As we open up the Bible let me remind you: this is God’s revelation, His Word to us: it’s about who He is, who we are, what’s wrong with the world, what He’s done, what He’s doing, and what He will do to fix it, what we’re waiting for, what we should be doing in the meantime, and what the point of the whole thing is. You will be challenged, you will be convicted, but you’ll also be consoled and comforted. It swiftly accomplishes within us what God intends, and it is a hammer that can break the hardest of stony hearts. Let’s pray God would do these things now.
1 Samuel 25 is a short break from the drama we’ve seen unfolding between David and Saul. In this short break 5 things take place. First, we meet a man named Nabal and his wife Abigail. Second, Nabal provokes David. Third, Abigail convinces David to not take revenge. Fourth, Nabal dies. And fifth, David takes Abigail as his wife. These things as a whole show us the glory of God’s interrupting grace, so to see this let’s examine these five things as they come to us in the text.
The Introductions (v1-3)
After hearing of Samuel’s death and funeral held in Samuel’s hometown of Ramah, we read that David went to the wilderness of Paran. Then in v2 we’re introduced to a man from Maon and the first thing we hear about him isn’t his name, but that he has a business in Carmel. And this business has apparently made him very rich and gave him many possessions. In fact we’re told of these possessions next: he had 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats, and at the moment he is taking are of his possessions in Carmel. Then, after a careful description of his career and his wealth we get his name, Nabal. Walter Bruggemann, in his commentary on 1 and 2 Samuel states the following about this introduction, “This way of introducing Nabal is precisely on target, because Nabal’s possessions precede his own person. His life is determined by his property…only after being told of his riches are we told his name.” This is such an astute observation because the Hebrew word Nabal means ‘fool.’ Moments like this in Scripture make us pause and ask ‘Why would any parent give their child such a name?’ This is a legitimate question, and I’m afraid I don’t have many answers for you. I’d like to think that it’s unlikely his parents would’ve intentionally given him such a name, I’d also like to think his name has more ties to an ancient Arabic word similar to Nabal which means noble…but we don’t know for sure. What we do know is that by detailing all of his possessions before telling us his person shows us what this person is really like. He is a fool, and as the events in this chapter play out, we’ll see it clearly. Ironically in the very next breath we learn of Nabal’s truly ‘better half,’ his wife Abigail. Unlike her husband, she is discerning and beautiful. She is everything Nabal is not. However these two got married, we know for certain that Nabal married up.
Now that the introductions are over, let’s move onto v4-13 where we see Nabal provoking David.
The Provoking (v4-13)
Here is the situation before us. We learn in v7 that for a certain amount of time some of Nabal’s workers were with David and his men, and while they were there with them they were not harmed, they were cared for, and they didn’t lack anything. So when David learns Nabal is near he sends 10 young men of his and asks Nabal to return the favor and to take care of himself and his men as they pass through. In the 10 young men leave to greet Nabal in David’s name and told them all David had said. Up to this point we don’t think anything is strange with David’s request. A wealthy man like Nabal would’ve been easily able to care for David and his men. And in light of what David did in caring for his own workers, you’d think Nabal would welcome an opportunity to show his thankfulness. But he doesn’t. In v10-11 Nabal answers, and his answer isn’t merely a no, it’s a shocking and deplorable no. In v10-11 Nabal basically calls David a nobody saying ‘Who is David?’ ‘Who is the son of Jesse?’ According to Nabal there are many runaway slaves like David and his men who don’t deserve to drink his water, or eat his food. When these 10 young men left Nabal to come back and relay all this to David, you can imagine the utter disrespect David felt. He was deeply angered and according to David, there is only one way to deal with such a fool. In v13 there is one word repeated three times for emphasis ‘sword.’ Here come 400 men with swords strapped tight, ready to end the disrespect of Nabal.
