ways, the words of Paul, found in his letter to the Corinthians, fit perfectly with what we see displayed in the life of Paul in this passage. But they also apply to us. We have been reconciled to
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. – 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 NLT
Like David, we have been reconciled to God. We have been given a second chance, a new lease on life. We have been spared from a fate worse than death: eternal separation from God. And as a result, we are to share the joys and blessings of our reconciliation with God with others.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.