I Samuel 25 Continued
23 Now when Abigail saw David, she dismounted quickly from the donkey, fell on her face before David, and bowed down to the ground.
Now Abigail sees and recognizes David riding towards her. She jumps off her donkey and falls on her face before God’s anointed, bowing herself down before him. In our European customs, we usually only bow from the waist, but in an oriental culture like that of Israel, bowing to the ground was customary and usual, so this is what she does to honor David.
24. So she fell at his feet and said: “On me, my lord, on me let this iniquity be! And please let your maidservant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your maidservant.
Abigail falls at David’s feet, which was the position of a supplicant. She then asks David to let her take the blame for this iniquity, by which she means her husband’s insult against David. Yet she begs him to hear her out, claiming for herself only the position of a maidservant before David.
25. Please, let not my lord regard this scoundrel Nabal. For as his name is, so is he: Nabal is his name, and folly is with him! But I, your maidservant, did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent.
She speaks to David as her master, and begs him to overlook the insult of her scoundrel of a husband Nabal. Yet what the New King James has translated “scoundrel” here in Hebrew is “a son of Belial,” which we have discussed means a son of worthlessness, or one with a worthless character. She also admits that he lives down to his name, for Nabal means “Fool,” and that is what he is. Certainly she does not attempt to spare her husband in any way! She then explains to him that she did not see David’s young men when they came, explaining why she had done nothing to counteract the insult immediately.
26. Now therefore, my lord, as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, since the LORD has held you back from coming to bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hand, now then, let your enemies and those who seek harm for my lord be as Nabal.
She clearly believes that by coming to David this way she will prevent him from seeking revenge in his own strength, and from coming to Nabal’s household to shed blood. By the life of the LORD and by the life of David’s soul, she curses all David’s enemies, that they will be found as Nabal: that is, as fools.
27. And now this present which your maidservant has brought to my lord, let it be given to the young men who follow my lord.
Now she offers David the gift she has brought with her for him, the very gift that Nabal should have offered David’s young men when they came to him.
28. Please forgive the trespass of your maidservant. For the LORD will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord fights the battles of the LORD, and evil is not found in you throughout your days.
She prays that David will forgive her trespass. This might seem strange to us, since really it was her husband’s trespass, but remember that she already took it on herself in verse 24. Besides, in those days a man’s household was very much identified with him, and all were thought responsible in the household for the things the patriarch did. Even Jehovah held with this way of looking at things when, upon the discovery of the sin of Achan in Joshua 7, not only this man but also all his household and all he owned was destroyed along with him, as we read in Joshua 7:24. Therefore the position that Abigail takes of being guilty for her husband’s actions was not an unreasonable one.
Abigail continues her plea. She knows that Jehovah is with David and will make him an enduring household, since he fights Jehovah’s battles, and has not done any evil (meaning “calamity”) all his days. In other words, she does not wish to see him now work calamity against her husband so that his unstained record might be tarnished. This was indeed a good appeal to make to David, and one that he was just the sort of man to appreciate. Doing what was right and serving Jehovah was important to David, and he will not be able to deny the rightness of what Abigail says.
Notice that, if we take Abigail as being a typical Israelite, she is well aware of the truth of David’s life and conduct. She knows that David has never done anything evil against anyone. Yet consider that he is a fugitive from Saul, the King of Israel! If the Israelites knew that David was innocent, what does that mean they knew about Saul?
29. Yet a man has risen to pursue you and seek your life, but the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the LORD your God; and the lives of your enemies He shall sling out, as from the pocket of a sling.
She knows that in spite of his good conduct, Saul has risen up against David and is seeking his soul. Three times here in this passage we have the Hebrew word for “soul,” nephesh, which our New King James translators have changed to “life.” Indeed, in this passage, seeking to destroy a soul is the same thing as seeking to destroy a life. Yet though Saul seeks David’s soul, she is confident that Yahweh will keep David’s soul safe, describing this picturesquely as Yahweh his God binding his soul in the bundle of the living. We are to picture a man binding something into his bundle of belongings in order to keep it with him and keep it safe. This is what Yahweh is doing with David’s soul. His enemies’ souls, however, are slung out, as from the pocket of a sling. Of course, a sling ejects things very quickly, not slowly, and so she pictures the swift destruction of David’s enemies.
30. And it shall come to pass, when the LORD has done for my lord according to all the good that He has spoken concerning you, and has appointed you ruler over Israel,
Abigail is confident that it shall come to pass that the LORD will do as He said for David. She knows that the LORD has appointed good for David, not calamity, and moreover has appointed David to be the future King over Israel. Notice that this, too, Abigail had heard and heard correctly. David was appointed the next King, and as she said, the LORD worked it out and made it so. Indeed, when the LORD has appointed a thing to happen, it will happen, and nothing can stop it!
