David and his men are in the wilderness following the death of the prophet Samuel. They began to be in need and David sent out ten young men to ask for provision from a very rich local. 1 Samuel 25 records the account of this rich man and David.
And there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel. The man was very rich; he had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. He was shearing his sheep in Carmel. 3 Now the name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail. The woman was discerning and beautiful, but the man was harsh and badly behaved; he was a Calebite. ~1 Samuel 25:2-3
Here, we are told that Nabal, meaning “folly,” was very rich, harsh, and badly behaved. As the story unfolds, we’re shown that he is greedy and vicious (1 Samuel 25:11.) Nabal was so steeped in his own selfishness and wickedness that one could not even hold a reasonable conversation with him (1 Samuel 25:17.) As his name implied, Nabal was truly a fool.
The unsuspecting David sends his men to this brute beast for help.
I hear that you have shearers. Now your shepherds have been with us, and we did them no harm, and they missed nothing all the time they were in Carmel. ~1 Samuel 25:7
This language implies that David had ample military means and might to take whatsoever he wanted from Nabal at any given time. Yet, instead of stealing or oppressing this man, he has protected the land and does absolutely no harm to him or his estate. Nevertheless, when David’s men come, this is Nabal’s response:
And Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants these days who are breaking away from their masters. ~1 Samuel 25:10
Nabal accuses David. He uses David’s most painful hardships and trials with Saul in an effort to vilify and misrepresent him as a lawless insurgent. So rude and ill-mannered his was to these respectful men that they described his response as a “railing” (1 Samuel 25:14.) Rail in the Hebrew literally means “to shriek” or “to fly at” as a bird of prey. This was a vicious attack. Why?
Shall I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers and give it to men who come from I do not know where?” ~1 Samuel 25:11
My, my, my, my is all I hear from Nabal’s mouth. This man is a professional narcissist. He’s grossly self-centered and terribly self-indulgent. By accusing and attacking David, he seeks to justify himself, his greed, and his total lack of kindness and generosity.
Nabal did have one thing going for him, though. He had Abigail. Matthew Henry observes: “It’s hard to say whether Abigail was more miserable in such a husband or Nabal happy in such a wife.”
We are introduced to Abigail as “discerning and beautiful” (1 Samuel 25:3.) Later, we find that she is also proactive, generous, respectful, and accountable (1 Samuel 25:18, 19, 23, 24.) Abigail hurried to David, lay prostrate, took the sins of her husband on herself, and generously offered the provisions David had requested. In a word, Abigail saved. She saved her husband and all her family from death by the sword. She saved David and his men from ungodly vengeance. She saved the day.
As a result, Abigail experienced humility, repentance, blessing, protection, and acceptance from David (1 Samuel 25:28, 29, 32, 35.) She obtained peace for her own household (1 Samuel 25:35.)
Afterward, Abigail returns to her foolish husband – who was now even more foolish because he was stone drunk (1 Samuel 25:36.) She knew better than to try to speak to him. She held her tongue until morning. Later, she tells him of her interactions with David. Apparently, it seems as if the whole thing gives him nothing less than a heart attack coupled with the sobriety of the next morning. In just ten days, Nabal died. David rejoiced at God’s vengeance, justice and mercy and took Abigail home as his own wife.
This all seems to work out quite nicely for everyone…except Nabal. Oh! If we all just weren’t Nabals! Lord! Help us to be Abigails and Davids! Let us remember always that selfishness begets foolishness, foolishness begets vengeance, and vengeance begets death. Self-indulgence will never profit us. It will only make us insecure fools who attack our own allies. “We deceive ourselves if we think to make others’ faults a cloak for our own.” ~Matthew Henry