:: Blog | Nov 3/22
I love Thrice. I don't think there's any hiding that fact. The last one of these ...
:: Quest | May 24/13
A long-standing franchise with an ordinary product that all tastes the same ...
:: Writings | Sep 25/16
Sermon : Sodom and Gomorrah

1 Samuel 25

We are first introduced to Abigail a few verses into the chapter, and we are told that she is intelligent and beautiful, while her husband, Nabal, is not only extremely wealthy, but he is a hard man and an evildoer. So right from the get-go we are told how to feel towards these two individuals through the stark contrasting of their characters.

Readers of the Hebrew text will also encounter a play on words in regards to Nabal. We are told that 'the man' was a Calebite. To our English translations this is merely a word on his ancestry. And while this point about family also serves as a contrast since Caleb is traditionally upheld as a faithful servant of God and Nabal seems to have thrown that part of his inheritance out the window, this is also a subtle jab at the character of Abigail's husband.

You see, caleb in Hebrew means 'dog,' and so the author of this story is subtly insulting Nabal by declaring him from the 'house of dog.'

The Greek translation of the Jewish Scriptures goes so far as to translate this verse as describing Nabal as a 'doggish man.'4

Such a description is a clear contrast to Abigail, whose name means, 'father's joy,' or 'my fathers happiness.'' And this woman we are told is beautiful.

It is worth noting that there is only one other place the Hebrew phrase used here to describe Abigail appears and it is in reference to Rachel. However, with Abigail the description is deliberately coupled with the assertion that she is of 'good understanding' — a trait not used anywhere else in the Bible for a woman.5

And so already our sympathies are for the female character of the story, the beautiful and intelligent one of the cast. And so far our feelings towards her husband are sour at best.

In comes David.

In the chapter before today's passage, we're told of a righteous and merciful act David performed towards Saul, who at this point in the book of Samuel is pursuing David for his life.

While David and some of his men are hiding out in a cave, Saul comes in to relieve himself and David, instead of killing his would-be murderer like he was egged on to do, cuts a corner of Saul's cloak off. Once Saul leaves the cave David confronts Saul and shows him how merciful he was and the two agree not to kill each other or each other's descendents.

So, here in chapter 25 we've got a good vibe surrounding David. He's proven that he is of good character, refusing to kill God's anointed even though that anointed one is spiteful, jealous, and has aims to kill David first.

So, in comes David who's come across information that the wealthy Nabal and his estate are shearing sheep. David, knowing full well that shearing is customarily accompanied by excess feasting, decides to cash in on some freely-given favours. He sends a handful of men up to Nabal to request some food.

A fugitive's rations after all were probably dismal and unsatisfying.

Doing the culturally appropriate and respectful thing, David sends a blessing and greeting along with his men to Nabal. His request is reasonable, especially in light of the favour of protection David and his band provided for the shepherds. Not only were shepherds susceptible to raiding from bandits, but it was actually common practise for nobility like David to take food and money from farmers.

David's words here imply that not only did he protect the shepherds, he forfeited his cultural rights.

The expected response of course is acceptance and fulfilment of the request. It would be the hospitable and respectful thing to do.

But Nabal is a dog, remember. He is a hard man and evil in his doings.

Instead of returning the warm and kind blessing with respect and generosity, Nabal proverbially spits in David's face with mocking, ridicule, and insult.6 He not only treats David's name with indifference but he throws back David's kind submission of being Nabal's 'son' and effectively distances the two men.

'Who is David? And who is the son of Jesse?'

It seems hardly unlikely that he hadn't heard of David, seeing as in chapter 18 David is presented to and accepted by all the people as an authority under King Saul.

So Nabal is clearly asking in defiance, 'Who does this guy think he is?'

But Nabal doesn't stop there, no. He continues rambling on and equates David with a rebellious servant — a disobedient slave who wanders aimlessly with a band of doomed ragamuffins not worthy of any generosity whatsoever.

I don't know about you but if I was one of David's ten men I'd probably stare blankly at this guy. And if I could muster up any words after a response like that it'd probably sound something like, 'Ummmm... What?'

So the ten men retrace their steps back to David, probably letting off steam the whole time after that encounter. And probably trying to decide how to tell their master what just happened.

  1. Ibid., 46.
  2. David Guzik, 'David, Nabal, and Abigail,' Blue Letter Bible. https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_1Sa/1Sa_25.cfm
  3. Mulzac, 'The Role of Abigail,' 46.
  4. Deborah M Gill, 'Abigail: A Woman of Strength and Wisdom,' https://www.agts.edu/faculty/faculty_publications/gill/gill%20resources/Juddv_abigail.pdf