TEXT: 1 Samuel 25:1-44
David was still in flight to escape Saul’s dragnet and determination to kill him. He then moved to the wilderness of Paran, a few miles from the city of Carmel. There, he encountered shepherds tending the flocks of Nabal, a wealthy but an insolent and contentious man. Nabal lived in Maon but had his business in Carmel and was of the house of Caleb. David heard that he was shearing his sheep and sent ten of his young men to request him to “…give, I pray thee, whatsoever cometh to thine hand unto thy
servants, and to thy son David’’ (1 Samuel 25:8). Nabal refused this appeal bluntly even though David and his men had protected his flock from rustlers. This response infuriated David who mobilized his men swiftly for a revenge mission. The result would have been bloody, but for Abigail’s quick intervention. Nabal’s attitude was deemed foolish, arrogant and uncharitable. Accounts of what followed his action, how the situation was managed and Nabal’s end, form the focus of this text.
DAVID’ S REQUEST AND NABAL’S FOOLISH RESPONSE (1 Samuel 25:1-11; Psalm 118:8,9; Hebrews 13:1-3; Proverbs 18:23; Luke 12:16-21; 1 Kings 12:1-16; Proverbs 14:1-3)
Our text opens with the death and burial of Samuel and Israel’s lamentation over him. Not much was said about Samuel’s death here probably because it is the inevitable end of all men. Sooner or later, all men must pay this debt, but the most important question is how and where it meets us. Every wise person must prepare for this last journey by way of turning away from sin unto Christ the Saviour of mankind. The Scripture says, “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). “And there was a man in Maon, whose possessions were in Carmel; and the man was very great, and he had three thousand sheep, and a thousand goats: and he was shearing his sheep in Carmel” (1 Samuel 25:2). The man introduced here was Nabal (verse 3), a Calebite with a large herd of sheep and livestock. He was said to have possessed part of the estate of Caleb and was wealthy but was not wise; he lacked the virtues for which patriarch Caleb was renowned. He was simply of a churlish, mean and stingy disposition. Sheep shearing was an elaborate gathering marked by entertainment and festivity, and very common among wealthy individuals in the nation. It was a time of open- handed hospitality among flock-masters. The character of the occasion is evident in Absalom’s case when he invited the king’s sons to his sheep-shearing in Baal- Hazor in order to deal with Amnon while his heart was “merry with wine” (2 Samuel 13:23).
Under normal circumstances, David’s request came at the most auspicious time as sheep shearing afforded the hosts opportunity to share and care. Secondly, David and his men had performed a valuable service to Nabal, protecting his flock from Philistine raiders and rustlers. Thirdly, David’s request was polite and courteous. He sent the request with greetings of peace, warmth and kindness so that Nabal would not feel intimidated. “And thus, shall ye say to him that liveth in prosperity, Peace be both to thee, and peace be to thine house, and peace be unto all that thou hast” (1 Samuel 25:6). Fourthly, Nabal could not plead paucity of resources because the occasion would not support it. Lastly, going by the culture at that time, refusing hospitality to a traveler was an insult. It was therefore absurd for Nabal to respond the way he did.
Nabal turned down David’s request with utter contempt. He grumbled loudly and sent them away with insults. “And Nabal answered David’s servants, and said, Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants now a days that break away every man from his master” (1 Samuel 25:10). Who had not heard about David: a man of valor and mighty in battles; the killer of giant Goliath of Gath? Nabal deepened his insult by ascribing to David the status of a rebellious, run-away servant.
REVENGE MISSION AGAINST NABAL AND ABIGAIL’ S REACTION (1 Samuel 25:12-35; Ecclesiastes 7:9; Matthew 5:38-41; Deuteronomy 32:35; Psalm 94:1-4; Proverbs 15:1; Colossians 4:6; Ecclesiastes 9:14-18)
Upon Nabal’s refusal of hospitality, David decided to take laws into his hands and wipe out his family. As uncouth, unkind and ungrateful as Nabal was, it was equally wrong for David to react the way he did. Obviously, he would not have been guiltless had he carried out his threat. First, he was hasty to react to the insult. “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools” (Ecclesiastes 7:9). Second, he was impulsive and yielded to temptation, which is sin. Third, he forgot the word of God on revenge or retaliation and did contrary to it. “To me belongeth vengeance, and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste” (Deuteronomy 32:35). “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19). Fourth, God would have us bear insults with grace and love, returning people’s evils with good (Matthew 5:38,39). Fifth, David did not show Nabal the same kindness and longsuffering which he showed to Saul. He had spared the latter’s life when he had opportunity to kill him. Sixth, he was not mindful of soiling his hands with the blood of an entire household (1 Samuel 25:21,22).
However, as soon as Abigail heard of her husband’s uncouth behavior, she took some presents and hasted to meet David. She accepted responsibility for the foolish actions of her husband, prepared victuals for David and his men and spoke softly to them. “Then Abigail made haste, and took two hundred loaves, and two bottles of wine, and five sheep ready dressed, and five measures of parched corn, and an hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid them on asses” (1 Samuel 25:18). She also said, “…Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be: and let thine handmaid, I pray thee, speak in thine audience, and hear the words of thine handmaid” (1 Samuel 25:24). With these words, she restrained the hand of David from shedding innocent blood. Surely, “A soft answer turneth away wrath…” (Proverbs 15:1).
