King David is regarded as the greatest king that Israel ever had. He united the 12 tribes of Israel into one nation and established security against the hostile peoples surrounding them. Before he became king however he endured several long years as a fugitive from Saul his predecessor. During these years David gained experience as a military leader, and also as a leader of people, as he conducted raids on the enemies of Israel.
On one occasion the Amalekites attacked the town where David had his headquarters while he and his men were away on military manoeuvres. David and his men returned home to find that the town of Ziklag had been burnt to the ground and their wives and children, and all their possessions had been taken away into captivity. The whole company were devastated and wept aloud until they had no strength.
David rallied his 600 men and set off in pursuit of the Amalekite raiding party. Already weary from a long march 200 soon became too exhausted to continue the chase so they stayed and looked after the supplies and equipment while the 400 continued the chase. A 24 hour long battle ensued in which David and his men were victorious and they succeeded in rescuing their wives and children and all the goods that had been plundered.
On returning to Ziklag some malcontents started stirring up resentment against the 200 who had stayed behind. They wanted to keep all the plunder they had captured for the 400 who had fought, while the others would just be reunited with their families. No doubt amongst the 200 there were plenty who had reached the point of physical exhaustion, and some may have been injured making fighting impossible for them. But there may also have been a few who had simply lost heart or been lazy. Perhaps they doubted the success of the mission and preferred to stay behind, out of danger. Those who had fought felt justified that the men who had stayed behind were weak and feeble and so did not deserve to benefit from the efforts of the others.
David quashed this idea, declaring that “the share of the man who stayed with the supplies should be the same as the one who went into battle. All shall share alike.” He later established this as a principle for the entire nation for all military operations. David was keen to ensure that all members of the community enjoyed the benefits of the victory regardless of their capacity to take part. Values like this no doubt helped to bind the nation of Israel together under David’s kingship.
The modern civilised society that is the UK generates wealth that is the envy of many nations of the world. Yet living in the UK today are many people who are weak and vulnerable, people who are unemployed, sick, elderly or disabled. There are those who would portray some in these groups as spongers. There is a danger that if we listen to such voices, many in genuine need may be deprived of the help and support they urgently need. David’s principle of the weaker members of the community benefiting from the success of the strong is one we do well to copy.
This blog post featured in the October 2015 edition of Hook Focus