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Poole on 1 Samuel 30:21-31: The Spoils of War!

Verse 21:[1]  And David came to the (1 Sam. 30:10) two hundred men, which were so faint that they could not follow David, whom they had made also to abide at the brook Besor:  and they went forth to meet David, and to meet the people that were with him:  and when David came near to the people, he saluted them (or, asked them how they did;[2] Judg. 18:15[3]).

[Who, being weary, had halted, etc.]  Hebrew:  whom it had been slow to follow David; that is, who, because of exhaustion, whether true or feigned, did not follow, etc. (Vatablus).

[Who went forth towards David]  Congratulating him over the victory, which they had learned of from a certain one, who for the sake of the good news had anticipated the others (Sanchez).

They went forth to meet David, to congratulate the victory; which, it is probable, David had sent a messenger to acquaint them with.

[He saluted them peaceably]  Which indicates that these were in no fault; unless we should attribute this to the clemency of David (Menochius).

He saluted them; he spoke kindly to them, and did not blame them because they went no further with them.


Verse 22:[4]  Then answered all the wicked men and men (Deut. 13:13; Judg. 19:22) of Belial, of those (Heb. men[5]) that went with David, and said, Because they went not with us, we will not give them ought of the spoil that we have recovered, save to every man his wife and his children, that they may lead them away, and depart.

[Every worst sort of man]  Hebrew:  and of Belial.[6]  See Deuteronomy 13:13 (Vatablus).  Wickedness is ascribed to those, who were led by avarice.  For πλεονεξία/greed is the mother of almost all evils[7] (Martyr).

Then answered all the wicked men; when those two hundred men required or expected a part of the spoil; and they gathered from David’s words and carriage that he intended to give it to them.  Wicked men and men of Belial; so he calls them, for their covetousness, and injustice, and churlishness to their brethren; by which expressions we may judge how heinous and odious those sins are in God’s sight.

[They went not with us, עִמִּי]  With me.  [It is singular; for every worst sort of man, etc., is here said to speak thus.]

Because they went not with us; which was from their impotency; not by choice or design.  Herein therefore was their iniquity and unreasonableness, they would punish them for no fault.


Verse 23:[8]  Then said David, Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the LORD hath given us, who hath preserved us, and delivered the company that came against us into our hand.

[Ye shall not do so, my brethren]  That is, fellow soldiers.  He speaks after the manner of Generals (Vatablus).  He calls them brethren, so that they might consider themselves to be loved by the one admonishing.  They were brethren, both with respect to religion and nation (Martyr).

Ye shall not do so, my brethren:  he useth his power and authority to overrule them; but manageth it with all sweetness, calling them brethren; not only as of the same nation and religion with him, but as his fellow soldiers.

[Concerning these things, which the Lord hath delivered to us]  It is not enough to correct one, unless you seem to do it with reason.  Therefore, he adds a reason.  To our strength, says he, this victory is not due, but to the blessing of God (Martyr); that is to say, Since the Lord was so liberal to us, it is not right to be stingy with our brethren (Menochius).  Those words,אֵ֠ת אֲשֶׁר־נָתַ֙ן יְהוָ֥ה לָ֙נוּ֙ וַיִּשְׁמֹ֣ר אֹתָ֔נוּ, they translate, concerning (or with [Pagnine, Munster]) these things which Jehovah gave to us, and He kept us (Pagnine, similarly Strigelius, Jonathan, Tigurinus, Munster).  Others:  after He hath delivered, etc. (Septuagint).  Seeing that He hath given generously, etc. (Syriac, similarly the Arabic).  Apart from the fact that He hath delivered, etc., preserving us (Junius and Tremellius), or, He preserved us (Piscator).

With that which the Lord hath given us; what he hath freely imparted to us, we should not unkindly and injuriously withhold from our brethren.


Verse 24:[9]  For who will hearken unto you in this matter? but (see Num. 31:27; Josh. 22:8; 2 Macc. 8:28[10]) as his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff:  they shall part alike.

[No one will hearken unto you]  Just as what appears to all, or to most, or to the more prudent, is probable; so, on the other hand, what appears to no one is absurd (Martyr).

Who will hearken unto you? what wise or just man will be of your opinion in this matter?

