We have here an account of the distribution of the spoil which as taken from the Amalekites. 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; 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. In the distribution of the spoil,
I. David was just and kind to those who abode by the stuff. They came forth to meet the conquerors, and to congratulate them on this success, though they could not contribute to it (1 Sam. 30:21); for we should rejoice in a good work done, though Providence had laid us aside and rendered us incapable of lending a hand to it. David received their address very kindly, and was so far from upbraiding them with their weakness that he showed himself solicitous concerning them. He saluted them; he asked them of peace (so the word is), enquired how they did, because he had left them faint and not well; or wished them peace, bade them be of good cheer, they should lose nothing by staying behind; for of this they seemed afraid, as perhaps David saw by their countenances.
1. There were those that opposed their coming in to share in the spoil; some of David’s soldiers, probably the same that spoke of stoning him, spoke now of defrauding their brethren; they are called wicked men and men of Belial, 1 Sam. 30:22. Let not the best of men think it strange if they have those attending them that are very bad and they cannot prevail to make them be 2500 tter. We may suppose that David had instructed his soldiers, and prayed with them, and yet there were many among them that were wicked men and men of Belial, often terrified with the apprehensions of death and yet wicked men still and men of Belial. These made a motion that the 200 men who abode by the stuff should only have their wives and children given them, but none of their goods. Well might they be called wicked men; for this bespeaks them, (1.) Very covetous themselves and greedy of gain; for hereby the more would fall to their share. Awhile ago they would gladly have given half their own to recover the other half, yet now that they have all their own they are not content unless they can have their brethren’s too; so soon do men forget their low estate. All seek their own, and too often more than their own. (2.) Very barbarous to their brethren; for, to give them their wives and children, and not their estates, was to give them the mouths without the meat. What joy could they have of their families if they had nothing to maintain them with? Was this to do as they would be done by? Those are men of Belial indeed who delight in putting hardships upon their brethren, and care not who is starved, so they may be fed to the full.
2. David would by no means admit this, but ordered that those who tarried behind should come in for an equal share in the spoils with those that went to the battle, 1 Sam. 30:23, 24. This he did, (1.) In gratitude to God. The spoil we have is that which God has given us; we have it from him, and therefore must use it under his direction as good stewards. Let this check us when we are tempted to misapply that which God has entrusted us with of this world’s goods. “Nay, I must not do so with that which God has given me, not serve Satan and a base lust with those things which are not only the creatures of his power, but the gifts of his bounty. God has recompensed us by delivering the company that came against us into our hand, let not us then wrong our brethren. God has been kind to us in preserving us and giving us victory, let not us be unkind to them.” God’s mercy to us should make us merciful to one another. (2.) In justice to them. It was true they tarried behind; but, [1.] It was not for want of good-will to the cause or to their brethren, but because they had not strength to keep up with them. It was not their fault, but their infelicity; and therefore they ought not to suffer for it. [2.] Though they tarried behind now, they had formerly engaged many times in battle and done their part as well as the best of their brethren, and their former services must be considered now that there was something to enjoy. [3.] Even now they did good service, for they abode by the stuff, to guard that which somebody must take care of, else that might have fallen into the hands of some other enemy. Every post of service is not alike a post of honour, yet those that are in any way serviceable to the common interest, though in a meaner station, ought to share in the common advantages, as in the natural body every member has its use and therefore has its share of the nourishment. First, Thus David overruled the wicked men, and men of Belial, with reason, but with a great deal of mildness; for the force of reason is sufficient, without the force of passion. He calls them his brethren, 1 Sam. 30:23. Superiors often lose their authority by haughtiness, but seldom by courtesy and condescension. Secondly, Thus he settled the matter for the time to come, made it a statute of his kingdom (a statute of distributions, primo Davidis—in the first year of David’s reign), an ordinance of war (1 Sam. 30:25), that as his part is that goes down to the battle, and hazards his life in the high places of the field, so shall his be that guards the carriages. Abraham returned the spoils of Sodom to the right owners, and quitted his title to them jure belli—derived from the laws of war. If we help others to recover their right, we must not think that this alienates the property and makes it ours. God appointed that the spoil of Midian should be divided between the soldiers and the whole congregation, Num. 31:27. The case here was somewhat different, but governed by the same general rule—that we are members one of another. The disciples, at first, had all things common, and we should still be ready to distribute, willing to communicate, 1 Tim. 6:18. When kings of armies did flee apace, she that tarried at home did divide the spoil, Ps. 68:12.
II. David was generous and kind to all his friends. When he had given every one his own with interest there was a considerable overplus, which David, as general, had the disposal of; probably the spoil of the tents of the Amalekites consisted much in plate and jewels (Jdg. 8:24, 26), and these, because he thought they would but make his own soldiers proud and effeminate, he thought fit to make presents of to his friends, even the elders of Judah, 1 Sam. 30:26. Several places are here named to which he sent of these presents, all of them in or near the tribe of Judah. The first place named is Bethel, which signifies the house of God; that place shall be first served for its name’s sake; or perhaps it means not the city so called, but the place where the ark was, which was therefore the house of God. Thither David sent the first and best, to those that attended there, for his sake who is the first and best. Hebron is named last (1 Sam. 30:31), probably because thither he sent the residuum, which was the largest share, having an eye upon that place as fittest for his head-quarters, 2 Sam. 2:1. In David’s sending these presents observe, 1. His generosity. He aimed not to enrich himself, but to serve his country; and therefore God afterwards enriched him, and set him to rule the country he had served. It becomes gracious souls to be generous. There is that scatters, and yet increases. 2. His gratitude. He sent presents to all the places where he and his men were wont to haunt (1 Sam. 30:31), that is, to all that he had received kindness from, that had sheltered him and sent him intelligence or provisions. Note, Honesty, as well as honour, obliges us to requite the favours that have been done us, or at least to make a real acknowledgment of them as far as is in the power of our hand. 3. His piety. He calls his present a blessing; for no present we give to our friends will be a comfort to them but as it is made so by the blessing of God: it intimates that his prayers for them accompanied his present. He also sent it out of the spoil of the enemies of the Lord (so he calls them, not his enemies), that they might rejoice in the victory for the Lord’s sake, and might join with him in thanksgivings for it. 4. His policy. He sent these presents among his countrymen to engage them to be ready to appear for him upon his accession to the throne, which he now saw at hand. A man’s gift maketh room for him. He was fit to be a king who thus showed the bounty and liberality of a king. Munificence recommends a man more than magnificence. 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.
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