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The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 25". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ 1-samuel-25.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 25". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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DEATH OF SAMUEL (1 Samuel 25:1).
1 Samuel 25:1
And Samuel died. According to Josephus, Samuel had for eighteen years been contemporaneous with Saul's kingdom. If this calculation, which probably rests upon some Jewish tradition, be at all correct, we must include the years of Samuel's judgeship in the sum total of Saul's reign (see on 1 Samuel 13:1), as evidently his fall was now fast approaching. Samuel's life marked the beginning of the second age of Israelite history (Acts 3:24). Moses had given the people their law, but Samuel in the schools of the prophets provided for them that education without which a written law was powerless, and called forth also and regulated that living energy in the prophetic order which, claiming an all but equal authority, modified and developed it, and continually increased its breadth and force, until the last prophet, Jesus of Nazareth, with supreme and Divine power reenacted it as the religion of the whole world. And as neither his educational institutions nor the prophetic order, whose ordinary duties were closely connected with these schools, could hare flourished without internal quietness and security, Samuel also established the Jewish monarchy, which was ideally also necessary, because the Messiah must not only be priest and prophet, but before all things a king (Matthew 2:1, Matthew 2:6; John 18:37). And side by side with the kingdom he lived on to see the military successes of the first king, and the firm establishment of the royal power; but to witness also the development of that king into a despot, the overclouding of his mind with fits of madness, the designation of his successor, the probation of that successor by manifold trials, his ripening fitness under them to be the model of a theocratic king, and his growth in power so as practically to be now safe from all Saul's evil purposes. And so in the fulness of time Samuel died, and all Israel gathered together and made lamentation for him (see Genesis 1:10), and buried him in his house. The tomb at present shown as that of Samuel is situated upon a lofty hill, the identification of which with Ramah is very uncertain. Probably he was buried not actually in his house, as that would lead to perpetual ceremonial defilement (Numbers 19:16; Luke 11:44), but in some open spot in his garden. So Joab was buried in his own house (1 Kings 2:34). At Ramah. Thenius thinks that the prophets shared with the kings the right of intramural burial.
DAVID IN THE WILDERNESS OF PARAN (1 Samuel 25:1-42).
DAVID ASKS A GIFT OF THE WEALTHY NABAL AND IS REFUSED (1 Samuel 25:1-13).
1 Samuel 25:1
David arose. This is not to be connected with the death of Samuel, as though David had now lost a protector. But as he had fully 600 men with him, and his force was continually increasing, it was necessary for him to roam over a wide extent of country in order to obtain supplies of food. The wilderness of Paran. Paran strictly is a place in the southernmost part of the peninsula of Arabia, a little to the west of Mount Sinai; but there can be little doubt that it gave its name to the vast extent of pasture and barren land now known as the desert of El-Tih (see 1 Kings 11:18). Of this the wildernesses of Judah and Beersheba would virtually form parts without the borders being strictly defined. We need not therefore read "the wilderness of Maon," with the Septuagint and many commentators. On the contrary, we have seen that the hold in 1 Samuel 24:22 was the hill Hachilah in that neighbourhood, and David now moved southward towards the edge of this vast wilderness.
1 Samuel 25:2
A man in Maon. Though strictly by descent belonging to Maon (for which see on 1 Samuel 23:24), his possessions—rather, "his business," "occupation" (see Genesis 47:3, and Ecclesiastes 4:3, where it is translated work)—were in Carmel, the small town just north of Maon, where Saul set up a trophy at the end of the Amalekite war (1 Samuel 15:12), and to which Abigail belonged (1 Samuel 27:3). He is described as very great because of his wealth arising from his large flocks of sheep and goats, which fed upon the pasture land which forms the elevated plateau of Carmel, where he was shearing his sheep, usually a time of lavish hospitality (2 Samuel 13:23, 2 Samuel 13:24).
1 Samuel 25:3
Nabal, the word rendered fool in Psalms 14:1; literally, "flat," "vapid." Abigail means "one who is the cause (father) of joy," i.e. one who gives joy. She, with her bright understanding and beautiful person (the Hebrew word takes in much more than the countenance; see 1 Samuel 16:18, where it is rendered comely person), is in contrast with the coarse, churlish man who was her husband. His name was either one which he had acquired by his conduct, or if given him by his parents shows that they were clownish people. He was of the house of Caleb. The written text has, "he was according to his heart," celibbo, i.e. a self-willed man, or one whose rude exterior answered to his inner nature; but there are linguistic difficulties in the way of this reading, and the Kri is probably right in correcting calibbi, a Calebite, a descendant of Caleb, who had large possessions assigned him in the neighbourhood of Hebron (Joshua 15:13-19), which is only ten miles northwest of Carmel. The versions support the Kri, though the Syriac and Septuagint render doglike—one who, like a dog, though he has plenty, yet grudges others. The meaning of the name Caleb is literally "a dog."
1 Samuel 25:4, 1 Samuel 25:5
Though David had gone some distance southward of Carmel, yet it was worth his while to send men to Nabal's sheep shearing, as the maintenance of his numerous force must have been a continual difficulty. The large number, ten, also shows that he expected a liberal gift of food. Probably such missions were not uncommon, and the large sheep masters were glad to supply the wants of one who guarded their flocks and defended them from the incursions of the desert tribes.
1 Samuel 25:6-8
Say to him that liveth in prosperity. The Hebrew is obscure, but the rendering of the A.V. is untenable, and also very tame. Literally it is, "Ye shall say to him, For life!" Probably it was a colloquial form of greeting, and equivalent to "good luck, "success," life in Hebrew being sometimes used for prosperity. So Luther translates it, and Rashi and the Babylonian Talmud are also in its favour. The reading of the Vulgate, "To thy brothers" (be peace), is to be altogether rejected. We hurt them not. Literally, "we caused them no shame" (see Judges 18:7), we did nothing to vex and injure them. Really the words mean that David had protected them, and enabled them to feed their flocks in safety. The fact that David waited till the sheep shearing, when hospitality was the rule, proves that he did not levy blackmail upon his countrymen, though necessarily he must have depended upon them for the food indispensabIe for the support of his men. A good day. I.e. a festive day, which should bring us a share in thy prosperity. Thy son David. A title expressive of the reverence due from the youthful David to his senior, and an acknowledgment of Nabal's superiority over his fugitive neighbour.
1 Samuel 25:9
They … ceased. Literally, "they rested;" i.e. either they remained quiet awaiting Nabal's answer, or sat down, as is the custom in the East, for the same purpose.
1 Samuel 25:10, 1 Samuel 25:11
There be many servants, etc. Nabal would scarcely have ventured to speak in so insulting a manner if David had been at Maon, but as he had moved with his men a long distance towards the south, he. gave free vent to his rude feelings without restraint. David was to him a mere slave who had run away from his master, Saul. My bread,… my water. These are the necessaries of life, while the flesh was the special luxury provided for the festival. David's ten young men would not literally carry water to him at so great a distance, nor did Nabal mean more than our phrase "meat and drink." The use, nevertheless, of water as equivalent to drink marks the value of water in the hill country, and also the abstemious habits of the people.
1 Samuel 25:12, 1 Samuel 25:13
Gird ye on, etc. David's determination was fierce and violent. No doubt Nabal's insult irritated him, and possibly also the rude outlaws round him would have protested against any other course; but Nabal's words, rude though they were, would not justify David in the rough vengeance which he meditated. Abigail throughout her speech argues that David was taking too violent a course, and one for which he would afterwards have been sorry.
ABIGAIL PACIFIES DAVID (1 Samuel 25:14-35).
1 Samuel 25:14-17
One of the young men. Hebrew, "a lad of the lads," i.e. one of the servants (see on the word 1 Samuel 1:24); when used in this sense it has no reference to age (see 1 Samuel 2:17). This man was probably some old and confidential servitor. To salute. Hebrew, "to bless" (see 1 Samuel 13:10; 2 Kings 4:29). He railed on them. Literally, "flew upon them like a bird of prey." We were not hurt. Literally, "not put to shame" (see on 1 Samuel 25:7). The language of a people always bears witness to their character, and it is a mark of the high spirit of the Israelites that they thought less of the loss than of the disgrace of an injury. As long as we were conversant with them. Hebrew, "as long as we went about with them." In the fields. Really, "in the field," the wilderness, the common pasture land. A wall. I.e. a sure protection both against wild beasts and Amalekite and other plunderers. A son of Belial. A worthless, bad man (see on 1 Samuel 1:16), so coarse and violent that it is hopeless to expostulate with him.
1 Samuel 25:18-20
Five measures of parched corn. The measure named here, the seah, contains about a peck and a half. As this seems little, Ewald reads 500 seahs, but probably it was regarded as a delicacy. Clusters of raisins. Rather, as in the margin, lumps of raisins. The bunches of grapes when dried were pressed into cakes. Sending her servants in front leading the asses which carried the present, she followed behind, and met David as she was coming down by the covert of the hill. Hebrew, "in secret of the hill," under cover of the hill, i.e. she met him as she was descending into some glen into which he had entered from the other end.
1 Samuel 25:21, 1 Samuel 25:22
David justifies his fierce anger by referring to the services he had rendered Nabal, and which had been requited so shabbily. For the phrase so do God unto the enemies of David see on 1 Samuel 20:16. A superstitious feeling probably lay at the root of this substitution of David's enemies for himself when thus invoking a curse.
1 Samuel 25:23-25
Abigail … fell before David on her face. This very abject obeisance may have been grounded on her belief in David's future kingship, or it may simply mark the inferior position held by women in those days (see 1 Samuel 25:41). Her whole address is couched in very humble terms. David (1 Samuel 24:8) only stooped with his face to the ground before Saul. Upon me. Abigail represents herself as the person really guilty, on whom the iniquity, i.e. the punishment of the offence, must fall. Nabal is a mere son of Belial, a worthless, bad man, whose name Nabal, i.e. fool, is a sign that folly is with him, and accompanies all his acts. As a fool he is scarcely accountable for his doings, and Abigail, whose wont and business it was to set things to rights, saw not the young men, and so was unable to save them from her husband's rudeness.
