Monday, January 21, 2008
1 SAMUEL 25
25:1 The Death of Samuel
While the appointment of Saul as king officially ended the era of the judges, the death of Samuel, the last judge, makes it final. We was so revered that Israelites from over the whole nation mourned him. They buried him in his home town of Rahah.
David continued to move around. His confrontation with Saul happened in the wilderness of En Gedi. Now he moves on to the Wilderness of Paran. According to Genesis 21:21, Ishmael grew up there after Abraham sent him away. The Israelites camped there after leaving Mount Sinai, according to Numbers 10:12. The spies later left from there on their mission to Canaan, according to Numbers 13:3. I wonder if David thought about Ishmael in exile, since David was in a sort of exile himself, or if he thought about the cloud of God’s presence when Israel wandered through this same area. At any rate, David would have a fateful encounter in this region.
25:2-3 Introducing the Characters
In addition to David, the characters in this story are Nabal and his wife, Abigail. Nabal was rich. He had lots of sheep and goats. Abigail, his wife, was both beautiful and wise. Nabal, in contrast, was harsh and evil. His name means “fool”. Isaiah 32:6 says “For the foolish person will speak foolishness, and his heart will work iniquity: to practice ungodliness, to utter error against the Lord, to keep the hungry unsatisfied, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail.” Evidently, this trait was known in his clan, as the verse says “he was of the house of Caleb”.
As the story begins, Nabal was in Carmel shearing his sheep. Remember that Carmel is the sight of the monument Saul erected to himself after defeating the Amalekites, and the place where Samuel slew Agag, the king of the Amalekites, after Saul spared him. So, while we will focus on David, the shadow of Saul looms. You might even have to wonder if Nabal had been a supporter of Saul’s given his reaction to David.
25:4-9 David Seeks Provisions from Saul
David and his men evidently guarded Nabal’s men and sheep and prevented any harm from coming to them while they were camped in the area. So, David sent some men, on a fest day, and asked for provisions. David figured, since Nabal was rich and had plenty, and David had treated him well by not taking any of his animals or letting anyone else do it, Nabal would be grateful and generous and give a few sheep and some bread to his men.
25:10-11 Nabal Refuses David’s Request
Instead of being generous, Nabal is arrogant and harsh, consistent with the description of his nature. He refused to give David anything. Not only that, but he insulted David. When he says, in verse 10, “who is David”, he is demeaning him. We might say “who does he think he is, anyway”. He also said “there are many servants nowadays who break away from each one from his master”. This would indicate to me that Nabal supported Saul and thought David an upstart who should be serving Saul.
25:12-13, 21-22 David Gets Angry
When David heard what Nabal had said, he wanted to kill him. He told his men to put on their swords and he put on his. He intended to wipe out Nabal and his men. Verse 13 tells us David had about 400 men with him when he set out, and he left 200 to guard their stuff. Nabal’s men likely are not armed, or only a few of them were, to keep watch over the flocks. They would be no match for David and his hardened fighting force. It would be a massacre.
We can see both sides of David’s nature now. Last week, in Chapter 24, we saw that he refused to harm Saul, since he was God’s anointed. In this chapter, we see the rash and violent side of David. He has been slighted and he wants revenge for it. In verse 21-22, it is recorded that David swore to kill all the males in Nabal’s camp.
25:14-20 Abigail Furnishes What Nabal Would Not
Fortunately for all, one of Nabal’s young men told Abigail what happened. Notice he said Nabal “reviled” David (NKJV). He recounted that David’s men had protected them. The young man was wise and encouraged Abigail to do something, for he knew harm was coming and he could not counsel Nabal about it.
Abigail put together a large amount of supplies and sent them to David. Verse 18 gives us the list of stuff she sent. She did not even tell her husband about it, so he could not mess it up. Then she went on a donkey to meet David personally, hoping her presence would make up for Nabal’s actions. We think she is going to save Nabal, but we realize later, she is going to save David from himself.
