The Amalekites were an especially cruel group of robbers; they did not hesitate to kill people (15:33). When they allowed someone to live, they were not showing kindness. Instead, they intended to sell that person as a slave.
The group of Amalekites who destroyed Ziklag had already attacked several other towns, both in Israel (30:14) and in Philistia (30:16). In those towns, they probably killed many people. Nobody would want to buy a slave who was weak, old or ill. So, the Amalekites had no reason to take such people as slaves. They would simply kill them as they robbed the town.
In Ziklag, however, the Amalekites found something extraordinary. The town was full of beautiful women. Their children were strong and healthy, and many of the women did not even have children yet. Such women would have a high price; men would want to buy them to work as maids, to become their wives, or for sex.
The explanation is that these were the wives of many of Israelís best young soldiers. These soldiers supported David, and they had left Israel with him. King Achish, from Gath in Philistia, had allowed them to live together in Ziklag.
The Amalekites did not see any young men in Ziklag because they had all gone to fight in the war. Achish had ordered David to take them to central Israel, so that they could join Philistiaís army. Because the town then had nobody to guard it, it was easy for the Amalekites to take away the women. Then they started the fire which destroyed the town. Perhaps they thought that the young women would not want to return there after the fire. They had lost their homes, so they had no reason to return to that place.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.