31. that this will be no grief to you, nor offense of heart to my lord, either that you have shed blood without cause, or that my lord has avenged himself. But when the LORD has dealt well with my lord, then remember your maidservant.”
She does not want David, when he is sitting in triumph on the throne of Israel, to have to remember a bloody act of murder for revenge. In that day, such a memory might cause him grief and bring offense to his heart, thinking that he had shed blood without cause. Now this is not going to happen, as David has been kept back by her actions from seeking revenge for himself. She asks therefore that when that day comes, he will remember her instead, that she had acted so he could enter on his throne with a clear conscience. This was indeed a Godly appeal, and clearly this woman Abigail was a Godly woman herself, who knew the heart of a Godly man like David.
32. Then David said to Abigail: “Blessed is the LORD God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me!
Abigail has finished her appeal, and now David replies to her. He blesses Jehovah God of Israel for sending her to meet him. “Blessed” here is a form of the Hebrew word barak, which means to speak well of someone or something. It corresponds to the Hebrew word eulogeo, from which we get our word “eulogize,” which is also speaking well of someone. Thus David speaks well of Jehovah for sending Abigail to meet him on his way to destroy her husband Nabal, so that he would not carry out this bloody deed.
33. And blessed is your advice and blessed are you, because you have kept me this day from coming to bloodshed and from avenging myself with my own hand.
David also blesses or speaks well of her advice and of her herself, because she and her advice have kept him from shedding blood and revenging himself with his own power. He has surely recognized the truth of her words, and his anger has dissolved in the face of the worthy appeal of this honorable woman.
34. For indeed, as the LORD God of Israel lives, who has kept me back from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, surely by morning light no males would have been left to Nabal!”
David acknowledges the truth of her words. He swears by the life of Yahweh God of Israel, the very One Who had acted to keep David from hurting Abigail and her household. He now realizes that, had he acted to get revenge on this churlish man Nabal, he also would have injured this good woman Abigail. He swears that, if she had not hurried and come to meet him as she did, that by morning light he would have wiped out every male in Nabal’s household. Again, the New King James Version has rather prudishly interpreted David’s colorful phrase, “everyone who urinates against a wall,” as meaning “every male.” This is indeed what it means, though the reader probably could have been trusted to figure that out for himself.
35. So David received from her hand what she had brought him, and said to her, “Go up in peace to your house. See, I have heeded your voice and respected your person.”
So David receives her gift, the generous gift she had brought with her to repeal his anger. He then speaks to her and sends her back to her house in peace. He has listened to her, respected her person, and accepted her explanation and apology.
36. Now Abigail went to Nabal, and there he was, holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. And Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk; therefore she told him nothing, little or much, until morning light.
When Abigail returns home, Nabal is using the excuse of his sheep-shearing to party. This party was excessive, like a king’s party, and Nabal himself had overindulged and is very drunk. Drunkenness was frowned upon in their culture, and finding Nabal in this state surely would have done nothing to appease David’s anger. Not to mention that this man who could not spare any gift to repay David’s men for their kind conduct could afford to treat himself like a king! If it were not for Abigail, Nabal surely never would have lived to get sober again!
When Abigail finds her husband drunk, she does not tell him anything about her mission, not even the smallest detail, until the next morning dawns.
37. So it was, in the morning, when the wine had gone from Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became like a stone.
In the morning then, once Nabal is again sober, she tells him what she had done the day before. This news clearly shocks Nabal, as he is described that his heart died within him when he heard the news, and he became like a stone. A very strange illness! We wonder what exactly happened. Surely if his heart literally stopped beating and became like a stone, he would not have lived ten days for the LORD to strike Him dead. Therefore, this must not be meant literally. Since the “heart” can speak of the innermost being, the “real you deep down inside,” we would suspect that this shock affected something, not with his heart, but with his mind. That is why he became like a stone: his mind went into shock so that he could not move, speak, or do anything else. A terrible thing to have happen, but certainly not more than Nabal deserved! And surely his lack of ability to respond meant that he could not take out his anger on his wise and honorable wife, as he might have done otherwise. The LORD was looking out for her; that much is certain.
38. Then it happened, after about ten days, that the LORD struck Nabal, and he died.
About ten days go by, during which it seems Nabal did not move nor speak, nor in any way come out of his shock. At this time, Jehovah strikes Nabal, and he dies. Thus ends the life and career of this foolish and self-centered man.
