While he and his men were gone, the Amalekites come and burn Ziklag. They take the women and children captive. Even David's wives are taken.
The men are very sad. They cry until they cannot weep anymore. The men are in such great distress that they talk about stoning David (1-6).
David asks God if he should pursue the Amalekites, and God tells him to go. David starts out with 600 men. 200 of the men are too exhausted to cross the river. The rest of the men continue the mission without them (7-10).
They meet an Egyptian along the way, and give him food and drink.
When his strength returns, he tells them his story. He was the servant of one of the Amalekite raiders. When he became sick, his master left him. If David's men will spare his life, he will show them the location of the raiders (11-15).
David finds the Amalekites having a big party. He attacks them and kills a bunch of them.
Somehow, though, 400 of them manage to escape on some very speedy camels.
David recovers everything—all of the wives and children. Nothing is missing. David even captures new flocks and herds (16-20).
David and his men return to the 200 men who were too exhausted to continue.
Some of David's men don't want to give them any of the stuff they had won in battle. They only want to return their wives and children to them.
David rules that the men who stayed with the group's belongings would get the same share as those who went into battle. Eventually, David's decision becomes a rule in Israel.
Explaining the origin of this rule was probably one of the reasons that the narrator added this story to his discussion of the life of David (21-25).
David also sends part of his spoil to his friends. It's good to have friends—especially if you want to be king (26-31).