I came across this passage a few nights ago during my nightly devotional time, and it piqued my interest because of the contrast between Nabal and Abigail. Nabal was foolish, but Abigail was wise, and she led David in the way of Godly-wisdom. They were both rewarded for their wisdom in the end.
2 Now there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel; and the man was very rich, and he had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. And it came about while he was shearing his sheep in Carmel 3 (now the man’s name was Nabal, and his wife’s name was Abigail. And the woman was intelligent and beautiful in appearance, but the man was harsh and evil in his dealings, and he was a Calebite), 4 that David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep. 5 So David sent ten young men; and David said to the young men, “Go up to Carmel, visit Nabal and greet him in my name; 6 and thus you shall say, ‘Have a long life, peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have. 7 Now I have heard that you have shearers; now your shepherds have been with us and we have not insulted them, nor have they missed anything all the days they were in Carmel. 8 Ask your young men and they will tell you. Therefore let my young men find favor in your eyes, for we have come on a festive day. Please give whatever you find at hand to your servants and to your son David.’”
9 When David’s young men came, they spoke to Nabal according to all these words in David’s name; then they waited. 10 But Nabal answered David’s servants and said, “Who is David? And who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants today who are each breaking away from his master. 11 Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men whose origin I do not know?” 12 So David’s young men retraced their way and went back; and they came and told him according to all these words. 13 David said to his men, “Each of you gird on his sword.” So each man girded on his sword. And David also girded on his sword, and about four hundred men went up behind David while two hundred stayed with the baggage.
14 But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, saying, “Behold, David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master, and he scorned them. 15 Yet the men were very good to us, and we were not insulted, nor did we miss anything as long as we went about with them, while we were in the fields. 16 They were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the time we were with them tending the sheep. 17 Now therefore, know and consider what you should do, for evil is plotted against our master and against all his household; and he is such a worthless man that no one can speak to him.”
18 Then Abigail hurried and took two hundred loaves of bread and two jugs of wine and five sheep already prepared and five measures of roasted grain and a hundred clusters of raisins and two hundred cakes of figs, and loaded them on donkeys. 19 She said to her young men, “Go on before me; behold, I am coming after you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal. 20 It came about as she was riding on her donkey and coming down by the hidden part of the mountain, that behold, David and his men were coming down toward her; so she met them. 21 Now David had said, “Surely in vain I have guarded all that this man has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belonged to him; and he has returned me evil for good. 22 May God do so to the enemies of David, and more also, if by morning I leave as much as one male of any who belong to him.”
23 When Abigail saw David, she hurried and dismounted from her donkey, and fell on her face before David and bowed herself to the ground. 24 She fell at his feet and said, “On me alone, my lord, be the blame. And please let your maidservant speak to you, and listen to the words of your maidservant. 25 Please do not let my lord pay attention to this worthless man, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name and folly is with him; but I your maidservant did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent.
26 “Now therefore, my lord, as the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, since the Lord has restrained you from shedding blood, and from avenging yourself by your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek evil against my lord, be as Nabal. 27 Now let this gift which your maidservant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who accompany my lord. 28 Please forgive the transgression of your maidservant; for the Lord will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the Lord, and evil will not be found in you all your days. 29 Should anyone rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, then the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the Lord your God; but the lives of your enemies He will sling out as from the hollow of a sling. 30 And when the Lord does for my lord according to all the good that He has spoken concerning you, and appoints you ruler over Israel, 31 this will not cause grief or a troubled heart to my lord, both by having shed blood without cause and by my lord having avenged himself. When the Lord deals well with my lord, then remember your maidservant.”
32 Then David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me, 33 and blessed be your discernment, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodshed and from avenging myself by my own hand. 34 Nevertheless, as the Lord God of Israel lives, who has restrained me from harming you, unless you had come quickly to meet me, surely there would not have been left to Nabal until the morning light as much as one male.” 35 So David received from her hand what she had brought him and said to her, “Go up to your house in peace. See, I have listened to you and granted your request.”
36 Then Abigail came to Nabal, and behold, he was holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. And Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk; so she did not tell him anything at all until the morning light. 37 But in the morning, when the wine had gone out of Nabal, his wife told him these things, and his heart died within him so that he became as a stone. 38 About ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died.
David Marries Abigail
39 When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal and has kept back His servant from evil. The Lord has also returned the evildoing of Nabal on his own head.” Then David sent a proposal to Abigail, to take her as his wife. 40 When the servants of David came to Abigail at Carmel, they spoke to her, saying, “David has sent us to you to take you as his wife.” 41 She arose and bowed with her face to the ground and said, “Behold, your maidservant is a maid to wash the feet of my lord’s servants.” 42 Then Abigail quickly arose, and rode on a donkey, with her five maidens who attended her; and she followed the messengers of David and became his wife. (1 Samuel 25: 2-42)
David knew a few things about tending sheep because he was a shepherd long before he was annointed as the future king of Israel. Herding sheep was hard, tiring, and often dangerous work, because in addition to the ever-present threat from predators looking for an easy meal, marauding bands of bandits threatened both the sheep and the shepherds. They were responsible for three thousand sheep and a thousand goats, and they didn’t have tidy, nicely-fenced pastures. Carmel was a mountain, and the terrain around it was also rough and mountainous.