1 Samuel 25:26, 1 Samuel 25:27
Abigail begins her appeal by affirming that it was Jehovah who thus made her come to prevent bloodshed; she next propitiates David with the prayer that his enemies may be as Nabal, insignificant fools; and finally asks him to accept her present, not for himself,—that would be too great an honour,—but as good enough only for his followers. The first of these affirmations is obscured by the rendering in the A.V; and should be translated, "And now, my lord (an ordinary title of respect, like our sir), as Jehovah liveth, and as thy soul liveth, so true is it that Jehovah hath withholden thee from blood guiltiness, and from saving thyself with thine own hand; and now let thine enemies," etc. The same words recur in 1 Samuel 25:31, 1 Samuel 25:33. Blessing. I.e. gift, present (see 1 Samuel 30:26). This beautiful term shows the deep religiousness of the Hebrew mind. The gift is something that comes not from the donor, but from God, in answer to the donor's prayer.
1 Samuel 25:28
Forgive the trespass of thine handmaid. Reverting to her words in 1 Samuel 25:24, that the blame and punishment must rest on her, she now prays for forgiveness; but the intermediate words in 1 Samuel 25:26, emphasised in 1 Samuel 25:31, have raised her request to a higher level. Her prayer rests on the ground that she was saving David from a sin, and that in his thirst for vengeance he was bringing upon himself guilt. If the form of Abigail's address was most humble, the matter of it was brave and noble. A sure house. I.e. permanent prosperity (see on 1 Samuel 2:35). Because my lord fighteth. Hebrew, "will fight." David was not fighting these battles now because he was not yet enthroned as the theocratic king. It was Saul's business at present to fight "Jehovah's battles," either in person or by his officers (1 Samuel 18:17). The words, therefore, distinctly look forward to the time when David as king will have the duty imposed upon him of protecting Jehovah's covenant people. Evil hath not been found in thee. Hebrew, "shall not be found in thee," i.e. when the time comes for thee to take the kingdom no one shall be able to allege against thee any offence by which thou hast lost thy title to the kingly office; nor afterwards as king shalt thou be guilty of any breach of thy duty to Jehovah, Israel's supreme Ruler, so as to incur rejection as Saul has done.
1 Samuel 25:29-31
Yet a man is risen. Rather, "And should any one arise to pursue thee," etc. The reference is of course to Saul, but put with due reserve, and also made general, so as to include all possible injury attempted against David. Bound in the bundle of life. Hebrew, "of the living." The metaphor is taken from the habit of packing up in a bundle articles of great value or of indispensable use, so that the owner may carry them about his person. In India the phrase is common; thus, a just judge is said to be bound up in the bundle of righteousness; a lover in the bundle of love. Abigail prays, therefore, that David may, with others whose life is precious in God's sight, be securely kept under Jehovah's personal care and protection. In modern times the two words signifying "in the bundle of the living" form a common inscription on Jewish gravestones, the phrase having been interpreted in the Talmud, as also by Abravanel and other Jewish authorities, of a future life. Shall he sling out, etc. In forcible contrast with this careful preservation of David's life, she prays that his enemies may be cast away as violently and to as great a distance as a stone is cast out of a sling. The middle is the hollow in which the stone was placed. Ruler. i.e. prince. It is the word rendered captain in 1 Samuel 9:16; 1 Samuel 10:1, but its meaning is more correctly given here. Grief. The word really means much the same as stumbling block, something which makes a person stagger by his striking against it unawares. Abigail prays, therefore, that when David has become prince, and so has to administer justice, this violent and revengeful act which he was purposing might not prove a cause of stumbling and an offence of heart to himself, by his conscience reproaching him for having himself done that which he had to condemn in others.
1 Samuel 25:32-35
David, in his thankful acknowledgment of Abigail's remonstrance, sees in it the hand of Jehovah the God of Israel, who had sent her, i.e. stirred her up to come. He commends also her advice, literally, her "taste," i.e. wisdom, discretion. It is the word rendered behaviour in 1 Samuel 21:13. But for this prudent conduct on her part in thus coming to meet him on the way, he solemnly assures her on oath that nothing could have saved Nabal and every male in his household from death. Finally, he accepts her present and dismisses her with the assurance that all was forgiven.
DEATH OF NABAL AND MARRIAGE OF DAVID AND ABIGAIL (verses 36-42).
1 Samuel 25:36-38
For he was very drunken. Hebrew, "and he was very drunken." This was not the cause of his heart being merry, but the result; he gave himself up to enjoyment till he became drunken, and then his merriment was over. When Abigail came back he was stupefied by drink, and it was not until the next day, when his debauch was passing off, that he was capable of being told what his wife had done. And when Abigail recounted to him David's fierce resolve, and how she had pacified him, he seems to have given way to a fit of violent indignation, flying out possibly at her as he had at David's messengers (1 Samuel 25:14), the result of which was an attack of apoplexy, and after lying in a state of insensibility for ten days, he died.
1 Samuel 25:39-42
Hath pleaded the cause of my reproach. In the causes tried at the gate of an Israelite city the friends of the accused both pleaded his cause, defended him from wrong, and punished any who had wronged him. So God had avenged David, while preventing him by Abigail s interference from avenging himself (see 1 Samuel 24:13). As a widow's legal mourning seems to have lasted only seven days, David, on hearing of Nabal's death, sent messengers to Abigail at Carmel to ask her in marriage. He was probably moved to this not merely by her sensible conduct, but also by the news that Michal had been given to another. She expresses her willingness in true Oriental fashion by saying she was ready to perform the most abject menial duties, even for his servants, and at once with five maidens proceeds to join him. It is a proof that David considered himself practically secure against Saul's attempts that he thus married and allowed women to accompany his small force, as their presence would not only impede the rapidity of his movements, but also implies a certain amount of case and comfort for their maintenance.
ADDITIONAL PARTICULARS RESPECTING DAVID'S MARRIED Life (1 Samuel 25:43, 1 Samuel 25:44).
1 Samuel 25:43, 1 Samuel 25:44
Besides Abigail, David also took to wife Ahinoam of Jezreel, a small village among the hills of Judah (Joshua 15:56), and not the better known town of that name in the tribe of Issachar. Ahinoam was the name also of Saul's wife (1 Samuel 14:50). They were also …his wives. I.e. besides Michal. She had been given by Saul to Phalti the son of Laish, called Phaltiel in 2 Samuel 3:15, where we read of his lamentation at her being torn from him by Ishbosheth in order that she might be restored to David. Gallim is described in Isaiah 10:30 as being situated between Gibeah of Saul and Jerusalem.
1 Samuel 25:1-12
Honour to the dead and insult to the living.
The facts are—
1. Samuel dies, and is buried at Ramah amidst the sorrow of Israel.
2. David, returning to the wilderness, sends a greeting to Nabal, a wealthy man at Carmel, and asks for some favour to his young men on account of the friendly aid recently rendered to Nabal's shepherds.
3. Nabal, in a churlish spirit, sends an insulting reply, and refuses the request.
4. Whereupon David resolves on taking revenge for the insult. The allusion here to the death of Samuel, while a necessary part of the history of the age, seems to be introduced to prepare the way for the continuance of the narrative concerning David, who now has become the principal figure in the national life. We have to consider the teaching of the good man's death and the churlish man's insult.
Honour to the dead. The various points brought out in the brief reference are, the brevity of the notice compared with the length of service, the ground of the public homage, the loss and gain to Israel, the extent of influence revealed, and the temporary subsidence of party conflicts. Formulating the truths thus suggested, we see—
I. That THE SCANTY REFERENCE IN THE BIBLE TO THE PERSONAL WORK AND DEATH OF GOD'S BEST SERVANTS is in instructive CONTRAST WITH THE RECORDS CONCERNING CHRIST. Samuel's life was long and immensely useful to the world by the reformation wrought in Israel by the force of his character, and the preparation made for prophetic teaching and stable government. A holier and more devoted man was not found, and yet one verse tells us all about his death and burial. The same reticence is true concerning Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, and indeed all the most distinguished of men. They during life spoke little of themselves, and referred little to their ancestors. The apostles also live, labour, and die, and no stress is laid on their work and death, a circumstance in keeping with the self-abnegation which never made themselves prominent objects of faith. The contrast with Christ is impressive. He is all and everything. His self-reference is perfect egotism if he be a mere human being ordained only in higher degree than others to execute a Divine purpose. The exaltation of his name, work, and death by the apostles is most natural and harmonious with the silence of the Bible in relation to all others if he be really Divine. The question of his personality cannot be settled by mere verbal discussions. Broad facts must be considered, and these clearly determine the verbal sense where exegetes may be supposed to differ. This kind of argument appeals to the common sense of men, and accords also with the instinct of the Christian heart to worship Christ.
II. That THE HONOUR PAID TO THE DEAD, so far as referred to in Scripture, is THAT DUE TO HOLY CHARACTER AND SERVICE. The allusion here and elsewhere to a proper homage to the dead is clearly associated with the holy life and conduct previously recorded in the sacred narrative. There is a singular silence in the Bible with respect to any honours paid to men, on account of the greatness supposed to consist in warlike exploits. True greatness lies in good abilities being pervaded by a spirit of piety, and consequently consecrated to the advancement of the kingdom of God on earth. The value of a man's life is to be sought in the contribution he makes to the spiritual impulse by which the world is brought nearer to God. The supreme honours often paid to mere titular rank, to wealth, to military prowess, and even to bare learning, are expressive of a human judgment which is discounted by the language of the Bible, and will be reversed when, adjudged by the lofty standard of Christ, every man shall receive according to the deeds done in the body.
III. That THE DEATH OF TRULY GOOD MEN is both a LOSS AND A GAIN TO THE WORLD. Israel properly mourned because the "godly man" failed, for the activity and personal influence of the greatest man of the age henceforth would cease. We cannot say whether a good man's activity of spirit no longer operates as a power on men after his death—probably it does if there be any truth in the conservation and persistence of spiritual forces; but so far as survivors are concerned they are unconscious of it, and, on the other hand, are henceforth more open to the action of other visible influences. We lose much when good men die; yet we gain something. The whole life becomes more impressive in death than during its continuance. The germinal good sown in the heart by silent goodness and actual effort is quickened around the grave into healthy growth. The sobering, elevating influence of a sainted memory is a permanent treasure. Many have to bless God for the death of his saints. Heaven becomes more real to those whose beloved ones have gone before, and the levities of life are subdued by the thought of our temporary separation from the "general assembly."
