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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 25

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-44

1 Samuel 25:1 . Samuel died, four months, say the rabbins, before the death of Saul. The elders of the nation from all the tribes attended, to behold the glory of a setting sun, which left its lustre bright on high. His bones, says Jerome, were long after removed to Constantinople, over which Justin the emperor raised a monument.

1 Samuel 25:3 . The name of the man was Nabal, a stubborn foolish man. His estates lay in Carmel, where his thousand goats could leap on the rocks, and his sheep feed on the hills. These flocks David had protected, and had fair claims of hospitality. David had retired into those borders of Tyre to avoid collision with the court of Saul.

1 Samuel 25:8 . We come in a good day. The christian can say the same of sacraments and of divine ordinances.

1 Samuel 25:18 . Two bottles of wine. Bruce calls these gerbashes, strong hides sewed close, and thrown over the back of a beast.

1 Samuel 25:29 . The bundle of life; a Hebraism for the immortality of the soul, and the happiness of separate spirits under the throne of glory. So rabbi Solomon Ben Gabirol, a Hebrew poet, uses the phrase, “Thou hast prepared under the throne of thy glory an abode for the souls of thy saints: there the souls of the sanctified dwell, who are bound up in the bundle of life. There the weary find repose; there they renew their strength, after the toils and fatigues of the present world. There they enjoy consolation, and unlimited pleasures and delight.”


How glorious, spotless, and wise was the life of Samuel! His early piety was followed by correspondent virtues to old age. He found his country in the lowest state of oppression, and religion almost extinguished; he succeeded in reforming the morals and raising the hopes of Israel to a glory which, very soon after his death, eclipsed the glory of all the east. When the people became impatient for a king, he resigned his authority as judge; he so displaced his sons that we hear no more of them, and he anointed two kings to the prejudice of his own family. How disinterested as a servant; how pure as a prophet. Well might Israel mourn, for in losing him every family had lost its friend, and all the land had lost a father. Well might David hasten farther south to the wilderness of Paran, for now Saul had lost the only man who awed his abuse of power. This great prophet was assuredly adorned with every virtue that can dignify human nature. His sun went down at the age of about ninety, but left an immortal lustre on the bench, and on the sanctuary.

From the good Samuel we next turn our views to the churlish and wicked Nabal. This man inherited all the temporal blessings of his ancestor Caleb, but he was a stranger to all his virtues. He was a fool, a drunkard, void of gratitude; and prosperity in the hands of a fool cannot be of long duration. Being of the same tribe with David he was acquainted with his anointing, with Saul’s covenant, and with David’s public and private claims for defending his country; yet this man on receiving the most respectful embassy, reproaches David as a fugitive and a traitor. And if Shimei forfeited his life by cursing David, where is the prince so circumstanced, who would have spared the life of Nabal.

Notorious wickedness is most provoking to brave and virtuous minds. David went to an excess in this way: he swore by an oath of the Lord to cut off Nabal and all the males of his house before the morning light. But in the 58th Psalm, said to be written on this occasion, he acknowledges God’s peculiar right to punish sins of this nature, as the issue proved.

Nabal’s wickedness was fully acknowledged by the young man who ran to acquaint Abigail. He confesses that David was a wall to them; that he had kept both sheep and shepherds, against the depredations of the Arabians; and he apprized his mistress of his fears from some expressions which the embassy had dropped.

Abigail’s prudence and virtues seem to have acquired a higher lustre from the vices of her husband. Behold, this woman rises at midnight for the salvation of her house. See her liberal presents, and quickness of dispatch. All her house promptly obey, for prudence is obeyed with pleasure. She leaves her house in the night for David’s camp: but how is she surprised to meet the prince and his army at the foot of her own hill! Another hour of delay, and all had perished. Blessed woman: thy name deserves to be enrolled in the annals of immortality. Well hast thou saved one husband awhile from death, and gained another worth a thousand Nabals. Her speech was not less admirable than her present. She prostrated, confessed the fault, and acknowledged the errors of her husband, but in language which associated her innocence in his guilt. She does more: she predicts David’s deliverance from Saul, and his accession to the throne; for on great occasions, God gives virtuous souls a greatness of language. There is no estimating the obligation which some bad men are under to a virtuous wife.

Mark the difference between virtue and vice in the crisis of danger. Abigail’s soul awoke to eloquence, gratitude, and devotion; but when Nabal was apprized that he had been brought by his wickedness to the gates of death, and the verge of hell, he became as a stone: his gloomy soul died within him. Oh what risks the wicked run. How often has that drunkard been within a step of hell by a premature death; and yet he stupidly proceeds in the same awful route. Well: let him be assured that God in a little while will inflict upon him the long-suspended blow.

Abigail by this embassy, though the thought had not entered her mind, did more than save her house. The noble soul of David knew best how to appreciate her noble deed. Her beauty indeed was enough to attract, but that was obscured in the lustre of her eloquence and virtues. The grandeur of her soul was developed in the crisis of danger. No sooner therefore did he hear of Nabal’s death, than he sent to secure this faithful guardian, this wise companion and virtuous friend, for the partner of all his toil. So Abigail rose to the throne by her virtues, while vice hurled Nabal into the shades of oblivion.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 25". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/1-samuel-25.html. 1835.
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