1 Samuel 25:2–42comment (0)
November 7, 2013
By James Riley Strange
Related Scripture: 1 Samuel 25:2–42
Bible Studies for Life
Associate Professor of Religion, Samford University
1 Samuel 25:2–42
This story comes not long after the story covered Oct. 20. The idea of vengeance is in both stories: it is not for humans to exact, but for God. In chapter 24, David did not seek revenge, but this week he is ready to wipe out innocent people. The author might present David as Israel’s greatest king, but he doesn’t plaster over David’s faults. David needs to be corrected. Don’t let it escape your notice that a relatively powerless but wise woman steps in, and David acts righteously in response to her initiative. Within the limited powers available to her, she takes up the role of prophet, speaking God’s message to the king. Given what David is prepared to do to avenge an insult, her courage also stands out.
The towns Maon and Carmel sit near Hebron at the northern end of the Negev desert. Sheep shearing happens in the spring.
“Nabal” means “fool” (see v. 25). “Abigail” means something like “her father’s joy.” Both names are fitting.
David, who is still hiding from Saul, must rely on hospitality in order to feed his men and himself. David asks for help on a “feast day,” probably a yearly festival associated with sheep shearing. After making preparations for the festival, perhaps Nabal will have enough left over to feed David and his men. David points out that, despite the fact that they are armed, his men have done no wrong to Nabal’s servants but have treated them well, even protecting them (see v. 16).
Nabal indeed has plenty (18 and 36) but violates accepted rules of hospitality by rudely turning away David’s men and hence David as well. He also lies when he implies that he doesn’t want to take food away from his men (11). The food is for his own feast (36).
The insult infuriates David and he acts the bully, much like the king who is hunting him. A coward who will murder innocents because his feelings have been hurt has supplanted the brave lad who slew the giant.
Nabal’s servants know that he has made a bad mistake. Note that they do not confront him. Rather they go to his wife, Abigail, who must have proved her good judgment and intelligence before.
That turns out to be a wise decision, for Abigail does indeed fix the problem. She doesn’t confront bloodthirsty David with the injustice of his intentions but prepares a meal for him and sends it ahead. Recall Jacob and Esau in Genesis 32:2–21. Unlike Esau, David is not mollified.
Note what Abigail does when she meets David: she does not present the food as a bribe to keep David from killing her household. Rather she says it is a thank-you gift, as if he has already decided to put away his anger (26). He doesn’t do that until verse 32.
Abigail speaks prophetic words to David. His enemies (Saul) will indeed die like Nabal (26, 38) and be slung “out as from the hollow of a sling” (29). David will indeed be “prince over all Israel” (30).
As a result of Abigail’s actions, David realizes that revenge is not his to take. The lesson will not stick (see chapter 30). The text suggests that Nabal is sorry for his actions before God strikes him. Verse 39 foreshadows 2 Samuel 11:1–27, when David will commit adultery and murder the woman’s husband.
There are two important lessons this week. First sometimes even Davids act unjustly and must be corrected. Second even those with little power can (and must) step in to speak truth to those who have all the power.