Can there be an enemy worse than one who takes advantage of you when you are down? The ancient Israelites had such an enemy in the Amalekites. When the Israelites had just left Egypt and were making their way to the promised land, the Amalekites attacked the weary people without provocation (Ex. 17:8–16). During the days of the judges, the Amalekites came against the defenseless Israelites, consuming their crops (Judg. 6:1–6). And as we see in today’s passage, the Amalekites took advantage of Israel when David had gone out with Achish and the Philistines. While David and his fighting men were away, the Amalekites attacked Ziklag, capturing their wives and children (1 Sam. 29:1–30:3).
The initial response of David and his men was to mourn the loss of their families (v. 4). However, the grief soon became anger as the men began to consider stoning David, blaming him for their problems (vv. 5–6). But what was David’s first move when the people turned against him? He “strengthened himself in the LORD his God” (v. 6). We find a clue as to what this means in the other place where 1 Samuel uses such language. Remember that while David was hiding from Saul in the wilderness of Ziph, Jonathan came and strengthened David’s “hand in God.” The text goes on to speak of Jonathan’s reassuring David that Saul would fail and that David would be enthroned as king over Israel (23:15–18). So, it seems that David’s strengthening himself in God involved his recalling the promises made to him, just as Jonathan reassured David by reminding him of the promises God had made regarding David’s eventual victory. Indeed, when God’s people find themselves in trouble, they find strength in His holy Word (Ps. 119:28).
After consulting the Lord, David led his men after the Amalekites. He found them when they “happened” to encounter an Egyptian servant of the Amalekites whom they had left behind, and of course this demonstrates God’s guiding David to where he should be in order to accomplish the rescue (1 Sam. 30:7–15). David and his men defeated the Amalekites and rescued the women and children, including David’s wives. He then shared the spoil of the Amalekites with the army, including the soldiers who had been unable to fight with him, as well as the elders of Judah (vv. 16–30). This magnanimous act also showed great wisdom, as it would help ease the way for David’s imminent assumption of the throne of Israel. The entire army and Judah’s leaders would recall this generosity and side with him.