1 Samuel 30
The Burned City (1-5)
David and his men left that morning from Aphek to make the seventy-five mile journey back to Ziglag. The trip took three days. When David arrived at the city, they discovered the Amalekites had been making raids on cities in Negev. The Negev was the area south of Judah, with barren rolling hills eventually giving way to the desert. The Amalekites were not so much warring against this area as sweeping through it and taking as many slaves, cattle, and possessions as possible from those who had gone off to fight in the war.
When David and his men returned to Ziglag tired and hungry, they found their homes burned to the ground and the families of David and his men taken captive. None of them was killed; they had certainly all been taken captive to be given to slavery(2-3).
No doubt the men could see their burned city from some distance when returning home. By the time they arrived, they were in full lament, weeping until what little was left of their strength had been exhausted (4). All David and his men had pillaged while living among the Philistines had been captured, along with their families. This included David's two wives named in the text (5).
The Distress of David (6-8)
David was not only in distress over having lost his wives, city, and fortune, but he was also in danger of his own men’s stoning him. David was being blamed for his decision in taking them on the fool's errand to fight with the Philistines.
David's men were so exhausted, frustrated, and bitter at David that they were discussing among themselves whether or not to stone him.
While his men were voting on stoning their leader, and while Saul was up visiting a witch, David strengthened himself in Yahweh (6).
Once encouraged in Yahweh and having his spiritual wits about himself, he called for Abiathar, the priest. The text is quick to point out that this was the sole survivor of the massacre of the priests of Nob. So, while David's other men were taking a vote on whether to stone David, Abiathar remained faithful to David and was bringing him the ephod.
David, there with the priest, inquired of Yahweh whether or not he should pursue and whether he would then find the raiding Amalakites, who had captured his family. While Yahweh had been silent with Saul at Gilboa, He answered David, commanding him to pursue and promising that he would find his family (7-8).
David Pursues (9-15)
Without resupplying and with the men exhausted from travel and weeping, David put a stop to the nonsense of voting on whether or not to stone him and had them mount their horses and begin the pursuit.
About fifteen miles into the pursuit, by the Brook of Besor, they halted. The men had been traveling non-stop for nearly a week—three days to Aphek, three days back, and now nearly a half-day to the Brook.
David left one third of his troops— those too exhausted, literally too dead-tired even to continue to cross the ravine. He left 200 men while the rest crossed the ravine into the more barren and rugged country of the Negev (9-10).
In the open country, David's men had found an Egyptian slave lying in the sand too weak to move. They brought the young man to David only to discover him an Egyptian who had fallen sick some three days before and had been left by his Amalekite master to die. His master had left him no supply of food or water. David gave the boy more than just bread and water; he gave him the candy bars of his day—cake of figs and some raisins. After the boy had taken in the treats, his spirit revived and the boy opened up and began to talk. The young slave answered David's questions, including to whom he belonged, for David could see he was dressed as a slave, and where he was from.
First, the young slave made it clear that he had become so worthless to his master, with the acquiring of all the new slaves, that he was not left with food nor put on a camel to take home and nurse to life. He also was an Egyptian and slave to an Amalekite. His master was not just any Amalekite, but the one who had led the raid on Negev. The slave gave details on the raid: they had looted the homes of the Cherethites who were, like David, not Hebrews, but mercenaries for the Philistines and were themselves at war when the raids occurred.
Then the young slave mentioned the Amalekites had also attacked some towns of southern Judah and had then come to Ziklag and burned it with fire (12-14).
David asked the young slave if he would take them to the band of Amalekites who had captured their family. The young slave brought David into an old ancient oath, making him swear he would not do two things to him:
a) David would not kill him after acquiring the information.
b) David would not hand this man back to his master (15).
David Finds the Amalekites (16-20)
David finally came upon the Amalekites, and they were spread out over the land, having set up multiple night clubs, feeling secure about the distance between themselves and the armies fighting up north with the Philistines.
There were no lookouts, none to warn of David's nearness. They were clubbing, drinking, and dancing because the spoil they had taken from the Philistines and Judah was vast (16).
David, having arrived in the evening, let his men rest until morning. At dawn, they attacked the Amalekites and fought until after the sun had set. They slew everyone except for 400 young men who escaped by camel (17). David rescued every family member who had been taken in the raid, including his two wives (19). David's men recaptured and counted everything and found nothing missing; they then presented David with the spoil, in acclamation of his once-questioned leadership (20).
The Two-Hundred Men (21-25)
David returned with all the families and their possessions to the Brook of Besor. The 200 men left behind came out to meet David and his men, and David kindly greeted them (21). Then those wicked and selfish men who were fighting with David reared their selfish hearts. They told David that they were going to refuse to divide their share of the spoil with the 200 men who were too exhausted to ride with them, the men who stayed behind and did not engage in the work of fighting. They were willing to give the 200 who remained at the Brook their families, but no more (22).
David graciously appealed to those greedy and wicked men as brothers, ordering them that they would not do according to their brash words. No doubt these would have been the same men leading the charge to stone David at Ziglag when they had returned to their burned homes.
Then David taught a great principle: it was Yahweh, not themselves, Who had won the battle. He had preserved those men with David, even those wicked and selfish men. After they had all been in a life-and-death struggle with the Amalekites, who had resisted giving up anything, it was Yahweh alone Who could claim victory. David had only done what he was told to do (23).
He then warned those selfish men that no one was going to side with them—all were going to give credit to Yahweh for the win. All were going to divide the spoil equally.
David then made his first kingly law or statute that became a perpetual rule in his kingdom. Those who fight and those who stay with the baggage or the possessions would share alike, for it was not those who fought in battle who actually won victory, but Yahweh (24-25).
The Distribution (26-30)
Once David returned to Ziglag, he divided the spoil further, sending part of it to his friends who were leaders of the cities of Judah. He gave it to them as a gift from the war Yahweh had empowered him to win (26).
The gift had three purposes:
a) to pay back loses
b) to thank them for their loyal friendship
c) to validate his loyalty to them, even though he had been hanging out in Philistine territory for sixteen months
d) to position himself to be leader of Judah once Saul had died
David then sent gifts to all the cities in Judah where he and his men had roamed during their flight from Saul (27-31).