IV. That THE REALITY AND EXTENT OF A GOOD MAN'S INFLUENCE OVER OTHERS IS BROUGHT OUT IN DEATH MORE THAN IN LIFE. The public homage paid to Samuel was the nation's response to his life's appeal to the heart and conscience. Like Elijah, he no doubt often deplored the degeneracy of the age, and questioned whether he was doing any substantial good. This doubt is the common experience of all God's servants. They cannot see the incidence of the rays of light as they silently fall on the dull heart of the people, though in theory they know that every ray performs its part in the great spiritual economy of the universe. But the subjects of holy influence do receive in some degree all that comes forth from a consecrated life, and it often requires the removal of a good man from this world to make manifest how strong a hold he has had on the thought and feeling of others. There are many instances of this in all grades of society. Churches and families reveal the power of a character when that character ceases to exercise its wonted energies. This should induce calmness and confidence in all who strive to bless the world by a devoted life. Those who exercise moral power are not always the best judges of its force and extent. God mercifully keeps from our view some of the good we are doing, lest we fall into the snare of the devil.
V. That MAN'S CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE SACREDNESS AND MYSTERY OF HUMAN EXISTENCE, when aroused, is SUPREME OVER EVERY THOUGHT AND FEELING. All Israel, embracing Saul, David, the prophets, and the slanderers and conspirators at the court, assembled around the grave of Samuel and wept. The strifes and rivalries of parties, the deadly feuds and cruel animosities of life, the most urgent of human passions, were for the time set aside under the influence of that deep, all-mastering feeling that human existence on earth is a sacred mystery. The holiest and most honoured are seen to succumb to the strong hand which carries off the most worthless. Each asks, Is this the end? Is there nothing beyond? If there is, what? Thus it is man's reflectiveness, awakened by the death of the great, which causes him to recognise at the same time both his littleness and his greatness. The solemnity of having a rational existence comes on all in presence of death. That we are made for something far above what now engages our attention is forced on the spirit, and our connection with an invisible sphere and final tribunal rises into awful distinctness. This frequently recurring sense of the sacredness and mystery of existence is a check on sinful tendencies, and furnishes occasions for the application of the gospel to the hearts of men. Gospel truth learnt in early years will often assert its power in men as, leaving awhile the contentions and sins of life, they stand by the open grave.
Insult to the living.
The question arises, Why is it that this narrative of Nabal's churlishness occupies so prominent a place in the sacred records, seeing that so adventurous a life as that of David must have abounded in striking incident? Among, then, the topics suggested by the account of the churlish man's insult we may notice—
I. THE PRINCIPLE ON WHICH EVENTS ARE RECORDED IN SCRIPTURE. Is this principle ascertainable? Can any hypothesis concerning it be verified by an induction of facts? Granting an affirmative reply to these questions, do we here get a harmony of Scripture superior to that of literal agreement in details? Now, in dealing with such questions we have to be guided by a few broad facts, such as, the order of Providence among men is subservient to the working out of the redemptive purpose in Christ; the redemptive purpose is wrought out through the instrumentality of chosen servants, succeeding one another by Divine arrangement; events touching the lives of these men affected the performance of their part in the accomplishing of the purpose, in so far as they developed character or brought the great principles for which they lived into conflict with opposing principles; the Bible is designed to be a record of the events which advanced the unfolding of the redemptive purpose, either directly, or by indirectly shaping the character and conduct of those engaged in its outworking, and forcing the Divine idea into sharp contrast with various forms of evil. The attempt to find the principle of selection of facts for incorporation in God's record of the history of redemption in any other direction must fail. The great thought of this Book of Samuel is the conflict of the Messianic hope with opposing evils. Hence all through the life of David we see that the "salvation of the Lord," i.e. the great spiritual reformation to be wrought as a prelude to a future and more blessed one, was the issue at stake; and those events are evidently related which helped it on, and such as were opposed to it. Principles are embodied in each of these instances, and thus the relation of events to the unfolding purpose of God is that quality in them which accounts for their insertion in the Scriptures. The verification of this is an interesting study. It may suffice here to note that when we consider the great influence on the life of David of such a woman as Abigail, and therefore on his work for the world, we can see the propriety of some account of her in relation to him, and we shall see directly how completely Nabal's churlishness was an illustration of the grovelling spirit which scorns such lofty spiritual aspirations as are involved in working out the Divine purpose for mankind.
II. THE CAUSES AND CURE OF DOMESTIC INFELICITY. The home life of Nabal was evidently not happy, arising partly from utter diversity of taste, temperament, and culture, and partly from dissimilarity of moral conduct and religious principle. A low, grovelling disposition, revelling in sensual indulgence and proud of wealth, could not but embitter the life of a "woman of good understanding," and of such fine spiritual perceptions as are indicated by her words to David (verses 27-31). There are unfortunately many such homes. Wise and holy women are held to the humiliation and sorrow of a lifelong bondage. In modern times the causes of domestic infelicity are various—fashion, that considers station before happiness; love of wealth, that lays beauty, sweetness, and culture at the feet of mammon; inconsiderate haste, acting on partial knowledge of character; concern for a livelihood irrespective of moral qualities; incompatible religious sentiments; selfishness on the one side, seeking inordinate attention, and neglect on the other, heedless of the sacred bond. In many cases the release is only in death, so utter is the desolation. So far as Abigail was concerned, her discretion and self-command mitigated the evils of her home; but the radical remedy is a renewal of the spirit, a turning of the life to God.
III. THE OBLIGATIONS OF WEALTH. That every talent imposes on its possessor corresponding obligation is a first principle of morals and religion. No man holds material wealth for himself. He is a member of society, and bound to exercise his gifts for the welfare of others. The common responsibilities attached to wealth therefore devolved on Nabal, and no narrow, private views or acquired greed of gain could release him from the laws of God, however irksome they might make obedience to it. But there were special reasons why he was bound to allow David to share in his plenty; for was he not known to be a man persecuted for righteousness' sake, of the same tribe as Nabal, admitted by the popular voice to have been a benefactor by his prowess on behalf of the nation, the guardian, by means of his men, of Nabal's servants in a recent season of peril, and regarded in Nabal's house (verses 27-31) and elsewhere as the coming king, well fitted by his qualities to raise the spiritual and social condition of the people? The modest request of David was just, and the duty of the rich man was clear. The question of the obligations attaching to the possession of wealth needs to be pressed home with earnestness and elucidated with intelligence. The "love of money" is so strong in some as to blind the intellect and harden the heart against a recognition of the proper uses of it. No fixed standard can be set up for the distribution of wealth, for the duties of giving and spending are relative to position and surroundings. The first thing to recognise is that wealth is not for self-indulgence or aggrandisement, but for the enrichment of all around. The next is the cultivation of a kindly, generous spirit that looks tenderly on the more needy, combined with a sound judgment as to the best means of enabling many to enjoy the distribution of wealth as the recompense of labour and skill. Above all, every man should, in a spirit of love and gratitude, lay all on the altar of God, and see to it that a good proportion be devoted to the cause of Christ. None have ever regretted consecrating wealth to God. But that is not consecration to God which appropriates to religious uses when dependent ones are lacking means of support (Mark 7:11). It would work a revolution in the social condition of our country, and that of the mildest and most beneficent kind, as well as give an immense impulse to the cause of religion, did men of wealth but conscientiously estimate their obligations to God and man, and act accordingly.
IV. CONTEMPT FOR SPIRITUAL ASPIRATIONS. "Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants nowadays that break away from their masters." Thus did Nabal, knowing well who David was, what course he had pursued, what trials had befallen him, and what high spiritual anticipations were associated with his chequered life, express his contempt for the coming king and his supposed mission in Israel. This was clearly the case of a rich man, fond of sensual indulgence, boastful of his possessions, indifferent to the culture, moral elevation, and spiritual prosperity of his countrymen, and looking with scorn on the men who long for a higher form of life in which purity, knowledge, and joy in God are prominent features. He wanted to have nothing to do with "theorists," "fanatics," and men of that type. The country was well enough, and the son of Jesse was not wanted. The insult to the living was insult to man. Men are often only the exponents of principles that survive when they are gone. Samuel during his early labours was the energetic exponent of the spiritual idea of God's kingdom as against the grovelling conceptions of Israel's function entertained by the degenerate nation. Later David became its chosen representative, and in this his anointing as a more worthy man than Saul had its significance. Those who, like Jonathan, Gad, and Abiathar, identified themselves with David became a party in the State devoted to the assertion of the higher hope, while the men who prompted Saul to evil, the Ziphites, and now Nabal, were the supporters of the low, earthly ideal of Israel's life. Their antagonism to David was, therefore, deeper than at first appears; it was based on lack of sympathy with, and in fact positive dislike of, the spiritual aspirations cherished by David, and which he in the providence of God was destined largely to enunciate and realise. What is meant by "such as love thy salvation"? (Psalms 40:16). Evidently those who are yearning for that great deliverance from evil which God was then working out for Israel—typical of the wider deliverance which the true King of Zion is now working out for men. And as men like Nabal despised the holy aspirations of David, so do the same men now despise the aspirations of those who think not their work done till spiritual religion is universal. The Saviour heard men say, "Is not this the carpenter's son?" The pure and lofty aspirations of his life met with the reverse of a response in grovelling minds. Men do not object to a religion, but they do dislike a holy religion.
1. Let it be our effort so to live that men may remember us with feelings of loving interest.
2. The tone of our daily life may often be raised, and a shield against temptation may be found, by occasionally communing in spirit with the honoured dead whom we have known.
3. In all arrangements for life we should allow moral and religious considerations to have chief influence.
4. Conscientious regard for the teaching of God's word in reference to wealth, and special prayer for guidance in its use, cannot but make it a blessing to the possessor and to others.
5. It requires careful thought to trace out the connection between growing riches and distaste for spiritual religion (Mark 10:23-27).
1 Samuel 25:13-17
Creed and practice.