This is a brave, as well as wise, woman. She knew David was coming with armed men and she went to meet them rather than hide. You can imagine David is “in a huff”. He is angry and on the way to shed blood, riding with 400 men. Confronting him is one lone Hebrew woman, but one full of wisdom, humility and grace.
25:23-31 Abigail’s Speech
Abigail gives quite a speech and saves David from himself.
Notice the similarity to her behavior in verse 23 when she first encounters David with that of David encountering Saul in 24:8. Abigail dismounted her donkey and fell on her face in the trail, bowing her head all the way to the ground. This is a position of absolute humility and supplication. David had stooped with his face to the earth and bowed down. The Bible in both passages honors the person who humbled themselves, not the one who was superior in rank.
Interestingly, Abigail asked David to blame her and not her husband. In verse 24, she says, in effect, blame me for the wrong that has been done to you. Then, she asked David to listen to her plea. And, some plea it is.
In verse 25, she admits her husband is a fool and not worth bothering with for David, but she calls herself his servant and says she did not see the young men come for food, implying she would have given them food had she seen them. She is asking for a second chance to be gracious to David and his men.
In verse 26, she says it is the Lord who is keeping David from bloodshed and from seeking revenge. It is as if she knows the Lord is using her to save David from doing something evil. She also asks that David’s enemies be made fools as Nabal is.
Then, in verse 27 and 28, she tendered the gift of provisions to David and asked him to accept it and to forgive her. You see she never criticized David, but lauded his character and appealed to it, as well as taking the blame on herself.
She continued by saying the Lord would build for David an enduring house, something the Lord would indeed later promise to David. His descendant would sit on the throne of Israel forever.
She went on to praise David over Saul and, finally, to declare that David would indeed be king. She asked David to remember her when this happened.
25:32-35 David Relents
While Abigail made this eloquent and wise speech, while bowing in the dust, you could probably see the anger leave David, and his admiration for this woman show. He would be convicted of his desire for revenge and grateful to God for intervening and keeping him from great sin.
In verse 32, he gave God the credit for all this. He said “Blessed be the Lord God f Israel, who sent you this day to meet me”. He went on to bless her advice, and he acknowledged that she, as the instrument of the Lord, saved him from sin.
David accepted her gift and sent her on her way. He said he heeded her voice, he took her advice, and he respected her person, he did not harm her even though she was the wife of the one who insulted him.
25:36-39a God Vindicates David
When Nabal heard what happened, he had a heart attack and died within 10 days. Verse 38 says the Lord struck him. As we saw last week, the Lord reserves the right of vengeance or vindication to himself. We are not to take it into our own hands. Here the vindication was swift.
David recognized the Lord’s vindication. When he heard Nabal was dead, he blessed the Lord both for vindicating him and for keeping him from evil. If the Lord had not saved David from getting his own revenge, he would have been like Saul, who murdered the entire town of Nob as revenge for giving supplies to David.
In chapter 24, David restrained himself and his men from vengeance against Saul. But, in chapter 25, David had to be restrained. The Lord, in his mercy, provided that restraint through Abigail. The sad thing is David could not transfer wisdom and knowledge from one situation to another. Where the king was involved, it was clear. Where someone of lesser status was involved, David could not apply God’s standard. He understood not touching the Lord’s anointed. He did not understand God’s command to leave vengeance in God’s hand.
It is part of Christian maturity to be able to apply scriptural principles in different situations. Peter himself failed in this. He applies God’s instruction not to judge clean and unclean in God’s creation when he goes to witness to Cornelius, but does not apply it when the Judaizers came to Antioch. Paul had to do it for him.
25:39b-44 The Postscript
David remembered Abigail and her wisdom and courage. He proposed marriage to her. She reacted humbly to this also, bowing and taking care of David’s servants by having their feet washed.
We are also given a little more information, as we are told Saul had taken Michal away from him and given her to someone else, probably when David went away into the wilderness. David also took another wife, Ahinoam of Jezreel. This is a bit of a sour note at the end of a great story, as David begins to collect wives in violation of the Lord’s command. It was not an uncommon practice in the day, however.