39. So when David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Blessed be the LORD, who has pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal, and has kept His servant from evil! For the LORD has returned the wickedness of Nabal on his own head.”
And David sent and proposed to Abigail, to take her as his wife.
David receives a report that Nabal has died, and he blesses Yahweh when he hears it. He realizes that Yahweh has taken vengeance on Nabal on his behalf, Himself repaying Nabal for his insulting attitude towards His anointed. So He has kept David back from trying to avenge himself, and has by His Own power returned Nabal’s insult on his own head. Yahweh surely did not approve of Nabal’s insult, but it was good that He was the One Who paid Nabal back for it, not David taking matters into his own hands. For David, that could only have led to trouble. And notice that Yahweh’s revenge is against Nabal only, and not the rest of his household.
Now David sends messengers to Abigail to ask her to become his own wife, now that she is a widow. He has certainly seen what kind of a Godly woman she is, and must realize that here is a good companion for him in his troubles. She knew and believed all God’s promises to David, and would be willing to stick by him and go up or down with him (though with God on his side, he knew eventually at least he would be going up). If only David had been satisfied with such a good choice in a woman! But, alas, his desire for wives did not stop here.
40. When the servants of David had come to Abigail at Carmel, they spoke to her saying, “David sent us to you, to ask you to become his wife.”
David’s servants come to Abigail at Carmel and present David’s offer to her. This seems a strange way of doing things to us, that David would send his messengers rather than going himself, but we should always remember that their customs are not our customs. Remember that in the book of Genesis, Rebekah was chosen for Isaac in just this way, through a messenger of Abraham’s.
Abigail, now a widow, might be in a bad way, since her household now has no man to lead it. Nevertheless it was a wealthy one, and to marry David she must temporarily trade that in for the hard life of the wife of a fugitive. Yet here was a woman who believed God and knew His plans would come true. Therefore, she knows that before too long she will be the wife of the king if she marries David.
41. Then she arose, bowed her face to the earth, and said, “Here is your maidservant, a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.”
When Abigail hears this offer, she arises and bows her face to the ground. She humbly accepts the offer by declaring that she is willing to be a servant to David and his men, even the lowest sort of servant who is in charge of washing the feet. Abigail here, like David’s six hundred men before her, chose the way of faith, believing in a kingdom that did not yet exist and staking her life on it. When David’s day on the throne comes, she will receive the reward for her faith exercised in this earlier day of his humiliation.
42. So Abigail rose in haste and rode on a donkey, attended by five of her maidens; and she followed the messengers of David, and became his wife.
Abigail rises up in a hurry and rides on a donkey to go to David. She takes with her five of her female servants. This is all she takes for herself of her husband’s wealth. What happened to the rest of it we are not told. Thus she follows the messengers of David and becomes his wife.
43. David also took Ahinoam of Jezreel, and so both of them were his wives.
Up to this point, this has seemed like a rather romantic story in the Bible, up there perhaps with the books of Ruth or Song of Solomon as a touching story of love and romance. David, of course, is a positive figure in the Bible, and this Abigail certainly seems like a wise and believing woman. Yet just here the romantic story gets rather spoiled for us. For we no sooner read of their marriage, than we read that David takes another wife along with her! This not only spoils the story, but also seems to put a black mark against the character of David. Why would this Godly man have indulged himself in polygamy this way?
While we ultimately cannot excuse David’s ungodly actions regarding polygamy, we must perhaps consider how David might have looked at it and what the culture of the day would have been like. First of all, women were not able to care for themselves. Their only means of support was to be attached to some man and his household. Well, that being the case, if a man had enough wealth to take care of more than one woman in his household, why not do it?
David himself was a great lord, and especially once he became king, he was over a great household. The many tasks that had to be done to run such a household fell on the servants, and many of both male and female servants were needed. Though it would be possible, of course, for him to have his servants marry each other, since the master was the one who was really supporting them all anyway, why should he not marry some of the female servants himself? After all, he was the one supporting them. Thus many heads of great houses would have more than one wife, perhaps as many as he could afford. Though one might possibly be the favored one who took the “top” wife spot, they would all be legally married to him. Their children would be his children, though the children of the servant-wives would have little more privileges than other servants.
Overall, this does not seem like a very good arrangement to us, and it certainly was not what God intended for marriage in the beginning. However, there are plenty of things about our own marriages and families today that are certainly less than they should be. Praise God that someday in His kingdom marriage will be run as He always intended!
At any rate, David also takes a second wife along with Abigail. Double the wives, and double the amount of help he has running his household. Very practical, if not very Godly. The second wife’s name is Ahinoam, which means “My Brother is Delight.” She was of Jezreel, a city in Judah whose name means “God Sows.” (Saul had a wife with the same name, though there is otherwise no connection.) So David is starting a wife collection! Sadly, he will not stop here.