The facts are—
1. David, stung by the insult, prepares to take summary vengeance on Nabal.
2. A servant, overhearing his intention, reports it to Abigail.
3. He also relates to her the circumstances of David's kindness to Nabal's men, and appeals to her for intervention, as he has no faith in Nabal's wisdom or generosity. The course taken by David would ordinarily be termed natural for an Eastern chieftain; that of the servant was more considerate than usually is found among men of his class when placed in personal peril. Regarding the two causes separately, we may express the teaching thus:—
I. THERE IS AT TIMES A SAD DISPROPORTION BETWEEN THE BELIEFS AND THE PRACTICE OF EVEN THE BEST OF MEN. David was undoubtedly the most spiritually enlightened, patient, and devout man then living. The psalms of the period indicate a wonderful faith in the care and goodness of God, and his recent conduct had illustrated his patience, generosity, and forbearance. The elevated tone of his language to Saul (1 Samuel 24:11-15), in which he commits his personal wrongs to God, is worthy of New Testament times. The common faith of his life could not but have been strengthened by the solemnities of the funeral from which he had lately returned. Nevertheless David could not bear an insult and ingratitude, but must in unholy zeal cease to trust his cause to God, and avenge evil with his own hand. Sons of Zebedee live in every age, who cannot wait the calm purpose of God to vindicate his saints, while at the same time professing to he of a spirit born of heaven, and akin to that of him "who when he was reviled, reviled not again." This falling below our ideal is a too common calamity in individual and Church life. The question may rise whether we really believe what we say we do when conduct does not harmonise therewith, for is not real faith influential? The great verities of our Christian Scriptures, respecting Christ's love, our destiny, the world's spiritual need, and the unspeakable importance of eternal things, are enough to enchain every soul to holy consecration that knows no reserve. It is well that we estimate the disparity between creed and conduct; the dishonour it brings, the harm to religion it entails, and the effect of it on our prayers (James 5:16).
II. OUR STANDARD OF CONDUCT IS TO BE TAKEN NOT FROM GOOD MEN, but from the EXPLICIT TEACHING OF SCRIPTURE AND THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST. As we read the books of men with reserve, and accept only that which accords with a standard of truth apart from them, so our reading of the conduct of saints is to be discriminating. They are often illustrious examples of good, but not our models. Our conduct under analogous circumstances is not to be regulated by that of David, but by the teaching which tells us not to "avenge" ourselves, but to return good for evil, and even love our enemies. If men ask what this non-personal retaliation means, the answer is, the life of Christ. That it is alien to human tendencies and often regarded as unmanly does not make it less Christian. Very few persons "enter into the kingdom of God" in the sense of behaving in the world as Christ did. Even Christian men sometimes speak as though it were madness to display just the spirit of meekness, love, and compassion which marked his career under provocation. Who dare say in the truest sense, "We have the mind of Christ "?
III. DISCRIMINATION AND PROMPTITUDE ARE VALUABLE QUALITIES IN AVERTING EVILS INCIDENT TO HUMAN WRONG DOING. The evil consequences of one great sin on the part of a good man may be very serious, and, as in this case, calling for exceeding care if they are to be averted. The conduct of the servant (1 Samuel 25:14-17) is worthy of imitation in many departments of life. He did not selfishly flee to secure himself, but, reading well the purpose of David, thought of the safety of all, formed a just estimate of Abigail's tact and courage, and of Nabal's stupidity, and without delay laid before his mistress the provocation offered to David. A wise and prompt servant is a blessing in a home. These qualities go far to render men successful in life; and if more attention were paid in early years to the development of them, many an one would be saved from disaster, and the whole machinery of saints would move more smoothly. May we not also see an analogy here to the case of a man who, foreseeing spiritual calamity to others, promptly devises means of delivering them from it?
1. We should be on the watch against sudden provocations of our unholy tendencies, and we shall find an habitually prayerful spirit one of the best aids to the immediate suppression of passion.
2. It is worth considering how much the Church and world have lost by failure on the part of Christians to live out the spirit and precepts of Christ.
3. It is a question whether sufficient attention is paid to the suppression of the love of fighting and taking of revenge in children, and how far literature and customs foster these evils.
4. In cases of moral conduct prompt action is always best.
1 Samuel 25:18-31
The facts are—
1. Abigail, aware of the danger, provides an ample present, and secretly sends on her servants to prepare the mind of David for an interview.
2. On seeing David she humbly seeks an audience, and intimates that Nabal was not to be regarded as of importance.
3. She pleads her cause by reminding David of the kind restraint of Providence in keeping him from wrong, of Nabal's utter unworthiness of his notice, of the provision made for the young men, of his own integrity and coining distinction, of his spiritual safety amidst trials, of the future satisfaction of not having causelessly shed blood, and then begs that she may not be forgotten in coming days of power. This narrative may be considered in relation to Abigail and to David. In the former it affords—
I. AN ILLUSTRATION OF THE ART OF PERSUASION. The course pursued by Abigail was creditable to her courage, tact, piety, and loyalty to truth. A more beautiful instance of the art of persuasion in the sphere of private life is not found in the Bible. It may be considered in two ways.
1. In relation to the method adopted. This may be seen by noticing the line of argument. David is, after a respectful act of obeisance, informed that the omission of which he complained was without the knowledge of the person who was largely responsible for acts of hospitality (1 Samuel 25:25). Then, with exquisite delicacy, he is reminded of the sin of avenging self, and of the goodness of God in restraining from it (1 Samuel 25:26). This appeal to the moral sense is strengthened by an assurance that the offending person was far beneath the notice of one so distinguished, and that dignity could well afford to let him alone (1 Samuel 25:24). Moreover, the occasion which properly roused his generous concern for hungry and deserving servants was passed, as ample provision was at hand for them (1 Samuel 25:27). Passing from others, David is assured of confidence in his Divine call and the integrity of his life, despite all slanders (1 Samuel 25:28). And though persecution is hard to be borne, yet he is reminded that full compensation is made in being securely kept by God, and thus blessed with the spiritual life embraced in the everlasting covenant (1 Samuel 25:29)—a blessing which wicked foes cannot share. To crown all, he is led to think of the not distant day when, as king of God's people, he will enjoy the highest honours; and it is gently suggested that it would be a pity to mar the joys of such a time by reflection on an act of personal revenge by deeds of blood. A beautiful instance of what a wise, holy woman can do when emergency arises.
2. In relation to the general principles involved. Persuasion is required in the pulpit, the home, and the common intercourse of life; and observation proves how much depends on the adoption of right principles in using it. Some never succeed. The human soul can be successfully approached by certain avenues only. To be successful there ought to be—
(1) A tone and manner befitting the persons and the circumstances.
(2) A clear but delicate reference to the governing sense of right; for conscience properly addressed is sure to become an internal advocate for us.
(3) A readiness to meet every lawful claim and satisfy every generous instinct; for heed is given to those who are zealous in doing right.
(4) An evident appreciation of the actual position in which those are whom we address; for confidence in our judgment and professed sympathy is then awakened.
(5) A gentle appeal to the most sacred religious hopes and aspirations which, though unexpressed, may exercise a controlling power over life.
(6) Regard to the principle of self-interest as a force in life supplementary to higher considerations. It is worth a study to become "wise to win souls."
II. AN ILLUSTRATION OF THE INFLUENCE ON TEMPER AND CONDUCT OF RELIGIOUS CONSIDERATIONS. There was power in Abigail's argument derived from her appeal to David's sense of the wrong of revenge, and the assurance that his generous concern for his young men was now unnecessary. But that which evidently touched David most was her reference to his being the object of God's love and care. To be restrained by a loving God, to be in favour with him amidst the wrongs of evil men, to have an interest in the higher spiritual life which is nourished and guarded by God was more than all beside. How could one so richly and undeservedly blessed be revengeful or act in any way unworthy of the name of God? The apostle adopts the same line of argument when he, enjoining a spirit of forgiveness, reminds his readers of the forgiveness they have received (Ephesians 5:32). If we would be humble, gentle, forgiving, and grateful, let us consider what it is to have our "names written in heaven" (Luke 10:20), and to be objects of a love from which nothing can separate us from. 8:38, 39). A judicious use of such reflections and considerations is extremely important in spiritual culture. Men are deeply touched by the thought of what God has done for them. A little religious retrospect would save many a man from yielding to violent impulses. The same result is secured by cherishing due regard to our lofty aspirations. Those who are to be raised to thrones will not do mean and wrongful deeds. Who can estimate the influence of Christian anticipations on present conduct?
III. AN ILLUSTRATION OF DEEPENING FAITH IN MESSIANIC PURPOSES. Men like Doeg, Cush, and the Ziphites might combine and by slander seek to destroy faith in David's integrity, and so seem to put back the realisation of the purposes for which he had been anointed; and the Psalms reveal how these things sometimes depressed his spirit. But all this time the more intelligent and devout saw clearly that he was the man to build up the kingdom, and Abigail, by this beautiful revelation of her confidence in his coming elevation to power, was only a revelation to him of advancing faith. The strength thus brought to his heart reminds us of the comfort evidently conveyed to the Saviour's heart by Peter's explicit avowal (Matthew 16:16, Matthew 16:17). And as time advances there will arise, as a cheering set off to the scorners and detractors, superior minds bearing witness to the Divine truth and coming triumph of Christ's kingdom. Equally so will confirmations rise up of the call of the Christian to share in the higher service of the future.
1. A wise man will bring his impulses to the light of religious truth and allow it to tone them down.
2. In cases of difficulty, where temper is concerned, a quiet, fervent spirit is of great importance.
3. To have a place in the Lamb's book of life is full compensation for the ills we may suffer at the hands of men.
4. It is beneath the dignity of a Christian man to contend with the mean and base.
5. It is a sound maxim to suffer inconvenience rather than do anything that will tend to mar the enjoyment of the success we hope to win.
1 Samuel 25:32-35
The facts are—
1. David, recognising the hand of God, expresses his sense of his mercy and blesses Abigail for her advice.
2. He perceives, in the light of her remonstrance, the terrible evil of the passion that had swayed him.
3. Accepting her present, he dismisses her in peace. The success of Abigail's wise conduct was now assured in a good man being saved the guilt and shame of acting at variance with his professed trust in God; and while duly honouring the instrument of deliverance, God's restraining mercy is fully brought into prominence. Notice—
I. RESTRAINING MERCY IS A FACT IN EVERY LIFE. This instance was conspicuous, but David elsewhere acknowledges the constant keeping of his God (Psalms 19:13; Psalms 141:9). We owe much to God for what we are not and do not, as also for what we are and do. "By the grace of God I am what I am" applies to prevention as well as endowment. Every man is conscious of carrying within him a power of evil in excess of what finds outlet in deeds, and its repression is due not only to human wisdom and strength. The conditions of social life that check the development of inward sinfulness are of God as truly as the truth we cherish that we may not sin against him (Psalms 119:11). The friends who counsel and warn, the ordinances that tend to weaken the force of evil and nourish holiness, are the agencies of the same gracious God who endowed us with the helping conscience to which they appeal. If occasional providences, be they disasters or personal interventions, draw special attention to the unseen hand, they do not render the restraint at other times less real because they are more steady and gentle. There is a spirit that strives silently with man and holds him back from ruin.
