Read 1 Samuel 25
David, Nabal and Abigail
1 Now Samuel died, and all Israel assembled and mourned for him; and they buried him at his home in Ramah. Then David moved down into the Desert of Paran.
2 A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel. 3 His name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband was surly and mean in his dealings—he was a Calebite.
4 While David was in the wilderness, he heard that Nabal was shearing sheep. 5 So he sent ten young men and said to them, “Go up to Nabal at Carmel and greet him in my name. 6 Say to him: ‘Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours!
7 “‘Now I hear that it is sheep-shearing time. When your shepherds were with us, we did not mistreat them, and the whole time they were at Carmel nothing of theirs was missing. 8 Ask your own servants and they will tell you. Therefore be favorable toward my men, since we come at a festive time. Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.’”
9 When David’s men arrived, they gave Nabal this message in David’s name. Then they waited.
10 Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. 11 Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?”
12 David’s men turned around and went back. When they arrived, they reported every word. 13 David said to his men, “Each of you strap on your sword!” So they did, and David strapped his on as well. About four hundred men went up with David, while two hundred stayed with the supplies.
14 One of the servants told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “David sent messengers from the wilderness to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them. 15 Yet these men were very good to us. They did not mistreat us, and the whole time we were out in the fields near them nothing was missing. 16 Night and day they were a wall around us the whole time we were herding our sheep near them. 17 Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.”
18 Abigail acted quickly. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. 19 Then she told her servants, “Go on ahead; I’ll follow you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal.
20 As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her, and she met them. 21 David had just said, “It’s been useless—all my watching over this fellow’s property in the wilderness so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good. 22 May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!”
23 When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. 24 She fell at his feet and said: “Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. 25 Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent. 26 And now, my lord, as surely as the Lord your God lives and as you live, since the Lord has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal. 27 And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my lord, be given to the men who follow you.
28 “Please forgive your servant’s presumption. The Lord your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the Lord’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live. 29 Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. 30 When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel, 31 my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the Lord your God has brought my lord success, remember your servant.”
32 David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. 33 May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. 34 Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.”
35 Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, “Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request.”
36 When Abigail went to Nabal, he was in the house holding a banquet like that of a king. He was in high spirits and very drunk. So she told him nothing at all until daybreak. 37 Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and his heart failed him and he became like a stone. 38 About ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died.
39 When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise be to the Lord, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.”
Then David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife. 40 His servants went to Carmel and said to Abigail, “David has sent us to you to take you to become his wife.”
41 She bowed down with her face to the ground and said, “I am your servant and am ready to serve you and wash the feet of my lord’s servants.” 42 Abigail quickly got on a donkey and, attended by her five female servants, went with David’s messengers and became his wife. 43 David had also married Ahinoam of Jezreel, and they both were his wives. 44 But Saul had given his daughter Michal, David’s wife, to Paltiel son of Laish, who was from Gallim.
In this chapter, we have three main characters (Nabal, David, and Abigail) who each have distinct responses to the situation at hand. The first thing we learn about Nabal is that he is “harsh and badly behaved” (v. 3). Nabal’s name literally translates to “fool or senseless” and it doesn’t take long for him to live up to his name. When David’s men come to request their rightful compensation for protecting Nabal’s shepherds and animals, he not only refuses to be generous, but he mocks David in the process. Nabal’s response is insulting. A lifetime of his foolish choices led him to have a hardened and stubborn heart.
Next, let’s look at David. David does not ask for charity, but simply a repayment for the kindness his army has shown Nabal. When Nabal refuses, David’s initial response is “Every man strap on his sword!” David felt justified in his anger toward Nabal, but that doesn’t excuse his rash response. He attempted to take matters into his own hands, instead of waiting on the Lord.
Finally, we meet Abigail. In stark contrast to her evil husband, the first description we receive of Abigail is that she is “discerning and beautiful.” When Abigail heard what happened between Nabal and David, she acted quickly (v. 18). Abigail wisely and bravely approaches David. She takes the blame for her husband’s response and proceeds to delicately remind David that he is in the protective care of the Almighty God. If David had destroyed Nabal and all his people, it could have jeopardized his future rule. God uses Abigail’s wisdom to keep David from sin.
We see how each person’s actions have a different result. Nabal, who never repents or even acknowledges his sin, is struck dead by the Lord (v. 38). David, whose heart is receptive toward Abigail’s wisdom, repents and is spared the consequences of what his anger could have caused. Abigail’s kindness and decisive action saves the lives of many and also changes her life forever when David takes her as his wife (v. 40). 1 Samuel 25 gives us three examples that we can learn from. May we turn from foolishness so that we do not end up like Nabal, who ultimately died from his sin. May we learn from David who, when confronted with his rash behavior, repents. And may we strive to be like Abigail, who models bravery and wisdom, and as a result, is used by God in a powerful way.
- As you consider 1 Samuel 25, is there someone you need to forgive instead of plotting revenge?
- In verse 32, David acknowledges God’s goodness in directing Abigail to take the steps that she did. Who has He sent to direct you and keep you from sin? Thank God for those people in your life.
- Do you have any stubborn, foolish, or bitter tendencies, like Nabal, that you need to repent of so the Lord can begin softening your heart?
Did You Know?
The speech by Abigail to David in 1 Samuel 25:24-31 is one of the longest by a woman recorded in the Bible. Her eloquence and tact are evident in her words as she reveals her knowledge of God. She truly models Proverbs 31:26, “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”
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1 thought on “1 Samuel 25”
Wow! Sometimes Old Testament stories can feel dark, messy and complicated. (Derek Davidson). As we heard in Derek’s message on Sunday, tests reveal something about us and God. In today’s reading Nabal’s foolishness, Abigail’s diplomacy, and David’s restraint are evidenced. I want to remember that things are not what they seem at first glance. When I’m tempted to take matters into my own hands, it’s prudent to pause, ponder and pray through situations to keep my pride in check and gain his perspective.