I Samuel 30:16-31
16 He led David down, and there they were, scattered over the countryside, eating, drinking and reveling because of the great amount of plunder they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from Judah. 17 David fought them from dusk until the evening of the next day, and none of them got away, except four hundred young men who rode off on camels and fled. 18 David recovered everything the Amalekites had taken, including his two wives. 19 Nothing was missing: young or old, boy or girl, plunder or anything else they had taken. David brought everything back. 20 He took all the flocks and herds, and his men drove them ahead of the other livestock, saying, “This is David’s plunder.” 21 Then David came to the two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow him and who were left behind at the Besor Valley. They came out to meet David and the men with him. As David and his men approached, he asked them how they were. 22 But all the evil men and troublemakers among David’s followers said, “Because they did not go out with us, we will not share with them the plunder we recovered. However, each man may take his wife and children and go.” 23 David replied, “No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the Lord has given us. He has protected us and delivered into our hands the raiding party that came against us. 24 Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” 25 David made this a statute and ordinance for Israel from that day to this. 26 When David reached Ziklag, he sent some of the plunder to the elders of Judah, who were his friends, saying, “Here is a gift for you from the plunder of the Lord’s enemies.” 27 David sent it to those who were in Bethel, Ramoth Negev and Jattir; 28 to those in Aroer, Siphmoth, Eshtemoa 29 and Rakal; to those in the towns of the Jerahmeelites and the Kenites; 30 to those in Hormah, Bor Ashan, Athak 31 and Hebron; and to those in all the other places where he and his men had roamed.
1. A Great Recovery 16-20
David, was directed to the place where the raiding Amalakites lay, securely (they thought) celebrating their triumphs. He attacked them, and, as he prayed from time to time, saw his desire fulfilled upon his enemies. The Amalekites, finding the booty was rich, and having thought they escaped with it out of the reach of danger, were making themselves very merry with it. All thoughts of war were laid aside, nor were they in any haste to secure their spoils in Amalakite cities and villages. They were, “scattered over the countryside, eating, drinking and reveling because of the great amount of plunder they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from Judah” (16).They spread themselves abroad on the earth in the most careless manner that could be, and there they were found eating, and drinking, and dancing, probably in honor of their idol-gods, to whom they gave the praise of their success. In this condition David surprised them, which made the conquest of them, and the blow he gave to them, the more easy for him and the more dismal for them. Their security was false and their merry-making was short. Finding them off their guard, many of them probably drunk, and unable to make any resistance, he put them all to the sword, and only 400 escaped (17). The spoilers were spoiled; the over-comers were overcome. This serves to illustrate that the triumph of the wicked is short, and wrath comes on them, as later also demonstrated in Bible history through Belshazzar’s experience in Babylon (Daniel 5), when they too were in the midst of their drunken and careless celebrations.
The spoil was totally recovered and carried with David and his men back to Ziklag. Nothing was lost, but in fact a great deal gained. They retrieved all their own (18-19) and David rescued his two wives. This part of the rescue is mentioned particularly, probably because this pleased David more than all the rest of his achievements. God had so arranged it that the Amalekites carefully preserved all that they had taken, wrongly thinking that they could keep it for themselves, though really they preserved it for the rightful owners. In the end, there was nothing lacking to the Israelites. David and his men had concluded all was gone, but God who is able to do immeasurably more that all we can ask or think, is so much better to us than our own fears. This is but a small illustration of a much bigger raiding of spoils that, according to Ephesians 4:8, our Lord Jesus, the Son of both David and Abraham and resembling them both—Abraham in Gen. 14:16 and David here—descended into hell, spoiled and rescued what the devil had taken and triumphantly led them out. This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”
But this was not all. They also took all that belonged to the Amalekites besides, all the flocks and herds, and his men drove them ahead of the other livestock. Some of them would have belonged to the Amalakites, but most of it was probably what the Amalakites had taken from the Philistines and others, which David now possessed. This drove of animals were put in a parade of triumph, with this proclamation, “This is David’s plunder.” Those who recently had spoken of stoning him now boasted about his exploits because they now received from him more than they had then lost. This great recovery is an accurate picture of the great recoveries God is able to give to those who faithfully follow and willingly obey Him.
2. Great Statesmanship 21-25
Next we observe an account of the distribution of the spoil which was taken from the Amalekites. When the Amalekites had carried away a rich booty from the land of Judah and the Philistines they spent it in sensuality, eating, drinking, and making merry with it. But when David disposed of the spoil he recovered he followed a totally different principle. He knew that justice and generosity must govern us in the use we make of whatever we have in this world. What God gives us, He plans we should do good with it; not to serve our lusts and self interests.
David was just and kind to those who stayed by the stuff. They watched and guarded what belonged to all of them. Now they emerged to meet the conquerors, and to congratulate them on their success, though they could not contribute to it. “They came out to meet David and the men with him.” We should rejoice in a good work done through others, though circumstances have laid us aside and rendered us incapable of lending a hand to it. “As David and his men approached, he asked them how they were.” David received their address very kindly, and was so far from scolding them with their weakness that he showed himself grateful, considerate, benevolent and generous with them. He saluted them and enquired how they did, because he had left them exhausted. He wished them peace, which is the normal Hebrew greeting, bade them to be of good cheer which may have been a hint that they should lose nothing by having stayed behind. The Scripture does not give these details, but it wouldn’t be difficult for us to imagine that the expression on their faces may have indicated to David that they were anxious. What did David do? David displayed some of the finest statesmanship recorded in the Bible right here in this story.
