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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 25

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Verse 1


Here, it seems, the history which describes the relationship between Saul and David is briefly interrupted. Yet there is a connection with the history of Saul. Nabal, one of the main characters of this chapter, looks a lot like Saul. Like Saul, he rejects David. This is at the same time Satan’s attack on David. Satan failed in setting David up against Saul, but he did succeed in doing so against Nabal. When a sudden event occurs, it suddenly turns out what is in David. All the beautiful features have suddenly disappeared and we see that the flesh in David reveals itself. This history is a great warning to us.

In the history of David there are several attractive characters, such as Jonathan, Mephiboseth and Ittai. Abigail, Nabal’s wife, occupies a special place among all these friends of David. In her we see in this chapter beautiful qualities of faith. It is a chapter about a woman for women. Here we see what a woman can do for a man. Many men will be able to testify, if they will, that their wife has often stopped them from foolishness.

Samuel dies

When Samuel dies, it indicates the disappearance of the Word of God from Israel. Also, with this an intercessor for the people disappears (1 Samuel 12:23) and it is also over with intercession. Word and prayer are no longer present. The people acknowledge the great loss and mourn for him. During his life they have discarded him (1 Samuel 8:5). Now that he has died, they feel the loss. This is more often the case with prophets. During their life they are denied, after their death they are honored. However, this tribute does not consist of taking their words to heart, but of decorating their graves (Matthew 23:29).

It is easy to honor this man, now that he no longer troubles their conscience with his faithful admonitions. The flesh is even able to have a certain self-satisfaction that they have had such a man in their midst. However, what God appreciates is willing obedience to the message of His servants while they are still alive, and a remembrance of their words after they have died (Hebrews 13:7).

True servants do not want to be mourned when their bodies lie in the grave. They much more prefer their words to be listened to. When they see this, they will be encouraged in their hearts and will give an account to the Lord “with joy and not with grieve” (Hebrews 13:17). The praise of the dead while their teaching is rejected can be called religious hypocrisy.

An example of this hypocrisy can be seen in the tribute given to Peter in Christianity. Beautiful buildings bear his name. But what would happen if the apostle returned to us today and preached the truth of his letters from the pulpit of the building bearing his name? Then he would be as despised and cast out as his Lord and Master from the synagogue of Nazareth (Luke 4:28-Joel :).

For example, Peter clearly teaches that being born again is the fruit of faith in the seed of the Word of God that is absorbed into the heart (1 Peter 1:23). In some parts of Christianity, however, it is stated that being born again occurs through the baptism performed by a ‘clergyman’. The same goes for the priesthood of all believers that Peter teaches in his letter (1 Peter 2:3-Ruth :). Christianity teaches that the priesthood is the privilege of a select group of ministers.

For David it is different than for the people. For him, Samuel’s death is a great personal loss. He took refuge at him and found protection for some time (1 Samuel 19:18). Now he cannot go there anymore. However, that does not mean that he is without the Word of God, for the prophet Gad is with him. He also has the priest Abiathar with him. Everything that is valuable to Israel is with David.

After the news of Samuel’s death, it is mentioned that David arises and goes to the wilderness of Paran. It seems to be so that David heard of Samuel’s death and therefore leaves. The wilderness of Paran evokes memories in connection with the wilderness journey. It is one of the resting places during the wilderness trip (Numbers 10:12). It lies south of Israel and west of Edom. Israel has sent spies from there to spy out the land, and they returned there after spying out the land (Numbers 13:3; Numbers 13:26). So David went outside the land to stay out of Saul’s hands.

The death of Samuel and David’s departure from the land seem to be the introduction to the events described in this chapter. Both seem to have had a very discouraging effect on David. We can deduce that from his request to Nabal for support and his response to Nabal’s refusal. There is no evidence in either action that God has told him to do so.

Verses 2-3

Nabal and Abigail

Maon is a city in Judah, in the area of Carmel – there is also a wilderness called Maon (1 Samuel 23:24). The first thing to look at is someone who has his business in that area. Before his name is mentioned, the man is said to be “very rich”. It also says where he is and what is happening. He has a large flock of sheep and goats and is busy stripping the sheep of their wool.

The name “Nabal” means “fool”. He is what his name says, because he does not take God into account at all. That is exactly the characteristic of a fool, for he “says in his heart, There is no God” (Psalms 14:1). He is a picture of the wicked people who do not think of God. There is no trace of wisdom in someone who is a fool.