David’s action was as indefensible as it was out of character because he called his men to arms. His reaction was incompatible with the virtues for which he is associated. Christians should do nothing that will call their profession to question. “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto me” (Titus 3:8). Watchfulness, sobriety, vigilance, being filled
with the knowledge of the Scriptures and led by the Holy Spirit are pillars to support believers to withstand temptations and remain victorious on daily basis. There are many lessons from Abigail’s handling of the offence. One, she was wise and prompt. A little delay could have been calamitous. Two, she was very humble and submissive by falling down at David’s feet to pacify him. Being the wife of a rich man would have made her proud and pompous. Three, she took responsibility for Nabal’s action. Four, she gave David and his men a prized gift. Five, she asked David to forgive Nabal his ill- actions. Six, she suggested that David should not carry out a slaughter that would haunt his conscience for life. Seven, she urged him not to lower himself to Nabal’s level of foolishness. Eight, she was courageous, and her motive was to plead for the lives of others. Nine, her persuasion made David to repent of his evil intention and seek forgiveness from the Lord.
DEATH OF NABAL AND DAVID’S MARRIAGE TO ABIGAIL (1 Samuel 25:36-44; Psalm 37:9-13; 73:17-20; Romans 7:2)
Nabal lived up to his name – a fool. While his life was in imminent danger, he ate and drank himself to stupor. “And Abigail came to Nabal; and, behold, he held a feast in his house, like the feast of a king; and Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunken…” (1 Samuel 25:36). Again, Abigail displayed her characteristic wisdom by delaying to discuss the incident until the following day after the wine was gone out of him. By daybreak, she relayed how David had come within minutes of killing him and wiping out his household. The shock caused him heart attack and he fainted and “became as a stone.” He lingered in a coma for ten days before he finally died. Nabal’s death is a lesson to everyone – rich or poor. A day before, he was merry with wine; and shortly after, he was mowed by providence. So is the life of all men: it springs up in the morning and by evening, it is withered away; “For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways” (James 1:11). This is the
inevitable end of all mortal and only the wise will prepare for life beyond the grave. David blessed the Lord at the news of the death of Nabal, not because he rejoiced at it but “that [the Lord] hath pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal, and hath kept his servant from evil: for the LORD hath returned the wickedness of Nabal upon his own head…” (1 Samuel 25:39). He was restrained by divine hand from avenging himself and would have been guilty. God wants us to leave the battles of our lives for Him, Who alone knows how best to avenge our wrongs (Romans 12:19). Children of God are not permitted to rejoice at the calamity or death of other people – friend or foe (Proverbs 24:17).
However, David yielded to the practice and tradition of people of those days and seized the opportunity of Nabal’s death to marry his widow, Abigail, though he was husband to other women (1 Samuel 18:27; 25:43; 2 Samuel 3:2,3). It is true that a woman can marry another husband after her husband’s death (Romans 7:2, 3; 1 Corinthians 7:39), but for David to have taken Abigail to be a wife negates the New Testament teaching on marriage and therefore is not a pattern for Christians today. Polygamy is forbidden for believers: “And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?” (Matthew 19:4,5).
Abigail certainly has a prominent place in the story of women of integrity and destiny in the Bible whom God used in extraordinary ways. Her deeds were noble, humble, godly and wise. She was a virtuous woman. Other women who also excelled in godly and gracious deeds were, Deborah (Judges 4:4-24). She was among the judges of Israel in her generation. Second, Ruth: she was a vessel unto honour and an epitome of determination, industry and chastity (Ruth 1:6-19; 4:9:11). Third, Esther was a woman of the hour who responded promptly to the call to rescue her kinsmen (Esther 4:7,8,15,16; 7:7,9,10). Fourth, Priscilla
was an ideal evangelistic partner to her husband (Acts 18:26). Our Christian women can also be used of God to do
exploits in their generation. Nabal died as a foolish man. He was foolish because, one, he died without preparing for eternity. The end came to him suddenly without an assurance of spending it with his Creator (Luke 12:20). Two, though rich in the things of this world, he was not rich in good works, nor did he lay up in store for himself a “good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Timothy 6:19). Three, he was high-minded and lacked understanding in responding to a distressing situation (1 Samuel 25:8-11). Four, he failed to do good when it was within his powers and had forgotten that he was a caretaker of his wealth and should use it, not only for his benefit, but also for others (Proverbs 3:27). Five, he lived in pleasures (1 Timothy 5:6). Six, he was drunk with wine instead of being filled with wisdom from above. Seven, he
forgot to number his days that he may apply his heart to wisdom and be prepared to answer the final call (Psalm 90:12).
Wisdom is a principal, necessary commodity to guard and guide men in the path of life. Without it, we are bound to make costly and fatal mistakes. Believers today can be filled with God’s wisdom to lead a successful and victorious life. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).