1 Samuel 25
David, Nabal and Abigail (25:1–44)
1–3 The writer opens the chapter by mentioning the death of Samuel, Israel’s one true, godly leader during this period; all Israel mourned for him (verse 1).
Then the writer introduces us to two new characters: Nabal, a wealthy Calebite,94 who was surly and mean; and his wife Abigail, who was intelligent and beautiful (verse3).
4–11 It so happened that Nabal grazed his livestock in the semi-desert area where David and his men were staying, and David’s men had been protecting Nabal’s shepherds and animals from raiding parties (verses 15–16,21). It was customary for livestock owners to reward those who were providing such protection; therefore, David sent ten of his men to Nabal to request whatever provisions he could give them (verse 8).
Nabal spoke rudely to David’s men. He suggested that they might be runaway servants breaking away from their master; how could he tell who they were or who their supposed master was? Why should he give anything to such unknown people? (verses 10–11).
12–13 When David learned of Nabal’s response, he was rightly upset. However, he wrongly decided to take revenge on Nabal for his rude behavior. Taking four hundred of his men, David set out with the intention of killing every male in Nabal’s household (verses 13,21–22).
14–19 But one of Nabal’s servants told Abigail what had happened and warned her that disaster was hanging over her entire household because of Nabal’s wicked behavior (verse 17).
So Abigail took matters into her own hands. Without telling her husband, she loaded a large amount of provisions onto donkeys and headed out to intercept David before he could carry out his murderous intentions (verses 18–19).
20–25 Abigail encountered David just as he was invoking a curse upon himself if he left any male alive belonging to Nabal (verse 22). And here was Abigail, the defenseless wife, approaching four hundred armed and angry men on their way to destroy her household. She knew she had to act fast if she was going to change David’s mind. She got off her donkey and bowed before David. She first apologized for her husband’s wicked and foolish95 behavior; then she assured David that she herself was innocent of wrongdoing, because she had not even seen the ten men whom David had sent earlier (verse 25).
26–31 Then Abigail truly demonstrated her intelligence. Continuing to refer to David as “my master,” she implied that, through her, the Lord had kept David from committing bloodshed, from taking vengeance into his own hands (verse 26) in violation of God’s command (Deuteronomy 32:35). She was certain that David would soon be king and found a lasting dynasty; because David fought the LORD’s battles, he was sure to enjoy the Lord’s favor (verse 28). Therefore, Abigail urged David not to let any wrongdoing be found in him, lest he lose that favor. Even if someone wronged him or threatened him, David would never need to take revenge, because he was protected by the Lord—he was bound securely in the bundle of the living (verse 29). Since David was soon to be king, let him not have on his conscience the burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself (verse 31). And also, Abigail added, let David remember his servant—herself.
32–35 David did indeed remember Abigail: he later married her! (verses 40–42). David immediately recognized that the Lord Himself had sent Abigail to keep him from committing a terrible sin and compromising his integrity as a leader and future king (verse 32). He accepted her gift of provisions and assured her he would not harm anyone in her family (verse 35).
36–38 When Abigail told Nabal what had happened between her and David, he became like a stone—petrified (verse 37). He had brought upon himself the enmity of Israel’s future king; and he had barely escaped with his life—thanks to his wife! But he wasn’t to escape with his life for long. Ten days later the Lord brought judgment upon Nabal for his wickedness (verse 38).
39–44 When David learned of Nabal’s death, he praised God for upholding his cause; God not only had punished Nabal as he deserved, but He had also kept David from doing wrong (verse 39).
With Nabal dead, David was now free to marry Abigail, which he did without delay.96 She became his second wife, for he had already married Ahinoam (verse 43). But even before that, David had been married to Saul’s daughter, Michal (1 Samuel 18:26–27). However, when David became a fugitive, Saul gave Michal in marriage to another man (verse 44); Saul wanted David to have no part in his family. In particular, Saul wanted to remove from David any claim to the throne he might have as the king’s son-in-law.
The story of Abigail and David illustrates some important principles of conduct that remain valid for us today. As we go through life, we all experience times when we are the cause of hurt to others. If we, either directly or indirectly, have hurt others, we need to follow Abigail’s example. First, she acknowledged that wrong had been done to David and she was ready to take the blame for it (verse 24)—though she herself was innocent. Second, she made right the wrong by presenting David with the provisions her husband should have provided in the first place. Third, she asked forgiveness (verse 28). If we will do these three things when we have wronged another person, we will have obeyed God and, in addition, will likely turn that person into a friend.
How about the times we ourselves are hurt? We need to put those who hurt us into God’s hands, like David belatedly did in Nabal’s case. We must never take revenge (Romans 12:17–19); rather, we must forgive (see Matthew 5:43–44; 6:12,14–15).