His wife is called “Abigail”, which means “father of joy” or “whose father rejoices”. She is a complete opposite of her husband. With her are mind and insight, which she has not lost in this marriage. She is also a beautiful appearance. The fact that she is ever attached to such a man in marriage will not have been her own choice but will have been arranged for her.

Of Nabal is also said he is “harsh and evil in [his] dealings”. Nabal’s ancestor is Caleb. Nabal inherited the possessions of Caleb, but not his faith and dedication. He does not walk in the spirit of his ancestor. We would never have heard of Nabal if he had not come into contact with David, even if only for a moment.

Verses 4-8

David’s Request

When David hears that Nabal is shearing his sheep, he thinks that is the best way to ask Nabal for a favor. It seems to have been a habit to have large meals on the occasion of the shearing of the sheep, as we also see with Absalom (2 Samuel 13:23-Jeremiah :). Shearing the sheep (Genesis 31:19; Genesis 38:12-1 Chronicles :) is like collecting the harvest. Such an event makes you happy and often generous.

David sends ten young men to Nabal and tells them exactly what they need to wish him, what they have been for him – so that Nabal can now celebrate this sheep shearers festival – and what they should ask for as a favor. He orders his ten young men to first greet him in his name. Then they must wish him peace, both for him personally and for his family, family, and servants, and for all his possessions. This wish of peace is not only politeness but shows the mind of David toward Nabal.

Besides showing his mind in his good wishes David also points out his commitment to the wellbeing of Nabal. Not only has he taken nothing, but he has also ensured protection that others have taken nothing of what belongs to Nabal. With this evidence he underlines his words. And that is not all either. He points out to Nabal that he can check the truth of his statements with his servants. Finally, David appeals to the grace of Nabal. He does not demand anything, he does not threaten, he does not demand a reward, but asks Nabal to act mercifully. And is it not a good day when he approaches Nabal?

With all these words David wants to create the right atmosphere for the question he wants to ask. He is humble. About his own young men, he speaks to Nabal as “your servants” and he calls himself “your son David”. He also does not give a list of desired articles but leaves it entirely to Nabal. He asks Nabal to give him “whatever you find at hand”, that means, what he can miss and has within reach, without having to make any effort.

Verses 9-11

Nabal’s Response

The ten young men come to Nabal and speak in name of David what he has told them. The testimony is given by ten men. The number ten is the number of responsibility. Nabal is responsible for his response to David’s question. The question is whether the claims of God’s anointed king, even though he is on the run, are recognized. The fact that David as a person does not seem to live on the height of faith does not detract from the test to which Nabal is subjected by this question.

When they have spoken and are silent, Nabal immediately answers. His answer is a deep insult to David and shows contempt for the anointed king. Narrowing he pronounces it: “Who is David?” It sounds like the mocking question from the Pharaoh to Moses: “Who is the LORD?” (Exodus 5:2; cf. Job 21:15). Then he says: “And who is the son of Jesse?” This shows that he does know David and that he despises him, as is the case with Saul, who also calls David this way (1 Samuel 20:27).

By the way, the question “who is David”, and if we see David as a picture of the Lord Jesus, is a question that is asked of every human being. Every human being will have to answer the question: “What do you think about the Christ?” (Matthew 22:42). The answer to this question determines eternity. If we do not know the answer to this question, it is guilty ignorance. As for David, Abigail knows, while Nabal does not. As for Christ, anyone can know, because it is written in God’s Word. If we do not know, it is because we do not want to know.

Nabal sees everything as his property, obtained by his own efforts. The recurring word “my” indicates that. It never comes to him that he owes his wealth largely to the protection of his property by David and his men. Because of this he has lost nothing (1 Samuel 25:15-Nehemiah :).

Nabal is remarkably similar to the rich man about whom the Lord Jesus tells a parable, in response to someone’s question of whether He wants to judge in a dispute over an inheritance (Luke 12:13-Ecclesiastes :). In the parable God also addresses that rich man with the name “Fool” (Luke 12:20). Whoever looks at his possessions as purely the result of his own merit, without any sense of gratitude to God, is a fool.

Verses 12-13

Reaction of David

Without any reaction from the men, they return to David. David does react, and how. He does not react with the gentleness of Him of Whom he is so often a picture. He reacts as John and James (Luke 9:54). His reaction may be understandable, but it is not good. Where are his patience and his questions to God what he should do? He reacts carnal. We see here that the beloved one is only by grace a man after God’s heart. Like others, he can take a case into his own hands.

