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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

1 Samuel 25

Verses 1-9

First Samuel - Chapter 25

David in Maon, vs. 1-9

The first thing to be noted is the death of Samuel. His funeral was attended by large numbers of the Israelites, from all over the land. He had been their prophet, judge, and leader for many years, perhaps as many as eighty years. For a long time he had been their unchallenged judge and had continued as their advisor almost through the reign of Saul, which lasted forty years (Acts 13:21). He had taught their young prophets and anointed their kings. Though he had been set aside by the majority for a king, he was still revered and respected. He was buried at Ramah, his ancestral home (1 Samuel 1:1).

Upon the death of Samuel David removed from the central area of Judah far to the south to the wilderness of Paran. This may have been because he felt less secure without Samuel to support him, or he may have felt that without the restraint of the old prophet Saul would resume his pursuit more vigorously. Paran was that broad desert area reaching from the wilderness of Sin around Mount Sinai northward to encroach the southern areas of the tribe of Simeon south of Ziph. It was the farthest south David had yet ventured in his flight.

The particular area of Paran where David and his men now found themselves was Carmel. Carmel lay about midway between Beer­sheba and En-gedi in the wilderness of Judah, or Jeshimon. It was the grazing lands of a rich man of Judah named Nabal, a descendant of Caleb. Nabal lived in Maon, which was close by. His wealth consisted of sheep and goats, which numbered in the thousands.

Nabal is introduced as a churlish (or foolish) and wicked man, though his wife, Abigail, was noted for her wisdom and great. beauty. David had become associated with the man’s shepherds while they were keeping the flocks in Carmel where he was. He had not taken any of their animal for food, but had protected them from others (see verse 16), and Nabal’s shepherds liked David.

At the time of the sheepshearing in Carmel, when there was much slaughtering of the fat young lambs and kids, David decided to request something from Nabal in return for his considerate treatment of him previously. He stint ten young men with a courteous request to Nabal at the sheepshearing. They began by expressing a desire of peace upon Nabal, his house, and all he had. They then rehearsed how David had been with Nabal’s men in the wilder­ness, affording them the protection of his men, and taking nothing in return. Now he had sent to Nabal to request something in return, whatever the man was willing to give. And so they presented David’s words to Nabal.

Verses 10-17

David Insulted, vs. 10-17

Nabal at once demonstrated his churlishness and began to mock and ridicule David to his men. He reminds one somewhat of Saul in his degrading of David. "Who is David? who is the son of Jesse?" another slur against David’s humble upbringing, for is certain he knew who David was and what had been foretold of him (see verse 30). It further showed his stinginess and lack of appreciation of what David had done for him. He thus refused to give David a gift from the festivities commonly provided and enjoyed at times of sheepshearing. He disclaimed any knowledge of who these ten fellows were.

The men returned to David and reported to him the answer of Nabal. The insult aroused in David great anger and a desire to avenge himself on the rich old fellow. David called together his men and had them arm themselves with their swords, and he put on his own sword as well, with the purpose of going against the house of Nabal. David’s force consisted of six hundred men, four hundred being armed for the battle, and two hundred left behind to guard their stuff.

Meantime one of Nabal’s men, having heard and seen what took place between the men of David and their master, was so alarmed at the prospect this raised of David’s coming vengefully upon them that he went to the wise Abigail. He told Abigail how David’s men came courteously to Nabal, and how he had ridiculed and mocked them in return. He further informed his mistress how good David had been to them while they were associated in the wilderness, protecting them and taking nothing in return. Lastly, he warned her to be aware that David is not likely to allow this insult to pass without revenge, urging her to take steps to countermand David.

Verses 18-31

Abigail Intercedes, vs. 18-31

The wise Abigail immediately took the problem in hand and made up a rich present for David’s men. She loaded asses with bread, wine, dressed sheep, parched grain, raisin clusters, and cakes of figs and set out with the servant to intercept David before his army could destroy them. The matter was urgent, and she did not tell Nabal who would doubtless have opposed it. As she came around one side of the mountain she met David coming round the other toward her.

David’s intent is now fully revealed. His feeling was that all he had done for Nabal was not only unappreciated, but shamefully belittled. In David’s anger he felt justified in destroying the fellow and confiscating the goods of the ungrateful wretch. So he had sworn to leave no male member of his household alive by the morning light. This is the resentful person with whom Abigail now came face to face, and she must pacify him or lose all.

The wisdom of Abigail appears at once. She begins with great humility, getting down from her donkey and bowing herself in deference and honor before David. She fell down at David’s feet and took the blame for the insult made to him by her husband, Nabal. She made some very significant points in her plea to David which emphasize a great lesson for all God’s children in any age.

