Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 30:1
During David's absence the Amalekites had invaded the south country, smitten Ziklag and burnt it down, and carried off the women and children whom they found there; whereat not only were David and his men plunged into great grief on their return upon the third day but David especially was involved in very great trouble, inasmuch as the people wanted to stone him. But he strengthened himself in the Lord his God (Sa1 30:1-6).
Sa1 30:1-4 form one period, which is expanded by the introduction of several circumstantial clauses. The apodosis to "It came to pass, when," etc. (Sa1 30:1), does not follow till Sa1 30:4, "Then David and the people," etc. But this is formally attached to Sa1 30:3, "so David and his men came," with which the protasis commenced in Sa1 30:1 is resumed in an altered form. "It came to pass, when David and his men came to Ziklag ... the Amalekites had invaded ... and had carried off the wives ... and had gone their way, and David and his men came into the town (for 'when David and his men came,' etc.), and behold it was burned ... . Then David and the people with him lifted up their voice." "On the third day:" after David's dismission by Achish, not after David's departure from Ziklag. David had at any rate gone with Achish beyond Gath, and had not been sent back till the whole of the princes of the Philistines had united their armies (Sa1 29:2.), so that he must have been absent from Ziklag more than two days, or two days and a half. This is placed beyond all doubt by Sa1 30:11., since the Amalekites are there described as having gone off with their booty three days before David followed them, and therefore they had taken Ziklag and burned it three days before David's return. These foes had therefore taken advantage of the absence of David and his warriors, to avenge themselves for David's invasions and plunderings (Sa1 27:8). Of those who were carried off, "the women" alone expressly mentioned in Sa1 30:2, although the female population and all the children had been removed, as we may see from the expression "small and great" (Sa1 30:3, Sa1 30:6). The lxx were therefore correct, so far as the sense is concerned, in introducing the words καὶ πάντα before בּהּ עשׁר. "They had killed no one, but (only) carried away." נהג, to carry away captive, as in Isa 20:4. Among those who had been carried off were David's two wives, Ahinoam and Abigail (vid., Sa1 25:42-43; Sa1 27:3).
David was greatly distressed in consequence; "for the people thought ('said,' sc., in their hearts) to stone him," because they sought the occasion of their calamity in his connection with Achish, with which many of his adherents may very probably have been dissatisfied. "For the soul of the whole people was embittered (i.e., all the people were embittered in their souls) because of their sons and daughters," who had been carried away into slavery. "But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God," i.e., sought consolation and strength in prayer and believing confidence in the Lord (Sa1 30:7.). This strength he manifested in the resolution to follow the foes and rescue their booty from them. To this end he had the ephod brought by the high priest Abiathar (cf. Sa1 23:9), and inquired by means of the Urim of the Lord, "Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake it?" These questions were answered in the affirmative; and the promise was added, "and thou wilt rescue." So David pursued the enemy with his six hundred men as far as the brook Besor, where the rest, i.e., two hundred, remained standing (stayed behind). The words עמדוּ והנּותרים, which are appended in the form of a circumstantial clause, are to be connected, so far as the facts are concerned, with what follows: whilst the others remained behind, David pursued the enemy still farther with four hundred men. By the word הנּותרים the historian has somewhat anticipated the matter, and therefore regards it as necessary to define the expression still further in Sa1 30:10. We are precluded from changing the text, as Thenius suggests, by the circumstance that all the early translators read it in this manner, and have endeavoured to make the expression intelligible by paraphrasing it. These two hundred men were too tired to cross the brook and go any farther. (פּגר, which only occurs here and in Sa1 30:21, signifies, in Syriac, to be weary or exhausted.) As Ziklag was burnt down, of course they found no provisions there, and were consequently obliged to set out in pursuit of the foe without being able to provide themselves with the necessary supplies. The brook Besor is supposed to be the Wady Sheriah, which enters the sea below Ashkelon (see v. Raumer, Pal. p. 52).
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 30:11
On their further march they found an Egyptian lying exhausted upon the field; and having brought him to David, they gave him food and drink, namely "a slice of fig-cake (cf. Sa1 25:18), and raisin-cakes to eat; whereupon his spirit of life returned (i.e., he came to himself again), as he had neither eaten bread nor drunk water for three days."
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 30:13
When David asked him whence he had come (to whom, i.e., to what people or tribe, dost thou belong?), the young man said that he was an Egyptian, and servant of an Amalekite, and that he had been left behind by his master when he fell sick three days before ("to-day three," sc., days): he also said, "We invaded the south of the Crethites, and what belongs to Judah, and the south of Caleb, and burned Ziklag with fire." הכּרתי, identical with כּרתים (Eze 25:16; Zep 2:5), denotes those tribes of the Philistines who dwelt in the south-west of Canaan, and is used by Ezekiel and Zephaniah as synonymous with Philistim. The origin of the name is involved in obscurity, as the explanation which prevailed for a time, viz., that it was derived from Creta, is without sufficient foundation (vid., Stark, Gaza, pp. 66 and 99ff.). The Negeb "belonging to Judah" is the eastern portion of the Negeb. One part of it belonged to the family of Caleb, and was called Caleb's Negeb (vid., Sa1 25:3).