44. But Saul had given Michal his daughter, David’s wife, to Palti the son of Laish, who was from Gallim.
We might remember that the wife for David we saw earlier was Saul’s daughter Michal, through marrying whom David had become the king’s son-in-law. Saul had decided to dissolve this marriage, however, and gave his daughter Michal, David’s wife, to another man. Her new husband was Phalti, meaning “My Deliverance,” the son of Laish, meaning “Lion,” of Gallim. Gallim means “Springs,” and was a town north of Jerusalem. Saul did this even though she was still married to David! No doubt this was meant to shame David, thanks to Saul’s hatred of him and jealousy towards him.
We might ask ourselves if this second marriage of Michal’s was legal. The answer is that no, it was not. A woman’s father was able to divorce a woman from her intended husband as long as they were still a betrothed husband and wife, and had not yet come together in marriage. Once they were married, however, the law was very clear. Only a husband could divorce his wife, as Deuteronomy 24:1 shows, by writing her a certificate of divorce. David had never done this with Michal, so her marriage to Phalti was highly illegal according to God’s law. Saul, however, probably figured that he was the king, so who was to stop him?
Yet the sad fact is that Saul never should have been able to do this. If Michal had left her father’s house and fled with her husband, as she should have done, her father would have had no opportunity to give her to anyone else, for she would have been with her beloved husband, and we do not believe for a second that David would have divorced her. She would then not have thought she needed to lie to her father and tell her David had threatened her life to force her to help him escape. He would not have thought that she must hate her husband, and have given her to another man to spite David, the man he hated so wrongfully himself. All this would not have come about if Michal had stuck with David, as she ought to have done. Yet before we fault her too much, we must remember that her brother Jonathan, who in chapter 14 proved himself so valiant for the LORD, had nevertheless done the same, helping David escape but not being willing to sacrifice and go with him. Yet surely his wife had more reason to stick with her husband than even his best friend did! What trouble would have been avoided if only she had done so!
Another possibility arises before us. Why does the LORD mention this just here? To remind us why David had no wife with him and sought another, perhaps? Could it just be that, if Michal had fled with David and he had had his wife there with him, that the idea of seeking a second wife might not have occurred to him? Surely no one could ask for anything more if he found he had a wife who was willing to leave the luxuries of being a princess to experience the hardships of exile, just to be with the man she loved. Who would look at another woman, even one like Abigail, if he had a woman like that? Yet David did not have such a wife, sadly, but instead a spoiled princess like Michal. She was living in luxury with her new, illegal husband, while he suffered cold and alone in the wilderness. No wonder he sought a new wife to comfort him, and was attracted to the beautiful and Godly Abigail!
Yet, as romantic as this was, it meant polygamy. Perhaps, with Michal having abandoned him, he could have stopped there with Abigail and it would have been all right. Yet, having started down that path, what was to keep him from following it further? After all he legally was now married to two women, even though one was not with him but with another man. At that point, why not three? And David did not hesitate, it seems, to jump from two to three. Then once he had three, then why not more? So the sad cycle continues, and David falls further and further from the LORD’s ideal, until the terrible sin with Bathsheba and Uriah, as well as his son Solomon’s mad excess, is the final result.
Yet could not all of this have been stayed if Michal and stuck with him? Might not David then have been loyal to the wife who was so loyal to him, and in the comfort of her arms found the love and solace that would have kept him from ever looking at another maid? We cannot know for sure, of course, but it could have been. And think what a shining star of an example Michal would have been for us then! In her association with David, she had the chance to rise with him to stand beside him, not just in this life, perhaps, but also to stand next to him as he will sit on the throne in the kingdom to come. Instead, she chose to fall with the house of her father, and was left a bitter and disappointed woman, as we will see her in II Samuel. How sad! Yet not hard to understand. The suffering of the people of God is always harder to choose than the pleasures of sin for a season.
We might not leave this topic before pointing out the great power a wife has in her husband’s life, to turn him either to good or to bad. And we might wonder how many men who sin sexually as David did, committing adultery and the sins that go along with it, did so because they too were left without the comfort and affection of a loyal and loving wife? A man whose wife, though she might have remained married to him, did not give him the love and affection he needed, but rather left him in the cold, as David’s wife did? It is easy to see the sin of adultery, once it becomes public, but harder to see the sin of neglect that preceded it. Yet a good wife always has far more power to keep a good husband than she knows, if she will only use it. Proverbs 14:1 has always been true, that “The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish pulls it down with her hands.” Let all God’s wives be wise!