Before we see how Abigail prevents David from doing this, pause for a moment. What was it about Nabal’s disrespect that got underneath David’s skin? Why was David angered so deeply? I think it was pride. I say it was pride for a two reasons. First, David’s immediate response wasn’t prayer it was war. This tells us that David’s acting solely on male impulse. He feels deeply disrespected, and he instantly wants to prove himself to be someone you do not mess with, that he isn’t someone who can be treated poorly, that he isn’t someone you can cross without consequences. Second, I think it was pride because of his history. Think of all he’s been through leading up to chapter 24. Saul has tried to kill him, chased him out of town, chased him out of the country, and chased him around the country. But at the end of chapter 24 David heard it from Saul’s mouth himself – ‘you shall be king.’ After experiencing the trials David has, after having your enemy admit defeat and acknowledge that you’ll be king one day can quickly go to ones head. So much so that the very next time he’s wronged (here in our chapter) David goes nuts! It’s as if David says with his actions, ‘Who does this guy think he is? I’m going to be king? He can’t talk to me like this? I’m the favored one of Israel, I will silence this fool!’ See this: pride is destructive…but wounded pride is catastrophic.
I’ve struggled with this. When those moments come when people get angry at me or begin criticizing me for something I’ve said or done…I feel my pride rise up. Now, sometimes these critiques are way off, but other times they’re right on the money and it would do me good to heed their rebuke. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has struggled with this here. It’s in these moments when we’re disrespected we feel the immediate knee jerk reaction of our hearts telling us to promptly act to show ourselves to be someone who cannot be crossed. It’s quick and it’s ugly. Let’s ask our question again: why was David angered so deeply from Nabal’s disrespect? Wounded pride. Therefore the quick call to arms in v13 is really the outward evidence of David’s inner struggle of not being respected. The difference between Saul and David couldn’t have been more contrasting in chapter 24. But here in chapter 25 the parallels between Saul and David couldn’t be more similar. In chapter 24 David acts as the restrainer by not allowing anyone to kill Saul, but in chapter 25 God has to restrain David from killing Nabal. God is about to do something very gracious for David. He’s about to interrupt his prideful plans.
The Interruption (v14-35)
As David and 400 of his men have their swords by their side heading out to meet Nabal an unnamed messenger hurries to tell Nabal’s wife Abigail how Nabal has provoked David. In v14-17 we find out that this messenger was one of Nabal’s men with David and his men. We know this because he gives a first hand account of what it was like to be with David. He says in v15 that they were good to us, that we suffered no harm, and that we did not miss anything while we were with them. He then says in v16 that they protected us day and night. Because of how well he and his fellow workers were treated by David, and how poorly David’s men were treated by Nabal, the messenger is gravely concerned. Part of his concern is that he can’t go to Nabal and tell him this, because he’s a worthless man, so he tells all of his concern to his discerning and beautiful wife. Abigail hears this news, is equally concerned, and gets busy piling up food. She gets 200 loaves, 2 skins of wine, 2 sheep, grain, raisins, and 200 fig cakes and loaded them all on donkeys and sends it all out before her without telling Nabal a thing.
Abigail headed out to interrupt David, she saw him and his men in v20, then in v21-22 we hear more of what David had originally told his men back in v13 to stir them up to strap on their swords, and in v23 she jumps off her horse and bows down before David. Then the largest portion of dialogue given to us in chapter 25 begins, and it’s between Abigail and David. It’s in this largest portion of dialogue where we find our main point – the glory of God’s interrupting grace. Abigail speaks first in v24-31, and David follows in v32-35.
Abigail’s plea is marked with humility. Even though she didn’t know of this incident when it happened (recall she heard about it from the unnamed messenger in v14) she requests the guilt for her husband’s foolish actions be on her, basically telling David that if he’s going to kill anyone it should be her. She has kind words for David in v27-29, but before and after those kind words she also has sharp words for him in v26 and v30-31 and it’s in these sharp words where we find the substance of her plea. She says in v26, “Now then, my lord, as the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, because the LORD has restrained you from bloodguilt and from saving with your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek to do evil to my lord be as Nabal.” And in v30-31 she says, “And when the LORD has done to my lord according to all the good that He has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel, my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for my lord working salvation himself. And when the LORD has dealt well with my lord, then remember your servant.”