David expects evil and insult from Saul. He is prepared for that and is wary of it. This allows him to control himself. However, he expected kindness from Nabal. Therefore, the insult he receives is an unpleasant surprise. He is caught in it. He is not wary of that sudden attack. In view of such temptations it is necessary to pray to the Lord: “Do not lead us into temptation” (Matthew 6:13).

Verses 14-17

A Young Man Reports to Abigail

One of the young men of Nabal tells Abigail what happened. He testifies how Nabal responded to David’s request how he reacted against David’s men. Nabal has scorned David’s men in an outburst of anger over what has been asked of him on David’s behalf. Then the young man testifies of the goodness of David and his men whom he and the other young men have experienced. They experienced them as a wall around them and they did not miss anything of the cattle they had to guard. Nabal must have given them severe punishment if they missed another piece of cattle. Those outbursts of anger have been spared to them by the protection of David and his men. At the same time, Nabal has lost nothing.

Through his actions Nabal fell into disgrace with David and will be killed. The servant cannot discuss this evil with Nabal because the man is unapproachable. He speaks to Nabal’s wife about him as “such a worthless man that no one can speak to him”.

Verses 18-22

Abigail Meets David

Abigail hurries (1 Samuel 25:18; 1 Samuel 25:23; 1 Samuel 25:341 Samuel 25:42). It is the haste of faith to hold someone back from foolishness. She does not act out of protection for her husband, but she acts with the future of David in mind. That shows a great faith. If faith is present, there is also wise action. She takes everything Nabal has refused to give and even does more than that. David has asked for the things that Nabal has easy to grasp (1 Samuel 25:8). Abigail also gives food that she has prepared.

This is far more than a mere compensation of Nabal’s refusal. Later she will also compensate the insulting words Nabal has spoken. She acts according to the truth of the proverb: “A gift in secret subdues anger, And a bribe in the bosom, strong wrath” (Proverbs 21:14; Genesis 32:13-Ecclesiastes :).

With her gift she goes to David. She comes down. This suggests that in the valley, i.e. in a humble attitude, a dispute can be settled. In the low affection and mercy are found. This is present with Abigail in relation to David, and thus she prevents him from exercising a wrong intention.

While she is on her way, she meets David. The meeting is described in a way that suggests that she hears everything David says, and that David then suddenly stands face to face with her. What David intends to do and the reason for it are communicated. This shows that David reacts as a taunted and offended man. In his opinion Nabal has rewarded him “evil for good”. For that he will avenge himself. There he has, he thinks, the fullest right.

He is thus far away from the mind he has always shown towards Saul, which thus reminds us of the mind of the Lord Jesus. Nabal’s refusal to give him some of his prosperity, and Nabal’s insult in relation to his person, went down the wrong way with David. However misplaced Nabal’s refusal may be, he did not do injustice to David. There is no agreement that David will be rewarded for the protection he has offered. David’s punitive expedition is not related to the refusal and the insult done to him.

The fact that the world does not show any gratitude for services rendered and perhaps even insults us should not be a reason to avenge ourselves. Gratitude is not a right we can claim. We too can count on the Lord to reward everything we have done out of love for Him, especially if we do not receive the expected reward from people. It is not for us to avenge ourselves for injustice or insult: “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath [of God], for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

Because David listens to Abigail, the LORD takes Nabal for His account, and David does not do anything that he would regret later.

Verses 23-31

David Restrained From Shedding Blood

When Abigail sees David, she shows her submissive attitude by falling at his feet. In this attitude, she blames herself for the bad treatment his messengers had received (1 Samuel 25:24; 1 Samuel 25:28). She does this to protect her house and to prevent David from committing folly. Anyone who is truly submissive will ignore great insults. Humble she asks David to hear her.

She speaks to him with the respect that a man like David deserves. She keeps calling him “my lord” and shows a completely different attitude and mind than her husband, who in his contempt for David said: “Who is David?” It is as if her tribute removes and replaces the contempt of her husband. She does her best to soften David and bring him to a better mind. She also points out to David that her husband is not even worth engaging with him. It is that she did not see David’s young men when they came for some food. If it had been, she would have given what they asked for.

David is on his way to get his right through his own hand. What he has always refused against Saul, he is about to do here: avenge himself. Now that she has stopped David, she says that the LORD has kept him from committing that evil. In what she says, she shows her faith in the outcome of her intervention. She resembles Rahab, who also binds herself in faith with God’s people, when those people do not yet own any of the promised land (Joshua 2:9-1 Chronicles :).

