“Abigail Offering Bread to David,” by Louis de Boullogne, 1700 (The Louvre, Paris)
1 Samuel 25 (NRSV)
Death of Samuel
Now Samuel died; and all Israel assembled and mourned for him. They buried him at his home in Ramah. Then David got up and went down to the wilderness of Paran.
Samuel’s heritage lived on in a remarkable way.
- 1 Chronicles 9:22 suggests that Samuel laid the foundation for the organization of the Levites for the service of the sanctuary which was completed by David and Solomon.
- 1 Chronicles 26:27-28 says that Samuel began to collect the treasures for the building of the temple in Solomon’s day.
- 2 Chronicles 35:18 says that Samuel remembered the Passover, and kept Israel in remembrance of God’s great deliverance.
- Psalm 99:6 and Jeremiah 15:1 commemorate Samuel as a man of great intercession.
- Hebrews 11:33 puts Samuel in God’s “Hall of Faith.”
David, Nabal, and Abigail
2There was a man in Maon, whose property was in Carmel. The man was very rich; he had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. He was shearing his sheep in Carmel. 3Now the name of the man was Nabal,
The name Nabal means fool. In ancient Israel names were often connected with a person’s character. We don’t know if Nabal was given this name or he earned it but he certainly lived up to it.
and the name of his wife Abigail. The woman was clever and beautiful, but the man was surly and mean; he was a Calebite. 4David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep. 5So David sent ten young men; and David said to the young men, “Go up to Carmel, and go to Nabal, and greet him in my name. 6Thus you shall salute him: ‘Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have.
7‘I hear that you have shearers; now your shepherds have been with us, and we did them no harm, and they missed nothing, all the time they were in Carmel. 8Ask your young men, and they will tell you. Therefore let my young men find favor in your sight; for we have come on a feast day. Please give whatever you have at hand to your servants and to your son David.’”
David is asking for a kind of payment since he and his men protected Nabal’s workers against Philistine raids. The reasonable request is worded politely. And this request is made during sheep-shearing time, when there was much celebration and feasting.
9When David’s young men came, they said all this to Nabal in the name of David; and then they waited.
10But Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants today who are breaking away from their masters. 11Shall I take my bread and my water and the meat that I have butchered for my shearers, and give it to men who come from I do not know where?”
Insult upon insult! Everyone knew who David was! And David was a respectful servant (usually) to King Saul. Furthermore, all the goods Nabal has (my bread and my water and the meat I have butchered) are gifts to him from God. Nabal shows his character to be just as the writer has described: surely and mean.
12So David’s young men turned away, and came back and told him all this. 13David said to his men, “Every man strap on his sword!” And every one of them strapped on his sword; David also strapped on his sword; and about four hundred men went up after David, while two hundred remained with the baggage.
Not that David didn’t have every right! But he previously showed such gracious restraint with Saul. David ought to be returning good for evil to Nabal, as well.
14But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “David sent messengers out of the wilderness to salute our master; and he shouted insults at them. 15Yet the men were very good to us, and we suffered no harm, and we never missed anything when we were in the fields, as long as we were with them; 16they were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep. 17Now therefore know this and consider what you should do; for evil has been decided against our master and against all his house; he is so ill-natured that no one can speak to him.”
Proverbs 17:12 (ISV)
It’s better to meet a mother bear who has lost her cubs
than a fool in his stupidity.
18Then Abigail hurried and took two hundred loaves, two skins of wine, five sheep ready dressed, five measures of parched grain, one hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs. She loaded them on donkeys 19and said to her young men, “Go on ahead of me; I am coming after you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal.
Abigail is doing what Nabal should have done. And the fact that she is able to gather so much food so quickly gives an indication of how rich Nabal was.
20As she rode on the donkey and came down under cover of the mountain, David and his men came down toward her; and she met them. 21Now David had said, “Surely it was in vain that I protected all that this fellow has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belonged to him; but he has returned me evil for good. 22God do so to David and more also, if by morning I leave so much as one male of all who belong to him.”
23When Abigail saw David, she hurried and alighted from the donkey, fell before David on her face, bowing to the ground.
“The Meeting of David and Abigail,” by Peter Paul Rubens, 1630 (National Gallery of Art, Washington)
Can you picture this? David and his men, feeling angry and insulted, swords at the ready, marching to Nabal’s place. Then suddenly, a beautiful woman, at the head of a long procession of food and gifts, bows before them. This is quite unexpected!
24She fell at his feet and said, “Upon me alone, my lord, be the guilt; please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant. 25My lord, do not take seriously this ill-natured fellow, Nabal; for as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him; but I, your servant, did not see the young men of my lord, whom you sent.
