• The Bible Studies for Life lesson for Nov. 10 focuses on 1 Samuel 25.
Jesus introduced the parable of the rich fool with the warning that “life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15). Perhaps Jesus had Nabal in mind. Nabal was “very wealthy,” and owned over 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats. Nabal’s name also was particularly fitting. Not only was he a “surly and mean” man, he also was foolish (1 Samuel 25:2-3). “Nabal” means “fool” in Hebrew.
It was shearing time, and Nabal was celebrating a successful year. Nabal’s success wasn’t due entirely to his hard work, however. It was rare for shepherds to get through the year without some losses. Not only were wild animals roaming the area looking for an easy meal, but two-legged predators also could seize sheep and shepherds.
The Philistines made frequent forays into Israel’s borders, taking plunder along the way. Fortunately for Nabal, David and his men were staying in the area. David did not permit his men to supplement their income and rations with provisions seized from civilians. Instead, David and his men protected Nabal’s sheep and shepherds, forming a “wall” about them so they didn’t “miss anything” throughout the grazing season (1 Samuel 25:15-16).
When shearing time came, David sent a group of 10 men to Nabal, asking him to return the favor. It wasn’t a Mafia-style ”pay me for your protection” threat. David’s message was the portrait of courtesy, simply asking Nabal to give “whatever you find at hand.” At times of harvest and shearing, it was customary for the landowner to share his profits with his servants. David wanted Nabal to remember him and his men as well.
The foolish Nabal did not respond well to David’s polite request. There is little doubt Nabal knew exactly who David was—certainly his wife did. But instead of treating David with the honor he was due, Nabal chose to insult David, implying he and his men were nothing more than runaway slaves not worthy of sharing in Nabal’s profit (1 Samuel 25:10). When David’s men reported this discourteous treatment, David told his men to get their swords (1 Samuel 25:13).
Fortunately for Nabal, he was married to a woman as wise as he was foolish. One of Nabal’s servants recognized the impending disaster and ran to tell Abigail. Abigail quickly recognized the danger and responded with decisive action. She loaded provisions on donkeys and set off for the mountains.
It was a risky action. Abigail was rendering aid to a man her husband had declared an enemy. Though she might spare David’s wrath on the household, Abigail could have brought the wrath of her “surly and mean” husband on herself. It was a risk she was willing to take.
As Abigail rode her donkey through the mountains, she intercepted David and his men. Her speech was carefully calculated to turn aside David’s wrath. Though she was not at fault, Abigail willingly took the blame on herself. She acknowledged Nabal’s foolish and worthless behavior and gently reminded David of his own identity.
David was the Lord’s anointed, the future king of Israel. He did not need to avenge his honor; God would protect David and cast away his enemies like stones from a sling. Abigail reminded David of a future day when he would be king. On that day, David would not want to bear the burden of having shed innocent blood.
Recognized God was speaking
David recognized God was speaking to him through Abigail and blessed her: “May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands” (1 Samuel 25:33). David acknowledged what Abigail already knew. If she had not intervened, neither Nabal nor any of his men would have been left alive by morning. David accepted Abigail’s gift and bid her to depart in peace.
God dealt with Nabal. When Abigail returned home that evening, Nabal was feasting like a king and was “very drunk.” Abigail waited. The next morning, Abigail reported everything that had happened to Nabal. It was too much for Nabal. Instantly, “his heart failed him, and he became like a stone.” Ten days later he died (1 Samuel 25:36-38).
When David heard the news, he praised God because “he has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head” (1 Samuel 25:39). David sent his men with a proposal for Abigail, and she became his wife. Nabal treated David with contempt and refused his men their fair share of his profit. In his death, God delivered Nabal’s wife and all his possessions to David.
Like Abigail, we need wisdom in times of conflict. There are times it is better for us to not get involved, but sometimes wisdom dictates taking action. What are the costs to innocent people if we do not intervene? Will remaining silent allow a godly man or woman to do something they will later regret? How do the short-term risks of speaking out compare to the long-term cost of silence?
Abigail allowed God to use her to save lives and prevent David from an act of vengeance. There may be times when God calls us to similar actions. When God calls you to speak, will you be willing?