Imagine then, how much easier it was for the shepherd to do their job when they were protected by a battallion of battle-proven, heavily-armed soldiers who were led by an experienced shepherd. David would have known where to place squads of soldiers to best protect those wandering sheep and goats. It couldn’t get much better than that.
The annual sheep-shearing was a time of feasting and merry-making, and everyone partook of the bounty. David and his men had the right to expect to enjoy part of the bounty also…but… Nabal would have saved himself a lot of grief, not to mention having his life spared, had he gladly sent some of that feast to David and his men, but he didn’t. Nabal’s beligerant-refusal was foolish in the extreme.
We may think that David’s reaction was a bit over-the-top, but how long had it been since they had had a good meal? David and his men had been on the run from jealous king Saul for many months and they had been living off the land. David’s expectation of a reward for their service to Nabal and his shepherds wasn’t unreasonable.
Nabal even foolishly-ignored what his own men told him, but his men realized that he was a self-centered idiot, so one of them went to the only person who could do something about it, Abigail. He had seen David and his men preparing for war so he knew what was coming their way, and it wasn’t going to be pretty. Nabal and his family didn’t stand a chance against David’s army…unless.
We are told that Abigail was as smart as she was beautiful, and she knew what to do. She may not have had a large commercial-kitchen but she was used to feeding a crowd, and she had both the supplies and the staff, so they kicked preparations in high-gear. How long did it take her crew to make two hundred loaves of bread? How about killing, dressing and cooking five sheep? Some of what she took may have already been in her “pantry“, but they didn’t have refrigeration, so the sheep had to be prepared then. She also didn’t have trucks to haul everything, so she had to use pack-animals.
Imagine what was going through David’s mind as he and his army rounded a bend and were met by a string of heavily-loaded pack-animals. Who was responsible for this? He didn’t have to wait very long, because Abigail was bringing-up the rear. David was still muttering to himself about what he planned to do when Abigail came into sight.
Notice how Abigail took the blame for what Nabal had done… How many times have you taken the blame for something even when you weren’t at fault, just to keep the peace? Who else took blame that was not His own so that we might have peace with God? Jesus, who was sinless, took our sin upon Himself on the cross so that we may become righteous as He is righteous.
Notice again how Abigail speaks of God already having caused David to refrain from shedding blood, even though David’s war-party was before her. That is faith, which is seeing something as if it has already happened, even if it isn’t even on the horizon.
Did Abigail know that David had already been annointed the next king over Israel? She certainly had some prophetic-foresight, because as she blessed David, she spoke of God vanquishing his enemies, including Nabal. All she want was for David to remember her when he became king. She didn’t have to wait very long.
Notice the three-fold blessings in verses 32 and 33. David blessed God, who had sent Abigail to him. Then he blessed both Abigail and her discernment. Is discernement and wisdom a blesssing? Absolutely, and those are gifts from God which we should ask for regularly.
David then told Abigail about his nefarious plans to wipe out all the males in Nabal’s family. Why just the males? Without men, there wouldn’t be a rebellion, and without boys, there wouldn’t be a rebellion in the future. During some conquests, all girls and women who weren’t virgins were also slaughtered. The virgins could be taken as “trophy-wives“, servants or sex-slaves. Warfare and conquest were brutal. Where do we see that kind of brutality today?
David accepted Abigail’s gift and sent her home in peace.
Abigail very-wisely waited until Nabal was stone-cold-sober before she broke the news to him about the disaster she had averted. That news must have hit him like a ton of bricks, because as arrogant as he was, he realized that his meager crew of herdsmen and shearers were no match for a well-trained and heavily-armed army. He had a heart-attack, and God let him linger for ten days before finishing him off. God had taken vengance on Nabal, sparing David and his men from having blood on their hands.
When someone says or does something which makes us madder than a hornet, before we start thinking about what we would like to do to them, we need to heed the admonition of the Apostle Paul, who said: 17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:17-19) God is the ultimate judge, and His judegement is always fair and right.
We are not told who took the word to David that Nabal was dead, but he gave thanks to God for avenging the wrong which Nabal had done. He also sent a proposal to Abigail, which she, in her usual meekness and humility, gladly accepted. Abigail became David’s wife. Did they celebrate there in the wilderness? It certainly was an event worth celebrating.
Abigail was a very-wise woman and one of the unsung heroes of faith. Would we have been that wise?