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Death of Samuel; Nabal and Abigail (1 Samuel 25) November 12

Samuel, the prophet of the Lord, dies. Greatly respected by all Israel, people gathered from all over the nation to honor him at his burial. As his death comes during the short-lived truce between Saul and David, it is possible, though not directly stated, that David was able to attend this memorial. Afterward, David ventures south into the wilderness of Paran.

Then follows the story of Nabal and Abigail. Nabal, a descendant of Caleb of the house of Judah, lived in Maon with his great flocks in nearby Carmel. Carmel is a town in the general area of Ziph and Maon in Judah (see Joshua 15:55-57), some 20-30 miles south of Jerusalem. (It is not to be confused with the northern Mount Carmel by the sea, which figures later into the lives of Elijah and Elisha.) Saul had set up a monument to himself in Carmel following his war with Amalek and before his final rejection by God (see 1 Samuel 15:12).

David and his men acting as a protective militia had protected Nabal's property from marauding bands of thieves. Nabal's name means fool, and he was true to his name. Even his own wife Abigail remarks, "Nabal is his name, and folly is with him" (verse 25)—or, in modern parlance, "Fool is his name and folly is his game." Abigail, on the other hand, was a woman of understanding who deserved better than Nabal (verse 3). Apart from a world of arranged marriages, it would be hard to imagine two such people ever getting together.

It was expected that those who were being protected would contribute to the support of those who made it possible for them to prosper—and Nabal is prosperous (verse 2). Yet Nabal, in his foolishness, denies any support to David's men (verses 4-11). His impulsive anger aroused in righteous indignation, David fully intends to wipe Nabal from the face of the earth (verse 22).

As the King James Version shows, the literal Hebrew of verse 22 says David will kill everyone who urinates against the wall. Most modern translations render this as simply meaning all the males. However, verse 16 mentions David's protection as a "wall" and David's reference may be to all those who were treating his help and protection with contempt (see "David's Threat to Nabal," Bible Review, October 2002, pp. 18-23, 59).

Abigail comes to the rescue of her husband and her household. She is wise enough to realize that Nabal's foolish rejection of David's men will bring a terrible and swift reprisal. So she brings generous supplies, part in payment of what is due and part to appease David's wrath. She explains Nabal's nature to David, but, as his wife, takes the blame and asks forgiveness, declaring herself David's servant, as her husband should have done (verses 25, 28). Abigail is well aware of David's reputation.

Abigail gives David some insightful counsel. She realizes that his life is fully interwoven with the plan of God and points out that this insult by Nabal is nothing compared to the glory David will one day have—particularly since God Himself will deal with David's enemies. But, she goes on to say, if David were to react to what is now a small matter, it would then become a huge matter for him, as it would be a horrible mistake he would regret for the rest of his life.

David accepts her good advice (verse 33). And note this: He gives God the credit for Abigail's intervention! He fully realizes how close he has come to making a disastrous mistake. He accepts and appreciates the intent with which Abigail has given her gifts (verse 35).

After Nabal recovers from a drunken stupor, Abigail tells him what she had done for David and his men. Apparently, Nabal's rage is so violent at this news that he has a massive stroke and dies about 10 days later (verses 36-38). Again, David gives God all the credit for keeping him from making a terrible mistake and for avenging him.

Abigail's request to be remembered (verse 31) brings her to David's side in marriage (verses 39-42).

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