In the previous lesson, we saw David exercise great restraint when he had opportunity to kill the man who was out to kill him, King Saul. David spared the king’s life and even gave evidence of his loyalty to the sovereign. As we move into the next chapter of I Samuel, Saul is nowhere to be found but instead we meet new individuals who impact the life of David.
In verse 1 of this new chapter we are told that the prophet Samuel has died – a very significant event in the history of Israel. A rare treasure of a man, Samuel had faithfully served the Lord from his childhood. His death was keenly felt by the people, including David, but no further mention of him is made in the rest of this chapter.
Instead we are introduced to a man who about as opposite the prophet Samuel as anyone could be. Wealthy but nasty and mean, Nabal is a difficult man, very hard to get along with and unappreciative of others. When David and his men had been in the area of Nabal’s property, they were careful, according to custom, to protect Nabal’s many herds and his workers. At the time of the harvest, David sent some of his men to ask for food in return. Nabal’s response was insulting and harsh. He could care less that David and his men had been solicitous over his possessions and his shepherds. He sent them away empty-handed. (I Sam. 25:10-11)
For all of his good points, David had no patience for the ungrateful and especially if they abused his men after they had shown kindness. On receiving the report about Nabal’s behavior, he ordered his men to ‘Put on your swords.’ Four hundred of them rallied. Nabal had no idea what was coming at him!
Meanwhile, Nabal’s wife, Abigail, was intelligent, beautiful and wise. One of the servants who had overheard Nabal insulting David’s men, rushed to tell Abigail how “night and day they [David’s men] were a wall around us”. He pleaded with Abigail to do something because certain disaster would strike the household of Nabal for his rudeness and lack of kindness. “He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him!” the servant cried.
Abigail immediately went to work. She prepared food and other gifts for David and his men and hurried out to meet them before they could arrive at her home. When she saw David, she bowed low before him and asked for forgiveness for her husband. Further, she presented him with her ‘gift of thanks’ for all he and his men had done for the servants. Her words to David are intensely meaningful and demonstrate the heart of a godly woman. She was not just concerned about her own welfare and that of her household. She had a higher issue in mind. Look at what she said:
Please forgive your servant’s offense, for the LORD will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my master, because he fights the LORD’s battles. Let no wrongdoing be found in you as long as you live. Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my master will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the LORD your God. But the lives of your enemies He will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. When the LORD has done for my master every good thing He promised concerning him and has appointed him leader over Israel, my master will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the LORD has brought my master success, remember your servant. I Sam 25:28-31
David was impressed. Asking forgiveness on behalf of her husband was the shortest part of her statement. She urges David to avoid bloodshed lest it stain his soul and he bear the guilt of it over the years. She echoes the prophecy of Samuel that God has chosen David to rule Israel and assures him that the LORD his God will guard and protect him against all adversaries so that he will fulfill the destiny for which he was born. Only at the end does she request that he remember her when he ascends the throne.
Abigail could hardly be seen as self-centered. She voices more concern that the chosen of the LORD should maintain his virtue than she does about what may happen to her household.
David, for his part, recognizes immediately the wisdom of her words and agrees to spare her husband. He praises God – and Abigail – with these words:
Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me; 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. vs. 32-33
Though called to be king, David remained teachable and did not take offense at correction but quickly humbled himself to acknowledge how right she was. He accepted her gifts and sent her home in peace.
The law of sowing and reaping acted quickly with regard to Nabal. When Abigail arrived home, her husband was very drunk, partying with his friends. The next morning she told him what she had done and the scripture relates ‘his heart died within him so that he became as a stone.’ Many commentators interpret this verse to mean that he had a severe stroke and was completely paralyzed. Ten days later he died, not by David’s hand, but by the LORD’s. Far better that the LORD should fight David’s battle than he fight it himself. The same is true for us, my friends.
When David heard that Nabal had died, he understood that the LORD had dealt with Nabal. Remembering the wise woman who kept him from sinning, after the appropriate days of mourning according to Hebrew custom, David sent a message to Abigail and asked her to be his wife, a proposal she willingly accepted.
Sounds like such a happy ending, doesn’t it? Yet the very next words give us pause.
David had also married Ahinoam of Jezreel and they both were his wives. (vs. 43) Hmm…. When did that happen? We’ve been following David’s life step by step. When did he sneak in a wedding and we didn’t know about it? And doesn’t it say in Deuteronomy 17, that the kings of Israel were not to take ‘many wives’? The word in Hebrew is ‘raba’ which means to multiply, to increase to have more.
The kings were also commanded in the Torah to personally write out a copy of the Torah and have it with them at all times so that they would follow it carefully. Surely, David knew what the word of God said?
Was David’s mistake here that he interpreted a promise as a possibility? The LORD had promised David protection and favor along with the throne of Israel. He had just demonstrated His faithfulness in keeping that promise of protection over him in the conflict with Nabal. David even gave thanks for that.
But hearing that Nabal was dead and having been impressed with the kind of woman Abigail was, he apparently interpreted Nabal’s death as more than evidence of God fighting his battles for him. It became a ‘possibility’ in addition. “She’s a widow – now I can marry her,” he must have thought because that’s exactly the message he sent her.
Unfortunately the time will come when David’s heart will be led astray – the very thing that writing out a personal Torah scroll was meant to prevent. What does this tell us?
Every compromise – no matter how small it may seem – leads to another compromise and then another after that. For now, we can thank God that His mercies are new every morning, yet never make that truth an excuse for going our own way.
Compromising God’s Word is a dangerous thing to do. If we are aware of any compromising that we are doing in our day to day life, now is the time to repent and turn back to the God of David, the Holy One of Israel.