She pronounces it that the LORD will “certainly make for my lord an enduring house”. She believes that he will be king, that he is fighting the battles of the LORD and that he will do so in a righteous manner. For her David, and not Saul, is the king anointed by God. Saul, she calls someone who “rises up to pursue you and to seek your life”. She encourages David by pointing out to him the protection of the LORD with Whom he is safe and for Whom he is valuable. He can trust that the LORD Himself will deal with his enemies, whether it be Nabal or Saul. These words should remind David of what he himself said earlier to Saul, that the LORD will deal with him (1 Samuel 24:13; 1 Samuel 24:16).

She points out the time that will come when David’s suffering will be over, and he will reign. In view of that wonderful time, she asks with confidence whether David will remember her. The words she speaks remind us of the words of the robber on the cross next to the Lord Jesus. This man discovers in the Crucified the Lord of glory and the King of kings. He looks beyond the fearful circumstances of the moment and asks in confidence: ““Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” (Luke 23:42). The noble Abigail and the low sunken robber show the same faith. They look beyond the present and act and speak in the light of the future.

Verses 32-35

David Listens

Abigail is a wise admonisher and David has a listening ear: “[Like] an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold Is a wise reprover to a listening ear” (Proverbs 25:12). David reacts as a believer. He is not ashamed to be corrected by a woman and gives the LORD the honor for that. He sees in her a messenger of God and acknowledges His goodness in her.

When someone comes to us with counsel, guidance, comfort, warning, or punishment, it is important that we see that God sends such a person to us. It should make us thankful when, through God’s providence, there are people on our way who are a means in His hand to keep us from committing sin.

Verses 36-38

The Death of Nabal

When Abigail comes home, Nabal is drunk. There are few things that reduce a person as much as drunkenness. Excessive drinking deprives a person of his sound vision on life and makes him a senseless animal. God is not thought of at all. Nabal does not seem to have missed her and nothing of what she took with her. He lavishly celebrates. What he has begrudged to David, he uses to have his own carousal. In his imagination he is a king. He sits on the throne, his own self reigns.

Abigail realizes that it makes no sense to tell Nabal anything about what has been happening. Trying to tell drunken people the gospel is throwing pearls before swine. When Nabal is sober again the next day, Abigail tells him about her meeting with David. When he hears that, his heart dies and he becomes as a stone, that is, like a dead person.

Several explanations have been given as to why this is the case. Some say that he suffered a cardiac arrest because he realized the death threat he had been exposed to by his heartless actions against David and his men. He must have thought that this evil could still happen to him. A wicked man remains afraid of threat as long as he does not accept grace. Others say that he was particularly excited about the gift his wife brought to David without his knowledge. This loss has been shocking for him. It may also be that he, who was a hard, numb man, realized that his wife has humiliated him by her actions in an extraordinary way. That was unbearable for him.

In any case, about ten days later he really dies, because the LORD kills him. He has lived without mercy and dies without consolation. There is no one who grieves for him. We see that the LORD exercises right between David and Nabal. Let it be an encouragement for us that He also arranges the right for us.

Verses 39-42

Abigail Becomes David’s Wife

David acknowledges that the LORD has taken a stand for him and praises Him for it. That clears the way for him to take Abigail as his wife. Abigail leaves her easy life with plenty and chooses to come to David and accompany him on a path of suffering and wandering. Abigail is a picture of the faithful remnant of Israel in the end time that is connected to the Messiah.

When she comes to him, she takes the attitude of submission and says she is ready to do the humblest work. She takes the humble place and makes herself available to David and his servants. She connects her fate to his and will share in the persecution and oppression that are his part. She will even be captured by David’s enemies when they are in Ziklag (1 Samuel 30:5). However, she will also share in his throne when he will reign in Hebron (2 Samuel 2:2-Numbers :).

Verses 43-44

The Wives of David

When mentioning the wives of David Ahinoam is mentioned first (2 Samuel 3:2; 1 Chronicles 3:1). This probably happens because she is the mother of his firstborn son, Amnon. As a reason for taking his two other wives it is mentioned here that Saul gave his daughter Michal, “David’s wife”, to Palti (2 Samuel 3:15). Saul may have done so to bother David and possibly cut through any band David was connected to him with.

It should be noted that, however much it may be customary in those days that the increase in the power of a king is accompanied by an increase of wives, having more than one wife is and remains against God’s statute and intention (Matthew 19:4-Deuteronomy :).

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 1 Samuel 25". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/1-samuel-25.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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