David Strengthens Southern Judah

1 Samuel 27-30

The Bible makes it clear that David was specially chosen and raised up by God to be Israel’s next king (1 Samuel 16:1-13), but Scripture also makes it clear that David’s rise to power came about through several shrewd maneuvers on his part. Among these shrewd maneuvers were David’s clandestine attacks on hostile peoples to the south of Judah and his distribution of Amalekite plunder among the towns of southern Judah. These actions by David strengthened southern Judah against their enemies and no doubt cemented Judah’s loyalty to him as a champion for their well-being. It should be noted that the Bible affirms King Saul’s effectiveness at attacking Israel’s enemies (1 Samuel 14:47-52), especially the Philistines, but various character flaws and bad choices by Saul led to God’s selection of David as the one who would replace Saul as king (1 Samuel 13:1-23; 15:1-35). Because of this, Saul grew jealous of David and sought to kill him, forcing David to seek refuge among various towns throughout Judah and even in Philistia (1 Samuel 16-27). After seeking asylum in Gath for a time, David asked King Achish if he could move his family outside of the city, and Achish gave him the border town of Ziklag. Apparently Achish still tried to keep tabs on David’s activities, however, periodically asking him where he had recently raided. David would answer that he had been raiding the Negev of Judah, the Negev of the Jerahmeelites (see 1 Chronicles 2:42), or the Negev of the Kenites (Judges 1:16; see “Saul Attacks the Amalekites” map), which were inhabited by people loyal to Israel. In reality, however, David had been raiding the Amalekites (longtime enemies of Israel; see Genesis 14:7; Exodus 17; Numbers 13:29; 14:45; Deuteronomy 25:17-19), the Geshurites, and the Girzites. These peoples lived to the south of Israel’s territory and along the Way to Shur leading to Egypt. Soon after this King Achish mustered his men at Aphek to head to battle against the Israelites in the Jezreel Valley further north. As they set off for battle and the other Philistine rulers realized David and his men were accompanying them, the rulers protested and insisted that David would turn on them in battle. So Achish sent David home and continued on to Jezreel. When David and his men arrived at Ziklag, they found that Amalekites had burned the town and carried off their wives and children. David and his men set out to attack the Amalekites and recover their families. When they reached the Besor Brook, two hundred of the men were too exhausted to go on and stayed with the other equipment while the remaining four hundred men continued toward Amalek. Along the way, David’s men found an abandoned Egyptian slave of the Amalekites who had participated in the attack on Ziklag and on other locations in southern Judah. The man led David’s men to the Amalekite camp, and then they attacked the Amalekites and retrieved all the captives and plunder that had been taken. Only four hundred Amalekites were able to escape, fleeing on camels. David’s men then rejoined their fellow warriors at the Besor Brook and returned to Ziklag. David sent some of the plunder to the leaders of Ziklag as well as to other towns where David had roamed during the time when he was fleeing from Saul. Many of these towns were located in territory formerly inhabited by Amalekites (Numbers 13:29; 14:25, 43-45; Judges 1:16; see also Judges 12:15) and were likely among those attacked by the Amalekites and other hostile peoples to the south. After this, the Amalekites are only mentioned again in Scripture to note that David killed an Amalekite who himself had killed Saul (to fulfill what Saul requested of him), to note that Amalekite plunder was among the treasures that David dedicated to the Temple of the Lord (2 Samuel 8:9-12), and to recount how in the days of Hezekiah some Simeonites went to Mount Seir and destroyed the remnant of Amalekites that had survived (1 Chronicles 4:42-43).

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