First Samuel 25 opens with the death of Samuel. It is somewhat surprising that we have one sentence to record the death of Samuel. But this is the passing of the torch from the prophet who anointed to the one who is the anointed, David. You will notice that with the death of Samuel, David returns to the wilderness. The wilderness of Paran is where Israel wandered as well (Numbers 10-13). But the key is to see that the anointed must return to the wilderness for another temptation.
With David in the wilderness we are introduced to two people in verses 2-3. There is a very rich man who lives here. He has 3000 sheep and 1000 goats and he is shearing his sheep. Shearing sheep was a time of abundance, celebration, and gladness. He is also a Calebite which means he is part of a clan with great prominence. But then we are told his name: Nabal. Nabal in Hebrew means fool and we are told that he appears to be accurately named. He was harsh and badly behaved (ESV). His wife is described as the opposite. Her name is Abigail and her name means “my father is delighted.” She is discerning and beautiful.
When David hears that Nabal was shearing his sheep, he sends 10 young men to him. They are to pronounce a blessing on Nabal (25:6) and note how his men had protected Nabal’s flock the whole time they were at Carmel. Since it is a feast day, we ask Nabal to show us favor by giving us whatever you think it best (25:7-8). So David’s ten men come to Nabal with the message. Nabal’s response is given in verses 10-11. “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse?” Nabal knows who David is. Remember that all of Israel knows who David is. Nabal is mocking David. David is a nobody. In fact, Nabal uses the same derogatory term for David that Saul and Doeg have been using: son of Jesse. Who is this guy? Nabal continues by saying that there are many runaway servants these days. David is nothing more than a runaway slave with a handful of worthless followers. Why should he give his bread, his water, and his meat and give it to a bunch of nobodies? Nabal’s response is laced with insult upon insult. As the text told us, Nabal is a harsh, evil, and badly behaved person. He shows these characteristics now to David’s men.
David’s men return and tell David all that Nabal said (25:12). David tells his men to strap on their swords. David came offering peace, repeated three times (25:6). Now David will come with a sword, repeated three times (25:13). But one of Nabal’s young men ran and told Abigail all that Nabal did. The young man explains to Abigail that David’s men have been very good to them, protected them, and they did not lose anything so long as they were with David’s men. They helped keep all of Nabal’s sheep (25:16). But our master hurled insults at David and his men (25:14). So Abigail, you need to do something fast because disaster is coming to our master and his house. Listen to the end of verse 17. “He is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him.” This is quite a quality that he possesses. Stop for a moment and think about if this is true about you. Can no one tell you anything? Are you always right? Can you not learn from other people or listen to what they are saying to you about what you say and do? We do not want to be like Nabal.
Abigail now quickly acts. She gathers quite a load of food and loads it donkeys. She tells her servants to go on ahead and she will follow behind. She did not tell Nabal what she was doing. Verses 21-22 reveal that the servant was right about the disaster that was about to happen. Because David had received evil for the good he had done for Nabal, he has determined to kill every male in Nabal’s house. Now what David says is frightening because he is talking like Saul. He thinking like Saul. Saul determined to kill the priest Ahimelech and all his house. David is going to kill Nabal and all his house.
Abigail comes to David and makes intercession. She falls down before David and pleads with him. She says that this guilt should be on me and not by husband. Do not pay attention to what this worthless fellow, Nabal, has said and done. He lives up to his name and folly is with him. Further, the Lord has restrained you from shedding blood and avenging yourself with your own hands. Please forgive the sin of your servant. The Lord will make you a lasting dynasty because you fight the Lord’s battles. Evil shall not be found in you so long as you live. If people seek your life, you will be protected by the Lord and the Lord will fling away your enemies like stones shot from a sling. The Lord is going to fulfill every good word he has promised to you. You have been appointed as prince over Israel and you should not have the guilt of shedding blood or avenging yourself. When the Lord has dealt well with you, remember me who is also your servant. What a staggering and thoughtful response from Abigail! She courageously proclaims God’s word to David and David listens.
David responds in verses 32-34. He proclaims a blessing on the Lord for sending Abigail to him to keep him from shedding blood and avenging himself. If Abigail had not come to meet him, then he would have wiped out Nabal’s house. David tells Abigail to go home in peace. He has heard her words and granted her request. When Abigail returns, she finds Nabal feasting like a king and very drunk (25:36). So she waits to tell him what happened until the morning. When Nabal was sober, she told him everything and his heart died within him. Then about ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died. When David hears the Nabal has died, he sees this as the hand of the Lord. The Lord has avenged the insult and has returned the evil Nabal had done back on his own head.