[The dividing shall be equal, etc.]  A prudent arrangement; lest men scarcely be found to keep the camp.  The Pisidians[11] were giving a part of the spoil to those that were keeping their homes; Chalcocondylas mentions this, The Histories[12] 5.  Now, this law was to be understood concerning the half part of the spoil, for the other half belonged to the King.  All the lands seized by war were under the control of the King (Grotius).  This law was just, 1.  Because they had remained there by common counsel.  2.  They were divided geographically, but not in society.  3.  Since, being weary, they halted, but otherwise would have willed to go against the enemy, that willingness was to be esteemed as the very deed.  4.  Because the danger was shared by them, if the former ones had fallen, or the enemy had attacked them (Martyr).  5.  Both were stationed at the command of their General (Menochius).  6.  The cooperated equally for the victory.  For, those doing battle would not have conquered, but out of fear of the loss of their baggage they would have fought more timidly, unless these had kept their belongings (Lapide).  The Romans kept this law, as Polybius testifies, The Histories[13] 10.  Scipio,[14] with Carthage conquered, says:  The Tribunes divide the property in equal portions among the soldiers:  not only to these that remained in reserve, but also to those kept the tents and baggage.  Indeed, even to the sick, and to the ones that were sent elsewhere for the discharge of any duty (Sanchez).  Similarly the Jurisconsult Paulus[15] in Digest 40:7:  But, if for certain days either there be either indisposition, or another just cause, so as to prevent him from serving; these years are to be reckoned to his account:  for, those that we have taken care of when sick are also understood to serve us; who, although desiring to serve, are impeded because of adverse health (Gataker).

[They shall part alike, יַחְדָּ֥ו יַחֲלֹֽקוּ׃]  Together (at the same time; that is, equally [Vatablus]) shall they distribute (Pagnine, Junius and Tremellius).

They shall part alike; a prudent and equitable constitution, and therefore practiced by the Romans, as Polybius and others note.  The reason of it is manifest, because they were exposed to hazards as well as their brethren, and were a reserve to whom they might retreat in case of a defeat; and they were now in a vital service, and in the station in which their general had placed them.


Verse 25:[16]  And it was so from that day forward (Heb. and forward[17]), that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel unto this day.

[And this has been done from that day and thereafter (thus Munster, Castalio)]  Or, and beyond (Septuagint, Jonathan).  Such was the authority of David over all, such the humanity of the law; that thereafter that excellent deed obtained the force of a public decree in the midst of that people (Sanchez).  Question:  How might this be said to be ordained now for the first time by David, when previously it was observed, Genesis 14; Numbers 31?  Responses:  1.  Abraham observed it, but did not introduce a law by his deed.  Moses did not prescribe a perpetual law, but only ordained it thus to be done at that place and time (Estius).  2.  There is a difference between this deed and that in Numbers 31.  For, to those that had remained in the camp in Numbers 31 a lesser part came in comparison with the others; but neither did those expose themselves to the dangers of battle; but to these were wanting, neither courage, nor zeal, but strength, for the the journey and fight.  Nevertheless, I suppose that here David had an ancient example that he might follow (Sanchez).  [Which some versions support:]  It was, or had been, from that day and above (Montanus, Vatablus) (or, and already of old [Tigurinus]), that is, from the beginning of the world to that day (Vatablus).  Some say that all these things came from the times of Abraham.  For, they assert that Eschcol and Mamre remained with the baggage; but that Abraham remitted his own right (Grotius).  Those, as far as it is demonstrated from the history, did not fight.  Perhaps they were left with the baggage.  And the Priests were fed daily from the offerings, although not all were ministering daily (Martyr).  Other examples also are found, in Joshua 22:7, 8; 2 Maccabees 8:28[18] (Malvenda out of Junius on verse 22).  Perhaps David renewed an ancient custom (Munster).

[A statute, etc.]  Hebrew:  and he set that for a statute, etc.[19] (Malvenda, similarly Junius and Tremellius).  And he turned it into a statute, etc. (Vatablus).

[Unto this day]  Understanding, which continues (Piscator, Vatablus).


Verse 26:[20]  And when David came to Ziklag, he sent of the spoil unto the elders of Judah, even to his friends, saying, Behold a present (Heb. blessing;[21] Gen. 33:11;[22] 1 Sam. 25:27[23]) for you of the spoil of the enemies of the LORD…

[And he sent gifts]  He did this, either, 1.  On the very day in which Saul entered into battle with the Philistines, and died; to whom David consequently succeeded in the kingdom of Judah by the counsel of God, lest the Philistines, prosecuting their victory, should ravage all Judah (Lapide).  Or, 2.  After the message received concerning the death of Saul.  In two or three days he was not able to restore the things fallen to ruin in Ziklag, or to construct the things destroyed (Sanchez).

