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Wednesday, June 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 25

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

Verses 1-44

David's moral victory over Saul and over his own natural instincts has been most admirable. However, in this chapter we see him showing just the opposite attitude. It seems hardly possible that this can be the same man. We are told first of Samuel's death, which involves a significant change in Israel. David no longer had the steadying influence of this man of God over him. All Israel mourned his death, for they no longer enjoyed his godly influence. But changes are inevitable, each succeeding set of circumstances testing us in a differing way. The many changes of David's life illustrates this strikingly for our learning.

In verse 2 we are introduced to Nabal, a man of great wealth, His name was not exactly complimentary, for it means "fool." One wonders what kind of parents would give him such a name. Having three thousand sheep as well as one thousand goats, the time had come for his shearing the sheep. This would be a great project with great monetary returns.

The contrast between Nabal and his wife is told us in verse 3. Her name Abigail means "father of joy," and her beautiful face also reflected a beautiful character. Nabal, however, was a harsh man whose actions were evil, a self-centered hedonist, in spite of the fact that he had descended from Caleb, a man of unusual godliness and devotion.

When David heard of Nabal's sheep shearing project, he felt it opportune to send ten young men to him to request some provisions of food (v.5). Of course Nabal was not under any legal obligation to David, though there was no doubt he ought to have felt himself under moral obligation. The young men were instructed to show fullest respect to Nabal, greeting him with peace toward himself, his house and all that he had. Nabal is to be reminded that while David and his men were in the same area as Nabal's shepherds, they had been a protection for them rather than stealing from them, as many armies would do. None were hurt, nor were any sheep missing. They suggest that Nabal ask his shepherds about this, to confirm it. In view of this they ask that Nabal should give them whatever provisions he may have readily available (v.8). The message was simple and respectful, and any right-minded man would have been considerate of them.

However, Nabal is only aroused with anger against them (v.10). He answers in the most insulting way, "Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse?" Then he speaks of him as a servant who has broken away from his master. This was not true, of course, but he was not interested in enquiring as to the truth.

Though Nabal asked who David was, he was not concerned to find out, for he was intensely self-centered. "Shall I then take MY bread and MY water and MY meat that I have slaughtered for MY shearers, and give to men whose origin I do not know?"

The young men return to David to report the way in which Nabal responded to their request (v.12). David without thinking of consulting the Lord, immediately decides to retaliate against the insulting treatment of Nabal, taking with him four hundred armed men. Nabal had not, like Saul, determined to kill David, yet David is ready to kill Nabal, though he would not kill Saul when he had opportunity. When people treat us in a haughty, contemptuous way, we far too easily give way to our own feelings of outrage, and are ready to take revenge. Yet when we take these matters into our own hands we are practically always exposed to the unrighteous reaction of doing WORSE to the offender than he did to us.

But the hand of God intervened in grace. He influenced one of Nabal's young servants to tell Abigail how Nabal had treated David's servants, not only refraining from oppressing them or taking from them, but acting as a wall of defense for them by night and day (v.16). He knew it would be expected that David would do something to avenge Nabal's insulting words, and discerned that both Nabal and all his household were in imminent danger. Evidently some of the servants had tried to reason with Nabal, but found that he was such a son of Belial (worthlessness) they could not speak to him.

Abigail was a woman of action. She had large provisions made up, of bread, wine, ready dressed sheep, corn, raisins and figs (v.18). She did not tell Nabal anything about it, but took enough servants to care for the donkeys that carried the food. She did not have to go far to meet David, who with his men was on the way to attack Nabal (v.20). He had given himself no time to calm down before acting. We are told in verse 21 that he had said that it was useless for him to have shown kindness to Nabal's men and possessions in the wilderness, for Nabal had only returned him evil for good. He was forgetting that he himself had returned good for evil to Saul. And now he had another opportunity to do the same to Nabal. Then he used God's name in invoking vengeance against the enemies of David, declaring that he would not leave one male alive of all the household of Nabal. We should think that at least he would make only Nabal suffer for his insulting words; but his temper was not allowing him to be discriminative.

How beautifully Abigail stands in contrast to both Nabal and to David on this occasion! She fell on her face before David, bowing to the ground (v.23); but the humility of her words goes further than that of her lowly attitude (v.24). For she tells David that she will take the blame for Nabal's evil, and she humbly asks David to hear what she has to say. Though Nabal was her husband, she would not conceal the truth as to his harsh character: she plainly admits him to be a man of Belial (worthlessness), telling David that his name, Nabal, meaning "fool" was descriptive of his character. she had not seen the men David sent, so did not know till afterward what had taken place.

In verse 26 she pleads with David on the basis that the Lord lives and that David's soul lives. Was it not evident that it was the Lord who had sent her in order to withhold David from killing to avenge himself with his own hand? She does not excuse Nabal, but expresses the desire that David's enemies and all that seek his harm should be as Nabal. What did she mean? Certainly not that they should prosper materially as Nabal had done, but rather that they should be left to God to deal with in His own way. David had left Saul in God's hand: now Nabal would be left there too. In fact, God dealt with him more quickly than David would have imagined. In this regard David's other enemies would be as Nabal. It seems this wise woman was speaking prophetically.

