David is a complicated man; which is a nice way of saying that as upright and God-fearing and determined to be obedient to the Lord as he is, he can also be proud, self-promoting and tend to overreact; and at times let his volcanic anger and passions overwhelm even his best intentions.
Thus when we concluded our previous lesson, David was in the throes of being consumed by his blind rage, the result of an insult aimed at him by the man known as Nabal.
Nabal was not the man’s given name (the Bible doesn’t inform us of it). Instead, Nabal is an epithet that sums up this man’s character: foolish, disgraceful, without Godly wisdom.
David and his men had guarded over Nabal’s substantial flocks out in the Paran and Ma’on desert regions, and so David felt that it was only proper that Nabal rewards him with a gift of sustenance for his community of 600 followers.
Thus a message was sent with a minyan of his men (10 men) asking Nabal for this expected reward. Nabal not only declined but he responded nastily and offensively that just isn’t done in the Middle East unless you are looking for trouble.
In reality, although David’s request was made in the most polite terms, all that were involved understood that it was a demand. An appeal that can’t be refuted is no longer a request, and Nabal being a rich, powerful and arrogant man didn’t like David essentially requisitioning supplies from him.
When David received Nabal’s offensive reply, he took two-thirds of his men and set off to exact revenge for this attack on his honor. It was his stated intention not to leave one male left alive in Nabal’s extended family that no doubt included a goodly portion of his entire clan.
Fortunately for all concerned Nabal had a wife who was full of grace and wisdom: Abigail. A man who had witnessed Nabal’s offensive reply to David’s message secretly went to Abigail and told her about it, and pled with her to take some action to avoid the inevitable bloodshed that was bound to result. She sprang into action and loaded up a donkey with a substantial gift of supplies in hopes of appeasing David, all the while making sure her husband was not aware.
That’s where we’ll pick up this week.
Read 1 Samuel 25:18-44.
Verse 20 explains that as David and his men were coming to make war on Nabal, it just so happened that the very route Abigail had taken to try and intercept David led her right to him.
The Complete Jewish Bible doesn’t express this thought of amazing coincidence very well. A better way for the verse to read is, “Right at that moment…” when she was riding her donkey in search of David she came across his band of men.
So the idea is that nothing happens by chance. It was Yehoveh’s providence that set her path, and the exact timing, in motion for this unlikely but urgent meeting to take place.
The future Hebrew sages took this improbable timing of Abigail’s encounter with David, along with some pronouncements she would make in a speech to him, to indicate that she was substantially more than merely a woman full of wisdom; instead, she was a prophetess of the God of Israel.
In fact, the Hebrew sages of old determined that the Bible lists seven prophetesses, with Abigail among them. They were Sarah (Abraham’s wife) as the first; then Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, our Abigail, Huldah and the stunning Esther (who even has a book of the Bible named after her).
Days and days have gone by since David, and his band strapped on their weapons and left their desert accommodations for a showdown in Carmel. Verse 21 has David essentially muttering to himself as he is traveling, complaining about how he and his men guarded this man’s property and did such a good job, and this man repays their efforts with an insult!
And honestly, that is the mental picture we need to get; a distraught David who feels that he has been cheated; a man who is rolling this over in his mind, replaying his anger again and again.
A modern psychologist might say he is playing those negative tapes in his head and he won’t turn them off. And truthfully just as for us in our time, this was David enjoying being mad and not particularly anxious to let it go and move on. Folks, this is a sin that is being displayed; it was so then, and it remains so today.
In fact, verse 22 continues with David’s hissy fit, but most Bible versions clean it up substantially. The KJV is the most literal and best translated, and it is not just a little bit crude:
1 Samuel 25:22 KJV
So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall.
Yes, you heard right; it means just what it says. I don’t think I need to draw a diagram to explain what the last 5 or 6 words of that verse are getting at so most versions substitute those last few words with either the word “male” or “men.”
The Bible doesn’t mince words, and the reality is that so much of what we read today in our English translations have been watered down and made considerably more genteel (and often less memorable and impactful) than what the words say.
David’s thoughts are being accurately recorded for us, and they are not admirable. This predecessor to Messiah, David, is a strange mixture of a stalwart shepherd and ferocious warrior; a mix that seems utterly incompatible, almost schizophrenic.
And yet is this not the same mysterious mixture that is Yeshua? A stalwart shepherd and a ferocious warrior that’s Our Messiah and so far Christianity, in general, has decided to emphasize one attribute over the other (even to discard one over the other). Partly, I’m sure, because it is so difficult to imagine any being that can be both, simultaneously.
