“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; 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. 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. Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep. And David’s two wives were taken captives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite. 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” (1 Samuel 30:1-6).
We find that the Lord had delivered David out of an awkward dilemma (see previous study), only to be faced with a terrible disaster. While we have no reason to think that God arranged that the Amalekites to take captive the women and children, we do know it would never have happened if David had not established himself in Philistia. Apart from this, being ejected from the Philistine army gave him opportunity to deal with the Amalekites and take back his property.
It is interesting to note that there were two battles set in array; the first between the Philistines and King Saul, and the other between the Amalekites and David. The outcome would be very different because one would use the occult to know the future (1 Samuel 28:3-25), while the other would seek God (1 Samuel 30:8).
The Amalekites were the barbarians of that time, for they were the enemy of everyone in the region. It was the Amalekites who were the first enemy Israel came into contact with after they escaped from Egypt; “Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim” (Exodus 17:8), and they attacked the weak first like a pack of jackals; “Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God” (Deuteronomy 25:17-18). God ordered that they were to be destroyed completely, “Thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven” (Deuteronomy 25:19), but it was never obeyed. He told Saul to “go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (1 Samuel 15:3), but he did not do it. Their attack on Ziklag would not have happened if Israel had obeyed the Lord.
They watched for an opportunity to attack Ziklag, for they probably knew that David was responsible for attacking their towns, “David and his men went up, and invaded the Geshurites, and the Gezrites, and the Amalekites” (1 Samuel 27:8), and so were determined to take revenge for the slaughter of their kinfolk. This throws up another reason to believe that David had become comfortable in Philistia, for he felt so secure that there was no guard left behind to protect his own people when he went off to battle. So when they came, the Amalekites burned everything they could not take away with them. They only spared the woman and children to use as either wives or slaves. It is fortunate for David that they did not do as he had done to them, “David smote the land, and left neither man nor woman alive” (1 Samuel 27:9).
On seeing what the Amalekites had done David was greatly distressed, for he had no idea if the woman and children had been butchered by them in the wilderness or not. We must also believe that at last he had come to realise that he had brought much of this upon himself, for he was not operating according to God’s will. For eighteen months David had been living in disobedience, and not once do we find him consulting the Lord about anything. Therefore, it is not wrong to suggest that the Amalekite attack was used by God as a form of chastisement on David to bring him to his senses. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten” (Revelation 3:19). This pierced the heart of David so deeply that he cried until no more tears could flow. “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Hebrews 12:11). This was a sign that David was truly repenting of his backslidden heart. Everyone now knew that David’s ungodliness was the real cause for these events, and they were willing to stone him to death.
The word “encouraged” can be translated as “strengthened”. Repentance brings strength to our spirit, for strength is one of the products of submitting oneself to chastisement, “Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees” (Hebrews 12:12). At last David was back on the pathway of righteousness, for he sought the One who alone could help him through this crisis. His downward track to destruction had started the moment he made the first steps towards Philistia with fear in his heart, “David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines” (1 Samuel 27:1), but now faith in God would deliver him again. The Parable of the Prodigal Son fits in with David’s experience here (see Luke 15:11-32).
In Psalm 27:1 David would write, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” From this moment he would find that this was absolutely true. Turning back to God brought deliverance, “Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me. When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek. Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation” (Psalm 27:7-9). Only God could guide and free him from the hands of his enemies, “Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies. Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty. I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:11-13). David’s advice to all believers is, “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD” (Psalm 27:14).