[To the elders of Judah]  For, 1.  They were kinsmen to David.  2.  And because of him they had endured many things.  3.  They had suffered grievous incursions from the Amalekites.  4.  They had put him from their presence (Martyr).

He sent of the spoil unto the elders of Judah, etc.:  Partly in gratitude for their former favour to him; and partly in policy to engage their affections to him now when he apprehended Saul’s death near.

[To his neighbors, לְרֵעֵהוּ]  It is taken in the place of לְרֵעָיו, to his friends (Munster).  Or, and to his friends (certain interpreters in Vatablus).

[A blessing]  A present, a gift.  Just as in 1 Samuel 25:27; Genesis 33:11 (Malvenda).

[Of the spoil of the enemies]  He adds this, so that they might understand that he did not pursue his own private hostilities, but spoiled their common enemies (Martyr).  To military men it is a most appealing thing, to make a man rich with enemy spoils, Seneca’s Concerning Benefits 3:33 (Grotius).

The enemies of the Lord; he intimates, that though he was fled to the Philistines, yet he employed not his forces against the Israelites, as, no doubt, Saul’s courtiers and soldiers reported that he designed; but only against God’s enemies.


Verse 27:[24]  To them which were in Beth-el, and to them which were in (Josh. 19:8) south Ramoth, and to them which were in (Josh. 15:48) Jattir…

[To them which were, etc.]  Understanding, he sent, I say, to them which were dwelling, etc. (Vatablus).

[In Beth-el]  Which was in the tribe of Benjamin (Menochius).  Others translate it, in the house of God[25] (thus Junius and Tremellius).  In the city of Jearim, where the Ark resided (Piscator out of Junius).  See on 1 Samuel 10:3 (Malvenda).

Beth-el, in Kirjath-jearim, where the ark was, 1 Samuel 10:3.

[In Ramoth toward the south]  Concerning which see Joshua 19:8 (Malvenda).  In the tribe of Gad on the other side of Jordan (Menochius).

South Ramoth; a city in the tribe of Simeon, Joshua 19:8; so called by way of distinction from Ramoth in Gilead, which was more northward, 1 Kings 22:12.

[Jattir]  In the tribe of Judah, a Levitical city (Menochius).  Concerning which see Joshua 15:48 (Malvenda).

Jattir; of which see Joshua 15:48.


Verse 28:[26]  And to them which were in (Josh. 13:16) Aroer, and to them which were in Siphmoth, and to them which were in (Josh. 15:50) Eshtemoa…

[In Aroer]  In the tribe of Reuben (Menochius).  Concerning which Numbers 32:34 (Malvenda).

Aroer; not that beyond Jordan, Numbers 32:34, as many think, which was too remote from David; but another place of that name in Judah, where the rest of the places here named were; this being one of those places where David and his men were wont to haunt, as is expressed, 1 Samuel 30:31.

[Siphmoth[27]]  In the tribe of Judah, although it is not found in the catalogue of its cities (Tostatus in Menochius).  It is not mentioned elsewhere (Menochius).  This city is called Shepham in Numbers 34:10[28] (Malvenda).

[Eshtemoa]  Which is Eshtemoa in Joshua 21:14 (Menochius, Malvenda).  Concerning which see on that place (Malvenda).


Verse 29:[29]  And to them which were in Rachal, and to them which were in the cities of (1 Sam. 27:10) the Jerahmeelites, and to them which were in the cities of the (Judg. 1:16) Kenites…

[In Rachal]  It was in the tribe of Judah (Tostatus in Menochius).  It does not occur elsewhere (Menochius).

[Jerahmeel and Keni]  They were small provinces in the tribe of Judah (Menochius).  Concerning Jerahmeel see 1 Samuel 27:10, and concerning the Kenites see on Judges 1:16 (Malvenda).


Verse 30:[30]  And to them which were in (Judg. 1:17) Hormah, and to them which were in Chor-ashan, and to them which were in Athach…

[Arama[31]]  In the tribe of Nepthali, Joshua 19:36[32] (Menochius).  Hebrew:  חָרְמָה/Hormah.  Concerning which see on Judges 1:17 (Malvenda).

