We left David hot on the trail of his family and the families of his men. They were taken when he was called to war for the Philistines. A lone Egyptian abandoned on the road will lead him to them. And God has promised he will rescue them.
David’s men marched hard to get to Ziklag so they could be rid of their observers and return another way to the battle. He wanted to stand by Israel against the Philistines. God had other plans for him. He sent him packing from the battlefield and He kept him occupied with another matter; rescuing everyone who had been taken in their absence.
The trail was difficult to follow. Two hundred of David’s men didn’t have the strength to go on. And just when things looked their worst, God provided a guide who will lead them right to their loved ones. Let’s see where our story takes us today.
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David sends a prayer of thanks heavenward as the Egyptian leads them on a sure path. He doesn’t hesitate for a moment. He walks this path as if he has done so since his youth. He knows every turn before it presents itself. Their progress is much faster than if they were searching for signs of their people’s passing.
The forced waiting while the Egyptian regained his strength has done David’s men good also. Their strength has returned also and they are ready for whatever lies ahead.
The Egyptian motions for quiet. They have been walking in a dry valley with rock formations on either side. It appears as if they are approaching a solid wall, the end of their valley. But the Egyptian does not halt. His approach is cautious. He looks to the cliffs above, then further back the way they came. David is puzzled by his movements until he sees an opening in the wall before him. He would have missed it if not for this man.
The Egyptian looks to David and smiles. David points to the opening in the rock and the Egyptian nods. “This is it” thinks David. David very cautiously slips into the opening. It is bigger than it looked from the other side. Several people could walk abreast within its passage but David travels it alone for now. He wants to know what is on the other side of this passage before he brings his men through. He wants to make certain it is not a trap.
As David nears the other side he hears music and laughter. He crouches low and moves his head into the opening just far enough to allow him to see what awaits him. It is nearing evening but David is able to make out a vast valley in which people are spread from one end to the other. David scans the area near the entrance he occupies and sees no guards posted. He believes these men think their hiding spot so well hidden that they don’t bother to post a guard. He will make certain they reap the benefits of this mistake. David turns his eyes to the camp before him and is able to locate an area in the center that houses prisoners. He assumes this is where he will find his people. He also notices that food and drink are flowing freely among the revelers. This should help his cause considerably. David finally backs up and then returns to his men.
“There are a great many of them but the Lord has already promised we will rescue our own. They are also in the midst of celebrating with food and drink. I expect many of them will be drunk on wine and fall easily at our hand.”
David stoops down and begins to draw in the dirt with his finger. He draws a rough diagram of the enemy’s camp. He then assigns positions for his men. “We will go in silently until all are in place. Once this group reaches the prisoners they will begin sneaking them out this way.” David draws the line in his diagram indicating the route the prisoners will take. When the last one reaches this point we will descend into the camp and take it. If the prisoner’s departure is hindered, the group set to free them will sound the alarm and we will fall upon the enemy first. I will lead the group freeing the prisoners. Keep sharp. We cannot allow any to raise the alarm. If you are about to be discovered, silence your observer without making any noise or alerting his comrades.”
Everyone is ready. They have committed the plan to memory and are trusting in the Lord. They slip into the valley is small groups and spread out until they encircle camp. David and his group slip from the rear towards the area where the prisoners are confined. As he nears the area a shout rings out to his left. He looks over and sees his men engaged in a small skirmish. The element of surprise is lost. David lets loose a war cry and his men surge from their hiding places. They begin striking down the enemy as they move. David’s group takes up position around the captives and defend them. They also push their way further out from their central position.
It is twilight when the first sounds of battle erupt and quiet doesn’t return until the evening the next day. David and his men fight as the hand of the Lord. They do not tire or take time for refreshing. When their swords drop from their hands the next evening not a man remained standing of their enemy. Four hundred of them had escaped on camels during the fight. They would doubtless carry the tale of this battle.
David and his men surveyed the spoil left behind. It was massive! It was also miraculous! Not a single captive had been harmed. Everything that David and his men had lost lay before them. There was nothing missing, great of small. The herds and flocks that had been taken throughout the raids this band had made stood before them. They were too numerous to count. The people cried out in joy, “This is David’s spoil!” (verse 20b, emphasis added by me).
David and all his people gathered the spoil and began the trip back to Ziklag. They drove the livestock before them. The return trip would be slower than when they made their way here. It would also be more joyous for both parties who had come this way.
As David and those with him neared the brook of Besor, the two hundred who had been unable to continue on came out to meet them. They were excited to find their families unharmed. They were also overwhelmed with the spoils being carried out. The eagerly joined in the joyous reunion and praise.
While most of David’s group praised the Lord and welcomed one another, a small group of men who had been difficult from their coming to David until now, spoke out against those who had remained behind.
“Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except that each man may lead away his wife and children, and depart” (verse 22b).
David was both angry and disappointed with this group. He had hoped that they would have developed the bonds of brotherhood by now. He also KNEW that their success was not their own but the Lord’s. To claim otherwise was sin. David looked at this group and said, “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what the Lord has given us. He has preserved us and given into our hand the band that came against us. Who would listen to you in this matter. For as his share is who goes down into battle, so shall his share be who stays ty the baggage. They shall share alike” (verses 23-24, emphasis added by me). David vowed in his heart that he would make this a statute for all Israel when he became king too.
The matter settled, they went on until they reached Ziklag. There they made a great feast to commemorate this victory. In the morning they would begin repairing the damage done by the Amalekites.
When morning dawned David was still in high spirits from the night before. Even in this land of the Philistines, God had watched over him. He thought back over all the places he and his company had sojourned and remembered those who had welcomed him and cared for his people. He wanted to give something back for all they had done for him. With the spoils he had just won he would be able to repay their kindness. David called his men together to tell them of his desire.
“I want to send a gift to the places where we sojourned in the land of Judah to repay them for their kindness while we were with them. Our spoils are great and more than our needs. They actually stretch our resources. Let us send some of what we have gained to those who sheltered us.”
The idea was quickly approved and set in motion. David and his men settled on 13 locations where they felt welcomed. Each location would receive the same amount of livestock and a message from David. Fifty of David’s men would drive the herds to their new locations. David’s message said, “Here is a present for you from the spoil of the enemies of the Lord” (verse 26b).
David’s men set out that same day to deliver their gifts of thanks “for those in Bethel, in Ramoth of the Negeb, in Jattir, in Aroer, in Siphmoth, in Eshtemoa, in Facal, in the cities of the Jerahmeelites, in the cities of the Kenited, in Hormah, in Borashan, in Athach, in Hebron, for all the places where David and him men had roamed” (verses 27-30).
(to be continued)
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I noticed Carmel and Ziph were not among the cities listed. David was not greeted well here. I don’t blame him one bit. David had many times when he was repaid evil for good. He included this very theme in the Psalms at least four times. He left their fates in God’s hands. He would not sink to their level. But neither would he reward them for their treatment of him. This is probably one of the times they regretted how they treated him.
Father God, YOU won that battle for David. Of this there is NO doubt. It was the last part of keeping David busy while You finished dealing with Saul. David was too late to join the battle. Your word shows that in the next chapter. By the time David reached home, word was already on its way of Saul’s death.
I find it interesting that the number of men who escaped is the same number that David took into that battle. By human reckoning David should have fallen several times over. But You don’t bow to human standards. You watch over Your children. It isn’t always a glorious outcome but as long as I’m holding You hand at the end, it is a VICTORY! Thank You for those victories.