Judaism tends to discount David’s human faults and evil inclinations and puts him on a pedestal of near perfection. He is made to be far closer to the actual Messiah than it was intended and this is at least partly to blame for the spiritual blindness that has kept the Jewish people from intimacy with their true Messiah, Yeshua of Nazareth.
There have been many Christian pastors and laymen who at the same time acknowledge that David is a type and illustration of our Messiah yet also see Jesus as only a meek, pacifist shepherd who lovingly gave His life for our sakes. They perceive the God who orders war and bloodshed to establish His Kingdom and eradicating evil as a thing of the past.
War is a chief characteristic of the Old Testament God and shouldn’t we all be glad that our God Yeshua has virtually replaced the older God, Yehoveh’s methods, with mercy and love? However, like David, Our Messiah is a shepherd and a warrior, and I don’t think it is long-coming until we’ll be reminded of that.
Poor David, however, was not the Messiah. He was not God so he struggled with these contrasting personal attributes of shepherd and warrior that powerfully tugged on him one way and then the other. As he was on the road to Carmel, the warrior had total control and as a result what lay ahead was his ruin. Now enters Abigail.
Abigail dismounts from her donkey and prostrates herself before David. Remember now; this woman was an aristocrat; she was the attractive and intelligent wife of a wealthy and powerful man.
But her station in life was of little importance to her at the moment; her desperate hope was to stop an atrocity before it happened, to save her family and her clan, even if it meant personal humiliation and accepting all blame. She was taking a significant risk.
Abigail makes a long speech to David, and he listens intently (probably because of the surprise of finding this well-heeled woman lying on her face on this dusty road). She tries to bring David back to his senses and to make him more amiable and peaceful, by offering three lines of reasoned thought for him to consider and then (hopefully) drawing the conclusion that he needs to back off of his intents.
The first line of reasoning is that God is naturally present in this event because of the providential meeting of Abigail and David. The Lord had intervened and enabled Abigail and David’s paths to cross before he confronted Nabal. Thus David has been miraculously kept from murder and incurring bloodguilt as a consequence.
The second line is of reasoning is that Yehoveh who is the Avenger of Wickedness and wrongdoing; David should not try to be his avenger seeking out a solution to his justice.
“Vengeance is Mine saith the Lord” is at the heart of her argument that (in verse 26) “may your enemies who seek evil for my lord be like Nabal.” In other words, may those who are David’s enemies have vengeance heaped upon them by the Lord who will turn them into fools for their wickedness?
The third is that if David forgives this offense, then the Lord will give David a blessing in return because that is God’s nature. In fact, Abigail lays out precisely what that blessing (the berachah) from YHWH would consist of:
- The Lord will make David a lasting house (his family will be the ruling dynasty over Israel forever).
- David will be privileged to continue to fight the Lord’s wars (in other words, the wars David is fighting, authorized Holy Wars. Not only are they truly worthy of fighting but it also means that David cannot lose).
- God will preserve David from his own wrongdoing all of his days. In fact, this point is what most of this entire chapter is about; the Lord is saving David from himself.
No man will be able to take David’s soul and destroy it because he will be safely bound into the “bundle of life.”
Let’s talk about that last one for a second, the “bundle of life.” In verse 29 the Complete Jewish Bible and many other translations speak of David bound into the “bundle of life”; and this is pretty literal.
Abigail is saying that David’s life will be bound up into this bundle of life. Life in Hebrew is hayyim, but here the word referring to David’s life is nephesh that doesn’t mean life, but rather life essence. It is the word typically used for soul or spirit. So it is David’s soul or life essence that will be bound up in this “bundle of life.”
But “bundle of life” is an ancient Hebrew expression that we are running into so we need to see if we can understand what it meant to people of that day to “be bound up into the bundle of life.”
The Hebrew expression is bisror hahayyim and it is indeed speaking of some bundle and life, but the bundle is referring not to a bag or a package but rather to a document. In the days of David a document for the Hebrews was usually a scroll; or even better, an animal skin with words written on and then rolled up and tied with a leather string to form a bundle.
Thus a better and fitting translation is a Document of Life or Document of the Living. So the bundle of life is some heavenly document so to speak where those whom the Lord chooses have their names placed into it, and so their life essences, their souls, are tucked safely away forever. Sound familiar? Obviously, this is a very early way of the Old Testament speaking of the Heavenly Book of Life.
CJB Revelation 20:12
And I saw the dead, both great and small, standing in front of the throne. Books were opened; and another book was opened, the Book of Life; and the dead were judged from what was written in the books, according to what they had done.
The dead were written in the Book of Life according to what? According to “what they had done.” And this matches well with Abigail telling David that by his action of forgiving the insult, changing his mind, and avoiding murder that he would be written into the Book of Life.