But with all of this joy comes an ominous ending. David marries Abigail after Nabal dies (25:42). Further, David marries Ahinoam and both became his wives (25:43). We are reminded that David was already married to Michal (25:44). God gave a command against the kings of Israel from doing this. They were not to take multiple wives for themselves (Deuteronomy 17:17). But David does. So we are seeing a shadow that, though David is the anointed, he is not going to be the final solution.
Pictures of the Anointed
As we have seen throughout our look at David, God continues to reveals pictures of the salvation he will bring through his anointed when Jesus comes. Let’s consider some of those pictures. First, the anointed will be in the wilderness and will be tempted to sin. He will be tempted to act for his own name and for his own glory. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, one of the temptations was for Jesus to throw himself off of the pinnacle of the temple so that the angels will lift him up (Matthew 4:6; Luke 4:10-11). The temple was 150 feet high. This certainly would have shown Jesus to be the anointed before all of the people who were at the temple. Jump and let the angels carry you up into the air so you are not harmed. Act for your own name and show your glory. But Jesus rejects this temptation.
Second, many pictures of the anointed are found in Abigail’s speech. Her speech is amazing and theologically rich. Listen to what she says about David which gives us pictures of what Jesus will do. The anointed will forgive sins (25:28). The Lord will make a lasting dynasty for his anointed (25:28). The anointed will fight the Lord’s battles (25:28). No evil or wrongdoing will be found in the anointed (25:28). The Lord will protect the anointed from his enemies and hurl his enemies away (25:29). The Lord will fulfill every good word spoken about the anointed and appoint him ruler over Israel (25:30). The anointed will not personally avenge himself for the evil done against him (25:31). The Lord will vindicate the anointed later by judging his enemies (25:39).
So what are some of the important messages we learn from this chapter? First, we see the sins when we are thinking about ourselves. Thinking about me is sin and causes great harm. We see Nabal thinking about himself. He speaks about his bread, his water, his meat that he killed for his shearers (25:11). Nabal does not see any of what he has as coming from God. It is all his. You will notice that David starts going down the road toward sin because he has the same thinking. Look at verse 21. David cannot believe that this man would talk to him in this way. David thinks he should get what he deserves for what he has done for Nabal. David is thinking about the wrong he has sustained. Sin comes from thinking about me. We need to hear this truth because it is the cause of so many life problems. Stop thinking about me. Stop acting from what people have done to me. Stop seeing that all we have is mine. Stop thinking that there are certain things that I deserve. We commit so many sins because we are just thinking about ourselves.
Second, we see a contrast to thinking about ourselves in the life of Abigail. Abigail is an amazing person as we read about her. She is the only person not thinking about themselves. We see her act for her husband’s good though he does not deserve it. Nabal is a fool. But she does not sit back and let him experience the consequences that he rightly deserved. She acts for his good. She does good by him. No one disputes that Nabal is a fool. The servant says it to Abigail (25:17). Abigail says it to David (25:25). But that does not stop her from doing good by him. Further, she does good to David though he does not deserve it at this moment. David is thinking about himself and how he has been wronged. But she does good by him, talking him out of the foolish direction he is about to go. Abigail does what is right because it is right. Abigail does good because that is the right thing to do. She is not acting for her own good but for the good of others. This is exactly what the apostle Paul taught to the Christians in Philippi.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3–4 ESV)
Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth who noted how those Christians were suing each other and taking each other to court. Paul’s response was that they should just be wronged and defrauded that sue another Christian (1 Corinthians 6:7). They were responding by doing wrong to the wrong they were receiving. I want us to think about this. Someone has to stop the evil spiral. If you do wrong when someone does wrong to you, you are just perpetuating the evil cycle. You have to be the one to stop the cycle. You need to do right because it is the right thing to do. We are not justified in hurting another person simply because they hurt us. We do not get to fight back because someone is fighting us. We have to stop the cycle of sin. By the way, this is why marriages are destroyed. No one will stop the cycle of hurt. No one will stop the evil being done but each person keeps responding by doing more evil toward the other. This is why friendships and relationships are destroyed. No one will stop doing evil toward the other person.
Why should we do the right thing when someone has done the wrong thing toward us? We do this because that is what Jesus, the anointed, as has done toward you. We have not received from him what we deserve. Jesus did not think about himself but thought about you. He did not die for himself. He died for you. We can do good to people who do not deserve it because Jesus did good to you when you did not deserve it. We have all been Nabal toward Jesus, the anointed. We have all said to him that all of this is mine and I do not care about him. Rather than the anointed coming to destroy us, he came and died for us so that we could come back to him. Jesus did good to us when we did not deserve goodness to be shown toward us. Stop thinking about me. Do what is right because it is the right thing to do. Do not stop doing good just because someone does not do good toward you. Let God vindicate you for doing right. Do not avenge yourself or act for your own glory.