[In the basin of Ashan]  Hebrew:  בּוֹר עָשָׁן/Chor-ashan.[33]  It is called Ashan in Joshua 15:42; 19:7 (Malvenda).

[Athach]  In the tribe of Judah (Jerome in Menochius).


Verse 31:[34]  And to them which were in (Josh. 14:13; 2 Sam. 2:1) Hebron, and to all the places where David himself and his men were wont to haunt.

[Hebron]  The most illustrious city in the mountains of Judah (Menochius, Malvenda).

[In which he had dweltWhere he had gone.  To which he had frequently betaken himself, when he was fleeing from Saul (Piscator out of Junius).  He sent this as a token of his grateful soul because of the benefits received from them (Menochius).  David did not cast away his humanity.  For afterwards his fellow tribesmen stood constantly by him (Menochius).

To haunt:  Or, to go; whither they used to resort in the time of Saul’s persecution, either to hide themselves in some of their territories, or to get provision from thence.

[1] Hebrew: וַיָּבֹ֣א דָוִ֗ד אֶל־מָאתַ֙יִם הָאֲנָשִׁ֜ים אֲשֶֽׁר־פִּגְּר֣וּ׀ מִלֶּ֣כֶת׀ אַחֲרֵ֣י דָוִ֗ד וַיֹּֽשִׁיבֻם֙ בְּנַ֣חַל הַבְּשׂ֔וֹר וַיֵּֽצְאוּ֙ לִקְרַ֣את דָּוִ֔ד וְלִקְרַ֖את הָעָ֣ם אֲשֶׁר־אִתּ֑וֹ וַיִּגַּ֤שׁ דָּוִד֙ אֶת־הָעָ֔ם וַיִּשְׁאַ֥ל לָהֶ֖ם לְשָׁלֽוֹם׃

[2] Hebrew:  וַיִּשְׁאַ֥ל לָהֶ֖ם לְשָׁלֽוֹם.

[3] Judges 18:15:  “And they turned thitherward, and came to the house of the young man the Levite, even unto the house of Micah, and saluted him (וַיִּשְׁאֲלוּ־ל֖וֹ לְשָׁלֽוֹם׃).”

[4] Hebrew: וַיַּ֜עַן כָּל־אִֽישׁ־רָ֣ע וּבְלִיַּ֗עַל מֵֽהָאֲנָשִׁים֮ אֲשֶׁ֣ר הָלְכ֣וּ עִם־דָּוִד֒ וַיֹּאמְר֗וּ יַ֚עַן אֲשֶׁ֣ר לֹֽא־הָלְכ֣וּ עִמִּ֔י לֹֽא־נִתֵּ֣ן לָהֶ֔ם מֵהַשָּׁלָ֖ל אֲשֶׁ֣ר הִצַּ֑לְנוּ כִּֽי־אִם־אִ֤ישׁ אֶת־אִשְׁתּוֹ֙ וְאֶת־בָּנָ֔יו וְיִנְהֲג֖וּ וְיֵלֵֽכוּ׃

[5] Hebrew:  מֵהָאֲנָשִׁים.

[6] Hebrew:  וּבְלִיַּעַל.

[7] See 1 Timothy 6:10.

[8] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר דָּוִ֔ד לֹֽא־תַעֲשׂ֥וּ כֵ֖ן אֶחָ֑י אֵ֠ת אֲשֶׁר־נָתַ֙ן יְהוָ֥ה לָ֙נוּ֙ וַיִּשְׁמֹ֣ר אֹתָ֔נוּ וַיִּתֵּ֗ן אֶֽת־הַגְּד֛וּד הַבָּ֥א עָלֵ֖ינוּ בְּיָדֵֽנוּ׃

[9] Hebrew:  וּמִי֙ יִשְׁמַ֣ע לָכֶ֔ם לַדָּבָ֖ר הַזֶּ֑ה כִּ֞י כְּחֵ֣לֶק׀ הַיֹּרֵ֣ד בַּמִּלְחָמָ֗ה וּֽכְחֵ֛לֶק הַיֹּשֵׁ֥ב עַל־הַכֵּלִ֖ים יַחְדָּ֥ו יַחֲלֹֽקוּ׃

[10] 2 Maccabees 8:28:  “And after the sabbath, when they had given part of the spoils to the maimed, and the widows, and orphans, the residue they divided among themselves and their servants.”