So as we have discovered, the many principles (such as eternal life and the Book of Life) that we find in the New Testament are but progressive developments of principles already established (even if only vaguely) in the Tanach, the Old Testament.
Several times, as in verse 28, Abigail asks David to forgive her offenses. On the surface this might seem as though she is essentially asking for forgiveness on behalf of her husband, and in a roundabout way it is; yet that’s not the point.
Putting ourselves into a Middle Eastern mindset, we must see that we have a woman speaking to a man who is not her husband; a man who is well known and to a degree feared. She has dared to approach this man (even to seek him out) when usually a man must proceed towards the woman if there is to be a conversation (especially one of this length and subject).
Abigail is boldly intervening in her husband’s affairs, and it could easily have been David’s decision to mistreat her for daring to stand between two men in conflict. In fact, she is coming dangerously close to (if not stepping over the line of) an obscure Torah law:
Deuteronomy 25:11-12 CJB
“If men are fighting with each other, and the wife of one comes up to help her husband get away from the man attacking him by grabbing the attacker’s private parts with her hand, you are to cut off her hand; show no pity.
Indeed, Abigail is not physically tussling with David. Nonetheless, the underlying principle of Deuteronomy 25 stands; a woman is not to intervene in an otherwise fair fight between her husband and another man.
Now this could have taken many different courses for Abigail, most of them bad, and thus her pleading with David to be forgiving towards her intervention in this matter.
In verse 30 we have Abigail genuinely apprehending the role of a prophetess (even though there is no evidence that she saw herself in that official position). There she looks forward to the time when God will have fulfilled His covenant promises to David about David and the throne of Israel. She uses a word that we have become familiar with: nagid.
Abigail speaks of David as a prince of Israel, a nagid over Israel, and this term essentially means, “King in waiting.” In other words, as the Lord has anointed him as the King in waiting (but not YET king) over the Lord’s Kingdom, then he stands in constant danger of stumbling.
The risk for David is never more imminent now that the Lord divinely appoints him for great things because there are actions David can do to ruin his witness and perhaps even his opportunity to be an excellent tool in the Lord’s hand.
And, Abigail continues, the thing that David is on his way to accomplish is to shed blood in vain; to commit bloodguilt. To carry out bloodguilt means to take human life unjustly.
Here’s the thing about bloodguilt: there is no atonement possible for it under Levitical Law. There is no sacrifice available. The only just outcome for the perpetrator of bloodguilt is to have his own life’s blood spilled; no innocent animal is losing its life or priestly ritual done before the Lord is allowed to substitute for it. If David does this thing, he has committed a grave trespass for which there is no forgiveness.
And there is yet another danger that Abigail says that David is in; it is that he might seek to gain “the Lord’s victory” for himself. In other words, just as David has made it clear that he knows he is not to win the throne of Israel by his actions (such as murdering Saul), neither is he to avenge wrongs done to him through his actions (such as by killing Nabal and decimating Nabal’s family).
She ends her speech by asking David to remember her in the future for what she has done today. Abigail recognized the Father’s guiding hand in David’s life, and that his destiny was as Israel’s King.
How did Abigail know this? That is why she is counted as among only seven prophetesses; such understanding could just have come from God. But she did more than merely recognize David’s destiny; she took an active role to preserve it even if it meant risking her own life.
I think that we need to consider not only the blessing we have gained from our acceptance of God’s covenant provision for us, as His Believers but also the danger that we are in at all times because we have committed to Him.
The devil doesn’t waste his time with unbelievers except to use them as pawns to do his dirty work. Instead, his primary efforts are to confound the lives of disciples of Yeshua and to derail the marvelous purposes that The Father has for our lives especially as it pertains to the Kingdom of God.
I shudder at how close we must come, often, to disaster and don’t recognize it. What opportunities have we lost because of sin, and what could have been a more significant gain for the Kingdom, we may never know this side of Heaven.
As great as David was I suspect that as the end of his life neared, he looked back with regrets and realizations that so much more could have been accomplished through him had he only been more submissive to God.
Beginning in verse 32 David now responds to Abigail. In what can only be described as a startling act of humility of a Middle Eastern man towards a woman, David agrees that Abigail is entirely correct and he is altogether wrong. Not only does David forgive her for her bold intervention, but also he bestows compliments and blessings and admits that she was an emissary of the God of Israel.
And had she not been obedient to the Lord; had she allowed her fears to take over and shrank from her divine assignment, not only would her family be gone but David would have become mired in blood guilt. David recognizes that as much as she saved her family, she has saved him.
