The Word Made Fresh
1Samuel died, and the people gathered in mourning. They buried him at his home in Ramah. Then David relocated to the Paran wilderness.
2There was a wealthy man in Maon at Carmel who had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep. He was having the sheep sheared in Carmel. 3His name was Nabal, and his wife was Abigail. She was intelligent and attractive, but he was ill-tempered and arrogant. He was a descendant of Caleb.
4David got word that Nabal was having his sheep sheared, 5so he sent ten of his young men, telling them, “Go to Carmel and find Nabal and tell him I sent you. 6Say this to him: ‘Peace to you and your family and all that is yours. 7I have heard that you are shearing your sheep. When your shepherds were with us at Carmel, we watched over them, and none of your sheep were lost. 8They will confirm it if you ask them. David asks that you reward us, especially since we have come during a time of feasting. Please give us whatever you might be able to spare for us.'”
9His men did as David had instructed them and waited for Nabal to respond. 10And this was his answer: “Who is David, and just who does this son of Jesse think he is? A lot of servants are running away from their master these days. 11Why should I give any of the bread and water and meat I have provided my men to somebody who comes from who knows where?”
12The men left and returned to David and told him what had happened. 13David called out to his men to prepare to fight, and they all strapped on their swords, as did David himself. About four hundred of them went with David, while two hundred remained to guard their camp.
14But one of Nabal’s servants told his wife, Abigail, what had transpired. “David sent some men from the wilderness to greet our master,” they said “and he insulted them. 15But his men were indeed helpful to us, and we never lost any of the animals as long as they were around. 16When they were around it was like being in a fortress and we felt safe day and night. 17Please do something because we’re afraid disaster is going to overtake us and our master and his whole family. He’s so thick-headed no one can tell him anything.”
18Then Abigail hurried to gather two hundred loaves of bread, two goat skins filled with wine, five sheep butchered and ready to roast, five bushels of parched grain, a hundred raisin clusters and two hundred fig cakes, and loaded all of it on donkeys. 19She told her servants to go ahead and she would follow, but she said nothing to Nabal.
20As she came down from the hills she was met by David and his men. David had just been saying, “I wasted my time trying to protect this fellow’s things in the wilderness. And because of me he hasn’t lost a single thing. But he has only insulted me. 21May God deal with my enemies if there is as much as one of Nabal’s men left alive by morning.”
23When Abigail saw David she dismounted and fell face down before him. 24Lying at his feet she pleaded, “Charge me and only me for any insult done to you, my lord. Please listen to what I have to say, 25and pay no attention to Nabal, for he is only living up to his name. His name means ‘fool,’ and that is indeed what he is. But I am at your service. I did not see the men you sent. 26And as the LORD lives and as you yourself lives, please know that the LORD has kept you from incurring bloodguilt on yourself so far and know that all who try to harm you my lord are fools like Nabal. 27And my lord, accept these gifts your servant has brought for you and the men with you. 28Please forgive me for confronting you. I know the LORD will reward you with a long reign because you fight for the LORD. May no evil befall you as long as you live. 29When anyone is trying to kill you may your life be protected in the basket that is filled with the lives the LORD watches over. And may the LORD hurl away the lives of your enemies like tossing a stone from a sling. 30And when the LORD has done every good thing promised to you, my master, and has made you the leader over all of Israel, 31my master will not have any guilt on his conscience for shedding innocent blood. And when the LORD has rewarded my master, please remember me your servant.”
32David said, “Thank the LORD, the God of Israel, for sending you to meet me. 33May you be rewarded for your good judgment in holding me back from shedding blood this day. 34If you had not done this, by sunrise tomorrow Nabal would not have a single man alive.” 35Then he accepted the gifts she brought, and said to her, “Go home in peace. I have heard your plea, and I grant your request.”
36When Abigail returned, Nabal was hosting a banquet in his house and lording it over everyone, drunk as he could be, so she said nothing to him until the next morning. 37The next day when he was sober, she told him what she had done, and he suffered a stroke. His whole body went rigid as stone. 38Ten days later the LORD took his life.
39When David got word of Nabal’s death, he said, “Praise the LORD for judging Nabal’s affront to me and for keeping me from shedding innocent blood. The LORD has taken Nabal’s wickedness and turned it on him.”
Then David sent word to Abigail that he wished to propose marriage. 40He sent servants to Carmel and they spoke to Abigail and told her David wanted her to be his wife. 41She humbled herself, bowing low, and said, “I am here to be a servant and wash the feet of my lord’s servants.” 42She hurried then, and set out on a donkey, followed by five of her women servants, and went with David’s men and became his wife.
43David also married Ahinoam of Jezreel, 44but Michal, Saul’s daughter, had been given by her father to Paltiel the son of Laish from Gallim.
1: This is perhaps the most surprising verse in the entire book; not for its content, but for its brevity. Samuel’s death and burial get only half of one verse of the Bible, and that for a man who has two whole books named for him. The second half of the verse confirms that David is still just an outlaw.
2-8: Maon is a village six miles or so west of the Dead Sea’s southern part and perhaps 20 miles south of Jerusalem. Carmel (not to be confused with Mt. Carmel in the north) is a couple of miles north of Maon. We meet a man named Nabal. Nabal means “fool,” and as the story was told around campfires in old Israel the hearers would immediately draw some conclusions about the man’s character.
We also learn something about David; he supports himself by providing “protection” for wealthy cattlemen in the region.
9-13: Nabal may be a fool, but he is no pushover. He refuses to give in to David’s demands. David is infuriated and prepares to punish the wealthy rancher.
14-17 One of Nabal’s shepherds intervenes with Abigail, Nabal’s wife. It seems that David’s protection really has been helpful to them even if it was unasked for. In this David is clearly in the wrong because the people he “protects” have not had the opportunity to agree in advance what such protection will cost. But the young shepherd has enough field smarts to know that David will not let Nabal’s refusal go unpunished.
18-31: Abigail proves to be a better wife than Nabal deserves. She moves quickly enough that she meets David before he reaches their settlement and appeases him with a rather extravagant collection of gifts. She lauds him with every imaginable accolade and treats him as, well, as a king. Verse 29 cleverly alludes to David’s famous victory over Goliath with a stone tossed from a sling.
32-35: David is suitably impressed and accepts the gift and disaster is avoided for Nabal.
36-38: Abigail waits until Nabal is sober to tell him what she has done, and at the news he apparently has a stroke, which results in his death ten days later.
39-42: David loses no time in moving in and offering Abigail his hand in marriage. She accepts, quite hastily it seems, although there is a hint at the end of verse 31 that she may be willing.
43: Just a parting note to let us know that David has another wife, Ahinoam, and that Saul has given his first wife, Saul’s daughter Michal, to some guy named Paltiel even though at their last meeting Saul and David seemed to have patched things up between them. Apparently not.
Matters of family and marriage in the book of Samuel and most of the Old Testament are completely foreign to us. God is in the process of gradually shaping Israel into the people God wants them to be and is obviously willing to overlook much of their behavior for a greater purpose. They are a work in progress, in other words. As are we. And as we learn what it means to be God’s people and followers of Jesus, we can be assured that God is a forgiving God. Up to a point, as we shall see.