David’s Ordinance

“And David came to the two hundred men, which were so faint that they could not follow David, whom they had made also to abide at the brook Besor: and they went forth to meet David, and to meet the people that were with him: and when David came near to the people, he saluted them. Then answered all the wicked men and men of Belial, of those that went with David, and said, Because they went not with us, we will not give them ought of the spoil that we have recovered, save to every man his wife and his children, that they may lead them away, and depart. Then said David, Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the LORD hath given us, who hath preserved us, and delivered the company that came against us into our hand. For who will hearken unto you in this matter? but as his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike. And it was so from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel unto this day. And when David came to Ziklag, he sent of the spoil unto the elders of Judah, even to his friends, saying, Behold a present for you of the spoil of the enemies of the LORD; To them which were in Bethel, and to them which were in south Ramoth, and to them which were in Jattir, And to them which were in Aroer, and to them which were in Siphmoth, and to them which were in Eshtemoa, And to them which were in Rachal, and to them which were in the cities of the Jerahmeelites, and to them which were in the cities of the Kenites, And to them which were in Hormah, and to them which were in Chorashan, and to them which were in Athach, And to them which were in Hebron, and to all the places where David himself and his men were wont to haunt” (1 Samuel 30:21-31).


In this text we find David establishing a principle that would become law amongst the people of Israel, that is, the distribution of spoil to those who actually fought in a battle and those who stayed to protect the camp. W. G. Blaikie describes David as “one of those men to whom it is more blessed to give than to receive.” Here we see evidence of his justice and righteousness.

The protest

It may surprise us to learn that some of David’s men objected to the idea of distributing the recovered spoil to those who remained in the camp, but we must remember that they were not all honourable men for David had attracted many rejects from society too. The Lord Jesus Christ had Judas Iscariot as a follower (Mark 14:10). Scripture names such men “sons of belial” (1 Samuel 2:12) or “wicked and worthless ones.” The term was eventually used to refer to those who followed Satan. “But for corruption thou hast made Belial, an angel of hostility. All his dominions are in darkness, and his purpose is to bring about wickedness and guilt” (Dead Sea Scrolls). This is how the apostle Paul thought of “belial” too. “And what concord hath Christ with Belial?” (2 Corinthians 6:15).

These men did not accept that the two hundred men who remained in camp had achieved anything, so therefore should not receive a share of the spoil. While they would allow them to have their wives and children, all the property they lost to the Amalekites would not be returned. This wicked notion would deprive them of their livelihood. In addition to this, they wanted the two hundred and their families removed from the camp. Is it possible that these were the men who had instigated the idea to stone David earlier?

The principle

David’s response acknowledges that God has returned their possessions by His grace rather than through their military might. This was intended as a rebuke to the objectors. It reveals just how hard and selfish their hearts were, for they were taking all the credit for the victory rather than honouring the Lord and taking into consideration those who protected their belongings in camp. To avoid a reoccurrence of this, David laid down a principle that injected fairness into their dealings with each other, and soon became law in Israel. It seems that most people elevate the warriors but forget the servants. “God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:28). The helpers are vital to the ministry of the church too. We depend upon each member of the church even if we do not realise it yet. “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another” (1 Corinthians 12:25). Selfishness would disappear if we learned to appreciate one another, for everyone engaged in the Lord’s work should share in the honour and victory.

The present

There was so much spoil in addition to what was recovered, that David decided to send some of it to various people in Judah. He knew that they had been harshly treated by Saul because of him, so wanted to ease their burden. It is these people that aided and protected David while he was on the run from the king. He counted them as his friends, but it is noticeable that David did not give anything to those in Ziph or Keilah, the people who had made themselves his enemies through betrayal. The Ziphites had none of his presents, nor the men of Keilah; and thus he showed that, though he was such a saint as not to revenge affronts, yet he was not such a fool as not to take notice of them” (Matthew Henry).


This account of David’s justice, mercy, grace and generosity signals that his reign over Israel would be absolutely different than that of King Saul. The main thing that divided the reigns of these two men is godliness. David was truly a man after God’s own heart.