A Righteous Babe

Young Adult Sunday School Lesson – July 17, 2001

It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.” Proverbs 25:2

I’ve found myself fascinated this week while studying the story of Abigail as it’s recorded in chapter 25 of the book of First Samuel in the Bible. The story has it all—a beautiful, righteous woman, a future king that is coming in judgment, and the demise of a so-called ‘son of Belial’ named Nabal. It’s a good read and takes only a few minutes to do so, although on the surface it may appear to be merely one more story among many chronicling the exploits of David while on the run from King Saul. This story begins immediately following the death of David's mentor, the prophet Samuel.

While in hiding near Mount Carmel with his motley band of 600 followers, David forms a protective alliance with the shepherds that are in charge of Nabal’s sheep. One of the shepherds refers to David and his men as a ‘wall’ to them, guarding them against trouble in a time much different than our day—a time when emergency help was not available via a three-digit phone call.

The story takes place during the season of the year when sheep were to be sheared; a time of feasting and celebration. At this time, Nabal had a lot to celebrate—he was rich and the year’s profits were truly laid out on the table for his own personal satisfaction. He also had a wife that, according to the Talmud, was one of the four most beautiful women in all of Jewish history. (The other three were Sarah, Rahab, and Esther) Let’s just say that it was good to be Nabal and he had a lot to be thankful for, but giving thanks was the farthest thing from his mind during the annual celebration. You see, in Hebrew, the name ‘Nabal’ means ‘a fool’, and he made it a point to live up to his name in the story that has been recorded for us here. One other factor worth mentioning here, in addition to being noted by name as a fool, Nabal is referred to as a ‘son of Belial’. Israelites that were Hebrew in name-only were commonly referred to in these terms. What this means is that Nabal, although a descendent of righteous Caleb, refused to obey the G_d of his people and most likely was not even circumcised. Because Caleb’s wayward children had intermarried against the Lord’s warning with the Kennites, this was altogether possible as a contributing factor as to why Nabal lived his life this way. (II Corinthians 6:14)

David sends messengers to ask Nabal for any provisions he could spare to feed and sustain his men in the wilderness, not a magnanimous request once you consider David had protected the very shepherds and sheep Nabal now found himself profiting from. Nabal saw it otherwise, asking ‘who is David’ and inferring that he was simply a runaway king-wannabe, probably thinking David would not dare rock the boat because King Saul was on his tail and a simple message from Nabal could expose David’s secret hiding place near Mount Carmel.

When his messengers returned and informed David of Nabal’s response, he became livid with rage. He orders his men to ‘get their swords’ and sets out to destroy Nabal, specifically all of the male members of his family. Oddly enough, at this time Nabal has no idea of the response of David because he has a drunken feast to attend.

One of his shepherds mentions the unfolding scenario of impending doom to Abigail, Nabal’s beautiful wife. The shepherd advises her that Nabal is unreachable, and that she needs to do something to avert the disaster that he knows is coming. She responds by loading up donkeys with two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs—the best she has to offer. Then she tells her servants, "Go on ahead; I'll follow you." But she does not tell her foolish husband what she is doing.

She meets David and his men in a ravine, and quickly gets off her donkey and bows before the future King of Israel. Immediately she takes all of the blame upon herself, and requests permission to speak, and moreover, she asks David to hear what she has to say. She reminds David that G_d has been with him throughout his life and fights his battles for him—evidently she was aware of current events and how the saga of David and Saul had been playing out. She also calls to remembrance in a subtle way David’s famous confrontation with Goliath, by stating that G_d will hurl David’s enemies away from him as if from the middle of a sling. She tells David that one day she knows he will be king, and that surely he does not want to have on his conscious the staggering burden of bloodshed that results from avenging himself needlessly. When you read this speech by Abigail, it appears to be a foretelling of Nathan’s prophecy in chapter 7 of Second Samuel. I think the correct term is an ‘adumbration’. (Passed spell-check, gotta be right!)

His mood now softened, David praises Abigail for her righteousness in the matter, and blesses her for keeping him from committing bloodshed and mayhem as a result of his anger. He tells her to go home in peace, because he has heard her words and granted her request. It’s a turning point in David’s life: he learns that in order to rule over a kingdom he will need to depend on G_d and be much less brash in his actions.

When Abigail arrives back home, Nabal is drunk and sloppy from the feast he has thrown, so she does not tell him what has transpired until the next morning. When she finally informs him of his ‘near miss’, he has a heart attack and dies ten days later. Meanwhile, David hears of Nabal’s death, and sends for Abigail, asking her to become his wife. She quickly accepts! I found this odd as there does not appear to very much grief or a prescribed period of mourning on the part of Abigail—but then again, Nabal was a fool. The suddenness of the bridegroom calling for his bride reminds me of something else in the Bible, though, a future event that is very shortly going to happen. Think about it before class, yet there is a whole lot more hidden here for us to search out!

PAT Attempt: What was the name of Abigail and David’s son?

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