Nabal (whose name means “Fool”) was a rich Calebite, who was also described as being harsh and surly. David (who was not yet king) and his band of men, who had been outlawed by King Saul, were living off the land in the Wilderness of Paran… and providing voluntary protection to the shepherds in the area.
I. The Request to Nabal (1Samuel 25:1-9)
Nabal lived in the city of Maon, and owned much land in the Judean town of Carmel, as well as many sheep and goats. Our text is set in the time of sheep-shearing, which, in Israelite culture, was a time for great festivities, owing to the importance of the wool trade.
During this time, David sent a small group of men to Nabal with a request for what provisions were readily at hand. David told his men exactly what to say when they approached Nabal. These words were to serve as a reminder that Nabal’s profit would not have been so great if his shepherds had not been protected. In addition, David extended a great deal of honor to Nabal, recognizing him as a nobleman of high stature.
II. The Refusal by Nabal (1Samuel 25:10-12)
Nabal knew who David was, but responded to their request by questioning David’s lineage and insulting his men. Nabal’s own men were surprised by Nabal’s harshness.
III. The Retaliation on Nabal (1Samuel 25:13)
David took the insults personally and decided to do something about it.
When Nabal rejected David’s request, one of the shepherds recognized that Nabal would not be reasoned with; he went to Nabal’s wife, Abigail, and told her what had happened, giving a positive account of the protection David and his men had provided. Abigail knew what kind of man Nabal could be… and chose to intervene on Nabal’s behalf.
David, armed, with 400 men, set off for nabal’s home, leaving 200 of his men behind to look after their meager supplies. Meanwhile, Abigail had set off with her servants and a very large quantity of provisions; she intended to meet David without telling Nabal.
Abigail met David and his men before they got to Nabal; she pleaded for David to accept her gifts, and begged that there be no bloodshed, asking that he take Nabal’s blame on herself, and complimenting David by stating that God would make his dynasty long-lasting, and David sinless and divinely protected. As a result of her actions, David recognized he was about to commit murder, and called off his threat… sending Abigail home in peace.
The story might seem to be over… but, there’s a coda.
Abigail did not tell Nabal about what she had done until the following day, because, when she got back, Nabal was drunk due to an extravagant banquet. When she did tell Nabal how close he had been to death, he had a heart attack… and died 10 days later.
The account end with David hearing of Nabal’s death, inferring it to be punishment from God. He then asked Abigail to marry him, seeing in her what foolish Nabal never did.
Single-minded selfishness often produces success. Many wealthy people are single-mindedly selfish. They refuse to be distracted by the needs of others, and bring all their energy to bear on the goal at hand.
But, if we allow anyone or anything to become our primary focus – other than God – our world will become as fragile and fearful as Nabal’s.
* Keep things in perspective… even your possessions.
You can read Nabal’s story in 1Samuel 25.