Some of David’s men opposed their receiving a share in the spoil. Some of David’s soldiers, possibly the same ones that spoke of stoning him, spoke now of denying their brothers a share in the recovery. They are called, “evil men and troublemakers among David’s followers" (v 22.) Let not the best of leaders think it strange if they have those following them that are very bad and who cannot be persuaded to become better. This is speculation, but we may suppose that David had instructed his soldiers, and prayed with them, and yet there were many among them that were selfish, mean and wicked. The nobles of Israel had not joined David at Adullum; the problem people had. It would be no surprise to find that some of them would say that the 200 men who stayed by the baggage should only have their wives and children given them, but none of their goods. They deserve to be called evil troublemakers. They were covetous themselves and greedy of gain. If the 200 did not receive any spoils, then the troublemakers would receive more; more would fall to their share. Awhile ago they would gladly have given half their own to recover the other half, yet now that they have all their own they are not content unless they can have their fellow soldiers part too; so soon do men forget their low estate. All seek their own, and too often more than their own.
It was inconsiderate to their fellow soldiers. To give them their wives and children, and not their share of the spoils, was to give them mouths but without meat. What joy could they have with their families if they had nothing to maintain them with; nothing to feed them? Were they doing for others as they would want others to do for them? Those are “evil men and troublemakers” who delight in putting hardships on others and do not care who is starved, so they may be full; others go hungry while they are stuffed.
David would by no means allow this, but ordered that those who stayed with the baggage should come in for an equal share in the spoils with those that went to the battle. He did this in gratitude to God. The spoil we have is “what the Lord has given us” and so we must use it under His direction as good stewards. Let this caution us when we are tempted to misuse something God has entrusted to us “God has been kind to us in preserving us and giving us victory, let us not be unkind to them.” God’s mercy to us should make us merciful to one another. It was true they waited behind, but in justice to them, remember it was not for lack of good-will to the cause or to their brethren, but because they did not have the strength to keep up. It was not their fault, but their disadvantage and disappointment, so they ought not to suffer for it.
Though they stayed with the baggage this time, they had formerly engaged in battle many times and done their part as well as the best of their brethren; their former services must be considered now that there was something to enjoy. Besides that, even now they did good service, for they protected the supplies, to guard that which somebody must take care of, or that might have fallen into the hands of some other enemy. Every post of service is not alike a post of honor, yet those that are in any way serviceable to the common interest, even though in a lessor way, ought to share in the common advantages, as in the natural body every member has its use and therefore has its share of the nourishment.
David overruled the evil troublemakers with reason and mildness; for the force of reason is sufficient, without the force of passion. He called them "my brothers" (v 23). Superiors may lose their authority by haughtiness, but seldom by courtesy and condescension. Furthermore, he settled the matter for time to come, made it a statute of his kingdom and a military policy: “The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” Those that endanger their lives and those that guard the carriages will share alike. We are a team.
If we help others to recover what is their right, we must not think that this makes the property ours. God appointed that the spoil of Midian (Numbers 31:27) should be divided between the soldiers and the whole congregation, “Divide the spoils equally between the soldiers who took part in the battle and the rest of the community.” The same general rule was in effect then—that we are members one of another. Psalm 68:12 says, "Kings and armies flee in haste; the women at home divide the plunder.” And in the New Testament, the disciples, at first, had all things common, and we should still follow I Tim 6:18, “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share."
3. Great Diplomacy 26-31
David was generous and kind to all his friends. When he had given every one his own with interest there was still a considerable amount left over which David, as general, could distribute as he wanted. In the tents of the Amalekites there may have been a lot of jewelry as there had been in the spoil Gideon’s army took from the Midianites. So instead of making his soldiers proud and effeminate he decided to make presents to his friends, the elders of Judah. Several places are named to which he sent presents, all of them in or near the tribe of Judah. The first is Bethel, which means the house of God; that place shall be first served for its name’s sake; or perhaps it was the place where the ark was, which was therefore the house of God. David sent the first and best there, to those that attended there, for the sake of the God who is first and best.
The last place is Hebron possibly because he thought that might make a good headquarters soon and therefore sent all the rest there. In sending these presents observe his generosity. He aimed not to enrich himself, but to serve his country; and therefore God afterwards enriched him, and set him to rule the country he had served. It becomes gracious souls to be generous. There is that scatters, and yet increases. Notice his gratitude. “He sent presents to all the other places where he and his men had roamed” that is, to all that he had received kindness from, that had sheltered him and sent him intelligence or provisions. Let’s learn that honesty, as well as honor, obligates us to repay the favors that have been done for us, or at least to make a real acknowledgment of them as far as is in the power of our hand.
David had fidelity and was loyal. “Here is a gift for you from the plunder of the Lord’s enemies” that they might not think of them as David’s personal enemies so much as they they were God’s enemies, that they might rejoice in the victory for the Lord’s sake, and might join with him in thanksgiving for it.
He sent these presents among his countrymen to engage them to be ready to support him upon his accession to the throne, which he now saw as coming soon. “A man’s gift makes room for him.” He was fit to be a king who now showed the bounty and liberality of a king. Generosity recommends a man more than magnificence.
The Ziphites received no presents, nor the men of Keilah. Even in David’s choice of to whom to give gifts and to whom not to give gifts he showed wisdom in that, though he was such a godly man as not to take revenge against betrayals and unkindnesses, yet he was not such a fool as not to take notice of them.
The theme of justice predominates throughout this narrative. David treated his team members and his friends justly. Few will refuse to follow our leadership if we have a reputation for fairness. If we treat our staff and other Christian leaders with generosity, liberality and justice, we can build a strong and loyal leadership team. In other words, it is not to your advantage to show favoritism. Whether your favorites are your family member or others you happen to like more than you like others, be fair. Give equal opportunities to your people. If they make mistakes correct them gently and fairly. They will recognize the correctness of your leadership.