The passage before us today provides two postscripts to the story of David’s victory over the Amalekites. Both of these incidents demonstrate the generous spirit of David.
First, we’re told that a disagreement arises when David and his four hundred men return to the two hundred who stayed behind out of exhaustion. David greets them courteously, as befits a joyous victor, but some “wicked and worthless” men among his force complain that those who remained behind with the supplies and equipment should not get shares of the spoil that was captured by those who pressed on. Their preference is that these men take their rescued loved ones and depart, because they didn’t draw swords in the battle. But David won’t hear of that. He orders that those who stayed with the supplies get an equal share with those who fought, and later he makes it a statute in Israel. David knows that every battle is God’s (17:47), and in this conflict, just as in them all, God has preserved David’s band, delivered the enemy to men, and given them spoil. They would have none of it but for God. Therefore, they should not be greedy with it.
Second, once he is safely back in Ziklag, David sends some of his portion of the spoil to the elders of Judah and others he counts as friends. At first glance, it may appear that David is trying to purchase support and influence. Actually, however, he is simply being generous and good to his people, just as Israel’s king should be. It is proper that he send some of the spoil to Judah, for some of it no doubt came from there (30:14). Also, a good portion of what he sends goes to people in “all the places where David himself and his men were accustomed to rove.” In other words, now that he has a surplus, he is making some payback for help he received while he was on the run from Saul. He is showing his gratitude toward those who stood with him. “When the Amalekites had carried away a rich booty from the land of Judah and the Philistines they spent it in sensuality, in eating, and drinking, and making merry with it,” Matthew Henry writes in his commentary on 1 Samuel, “but David disposed of the spoil taken after another manner, as one that knew that justice and charity must govern us in the use we make of whatever we have in this world. What God gives us He designs we should do good with, not serve our lusts with.”