1 Samuel 25:1 In this chapter we see the contrast between an inconsiderate, selfish man and a wise, courageous woman. Sadly there are some who we will run into who are hard and mean-spirited. Thankfully there are courageous and wise women of the highest character who walk among us as well. In this chapter we will learn some lessons on dealing with inconsiderate and mean people.
In 1 Samuel 25:1 Samuel dies. He had was the spiritual leader of Israel and served as both prophet and judge to the people. Samuel was the last person to serve as judge of Israel. His life and death closed the era of the judges and prepared the way for the kings. More than anyone else, Samuel’s faith and courage had helped the Israelites transition from twelve dis-unified tribes to a unified monarchy.
Samuel was a nationwide leader in both politics and religion. For this reason, all Israel mourned his death including the tribal leaders. Receiving word of Samuel’s death, David retreated deeper into the desert, probably for the purpose of mourning Samuel’s death in an area much more protected from Saul’s reach.
Samuel had been David’s spiritual mentor and counselor since he had been a young boy. A deep sense of loss and grief must have touched him and he no doubt wondered would be able to advise and counsel him, especially in these days when Saul was so fiercely pursuing him. David retreated to either the Wilderness of Paran 100 miles south of En Gedi where David and his men had been hiding out from Saul, or to Maon (1 Samuel 23:24-25) where the events Nabal and Abigail occur.
1 Samuel 25:2-17 Having just been forced to flee for their lives, David and his 600 men were bound to face hunger and the need for other supplies. To provide food and supplies, David had to depend upon wealthy landowners and others sympathetic to his cause. David had been protecting Israel from Philistine raiders who would often attack the land killing and stealing whatever they needed or wanted (1 Samuel 23:1-6).
Because of his protection, many willingly supported David and his men. But when David approached Nabal, he came upon a man with a cold, hard heart rooted in selfishness and greed. Nabal was very wealthy, owning over 1,000 goats and 3,000 sheep. He was married to Abigail, a sensible and intelligent woman who was also very beautiful.
Nabal was a descendant of Caleb, who was with Joshua urging Israel to enter the land when the rest turned away in fear. Only he and Joshua entered the promised land of all who had left Egypt. But Nabal was nothing like him he was harsh and evil in his dealings.
David had to approach Nabal for food and supplies. He heard that Nabal was sheering sheep, so he sent some of his men with a personal message, wishing him a long life and good health, and reminding him that he had been protecting his shepherds and flocks from bandits his workers could verify this. He requested supplies and he appealed to him as a “son” to Nabal, indicating a close bond between them in that David had protected his property as a son would.
In light of his wealth and the protection David had provided, Nabal should have been generous supplying David and his men. But his response showed Nabal’s character, which would soon lead to God’s judgment falling on him. With contempt, Nabal denied David’s request and rebuked the messengers, ridiculing and insulting both them and David.
In addition, he charged David with rebellion, being nothing but a slave who had broken away from his master, King Saul. The word “I” or “my” is used seven times in the original Hebrew in v 11. He gave nothing to David and his men. David’s messengers returned and shared with him the humiliating, demeaning behavior of Nabal toward them.
David’s reaction was immediate, his anger boiled up in him and he ordered his men to mount up and take vengeance against this selfish, ungrateful man. With 400 men, David took off. While all that was going on one of Nabal’s servants who had heard the conversation and fearing David’s anger went to Abigail and relayed his master’s insults against David’s messengers.
The servant believed David’s request for supplies was just stating that the request should have been granted since David had always been good to the shepherds and servants of Nabal, never mistreating them. Night and day David had been a wall around them, protecting them from raids. The servant urged Abigail to take immediate action and warned her of David’s likely retaliation.
This is a warning to us against having cold, hard hearts. God warns us against being selfish and greedy. We must not harden our heart to those in need. When a person needs the necessities of life, we must give to meet those needs (Proverbs 28:14; James 2:15-16).
1 Samuel 25:18-31 Abigail demonstrated unusual intelligence, understanding, and wisdom. She had courage to go against the decision of her husband not to help David. She went out alone to attempt reconciliation with David, whom she was certain would be seeking vengeance against her husband, herself, and their household. Abigail went out with a generous supply of provisions to soften David and stay his anger and desire for vengeance.
Like Jacob when he approached Esau she sent her servants ahead of her so that the first thing David saw would be the supplies. She hoped that this might soften his anger and make reconciliation easier to achieve. When David and his men appeared Abigail quickly got off her donkey humbled herself before him by bowing and falling at his feet.
She acted with a spirit of self-sacrifice requesting that David place the blame on her for the injustice done him. In contrast to the selfishness of her husband, she demonstrated a spirit of unselfishness by accepting responsibility for the evil done against David and his men.
She then confessed that her husband’s behavior had been wicked and foolish. Abigail pleaded ignorance of David’s request since she had not seen the messengers sent by him. Then Abigail said that she had actually come on behalf of the Lord to keep David from becoming guilty of vengeance and bloodshed. This took a great deal of chutzpah but she was right.
Abigail asked David to forgive her offense, implying that she was the one guilty of acting wrongly against David. Then she shared her conviction that the Lord would place David on the throne and use him to establish a everlasting dynasty for the Israel. This is why he must not act in vengeance and shed innocent blood.
He was being protected by the Lord it must be the Lord disciplines David’s enemies and not David himself. Abigail challenged David to consider how much better it would be to turn around and not take vengeance against her husband. Finally Abigail asked David to remember her after he became king. This is the character of a Godly woman and it is something that is seen so rarely today. This is the kind of character we need to model for our children.
1 Samuel 25:32-44 Abigail had presented logical arguments for David to forgive not take vengeance against her husband Nabal. Her plea for forgiveness touched David’s heart and he was changed and he forgave the injustice done against him and his men. He gave praise to God and pronounced a blessing on Abigail for her good, sound advice.
He also praised her for keeping him from the guilt of bloodshed and vengeance. And then David confessed the sin of his heart, that he had been about to retaliate. God did bring judgment against Nabal and vindicated David. Abigail met with her husband and shared with him her encounter with David. When she arrived home her husband was having a banquet to celebrate the annual sheep-shearing that had just been completed.
Nabal was so drunk that Abigail could not share about her encounter with David until morning. When morning arrived, she met with her husband and shared the events that had taken place. Suddenly, without warning, Nabal became like a stone, he most likely suffered a stroke and became paralyzed. About ten days later he died. But Scripture says his death was due to the hand of God’s judgment.
In response David praised God giving thanks that he was prevented from taking vengeance himself and acknowledging that God is the righteous judge. After several weeks passed the beauty and character of Abigail had captivated David’s thoughts and heart that he decided to request her hand in marriage. He sent his servants to ask and, if she accepted, to bring her to him. With the same decisiveness and humility she had already demonstrated, she quickly and humbly accepted.