First, Abigail called on David to consider the person against whom he is so understandably incensed. He is a man of Belial, of worthless character. His name is Nabal, from the Hebrew word "fool", and that is what he is. His life had been characterized by deeds of folly. How beneath David, God’s anointed king of Israel, to massacre the house of a fool.

Second, David should consider that to this point of his long flight from Saul he had not been compelled to shed the blood of any of the people of Israel. In this sense God had kept him in the goodwill, at least of most of the people, of Israel. All of those who opposed David were foolish like Nabal, as it was obvious that God was blessing and aiding the establishment of David.

Third, David had sent to Nabal for provisions and share in the feasting of Nabal’s shearers. Abigail had brought an abundance of good things as a present to them, so that they no longer had, an excuse from that standpoint for attacking the camp of Nabal.

Fourth, though Saul had risen up to pursue .and attempt to interfere with David’s becoming the ruler of Israel, it was apparent to all those wise like Abigail that he would not succeed. David had fought for the Lord’s honor and his life was bound up in the life of the Lord his God. In other words, the Lord had preserved David, and he could not be destroyed, although his enemies would be destroyed when God slings them out of His sling.

Finally, when the time came that David would ascend the throne of Israel as God had promised, if he withdrew from this undertaking he was now on, there would be no blot on his career. Abigail was advising David that should he persist in the rashness of anger to shed blood for no cause, taking vengeance for himself instead of leaving it to God, he would bring himself a lifetime of regret. David was about to commit the very thing against Nabal which he had shortly before refused to commit with reference to Saul. David is asked to consider the seriousness of what he is about to do.

As a postscript to her speech Abigail asked David, when the Lord has brought to pass vengeance on the behalf of David, to remember her, his handmaid. Abigail here endeared herself to David, for she did, indeed, give him very worthy and sage advice, (Philippians 4:13; Philippians 4:19; Hebrews 13:5).

Verses 32-35

David Responds, vs. 32-35

David was fully convinced of the wisdom of Abigail’s words, and he blessed the Lord God of Israel for sending her to meet him. He also uttered blessing on her advice and on her, for it was this which had kept David from a serious mistake. He would surely have shed the blood of Nabal’s house and got vengeance for himself without seeking the will of the Lord had she not come to him first. David swore to Abigail that he would surely have exterminated the house of Nabal without her intervention.

David received the fine gift of provisions which Abigail had brought and bade her return to her house in peace, for he had accepted her advice and her person.

Verses 36-44

Death of Nobel, vs. 36-44

Abigail returned from her .successful appeasement of David and found her husband living up to his name. He had thrown a great feast like a king and got himself quite drunk. Therefore Abigail did not tell him how near he had been to death during his party. Next morning, however, she did tell him, and he was so shocked that he suffered a paralyzing stroke. He lived for ten days and died.

The Scriptures record that the Lord smote Nabal, and when David heard that he had died he recognized that it was the stroke of the Lord which killed Nabal. He exclaimed, "Blessed be the Lord," for he now knew that it is the Lord alone who has the right to revenge. Nabal was guilty of reproach against David, and the Lord had judged and avenged David for that, while bringing the evil results of Nabal’s debauchery and licentiousness on his head. David also realized that the Lord had kept him from wrongdoing by the intervention of Abigail, and blessed Him for it.

David now sent his servants with a proposal to Abigail to become his wife. She received the proposal very humbly, bowing before the servants and expressed herself as being willing to become the handmaid and servant of David, if no more than to do the lowly task of washing the feet of David’s servants. So she took five of her damsels, rode on a donkey, and hastily came to David’s camp. And so she became David’s wife. David had also married a girl from Jezreel at some time, whose name was Ahinoam, who became the mother of his eldest son (2 Samuel 3:2). Her home town, Jezreel, was in the north of Israel, in the tribe of Issachar. David’s first wife, Michal, had been married by Saul to a man named Phalti, of Gallim, a Benjamite town, north of Jerusalem.

Significant lessons: 1) Those who are objects of good deeds ought to be willing to return favors when opportunity affords it; 2) death of the godly calls for the respect of those who survive them; 3) evil persons usually react according to their sinful character; 4) it is never wise to respond to insult in the heat of anger; 5) those who advise caution and save another from foolish actions are worthy great blessing and thankfulness; 6) God will always bring just retribution and vengeance on the guilty and does not need the sword of men to do it; 7) it is good when one is able to review events and acknowledge the hand of God in them.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 25". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/1-samuel-25.html. 1985.