She entreats David to receive the supplies she has brought for the benefit of the young men who followed him (v.17), and asks that he would forgive HER trespass, for she was persuaded that the Lord would make David a sure house.

Abigail, in verse 28, shows the manifest faith that recognized David as the king of God's choice even while he was in exile. She knew that David was concerned about fighting the battles of the Lord, which was a contrast to Saul who thought only of fighting against his own enemies -- real or imagined (1 Samuel 24:14).

She refers to Saul only as "a man" who had risen up against David to pursue him and to seek his life (v.29), but she expresses the unshaken confidence that David's life would be bound up in the bundle of the living with the Lord God. God would be his preserve and also his avenger, for He would sling out the life of David's enemies as from the hollow of a sling. Her prophetic insight was likely the result of her knowing something of God's having had David anointed by Samuel, for in verse 30 she refers to the fact that the Lord had spoken of good concerning David and speaks of it as to be positively fulfilled. Her unquestioning faith in the living God is refreshing to observe. She believed that David would in due time be installed by God as ruler of Israel.

With wise foresight she tells him that when he ascends the throne, he would be most thankful if he had no record of having shed blood without cause or of having taken the law into his own hands to avenge himself (v.31). If such a blot was on his past record, it would remain a great grief to his own heart. She concludes by asking him to remember her at the time the Lord would deal well with him. This reminds us of the words of the thief on the cross, "Lord remember me when You come in Your kingdom." (Luke 23:42 -- NKJV)

David had no alternative but to recognize that it was the Lord who had sent Abigail. He blessed God first for His great grace in this matter. Then he blesses Abigail's wise advice, and then Abigail herself, who had prevented David from carrying out his purpose of shedding blood and avenging himself with his own hand. For he tells her the terrible truth, that if she had not hurried to meet him, he and his men would have killed all the males of the household of Nabal He again emphasizes the fact that it was the Lord God of Israel who had kept him back from hurting Abigail by his purposed destruction of her household. Otherwise he would not have controlled his own temper until it was too late. David accepted from her the large gift of provisions she had brought with the assurance that he had accepted her person (v.35), that is, in her taking the responsibility for Nabal's insult, so that Nabal and his house were spared.

Returning to her home, Abigail found Nabal holding a feast, having become drunk (v.36). This is the way of the world. When an awful judgment was just about to fall on him suddenly, he was utterly insensible to his danger. So with no conscience about the past and no fear of the future, men immerse themselves in the self-indulgence while on the very verge of the devastating judgment of God! therefore said nothing to him that night, but waited until the morning.

Then she told him the full truth of what had taken place, her having taken large provisions to go to meet David, finding him on his way to Nabal's home with the full intention of killing all the males of his household. The foolish man had no anticipation of this, and when he heard it his heart died with him and he became as a stone (v.37). Evidently he was so terrified that he became as one paralyzed. But fear of judgment does not save a man's soul, nor does it soften his heart to respond to God: his heart became as hard as a stone. We are told concerning God in Romans 9:18: "whom He will be hardeneth." This is the result of one hardening his own heart. Whom does God will harden? Those who will not repent.

Only ten days later God took away Nabal's life (v.38). What control then did he have over all those things he had called his own (v.11)? We are certainly reminded here of God's words, "Vengeance is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord" (Romans 12:19).

When David hears the news (v.39) he is afresh reminded of the great mercy of the Lord that had kept him back from the evil of avenging himself. He blessed God for taking this matter into His own capable hand. God rewarded the evil-doer himself and did not punish the men of his household, as David was ready to do.

From all of this experience with Nabal David also receives another wife. He sends messengers to Abigail, the widow of Nabal to ask that she be willing to marry him (v.40). There was no hesitation on Abigail's part. She was willing to leave her former wealth and identify herself with David in exile and danger. We know the reason for this: she had already expressed her unquestioning faith in God's promise to David that he would reign over Israel (vs.29-30). In view of this she feels herself worthy only of the most lowly service in David's household, "a maid to wash the feet of my lord's servants" (v.41). True faith and humility always go together. Bringing with her five maidens who attended her, she rides on a donkey to go to David (v.42), and became his wife.

We are not told what became of the property and possessions that had been her husband's. To her these were of no importance compared to her union with David, and David was not covetous of this great wealth.

Verse 43 tells us that David took another wife also, Ahinoam of Jezreel. This was not forbidden in the Old Testament, though it was never God's intention (which was that a man should cleave to his WIFE, not his wives -- Genesis 2:24). As to Michal, Saul had unrighteously taken her from David and had given her to another man. Later David demanded of Ishbosheth that should be returned to him (2 Samuel 3:14), which she was. But this was a mistake on David's part: why should he add her to those he had already? It is not surprising that he did not find her any more devoted afterward than she had been before (2 Samuel 6:20-23).

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 25". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/1-samuel-25.html. 1897-1910.
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