II. OUR RECOGNITION OF RESTRAINING MERCY IS MORE PRONOUNCED WHEN WE HAVE PASSED THROUGH UNUSUAL TEMPTATIONS. Temptations are common experience, but sometimes they come in "like a flood." The admission of God's kindly and constant restraint is an item of daily belief, attended with more or less gratitude; but when the soul has been brought face to face with a terrible sin by the force of violent impulses, and kept from committing it by what is called a narrow chance, then the good hand of God is distinctly recognised. In the lull of the storm we see clearly the rocks on which character well nigh made shipwreck. The light of truth reveals whither we were going, and the soul is aghast at the spectacle. In the lives of most there have been occasions when we were on the very verge of destruction, or, like David, were about to mar our consistency and usefulness by a sad transgression. The refined spirit of a Christian shrinking in horror at the very thought of what might have been cannot but say, "Blessed be the Lord God;" and where human instruments have been employed, a benediction falls on them for their kindly aid. These acts of recognition, so full of gratitude and joy, are but faint indications of that inexpressible joy and gratitude when, in survey of all life's dangers, the soul will praise the "mercy that endureth forever."
III. A PROPER RECOGNITION OF RESTRAINING MERCY IS ATTENDED WITH A CALM AND STEADY ATTENTION TO THE DUTIES OF OUR SPIRITUAL POSITION. David, as chosen servant of God, quietly accepts the gift of Abigail, and, dismissing her, reverts to the normal course of trusting in God and biding his time. He lived out his true character all the better for this narrow escape. It is the natural effect of mercy, when recognised, to render us more true to our holy calling in God's service. We go on our way with stronger determination to submit to his will, whatever it may bring, and to live in closer fellowship with him.
1. It is good to place our stormy passions in the clear light of God's truth.
2. Our spiritual life acquires more elevation and tone by occasionally reflecting on God's restraining mercy.
3. The sin of indulging in violent passions must not be overlooked in the deliverance from their overt expression.
4. From an experience of deliverance from fearful moral perils we may enlarge our knowledge of the possibilities of life, and find increased reasons for habitual watchfulness.
1 Samuel 25:36-44
Contrasts, patience, and domestic ties.
The facts are—
1. Abigail, finding Nabal in the midst of a drunken revel, refrains from speaking of her interview with David.
2. In the morning, on her relating what had transpired, he became insensible, and soon after dies.
3. On hearing of his death David recognises afresh the mercy that had restrained him, and sees the wisdom of leaving judgment to the Lord.
4. David, deprived of his wife Michal, though possessed of Ahinoam, seeks to take Abigail to wife, and she, accepting his advances, consents. The sacred narrative is wonderfully effective in making David the central figure amidst the diversity of detail alluded to, and thus indicates the unity of principle on which it is framed, as well as foreshadows the higher presentation of Christ as the one figure, discernible by the eye of faith, amidst the varied teachings of Scripture. The manifold teaching of this section, while associated with David as the central figure, may be most conveniently represented under three heads. We have here—
I. CONTRASTS OF CHARACTER. Nabal may be regarded as an instance of a type of character well known in every age—low in taste, devoted to material gains, insensible to lofty spiritual aspirations, the miserable victim of disgusting habits, exercising a pernicious influence, and coming to an end dishonourable and ruinous. Grades of this character may be found, but the essential features of it are sensuality, irreverence, and earthliness. The chapter presents us with three characters agreeing in a common contrast to this—Abigail's, David's, Samuel's. Each of these, in the sphere allotted by Providence, stands out as the very opposite of Nabal. That which formed the inspiring power in them was intelligent devotion to the higher interests of life and strong faith in the Divine purpose that was being worked out in Israel. The reference in 1 Samuel 25:1 to the honourable burial of Samuel, and in 1 Samuel 25:36-38 to the disgraceful end of Nabal, as well as the intermediate references to David and Abigail, show that the contrast of characters lies in four things—spirit, aims, influence, and end. All characters may be tested by these criteria. The spirit is either devout, reverent, trustful, and obedient, or grovelling, profane, alien to God. The aim in life is the creation of the spirit, and is either to promote individual and public righteousness in association with God's purpose in the Messiah, or to gather wealth and find transitory gratification. The influence is either to elevate, inspire, and enrich the world with what is best and enduring, or to drag down, embitter, and brutalise mankind. The end, as in the case of Samuel, is either peace, honour, and future blessedness, or wretchedness, dishonour, and future woe. In every age and locality where truth is loved and rejected these opposite tendencies and issues are found, and it would be instructive and impressive to develop with illustrations from history the gradations of contrast. The clue to contrasts in taste, habit, and final condition is to be sought in the state of the spirit in its relation to God. "The carnal mind is enmity against God." "You hath he quickened who were dead."
II. THE JUSTIFICATION OF PATIENCE. It is possible to take David's words (1 Samuel 25:39) as expressing thanks for preservation from sin, and at the same time pleasure that his churlish enemy was now smitten; but the sense more congruous with the circumstances seems to be that he was, on reflection, more and more grateful for Divine restraint; and the fact that God had, without his agency, done what seemed to him best was evidence that man need never hasten to vindicate himself by violent measures, but may be patient under wrong. He was glad that God, and not he, had vindicated right. Events in the course of Providence will justify abstention from evil even under strong provocation. Many a man, patiently repressing violent passions, and content to endure rather than savagely avenge wrong, has lived to see the day when God, in some unlooked for way, has visited the wrong doer with chastisement, and then, while thankful for restraint, he is able to see in the Divine conduct a justification of the patience once so hard to exercise, and that seemed to men of the world so inexpedient and weak. And here comes out the great truth that the meek and quiet virtues enjoined by Christ are always justified by Providence, though at the time they are exercised they seem to be contrary to human nature. This is but a branch of a still wider truth, that all holiness of feeling and conduct is in the issue coincident with self-interest. Utility may not be the basis of morality, but in its broadest sense, taking in endless existence and future relations, it is exemplified in the effects. A few observations may suffice on this subject.
1. It often requires much effort to be truly virtuous. David felt it harder to abstain from avenging wrong than to avenge it. The positive side of his virtue was patient trust in the justice of God, and the impulses of the old man are against this. Very often personal losses and social disadvantages attend our patient endurance of evil, and these set into operation our strong feelings of resentment, our estimate of profit and loss, and our professed love of right.
2. All such virtue has the promise of success. To trust in God, to be patient in tribulation, and kindred qualities are pregnant with victory. Right feeling and conduct per se have a tendency, as Butler has shown, to ultimate happiness; and the ordinations of Providence are all subordinate to the vindication of right.
3. Personal and general history show that patient trust in God's justice is honoured. Martyrs have found it better to leave their cause to God. The results of their endurance are perpetual, and most blessed and powerful. Every Christian can see in his own life that God does not forsake his saints, but turns their patient trust to his honour and glory, and the higher education of the individual and the race. Events will justify religious feeling in any form. It answers in every way to be like Christ.
III. THE DOMESTIC FACTOR IN LIFE. The details concerning Nabal are given because of David's place in the history of redemption, and for the same reason we have an account of David's domestic relationships. It is well known that the domestic tie is of extreme importance in every life. Men are helped or hindered, blessed or cursed, by the kind of influence that sways the home. Considering how much the general character is affected by the development of the tender and pure feelings proper to home life, the loss to the world arising from domestic miseries is incalculable. What a change in society were our toilers blessed in the person of their wives with the love, the refinement of feeling, and the intelligent Christianity which knows how to make home a welcome, cheery place! Men like Nabal would be much worse were it not for the restraining influence of an Abigail. David's public and private career was necessarily the better for the presence in his home of such a woman, though the elevating influence of her character was impaired by his adoption of polygamy. Many are the counteracting influences under which the best of men develope, and Scripture, by thus calling attention to David's domestic affairs, gives us a clue to some of the circumstances amidst which his virtues and failings appeared. The extreme importance of the domestic factor in life should urge to care in contracting alliances, in the maintenance of a spirit at home in harmony with the sacred character of the marriage bond, and in rendering home life subservient to a faithful and efficient discharge of one's calling in life (Ephesians 5:22-33; 1 Peter 3:1-7). The question of marriage is a delicate one, and needs to be handled with great care, but it is doubtful whether the Church has in her pastors and teachers done as much for the education of the people on the subject as is required. A wise pastor will know how to incorporate earnest Scripture teaching with his ordinary ministrations without intruding into the privacies of life, and wise parents have it in their power to save their sons and daughters from many troubles by first winning confidence, and then judiciously aiding to right decisions.
1. In order to form a correct estimate of a life we must take into account the end, and the bearing of the principles cherished on the endless existence beyond the grave.
2. The practical exhibition of the Christian spirit in our dealings with bad men is often more difficult than the maintenance of a devout spirit in relation to God.
3. The cure for some of the ills of modern life is in making home more attractive to those now seeking unhallowed joys elsewhere.
4. A nation careful of the purity and fulness of domestic life will survive those making light of these qualities,
HOMILIES BY B. DALE
1 Samuel 25:1. (RAMAH.)
Samuel's death and burial.
"And Samuel died."
1. The end of the great prophet's life is recorded in brief and simple words. This is according to the manner in which the death of men is usually spoken of in the Scriptures. Whilst their life is narrated at length, their death is either passed over in silence or mentioned only in a sentence, as of comparatively little consequence in relation to their character, work, and influence. There is one significant exception, viz; that of him "who once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God."
2. In the last glimpse afforded of him before his decease he is described as "standing as one appointed over the company of the prophets," and occupied with them in celebrating the praises of God (1 Samuel 19:20). During the years that had since elapsed he was left unmolested by Saul; and it is hardly likely that David ever ventured to Ramah again, although he probably kept up indirect intercourse with his aged and revered friend (1 Samuel 22:5), and was often in his thoughts.
3. In connection with the mention of his death it is stated that "David arose and went down" (from "the hold" in the hill of Hachilah, to which he had returned from Engedi) "to the wilderness of Paran." He may have done so for reasons independent of this event, or without the knowledge of it; or possibly because he feared that with the removal of Samuel's restraining influence Saul might renew his persecution. However it may have been, the melancholy intelligence would speedily reach him.
