Bible Readings for September 1st
At the beginning of 1 Samuel 25, the great prophet Samuel dies, an event the biblical author records with characteristic understatement, using just one verse (1 Sam. 25:1). Once again, God buries a workman and carries on his work. The death of Samuel also, however, provides a backdrop to the story of Nabal, Abigail, and David in the rest of 1 Samuel 25. The interesting correlation of these stories arises in that just as Israel’s last judge dies, we meet a man named Nabal, who perfectly represents the foolishness of Israel during the former period of the judges, doing whatever is right in his own eyes (Judg. 21:25). Despite the fact that David had protected Nabal’s shepherds in the wilderness (1 Sam. 25:7), Nabal would not share with David and his men provisions for the feast day that had arrived (1 Sam. 25:9–11). The contrast between Nabal and the priests of Nob is striking—where the priests of Nob generously gave David the only thing they had (holy bread), Nabal will not spare even the smallest amount of his vast wealth (1 Sam. 25:2) in return for the service David provided his shepherds.
But while Nabal unsurprisingly looks foolish—his very name means “fool” (1 Sam. 25:25)—what is surprising is that David isn’t the hero of this story either. David becomes understandably outraged at the disrespect that Nabal had paid him, but he overreacts by commanding his men to strap on their swords (1 Sam. 25:14) with the intent of wiping out every male in Nabal’s midst (1 Sam. 25:34).
Instead, the heroine of the story is Nabal’s wife, Abigail. After hearing what her foolish husband had done, Abigail rushes out to meet David and his men, bows down before David, and begs David to place all the guilt on her despite her complete innocence in the matter (1 Sam. 25:24). In response, David praises her discretion for preventing him from incurring bloodguilt by avenging himself (1 Sam. 25:33), and when Yahweh later strikes Nabal dead (1 Sam. 25:38), David eventually takes Abigail to be his wife (1 Sam. 25:42).
Although David is the king after God’s own heart—from whose line God would raise up his own Son to reign as king over Israel forever—David nevertheless has flaws. In this story, we see a shadow of the greater Son of David not in David himself but in Abigail, who takes upon herself Nabal’s guilt despite her own perfect innocence. Abigail, then, not only foreshadows how Jesus would go to the cross for our guilt but she also demonstrates how we might seek peaceful resolution to conflicts, even when we are not the ones at fault.
Remember the words of Jesus: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.