David Rescues His Soldiers' Families
1It took David and his men three days to reach Ziklag. But while they had been away, the Amalekites had been raiding in the desert around there. They had attacked Ziklag, burned it to the ground, 2and had taken away the women and children. 3When David and his men came to Ziklag, they saw the burned-out ruins and learned that their families had been taken captive. 4They started crying and kept it up until they were too weak to cry any more. 5 David's two wives, Ahinoam and Abigail, had been taken captive with everyone else.
6David was desperate. His soldiers were so upset over what had happened to their sons and daughters that they were thinking about stoning David to death. But he felt the Lord God giving him strength, 7 and he said to the priest, “Abiathar, let's ask God what to do.”
Abiathar brought everything he needed to get answers from God, and he went over to David. 8Then David asked the Lord, “Should I go after the people who raided our town? Can I catch up with them?”
“Go after them,” the Lord answered. “You will catch up with them, and you will rescue your families.”
9-10David led his 600 men to Besor Gorge, but 200 of them were too tired to go across. So they stayed behind, while David and the other 400 men crossed the gorge.
11Some of David's men found an Egyptian out in a field and took him to David. They gave the Egyptian some bread, and he ate it. Then they gave him a drink of water, 12some dried figs, and two handfuls of raisins. This was the first time in three days he had tasted food or water. Now he felt much better.
13“Who is your master?” David asked. “And where do you come from?”
“I'm from Egypt,” the young man answered. “I'm the servant of an Amalekite, but he left me here three days ago because I was sick. 14We had attacked some towns in the desert where the Cherethites live, in the area that belongs to Judah, and in the desert where the Caleb clan lives. And we burned down Ziklag.”
15“Will you take me to those Amalekites?” David asked.
“Yes, I will, if you promise with God as a witness that you won't kill me or hand me over to my master.”
16He led David to the Amalekites. They were eating and drinking everywhere, celebrating because of what they had taken from Philistia and Judah. 17David attacked just before sunrise the next day and fought until sunset. Four hundred Amalekites rode away on camels, but they were the only ones who escaped.
18David rescued his two wives and everyone else the Amalekites had taken from Ziklag. 19No one was missing—young or old, sons or daughters. David brought back everything that had been stolen, 20including their livestock.
David also took the sheep and cattle that the Amalekites had with them, but he kept these separate from the others. Everyone agreed that these would be David's reward.
21On the way back, David went to the 200 men he had left at Besor Gorge, because they had been too tired to keep up with him. They came toward David and the people who were with him. When David was close enough, he greeted the 200 men and asked how they were doing.
22Some of David's men were good-for-nothings, and they said, “Those men didn't go with us to the battle, so they don't get any of the things we took back from the Amalekites. Let them take their wives and children and go!”
23But David said:
My friends, don't be so greedy with what the Lord has given us! The Lord protected us and gave us victory over the people who attacked. 24Who would pay attention to you, anyway? Soldiers who stay behind to guard the camp get as much as those who go into battle.
25David made this a law for Israel, and it has been the same ever since.
26David went back to Ziklag with everything they had taken from the Amalekites. He sent some of these things as gifts to his friends who were leaders of Judah, and he told them, “We took these things from the Lord's enemies. Please accept them as a gift.”
27-31This is a list of the towns where David sent gifts: Bethel, Ramoth in the Southern Desert, Jattir, Aroer, Siphmoth, Eshtemoa, Racal, the towns belonging to the Jerahmeelites and the Kenites, Hormah, Bor-Ashan, Athach, and Hebron. He also sent gifts to the other towns where he and his men had traveled.