4. "Samuel died." Good and great as he was, he could not escape the common lot of men. "One event happeneth to them all." But that which comes as a judgment to "the fool" (1 Samuel 25:38) comes as a blessing to the wise. "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." The news of it came upon the people as a surprise and filled them with grief. "It was as if from that noble star, so long as it shone in the heaven of the holy land, though veiled by clouds, there streamed a mild beneficent light over all Israel. Now this star in Israel was extinguished" (Krummacher). "Another mighty one had passed away. The very heart of the nation sighed out its loving, weeping requiem. But who among them all mourned as that son of Jesse, on whose head he had at God's command poured the anointing oil, as he arose and went down to the wilderness of Paran? Doubtless in those waste places he heard again in living memory the echoes of the prevailing cry of him who was so great among those that call upon the name of the Lord. Doubtless his own discipline was perfected in this new sorrow, but he learnt in losing Samuel to lean more simply and alone on Samuel's God" ('Heroes of Hebrews Hist.'). We have here—
I. THE DECEASE OF AN ILLUSTRIOUS MAN: saint, prophet, intercessor, judge, restorer of the theocracy, founder of the monarchy. "He was a righteous man, and gentle in his nature; and on that account he was very dear to God" (Josephus). "Samuel, the prophet of the Lord, beloved of the Lord, established a kingdom and anointed princes over his people. And.before his long sleep he made protestations in the sight of the Lord, etc. And.after his death he prophesied, and showed the king his end" (Ec 46:13-20). He died—
1. In a good old age. At what age we know not; but long ago he spoke of himself as "old and grayheaded" (1 Samuel 12:2). His protracted life was an evidence of his self-control and piety, a mark of Divine favour, and a means of extended usefulness. He was cut down not like "the flower of the field," which blooms for a day and is gone, nor like the spreading forest tree smitten by a sudden blast; but rather like the ripe corn, bending down beneath its golden burden and falling under the sickle of the reaper; arid "as shocks of corn are brought in in their season," so was he "gathered to his people."
2. At the proper time. When his appointed work was done, the new order of things firmly established, and he could by his continuance do little more for Israel, he was "taken away from the evil to come" through which the nation was to attain its highest glory. "He was the link which connected two very different periods, being the last representative of a past which could never come back, and seemed almost centuries behind, and also marking the commencement of a new period intended to develop into Israel's ideal future" (Edersheim). "If David's visible deeds were greater and more dazzling than Samuel's, there can be no doubt that David's blaze of glory would have been impossible without Samuel's less conspicuous but far more influential career, and that all the greatness of which the following century boasts goes back to him as its real author" (Ewald).
3. In peaceful retirement; removed from public strife, under Divine protection, surrounded by prophetic associates, reviewing the past, contemplating the present, and awaiting the final change. A holy and useful life is crowned with a peaceful and happy death.
4. In Divine communion, which constitutes the highest life of the good. In God (with whom he had walked from his childhood, and whose inward voice he had so often heard) he found his chief delight, to his will he cheerfully submitted, and into his hands he committed his spirit in hope of continued, perfect, and eternal fellowship. The ancient covenant to be "the God" of his people overshadowed the present and the future; nor did they suppose (however dim their views of another life) that he would suffer them to be deprived by death of his presence and love "All live unto him" and in him. He "died in faith." His decease was like a peaceful summer sunset.
"Not the last struggle of the sun
Precipitated from his golden throne
Holds, dazzling, mortals in sublime suspense;
But the calm exode of a man,
Nearer, but far above, who ran
The race we run, when Heaven recalls him hence"
II. THE MOURNING OF A WHOLE PEOPLE. "And all Israel" (represented by their elders) "were gathered together" (out of common veneration and love), "and lamented him (whom all knew and none would see again), and buried him in his house at Ramah" ("the ancient and the manor house," so long his residence, and endeared to him by so many tender associations). It was "a grievous mourning," as when Jacob was buried at Machpelah (Genesis 1:11; Acts 8:2). The honour rendered to his memory was simple and sincere, very different from that which, it is said, was paid to his dust in later times, when "his remains were removed with incredible pomp and almost one continued train of attendants from Ramah to Constantinople by the Emperor Arcadius, A.D. 401" (Delany, 1:148). But "of Samuel, as of Moses, it may be said, 'No man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day'" (Stanley). The national mourning was an indication of—
1. The high esteem in which he was held, on account of his great ability, eminent piety, and beneficent activity—his integrity, firmness, gentleness, consistency, disinterestedness, adaptability, and living communion with God (1 Samuel 2:30; Psalms 112:6). "A true Christian. may travel in life under troubles and contempts; but mark his end, and you shall find (as peace, so) honour. Life is death's seed time; death life's harvest. As here we sow, so there we reap. He that spends himself upon God and man shall at last have all the honour that heaven and earth can cast upon him" (R. Harris).
2. The deplorable loss which had been sustained. "The men who had once rejected Samuel now lamented him; when the light of his presence was departed they felt the darkness which remained; when the actual energy of his example had ceased to act they remembered the strength of his principles, the consistency of its operation. There was a feeling common to man. Whilst we enjoy the gift we ofttimes forget the Giver, and are awakened only to the full consciousness of the value of that which we once possessed by finding that we possess it no longer" (Anderson).
3. The unjust treatment which he had received, and which was now regretted. His predictions had proved true (1 Samuel 8:11), and his course was fully vindicated. "The sorrow at his decease was the deeper, the more heavily the yoke of Saul's misgovernment pressed on them."
4. The continued influence he exerted upon the nation. "The holy expression stamped by him on the tribes of Benjamin and Judah remained for centuries uneffaced. Never was a single man more instrumental in sowing the soil of a district with the enduring seeds of goodness. It seems to have been mainly through his influence that piety found a home in Judah and Benjamin when it was banished from the rest of the country. Humanly speaking David could never have been king if Samuel had not prepared the way. He was to King David what John the Baptist was to Christ. Unquestionably he is to be ranked among the very greatest and best of the Hebrew worthies" (Blaikie). "And he being dead yet speaketh."
"O good gray head which all men knew,
O voice from which their omens all men drew,
O iron nerve to true occasion true,
O fall'n at length that tower of strength
Which stood foursquare to all the winds that blew!"
1. Honour the memory of the good.
2. Praise God for their lives.
3. Imitate their example.
4. Carry out their purposes.—D.
1 Samuel 25:1-44. (THE WILDERNESS OF PARAN.)
David's activity and advancement.
"And David arose, and went down to the wilderness of Paran" (1 Samuel 25:1). Samuel was dead. Saul was becoming more and more incapable of fulfilling the duties of his high office. Meanwhile David was being prepared by Divine providence to grasp the sceptre when it fell from his hand and wield it in a nobler manner. He was the rising sun of the new era. And we see in this chapter numerous signs of his peculiar qualification for his future rule and of his gradual progress towards it; such as, e.g.—
1. The strict discipline which he exercised among his men. Those 600 warriors dwelt in the neighbourhood of Nabal's shepherds, and could easily have supplied their wants from the flocks kept by the latter; but "the men were very good to us," said one of them, "and we were not hurt, neither missed we anything," etc. (1 Samuel 25:15). "He was bringing his wild followers under a loving discipline and government which they had never experienced; he was teaching them to confess a law which no tyrant had created, no anarchy could set aside" (Maurice).
2. The valuable service which he rendered to his people. "They were a wall unto us both by night and day" (1 Samuel 25:16). He employed his followers (whom he could not lead against Saul without incurring the charge of rebellion) in protecting those who were occupied in honest industry against the plundering Bedouin, and thus doing the work which had been left undone by the king. There is no place or position but affords opportunity for useful work. Even an outlaw may be serviceable to his country.
3. The perfect equity of the claim he made. His defence of the sheep gave him a right to some share in them; and he was justified in voluntarily undertaking it by the condition of society at the time and his own peculiar position. The reply of Nabal, in its application to David, was destitute of justice, truth, and charity (1 Samuel 25:10, 1 Samuel 25:11).
4. The respectful consideration he showed in urging his claim. He did not make it unseasonably, but waited till "a good day" (a festive occasion on which men were usually disposed to be generous), and then sent ten young men to offer him a courteous greeting, state the case, and humbly seek as a favour what might have been demanded as a right (1 Samuel 25:6-8). He appealed to what was noblest and best in the man.
5. The conscious power which he displayed. "Greet him in my name"—a name well known in Israel as that of a faithful, though persecuted, servant of Jehovah. Not a word escaped his lips, indeed, on this or any other occasion concerning his royal destiny. But he knew the strength of his position (see 1 Samuel 26:1-25.), which was very different now from what it was at the beginning of his wanderings, was manifested in his whole bearing, and especially in the marriage relationships into which he entered (1 Samuel 25:42 1 Samuel 25:44).
6. The increased renown, which he bad acquired. The words of Abigail (1 Samuel 25:28-31) expressed the growing conviction of the godly in Israel that David was destined to be their theocratic ruler. She may also have "received certain information of his anointing and destination through Samuel, or one of the pupils of the prophets" (Keil).
7. The Divine restraint by which he was kept from doing what would have imperilled or interfered with his future honour and happiness (1 Samuel 25:26). When God has an important place for a man to fill, he prepares the way to it and prepares him for it, and a part of his preparation consists in his being taught faithful cooperation with the Divine purposes.—D.
1 Samuel 25:2-39. (MAON, CARMEL)
The prosperous fool.
"Now the name of the man was Nabal (1 Samuel 25:3; "a son of Belial," 1 Samuel 25:17; "Nabal is his name, and folly is with him," 1 Samuel 25:25). This chapter is like a picture gallery in which are exhibited the portraits of Samuel and the elders of Israel, David and his men, with the Bedouin marauders in the background; Nabal, the wealthy sheep owner, his sheep shearers and boon companions, Abigail and her maidens, and Ahinoam of Jezreel (mother of Amnon, the eldest son of David). Let us pause and look at one of them—Nabal. "As his name is, so is he;" a fool, i.e. a stupid, wicked, and godless man. "According to the Old Testament representation folly is a correlate of ungodliness which inevitably brings down punishment" (Keil). He is such an one as is described by the Psalmist (Psalms 14:1), often mentioned by the wise man (Proverbs 17:16; Proverbs 19:1; Proverbs 21:24), called a churl by the prophet (Isaiah 32:5-7), and referred to by our Lord in the parable (Luke 12:13-21). What a contrast between his appearance and that of Samuel!
I. HIS ADVANTAGES WERE GREAT.
1. He belonged to a good family. "He was of the house of Caleb," who "wholly followed Jehovah God of Israel," and had "a part among the children of Judah." But he inherited none of the better qualities of his illustrious ancestor. "A good extraction is a reproach to him who degenerates from it." Religious privileges also (such as he enjoyed from his connection with Israel), unless rightly used, only serve to increase condemnation.