[11] Pisidia was in southern Asia Minor, separated from the coast by Lycia.

[12] Laonicus Chalcocondylas (c. 1423-c. 1490) was a Byzantine historian.  His Histories chronicles the fall of Constantinople.

[13] Polybius (c. 203-120 BC) was a Greek historian, remembered for his The Rise of the Roman Empire, or The Histories.

[14] Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (236-183 BC) was a Roman general during the Second Punic War, famous for defeating Hannibal in the final battle.

[15] Julius Paulus Prudentissimus (flourished in the late second-, early third-century) was a Roman jurist.  His work is heavily referenced in the Digest.

[16] Hebrew:  וַיְהִ֕י מֵֽהַיּ֥וֹם הַה֖וּא וָמָ֑עְלָה וַיְשִׂמֶ֜הָ לְחֹ֤ק וּלְמִשְׁפָּט֙ לְיִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל עַ֖ד הַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה׃

[17] Hebrew:  וָמָעְלָה.

[18] 2 Maccabees 8:28:  “And after the sabbath, when they had given part of the spoils to the maimed, and the widows, and orphans, the residue they divided among themselves and their servants.”

[19] Hebrew:  וַיְשִׂמֶ֜הָ לְחֹ֤ק וּלְמִשְׁפָּט֙.

[20] Hebrew: וַיָּבֹ֤א דָוִד֙ אֶל־צִ֣קְלַ֔ג וַיְשַׁלַּ֧ח מֵֽהַשָּׁלָ֛ל לְזִקְנֵ֥י יְהוּדָ֖ה לְרֵעֵ֣הוּ לֵאמֹ֑ר הִנֵּ֤ה לָכֶם֙ בְּרָכָ֔ה מִשְּׁלַ֖ל אֹיְבֵ֥י יְהוָֽה׃

[21] Hebrew:  בְּרָכָה.

[22] Genesis 33:11:  “Take, I pray thee, my blessing (בִּרְכָתִי) that is brought to thee; because God hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough.  And he urged him, and he took it.”

[23] 1 Samuel 25:27:  “And now this blessing (הַבְּרָכָה) which thine handmaid hath brought unto my lord, let it even be given unto the young men that follow my lord.”

[24] Hebrew:  לַאֲשֶׁ֧ר בְּבֵֽית־אֵ֛ל וְלַאֲשֶׁ֥ר בְּרָמֽוֹת־נֶ֖גֶב וְלַאֲשֶׁ֥ר בְּיַתִּֽר׃

[25] בֵּית/beth signifies house; אֵל/El, God.

[26] Hebrew:  וְלַאֲשֶׁ֧ר בַּעֲרֹעֵ֛ר וְלַאֲשֶׁ֥ר בְּשִֽׂפְמ֖וֹת וְלַאֲשֶׁ֥ר בְּאֶשְׁתְּמֹֽעַ׃

[27] Hebrew:  בְּשִׂפְמוֹת.

[28] Numbers 34:10:  “And ye shall point out your east border from Hazar-enan to Shepham (שְׁפָמָה)…”

[29] Hebrew:  וְלַאֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּרָכָ֗ל וְלַֽאֲשֶׁר֙ בְּעָרֵ֣י הַיְּרַחְמְאֵלִ֔י וְלַאֲשֶׁ֖ר בְּעָרֵ֥י הַקֵּינִֽי׃

[30] Hebrew:  וְלַאֲשֶׁ֧ר בְּחָרְמָ֛ה וְלַאֲשֶׁ֥ר בְּבוֹר־עָשָׁ֖ן וְלַאֲשֶׁ֥ר בַּעֲתָֽךְ׃

[31] Thus the Vulgate.

[32] Joshua 19:36:  “And Adamah, and Ramah (וְהָרָמָה; Arama in the Vulgate), and Hazor…”

[33] בּוֹר signifies a pit, cistern, or well

[34] Hebrew:  וְלַאֲשֶׁ֖ר בְּחֶבְר֑וֹן וּֽלְכָל־הַמְּקֹמ֛וֹת אֲשֶֽׁר־הִתְהַלֶּךְ־שָׁ֥ם דָּוִ֖ד ה֥וּא וַאֲנָשָֽׁיו׃

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Matthew Henry: '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…


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