Now, this is a characteristic of David that I’d have to speculate pleases the Lord. When he has done wrong or is contemplating wrong, and confronted with it, he is contrite and admits his guilt before the Lord. He acknowledges that even above those he has harmed, it is God who he has sinned against. A repentant heart is a key to true repentance.
David accepts the supplies Abigail brought and then commands that she go home in peace. In other words, he will not attack her home or her family (not even that dastardly husband of hers).
When Abigail arrives back home, Nabal has no idea what she has been up to and how close he came to losing his life. Nor does he have any thought that it was his wife who has delivered the entire clan from sure eradication. He was drunk when she returned home, and so she decided not to inform him of what had transpired, at least for the moment.
In the morning, after he had sobered up, Abigail told him what had occurred; almost immediately he had a stroke. Within ten days, he died. Abigail was right; the Lord will avenge.
Yehoveh, not by David, struck down the insolent and worthless Nabal. The Lord taking Nabal’s life was the Lord exacting perfect justice on David’s behalf.
David taking Nabal’s life would have been unjust and an unforgivable sin on David’s head. This is an excellent lesson for us all when we contemplate taking matters into our own hands.
I mentioned in my last blog post that there is often significance of numbers in the Bible and ten is one of the more significant digits.
Notice that Nabal died ten days after he received the message of God’s deliverance of his family, which was the same number as the number of men who came to Nabal with David’s message.
- Ten is a number of completeness (in the sense that all has been brought to its fullest extent).
- Ten is a number of perfect completeness; not a perfect end, but rather something that has been made all it was purposed to be.
- Ten is a number of divine orders as opposed to earthly chaos.
Thus also the proper measure of the giving of our wealth back to the Lord is one tenth. The evidence is gathering in modern physics that there are ten dimensions of existence (Jewish mysticism has for 500 years claimed that the Bible describes ten dimensions of existence). So when we come across the number 10 in the Bible, always pay particular attention just as we do when we see the number 7.
This chapter ends with David asking Abigail, who is now Nabal’s widow, to be his wife. David sends messengers to her, and her response is quite interesting. She says in verse 41:
CJB 1 Samuel 25:41
She got up, bowed with her face to the ground, and said, “Your servant is here to serve you, to wash the feet of my lord’s servants.”
Now, this remark is significant especially when we incorporate the concept that David is a type and shadow of Messiah. Note that Abigail speaks NOT of her washing David’s feet, but rather the feet of David’s followers, David’s servants.
And since she has accepted David’s offer of marriage in front of witnesses, she is now legally betrothed. She is David’s wife, the Master’s wife, with only the act of consummation left to finalize the marriage. And yet she speaks of herself as a servant who wants to wash the feet of her husband’s servants. Does this have a familiar ring to it?
Read John 13:1-20.
Indeed the Hebrew sages of old were right to assign Abigail the title of God’s prophetess.
This foot-washing episode comes at us out of left field in Samuel, and one finds it difficult in its meaning and purpose if it is not attached to the New Testament in the book of John.
And indeed David was a wise man to immediately go after such a woman when she became a widow at God’s hand. We also find that David married not only Abigail but a woman from the city of Jezreel whose name was Ahinoam (my brother is delight). Jezreel is not the Jezreel Valley in the north of the land but rather a place in Judah in the general vicinity of Ma’on, Zif, and Carmel.
Saul had a wife name Ahinoam and some think this was the same woman, but that seems quite farfetched, and there is no evidence whatsoever to consider such a conclusion beyond having the same name.
Most likely David married Ahinoam before marrying Abigail because Ahinoam became the mother of David’s firstborn, Amnon. Even more, in later books of the Bible when the two women mentioned in the same context, Ahinoam is always mentioned before Abigail (this is an ancient literary form that describes status).
Now no doubt there was also politics at play in these marriages. David married prominent women from 2 different clans located in two different regions in Judah. Marrying into these families would have given David a foothold as a future ruler and gained him the backing of these clans.
See marriage is a means of gaining allies, which were standard procedure in those days. It was not considered underhanded at all, but rather practical and customary. Families were anxious and willing for such intermingling and connections with the ruling elite.
The final verse of this chapter explains that Saul willfully and spitefully gave his daughter, David’s wife, Michal to another man. This reckless act ended all possibility of reconciliation between David and Saul. The man presented to her is known by two names in the Bible: Phalti and Phaltiel.
By Torah Law standards Michal was forced into adultery because her husband David had not divorced her. Phaltiel was also guilty of taking the wife of another man. Adultery was another trespass that had no atonement possible, so the crime before the Lord was severe, unforgivable, and eternal.
Because David had not divorced Michal, he had every right to ask for her to be returned to him as he was negotiating with Avner on his way to becoming king of Israel. And in taking her back, he was committing no crime; rather he was restoring her.