2. He possessed an excellent wife; "a woman of good understanding and of a beautiful countenance," prudent, generous, and devout. "A prudent wife is from the Lord" (Proverbs 19:14). But many a man is little benefited by the gift. His worldly prosperity may be increased by her skilful management of his household (1 Samuel 25:14, 1 Samuel 25:25), whilst his spiritual condition is not improved by her example, counsel, and prayers. The persistently bad are hardened by their intimate intercourse with the good.
3. He enjoyed immense prosperity. "The man was very great (wealthy), and he had three thousand sheep, and a thousand goats," a palatial residence in Maon, and a house at Carmel (Kurmul), where his business lay (1 Samuel 25:2, 1 Samuel 25:36). He may have inherited his wealth, or he may have had wisdom enough to know how to make and keep it, industrious himself, and profiting by the industry of others; it is not improbable from his language concerning slaves (1 Samuel 25:10) that he was one of those usurers and oppressors from whose exactions many of David's men sought to free themselves by flight (1 Samuel 22:2). "Here we may see the fickle and uncertain state of the world" (Willet); "the wicked in great power" (Psalms 37:35), and the good oppressed (Psalms 73:10). But "a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Luke 12:15). His abundance should make him thankful to God and generous to men. It has often, however, the reverse effect, and "the prosperity of fools shall destroy them" (Deuteronomy 8:10-20; Proverbs 1:32).
II. HIS CHARACTER WAS WORTHLESS. "The man was churlish" (hard and harsh) and evil in his doings (1 Samuel 25:3).
1. He had evidently no thought of God as the living, ever-present One, the true King of Israel, the Author and Preserver of his life, the Giver of all his blessings, the moral Ruler to whom he was responsible for their proper employment. What was material and sensible was to him the only reality. He recognised in practice no will superior to his own, and lived "without God in the world."
2. He was regardless of the claims of other people; despising those who were beneath him in social position, headstrong, and resentful of every word which his servants might say to him in opposition to his way and for his good (1 Samuel 25:17); illiberal toward the needy, unjust and ungrateful, "requiting evil for good" (1 Samuel 25:21); disparaging the character and conduct of others (1 Samuel 25:10-12), and railing upon them (1 Samuel 25:14) in coarse and insulting language. "His wealth had not endowed him with common sense; but, like many in our own day, he imagined that because he was in affluent circumstances he might with impunity indulge in rude, ill-mannered sneers at all who were around him" (W.M. Taylor).
3. He lived for himself alone; regarding his wealth as his own ("my bread and my water," etc.), using it only for himself; making an ostentatious display ("the feast of a king"), and indulging in intemperance, "the voluntary extinction of reason." "So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
III. HIS END WAS MISERABLE (1 Samuel 25:36-39).
1. He was overtaken by death very suddenly and unexpectedly, and when he was unprepared for it. "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee," etc.
2. He suffered the natural penalty of the course which he had pursued.
3. He was consigned to his grave without honour. Whilst "all Israel mourned" for Samuel, none lamented him.
1. The worth of a man consists not in what he has, but in what he is.
2. Wealth entails on its possessor a serious responsibility for its proper use.
3. The inequalities of men's earthly position disappear in the light of truth and eternity.—D.
1 Samuel 25:10. (CARMEL.)
Masters and, servants.
"There are many servants nowadays that break away every man from his master." What Nabal said was probably the fact. Many servants did in that unsettled time break away from their masters, preferring independence with its risk and privation to servitude with its protection and provision. But the imputation which he intended to cast upon them was either wholly unjust, as in the case of David, or partially so, as in the case of many others. He omitted to state that their conduct toward their masters was due to the conduct of their masters toward them. People are never so ready to see and condemn the faults of the class to which they belong as those of the opposite class. Concerning masters and servants, consider—
I. THE NATURE OF THE RELATION. It has been aptly illustrated in the following language:—"A party of friends, setting out together upon a journey, soon find it to be the best for all sides that while they are upon the road one of the company should wait upon the rest, another ride forward to seek out lodging and entertainment, a third to carry the portmanteau, a fourth take charge of the horses, a fifth bear the purse, conduct, and direct the route; not forgetting, however, that as they were equal and independent when they set out, so they are all to return to a level again at the journey's end" (Paley, 'Mor. Philippians,' book 3.). The relation is confined to life's journey alone.
1. It is, in some form or other, necessary and mutually beneficial. The benefit received is really greater on the part of masters than servants.
2. It must of necessity vary with the circumstances of those among whom it exists. Hence the Mosaic law tolerated and regulated a species of slavery (though no Hebrew could become other than a "hired servant" for a specified lime); but "no other ancient religion was ever so emphatically opposed to it, or at least to all inhumanity connected with it, or made such sure preparations for its abolition" (Ewald, 'Antiquities').
3. It always involves mutual obligations. These "nowadays" are often neglected. The tie between master and servant (mistress and maid, employer and employed) is not what it once was. There is less dependence on the one hand, and less authority on the other. Each complains of the other: "servants are careless and too independent;" "masters are too exacting and selfish." And the relation can only be what it ought to be by their common submission to "the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).
II. THE DUTY OF SERVANTS (Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22-25; 1Ti 6:1, 2 Timothy 2:9; 2 Timothy 2:9, Titus 2:10; 1 Peter 2:18).
1. Obedience—lowly, respectful, cheerful; always in subordination to the supreme will of God. This is the first duty of a servant.
2. Diligence in performing the work given them to do, with attention and earnestness, and in the best possible manner, "And be content with your wages" (Luke 3:14).
3. Faithfulness to the trust committed to them, seeking their masters' interests as their own; honesty, thorough sincerity, "as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart."
III. THE DUTY OF MASTERS (Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1).
1. Equity; giving to them "that which is just and equal," and imposing upon them no unnecessary burdens (Malachi 3:5; James 5:4).
2. Consideration, respect, courtesy, kindness, seeking their physical, moral, and. spiritual welfare. "Thou shalt not rule over thy servant with rigour" (Le 1 Samuel 25:43). And a mere money payment is not all that a fellow creature is entitled to expect, or an adequate compensation for his services.
3. Consistency; acting in accordance with their position, reproving wrong doing, setting a good example, exercising their authority and influence as a trust committed to them by God and in obedience to his will. Those who expect to receive honour must seek to make themselves worthy of it.
Let both learn—
1. To be less observant of the faults of others than of their own.
2. To be more concerned about fulfilling their duties than insisting on their rights.
3. To look for their chief reward in the approbation of God.—D.
1 Samuel 25:14-42. (CARMEL.)
Of her family and early life nothing is recorded. When first mentioned she was the wife of the wealthy and churlish Nabal. It was an ill-assorted union, probably due to parental arrangement. She was distinguished by a beautiful countenance and form, and (what is not always associated therewith) by a beautiful mind and character, embodying the ideal of womanhood (Proverbs 31:10-31). "Where do we find in all the heathen world a woman comparable with Abigail, the daughter of the wilderness?" She was a woman of—
1. Superior intelligence, practical wisdom, prudence, tact, and good management. "Of good understanding" (1 Samuel 25:3). The part she took in the affairs of her husband is evident from the servants telling her of the threatening danger (1 Samuel 25:17), and her apology (1 Samuel 25:25). Her discretion was also shown in her reserve (1 Samuel 25:19).
2. Prompt decision, energy, and activity. "Abigail made haste," etc. (1 Samuel 25:18). Not a moment was lost, and she was promptly obeyed.
3. Unaffected humility, meekness, modesty, and self-devotion. "She fell before David on her face," etc. (1 Samuel 25:23, 1 Samuel 25:41). Her meekness and patience must have been greatly tried by the temper of Nabal, and had doubtless previously averted many a disaster.
4. Noble generosity and sacrifice. "Two hundred loaves," etc. (1 Samuel 25:18). She felt that no sacrifice was too great to save her husband and his household. "David's men and David felt that these were not the gifts of a sordid calculation, but the offerings of a generous heart. And it won them, their gratitude, their enthusiasm, their unfeigned homage" (Robertson).
5. Conciliatory, faithful, eloquent speech, and pacifying, beneficent influence (1 Samuel 25:24-31). Having taken the blame upon herself (as intercessor), and referred to her husband "with that union of playfulness and seriousness which above all things turns away wrath" (Stanley), she directed the thoughts of David to God, by the leadings of whose providence she had been sent to divert him from his purpose, utters the wish flint he to whom vengeance belongs would avenge him, humbly begs the acceptance of her offering for his young men, and beseeches his forgiveness. Then (assuming her prayer to be granted) she assures him of the brilliant future that awaited him, inasmuch as he would fulfil the purposes of Jehovah, and not his own; that, should any one seek to do him harm, Jehovah would preserve him in safety, and punish his adversaries; and that when he should be "ruler over Israel" it would be a source of comfort, and not of trouble, to him that he had not shed blood causelessly, nor taken vengeance into his own hand. Finally she says, "And Jehovah will do good to my lord, and thou wilt remember thine handmaid" (for good)—"remember the things which I have spoken" (Dathe). No dissuasions from revenge could be more effective.
"When a world of men
Could not prevail with all their oratory,
Yet hath a woman's kindness overruled."
"Doubtless she had not studied eloquence in the schools, but the Spirit of God alone made her such an orator. God put wisdom into her heart, and it flowed out in wise discourse" (Roos).
6. Exalted piety; faith in the righteousness and goodness of God, his overruling providence, and the establishment of his kingdom (see the song of Hannah), devotion, spiritual insight, manifested in this appeal, and in her whole conduct (Proverbs 31:26, Proverbs 31:30). It is not surprising that, after the death of Nabal, "David sent and communed with Abigail, to take her to him to wife" (1 Samuel 25:39).—D.
1 Samuel 25:29. (CARMEL.)
The bundle of life.
1. The bundle of life, or the living (the word bundle, tseror, being used once before of the bag or purse of money which each of Joseph's brethren found in his sack of corn, Genesis 42:35), signifies the society or congregation of the living out of which men are taken and cut off by death (Barrett, 'Synopsis of Criticisms'). It contains those who possess life, continued and prosperous life, in the present world in the midst of the dangers to which they are exposed, and by which others are taken away from "the land of the living" (Isaiah 4:3). Life is a gift of God, and its continuance is presumptive of his favour.