26“Now then, my lord, as the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, since the Lord has restrained you from bloodguilt and from taking vengeance with your own hand, now let your enemies and those who seek to do evil to my lord be like Nabal. 27And now let this present that your servant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who follow my lord. 28Please forgive the trespass of your servant; for the Lord will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the Lord; and evil shall not be found in you so long as you live.
from Whispers of His Power
by Amy Carmichael
My lord fighteth the battles of the Lord. — 1 Samuel 25:28
Reign in life by One, Jesus Christ. –Romans 5:17
Don’t wait to be attacked. Fight the Lord’s battles and He will fight yours. What about that one you know who is being badly tempted? What can you do to help him? Find out a way. Fight the devil who is attacking your brother. Don’t slink off and do nothing to help. Fight, fight hard. “Fight the good fight with all thy might.”
When the wise Abigail saw David, who at that time was a long way from final victory, she was perfectly sure that he would win because he was fighting the battles of the Lord. The strongest, happiest, most victorious people are those who forget all about themselves in trying to help others. They are fighting the battles of the Lord and He fights for them and gives them the victory in their own private lives. They reign in life by One, Jesus Christ.
29If anyone should rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living under the care of the Lord your God; but the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling. 30When the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you, and has appointed you prince over Israel, 31my lord shall have no cause of grief, or pangs of conscience, for having shed blood without cause or for having saved himself. And when the Lord has dealt well with my lord, then remember your servant.”
Abigail is thinking the way David should have thought. And the fact that David listens to her and changes his plans shows her wisdom.
32David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you to meet me today! 33Blessed be your good sense, and blessed be you, who have kept me today from bloodguilt and from avenging myself by my own hand! 34For as surely as the Lord the God of Israel lives, who has restrained me from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, truly by morning there would not have been left to Nabal so much as one male.”
35Then David received from her hand what she had brought him; he said to her, “Go up to your house in peace; see, I have heeded your voice, and I have granted your petition.”
Abigail did not come to David empty-handed. One reason her appeal was effective was because she paid David what was owed to him. When David received it from Abigail he acknowledged that Nabal had paid the bill and there was nothing outstanding.
36Abigail came to Nabal; he was holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk; so she told him nothing at all until the morning light. 37In the morning, when the wine had gone out of Nabal, his wife told him these things, and his heart died within him; he became like a stone. 38About ten days later the Lord struck Nabal, and he died.
Luke 12:15-21 (NLT)
Then Jesus said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”
Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’
“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”
39When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Blessed be the Lord who has judged the case of Nabal’s insult to me, and has kept back his servant from evil; the Lord has returned the evil-doing of Nabal upon his own head.”
Then David sent and wooed Abigail, to make her his wife. 40When David’s servants came to Abigail at Carmel, they said to her, “David has sent us to you to take you to him as his wife.”
41She rose and bowed down, with her face to the ground, and said, “Your servant is a slave to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.” 42Abigail got up hurriedly and rode away on a donkey; her five maids attended her. She went after the messengers of David and became his wife. 43David also married Ahinoam of Jezreel; both of them became his wives. 44Saul had given his daughter Michal, David’s wife, to Palti son of Laish, who was from Gallim.
Abigail is as “a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance.” In her, winsomeness and wisdom were wed. She had brains as well as beauty. Today, many women try to cultivate beauty and neglect their brains. A lovely face hides an empty mind. But with Abigail, loveliness and intelligence went hand in hand, with her intelligence emphasizing her physical attractiveness. A beautiful woman with a beautiful mind as she had is surely one of God’s masterpieces.
Added to her charm and wisdom was that of piety. She knew God, and although she lived in such an unhappy home, she remained a saint. Her own soul, like that of David, was “bound in the bundle of life with the Lord God.” Writing of Abigail as “A Woman of Tact” W. Mackintosh Mackay says that, “she possessed in harmonious combination these two qualities which are valuable to any one, but which are essential to one who has to manage men—the tact of a wise wife and the religious principle of a good woman.” Eugenia Price, who writes of Abigail as, A Woman With God’s Own Poise, says that, “only God can give a woman poise like Abigail possessed, and God can only do it when a woman is willing to cooperate as Abigail cooperated with Him on every point.” She experienced that in God her Father there was a source of joy enabling her to be independent of the adverse, trying circumstances of her miserable home life. She must have had implicit confidence in God to speak to David as she did about her divinely predestined future. In harmony with her many attractions was “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is more lustrous than the diamonds that decorate the delicate fingers of our betters, shone as an ornament of gold about her head, and chains about her neck.”
Does this story have a country-western twang to it? Yes, it does! HERE is David Wyper and “Abigail.”
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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