Hothead Nabal, impulsive David, and appeasing Abigail

1 Samuel 25:2-38 tells a short, volatile story involving David, and Nabal with his wife Abigail, who were opposites in every way that mattered.

At this time, David and his men were running from King Saul’s army and moved into the wilderness  of Paran. Nearby lived Nabal, a wealthy businessman who owned three thousand sheep and a thousand goats (1Sa 25:2). Sadly, Nabal was harsh and badly behaved (1Sa 25:3) as He valued money more than people.

As the story goes, David’s men were happy for Nabal’s employees to graze their sheep in the same pastures as theirs. They got on well together with David’s men watching over the shepherds to ensure nothing bad happened to them and no sheep were stolen.

One day when Nabal was shearing his sheep, David sent ten men to greet Nabal on his behalf and request some food due to their supplies getting low. After all, thought David, my men and Nabal’s shepherds have lived and worked together happily, surely Nabal will help us out just this once.

Unfortunately, grumpy Nabal didn’t respond well. Who is David…?  Shall I take my bread, 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? (1Sa 25:10-11). David’s response was equally wrong, telling his men to strap on their swords, and about four hundred men went up after David (1Sa 25:13) to seek revenge on Nabal.

Meantime, Nabal’s servants told Abigail of everything that was unfolding. Abigail made haste and took two hundred loaves and two skins of wine and five sheep already prepared and five seahs of parched grain and a hundred clusters of raisins and two hundred cakes of figs (1Sa 25:18). Abigail was on a private peace mission without Nabal’s knowledge.

Meeting David and his troops, Abigail fell before David… and said, on me alone, my lord, be the guilt (1Sa 25:23-24). Humble Abigail was willing for David to place the blame for her husband’s insulting behaviour on her. Please forgive the trespass of your servant (1Sa 25:28). Abigail was seeking forgiveness for sins she had not committed.

She presented David with the gifts of food and acknowledged her understanding of the Lord’s blessing and sovereign protection over his life. She even understood that the Lord would one day appoint David as king.1 Samuel 25:32-34 tells us that David responded well to

Abigail’s gifts and words of appeasement, returning home without revenge upon Nabal. In complete ignorance of  Abigail’s peace mission, that evening Nabal held a feast… Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk. The next morning Abigail explained everything to Nabal; and his heart died within him, and he became as a stone. About ten days later the Lord struck Nabal, and he died (1Sa 25:36-38).

Nabal could have treated David kindly, which would have prevented this whole incident, but he didn’t. David could had responded to Nabal’s insults with grace, but he didn’t. It was Abigail’s extraordinary faith and courage that saved many lives and prevented David from the guilt of killing innocent men.

Left to hothead Nabel and impulsive David, this story would have ended in a mass killing. But Abigail’s peaceful integrity left room for God to work out His justice in His way. Her responsive faith in action provided a way forward for David without further guilt and bloodshed. Romans 12:18 instructs us; If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Scroll to Top