Abigail, as we’ve seen here, is very discerning. She kindly rebukes David by calling his intended actions against Nabal ‘bloodguilt’ and ‘saving by his own hand’ and that if David does go through with it he’ll have grief and pangs of conscience to deal with knowing he has worked salvation for himself and shed blood without cause. These aren’t things David wants to have, so David responds to Abigail’s humility with humility of his own, and he accepts what she is saying. His response is gracious. He praises God for sending her in v32, he praises her for her discretion and thanks her for saving him from working his own salvation in v33, and then in v34 David says it. His conclusion from the whole matter is that Abigail has been used by God to ‘restrain him.’ God, through Abigail interrupted the folly of Nabal provoking David and the folly of David wanting to kill Nabal for provoking him. Her actions technically save both men from disaster they don’t want. Hans Hertzberg in his commentary in 1-2 Samuel draws a helpful parallel between this present incident and the previous incident in chapter 24 in the cave saying this, “Through Abigail, the Lord saved David from a danger different from that in the cave with Saul, but none the less great. It consists in the possibility that David may take matters into his own hand and thus make himself master of his fate.” Praise God for His interrupting grace. He knows better than Nabal does, He knows better than David does, and through Abigail He restrains them both. They both were acting as masters of their fate and God wouldn’t let them continue with such idolatry. He alone is Lord.
Marvel at the glory of God’s interrupting grace in your own life. Hindsight is always 20/20 and all of us can look back at recall those times when God has rescued us from our own stupidity, restrained us from executing sinful plans, and interrupted us in our own Nabal-like or David-like folly. Whether those foolish things done are small or large as you look back and recognize those moments in your life when God has done this, can you see His warm hands constructing roadblocks? Can you see His gracious mercy frustrating our designs? Can you see His kindness building barriers in our path? Can you see that when Romans 8:28 says God works all things for our good, sometimes that means God works against us for our good if we decide to do something that will harm us? I wonder if you can see God’s love in these moments? God loves us too much to let us wander too far, He always brings His people back. He always leads us well.
Let’s see how this chapter ends.
The Death and Marriage (v36-44)
David accepts Abigail’s provisions for himself and his men, thanks her once again, and Abigail goes home to see Nabal being Nabal. He’s too drunk to speak with, so in the morning when he gets up she tells him what took place the previous day and he’s so traumatized that he went comatose…and died 10 days later when the Lord struck him.
David hears this news and does two things: first he rejoices and thanks God for keeping him from doing wrong and for bringing about proper justice in His perfect timing. Second, he knows quality when he sees it and he sends his servants to take Abigail as his wife, which of course v40-42 shows that she was very pleased to do so.
You know, in seeing David (the soon to be king) get interrupted by God shows us something of the wonder and divinity of the true King to come, Jesus Christ. God never had to restrain, block, frustrate, or interrupt Jesus’ designs, intentions, or plans. True He is from the line of David, He is human like David, He’s a king like David, but the one way in which Jesus differs from David, indeed the one way in which Jesus differs from all men, is that He never sinned and never needed interrupting. Because of this, Jesus is truly the only One who can ever be trusted with the throne. David wanted to kill to protect the honor of the kingdom of Israel, Jesus was willing to be killed to protect and secure the Kingdom of God. David heard another assurance and promise that he would be king one day in the midst of Abigail’s rebuke, and we too, once we turn from our sinful ways toward Christ in faith as He is offered to us in the gospel we receive the assurance and promise of eternal life.
I’m not going to give three-five closing points about how to apply this in your everyday life, but I will give you one thing to do in light of this text today. Sometimes the most fitting application is simply, praise God. That’s what David does in v39, he praises God for His interrupting grace…so let’s do that now.