2. What is here desired and predicted concerning them is based upon their moral distinction from other men. They are, like David, servants of God, and differ from others, as David from Saul and Nabal, in their character and conduct. They constitute the community of the godly in "this present evil world," and "their names are written in heaven."
3. They are of inestimable worth in the sight of God. He values all men because of their capacity for goodness, but much more some on account of their actual possession of it. Their worth surpasses all earthly possessions and distinctions. "The whole system of bodies (the firmament, the stars, the earth, and the kingdoms of it) and spirits together is unequal to the least emotion of charity" (Pascal).
4. They are his special possession; belong to him in a peculiar manner, because of what he had done for them "above all people," and their own voluntary devotion to him. "Know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself." "The Lord taketh pleasure in his people," and calls them "my jewels" (Malachi 3:17).
5. They live in intimate communion with him. "A people near unto him" (Psalms 148:14); "bound up in the bundle of life with the Lord thy God."
6. They are preserved safely from the malicious designs of their enemies, and from all evil. "Should a man arise to pursue thee and seek thy soul," etc. The expression is derived from the common usage of men, who put valuable things together and keep them near their persons to prevent their being lost or injured. "Your life is hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3).
7. They have a common participation in the strength and blessedness afforded by his presence and favour. Their life is of the highest kind—life in the truest, fullest sense, directly derived from him who is "the Fountain of life," and involving all real good. "In thy presence," etc. (Psalms 16:11.) The life of others is but "a race to death," and they are "dead while they hive."
8. They are designed for useful service; not merely to be looked upon and admired, but employed according to the will of the owner. It is for this that they are preserved.
9. They have "the promise of eternal life." Their spiritual fellowship with God and with each other in this life is an earnest of its continuance and perfection in the life to come. "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." The pious Jew dies with the words of the text upon his lips, and has them inscribed upon his tomb. "Whosoever is so hidden in the gracious fellowship of the Lord in this life that no enemy can harm him or injure his life, the Lord will not allow to perish, even though temporal death should come, but will then receive him into eternal life" (Keil). "And so shall we ever be with the Lord."
10. Their destiny (like their character) is the opposite of that of the ungodly. "Concerning the bodies of the righteous it is said, 'He shall enter into peace; they shall rest in their beds' (Isaiah 57:21); and of their souls it is said, 'And the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the Lord thy God.' But concerning the bodies of the wicked it is said, 'There is no peace, saith God, to the wicked.' And of their souls it is said, 'And the souls of thine enemies, them shall he sling out, as out of the middle of a sling'" (Talmud, quoted by Hurwitz).—D.
1 Samuel 25:32, 1 Samuel 25:33. (CARMEL.)
1. Between the purpose to transgress and the intended act of transgression there is usually an interval, and in that interval there may occur physical restraints, rendering the act impossible but not affecting the purpose or disposition; or moral restraints, affecting the purpose, and often altering it and thereby preventing the act. The latter alone truly tests and reveals the character. And of this nature was the restraint put upon David when he was on his way to inflict vengeance on Nabal and his household for the affront which he had received.
2. His terrible purpose seems surprising after his forbearance toward Saul (1 Samuel 24:7, 1 Samuel 24:22). But the conquest of temptation is not unfrequently the occasion of subsequently succumbing to it. This happens when any one supposes that he is no longer in danger from it, and ceases to watch against it, and depend on God for his safe keeping. "David was not secure against the temptation to personal vengeance and to self-help, although he had previously resisted it. The lesson of his own weakness in that respect was all the more needed that this was one of the most obvious dangers to an ordinary Oriental ruler (1 Samuel 24:21). But David was not to be such, and when God in his good providence restrained him as he had almost fallen, he showed him the need of inward as well as of outward deliverance, and the sufficiency of his grace to preserve him from spiritual as from temporal dangers" (Edersheim). Consider special moral restraints as—
I. MUCH NEEDED EVEN BY A GOOD MAN, because of—
1. External incentives to sin. The language of Nabal was adapted to excite anger and revenge, as his servant plainly perceived (1 Samuel 25:17).
2. Sudden impulses of passion, under which one of ardent temperament especially is in danger of taking a rash oath (1 Samuel 25:22), and rushing towards its accomplishment without fully considering what he does, or "inquiring of the Lord" whether it is right.
3. Natural deficiency of strength to resist temptation, and natural liability to self-deception. Reason and conscience should always hold the rein, but how often is it torn from their grasp by fiery passions! David probably also thought for the moment that it was right to avenge the wrong which had been done; but even if Nabal's offence were the greatest conceivable, he was not yet constituted king and judge of the people, much less ought he to inflict so fearful a vengeance for a private offence. "Lord, what is man? What need have we to pray, Lord, lead us not into temptation!"
II. VARIOUSLY VOUCHSAFED ACCORDING TO HIS NEED. What is most needed is the restoration of reason and conscience to their proper place and power, and this is often brought about by—
1. Providential circumstances, leading to reflection and the recognition of the will of God.
2. Wise and faithful counsel (1 Samuel 25:26-31), indicating that will, addressed to conscience, and persuading to the adoption of a worthier course.
3. Inward influence, exerted by the Spirit of God, giving the inclination and strength to walk in "the good and right way." "Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with man," etc. (Job 33:29). And with him whose heart is not "fully set to do evil" he worketh not in vain.
III. GRATEFULLY ASCRIBED BY HIM TO GOD. "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel," etc. He is grateful to the messenger of God, but first and chiefly to God himself; and his gratitude is sincere and fervent on account of ―
1. The evil which has been prevented.
2. The good which has been conferred.
3. The abounding mercy which has been experienced.
Do you think that any one will praise God in heaven with so loud a voice as I shall?" said one (who had been speaking of the course of flagrant transgression from which by Divine mercy he had been reclaimed). "Yes," was the reply, "I hope to do so, because by Divine mercy I have been kept from it." "It is not a converting, but a crowning grace; such an one as irradiates and puts a circle of glory about the head of him upon whom it descends; it is the Holy Ghost coming down upon him in the 'form of a dove,' and setting him triumphant above the necessity of tears and sorrow, mourning and repentance, the sad after-games of a lost innocence" (South, 'Prevention of Sin an Invaluable Mercy').—D.
HOMILIES BY D. FRASER
1 Samuel 25:29
The bundle of life and the sling.
The appeal of Abigail had all the more persuasiveness that she avowed her sympathy with David's cause, and her faith in the Divine purpose to make him king. Such a conviction was by this time widely diffused in the land among those who feared Jehovah and honoured the prophet Samuel. We have seen that it was confessed by Saul himself, and by Jonathan it was cherished with generous pleasure. But Nabal would not have it mentioned in his presence. In his eyes David was a mere runaway servant of the king who had turned freebooter. His wife showed the vigour of her mind, the clearness of her judgment, and the strength of her faith in not fearing the displeasure of Nabal or the wrath of King Saul, but declaring her confident belief that the Lord would raise David to be ruler over Israel. On this ground she entreated him not to burden his conscience or sully his name with a hasty deed of blood. What a power of figurative expression those Eastern believers had; and not least those devout women whose spirits were stirred by urgent occasions to ardent utterance—Deborah in her triumph, Hannah in her song, Abigail in her appeal!
I. THE FIGURE OF SAFETY. A soul bound up in the bundle of life with Jehovah. What could a Nabal's churlishness, or even a Saul's pursuit, avail against a man whose life God guarded by night and day? If we use Abigail's phrase we extend its meaning. The question with her was of David's preservation to fill the throne of Israel; but it is not for us under the New Testament to set our hearts on earthly rank. Our treasure is in heaven. Our inheritance is reserved for us till our Lord's return. Our days are few and uncertain. But we have an eternal life, freely given to us in Christ Jesus; and the bundle of life means for us the unity of all the living ones in Christ, the totality of the life which "is hid with Christ in God." They who are bound up therein have been taken out of the bundles of sin and death, extricated from what is evil and therefore doomed to destruction, and have been by the power of the Holy Ghost joined to Christ and the Church. Happy day that sees this done! Strong security that follows! Who is he that can harm us if we are Christ's, bound up in the bundle of life with God our Saviour?
II. THE FIGURE OF REJECTION. Abigail made no further reference to Nabal. He was her husband, and in no case could he be formidable to David. All she asked was that the son of Jesse would magnanimously overlook his churlishness. But the whole country rang with reports of the angry pursuit of David by the king', and Abigail predicted that his enemies would have discomfiture and rejection from the Lord his God. With rare felicity of allusion she spoke of their souls as flung away, as a stone is cast "out of the middle of a sling." The very mention of the weapon with which David had gained his first great success must have stirred his faith and courage. The figure, as the history shows, was remarkably appropriate to the career of David's chief enemy, Saul. "As he that bindeth a stone in a sling, so is he that giveth honour to a fool" (Proverbs 26:8). Now honour had been given to Saul. He was anointed and exalted to the throne, and yet was at heart unwise and disobedient. So was the stone laid in the pan of a sling. After a while we see the stone whirled round in the sling, i.e. we see Saul troubled and tossed—wayward, disturbed, passionate, insanely jealous. The end was now drawing near, and the stone was about to be east out of the sling in despair and death on Mount Gilboa.
On 1 Samuel 25:32, 1 Samuel 25:33 Dr. South has left us a sermon entitled, 'Prevention of sin an invaluable blessing.' In the "application" of it the preacher shows that a much higher satisfaction is to be found from a conquered than from a conquering passion. "Revenge is certainly the most luxurious morsel that the devil can put into a sinner's mouth. But do we think that David could have found half the pleasure in the execution of his revenge that he expresses here upon the disappointment of it? Possibly it might have pleased him in the present heat and hurry of his rage, but must have displeased him infinitely more in the cool, sedate reflections of his mind." Another point which South enforces is that the temper with which we receive providential prevention of sin is a criterion of the gracious or ungracious condition of our hearts. "Whosoever has anything of David's piety will be perpetually plying the throne of grace with such like acknowledgments as—Blessed be that Providence which delivered me from such a lewd company or such a vicious acquaintance! And blessed be that God who cast stops and hindrances in my way when I was attempting the commission of such and such a sin; who took me out of such a course of life, such a place, or such an employment, which was a continual snare and temptation to me! And blessed be such a preacher and such a friend whom God made use of to speak a word in season to my wicked heart, and so turned me out of the paths of death and destruction, and saved me in spite of the world, the devil, and myself!"—F.