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 30:15
This Egyptian then conducted David, at his request, when he had sworn that he would neither kill him nor deliver him up to his master, down to the hostile troops, who were spread over the whole land, eating, drinking, and making merry, on account of all the great booty which they had brought out of the land of the Philistines and Judah.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 30:17
David surprised them in the midst of their security, and smote them from the evening twilight till the evening of the next day, so that no one escaped, with the exception of four hundred young men, who fled upon camels. Nesheph signifies the evening twilight here, not the dawn, - a meaning which is not even sustained by Job 7:4. The form מחרתם appears to be an adverbial formation, like יומם.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 30:18
Through this victory David rescued all that the Amalekites had taken, his two wives, and all the children great and small; also the booty that they had taken with them, so that nothing was missing.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 30:20
Sa1 30:20 is obscure: "And David took all the sheep and the oxen: they drove them before those cattle, and said, This is David's booty." In order to obtain any meaning whatever from this literal rendering of the words, we must understand by the sheep and oxen those which belonged to the Amalekites, and the flocks taken from them as booty; and by "those cattle," the cattle belonging to David and his men, which the Amalekites had driven away, and the Israelites had now recovered from them: so that David had the sheep and oxen which he had taken from the Amalekites as booty driven in front of the rest of the cattle which the Israelites had recovered; whereupon the drovers exclaimed, "This (the sheep and oxen) is David's booty." It is true that there is nothing said in what goes before about any booty that David had taken from the Amalekites, in addition to what they had taken from the Israelites; but the fact that David had really taken such booty is perfectly obvious from Sa1 30:26-31, where he is said to have sent portions of the booty of the enemies of Jehovah to different places in the land. If this explanation be not accepted, there is no other course open than to follow the Vulgate, alter לפני into לפניו, and render the middle clause thus: "they drove those cattle (viz., the sheep and oxen already mentioned) before him," as Luther has done. But even in that case we could hardly understand anything else by the sheep and oxen than the cattle belonging to the Amalekites, and taken from them as booty.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 30:21
When David came back to the two hundred men whom he had left by the brook Besor (יושׁיבם, they made them sit, remain), they went to meet him and his warriors, and were heartily greeted by David.
Then all kinds of evil and worthless men of those who had gone with David to the battle replied: "Because they have not gone with us (lit. with me, the person speaking), we will not give them any of the booty that we have seized, except to every one his wife and his children: they may lead them away, and go."
David opposed this selfish and envious proposal, saying, "Do not so, my brethren, with that (את, the sign of the accusative, not the preposition; see Ewald, 329, a.: lit. with regard to that) which Jehovah hath done to us, and He hath guarded us (since He hath guarded us), and given this troop which came upon us into our hand. And who will hearken to you in this matter? But (כּי, according to the negation involved in the question) as the portion of him that went into the battle, so be the portion of him that stayed by the things; they shall share together." הורד is a copyist's error for היּרד.
So was it from that day and forward; and he (David) made it (this regulation as to the booty) "the law and right for Israel unto this day."
When David returned to Ziklag, he sent portions of the booty to the elders of Judah, to his friends, with this message: "Behold, here ye have a blessing of the booty of the enemies of Jehovah" (which we took from the enemies of Jehovah); and this he did, according to Sa1 30:31, to all the places in which he had wandered with his men, i.e., where he had wandered about during his flight from Saul, and in which he had no doubt received assistance. Sending these gifts could not fail to make the elders of these cities well disposed towards him, and so to facilitate his recognition as king after the death of Saul, which occurred immediately afterwards. Some of these places may have been plundered by the Amalekites, since they had invaded the Negeb of Judah (Sa1 30:14). The cities referred to were Bethel, - not the Bethel so often mentioned, the present Beitin, in the tribe of Benjamin, but Betheul (Ch1 4:30) or Bethul, in the tribe of Simeon (Jos 19:4), which Knobel supposes to be Elusa or el Khalasa (see at Jos 15:30). The reading Βαιθσούρ in the lxx is a worthless conjecture. Ramah of the south, which was allotted to the tribe of Simeon, has not yet been discovered (see at Jos 19:8). Jattir has been preserved in the ruins of Attir, on the southern portion of the Mountains of Judah (see at Jos 15:48). Aror is still to be seen in ruins, viz., in the foundations of walls built in enormous stones in Wady Arara, where there are many cavities for holding water, about three hours E.S.E. of Bersaba, and twenty miles to the south of Hebron (vid., Rob. Pal. ii. p. 620, and v. de Velde, Mem. p. 288). Siphmoth (or Shiphmoth, according to several MSS) is altogether unknown. It may probably be referred to again in Ch1 27:27, where Zabdi is called the Shiphmite; but it is certainly not to be identified with Sepham, on the north-east of the sea of Galilee (Num 34:10-11), as Thenius supposes. Eshtemoa has been preserved in the village of Semua, with ancient ruins, on the south-western portion of the mountains of Judah (see at Jos 15:50). Racal is never mentioned again, and is entirely unknown. The lxx have five different names instead of this, the last being Carmel, into which Thenius proposes to alter Racal. But this can hardly be done with propriety, as the lxx also introduced the Philistian Gath, which certainly does not belong here; whilst in Sa1 30:30 they have totally different names, some of which are decidedly wrong. The cities of the Jerahmeelites and Kenites were situated in the Negeb of Judah (Sa1 27:10), but their names cannot be traced.
Hormah in the Negeb (Jos 15:30) is Zephath, the present Zepta, on the western slope of the Rakhma plateau (see at Jos 12:14). Cor-ashan, probably the same place as Ashan in the shephelah, upon the border of the Negeb, has not yet been discovered (see at Jos 15:42). Athach is only mentioned here, and quite unknown. According to Thenius, it is probably a mistaken spelling for Ether in the tribe of Simeon (Jos 19:7; Jos 15:43). Hebron, the present el Khulil, Abraham's city (see at Jos 10:3; Gen 23:17).