1 Samuel 25 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

1 Samuel 25
Pulpit Commentary
And Samuel died; and all the Israelites were gathered together, and lamented him, and buried him in his house at Ramah. And David arose, and went down to the wilderness of Paran.
Verse 1. - And Samuel died. According to Josephus, Samuel had for eighteen years been contemporaneous with Saul's kingdom. If this calculation, which probably rests upon some Jewish tradition, be at all correct, we must include the years of Samuel's judgeship in the sum total of Saul's reign (see on 1 Samuel 13:1), as evidently his fall was now fast approaching. Samuel's life marked the beginning of the second age of Israelite history (Acts 3:24). Moses had given the people their law, but Samuel in the schools of the prophets provided for them that education without which a written law was powerless, and called forth also and regulated that living energy in the prophetic order which, claiming an all but equal authority, modified and developed it, and continually increased its breadth and force, until the last prophet, Jesus of Nazareth, with supreme and Divine power reenacted it as the religion of the whole world. And as neither his educational institutions nor the prophetic order, whose ordinary duties were closely connected with these schools, could have flourished without internal quietness and security, Samuel also established the Jewish monarchy, which was ideally also necessary, because the Messiah must not only be priest and prophet, but before all things a king (Matthew 2:1, 6; John 18:37). And side by side with the kingdom he lived on to see the military successes of the first king, and the firm establishment of the royal power; but to witness also the development of that king into a despot, the overclouding of his mind with fits of madness, the designation of his successor, the probation of that successor by manifold trials, his ripening fitness under them to be the model of a theocratic king, and his growth in power so as practically to be now safe from all Saul's evil purposes. And so in the fulness of time Samuel died, and all Israel gathered together and made lamentation for him (see Genesis 1:10), and buried him in his house. The tomb at present shown as that of Samuel is situated upon a lofty hill, the identification of which with Ramah is very uncertain. Probably he was buried not actually in his house, as that would lead to perpetual ceremonial defilement (Numbers 19:16; Luke 11:44), but in some open spot in his garden (comp. 2 Kings 21:18; 2 Chronicles 33:20). So Joab was buried in his own house (1 Kings 2:34). At Ramah. Thenius thinks that the prophets shared with the kings the right of intramural burial. DAVID IN THE WILDERNESS OF PARAN (vers. 1-42). DAVID ASKS A GIFT OF THE WEALTHY NABAL AND IS REFUSED (vers. 1-13). Verse 1. - David arose. This is not to be connected with the death of Samuel, as though David had now lost a protector. But as he had fully 600 men with him, and his force was continually increasing, it was necessary for him to roam over a wide extent of country in order to obtain supplies of food. The wilderness of Paran. Paran strictly is a place in the southernmost part of the peninsula of Arabia, a little to the west of Mount Sinai; but there can be little doubt that it gave its name to the vast extent of pasture and barren land now known as the desert of El-Tih (see 1 Kings 11:18). Of this the wildernesses of Judah and Beersheba would virtually form parts without the borders being strictly defined. We need not therefore read "the wilderness of Maon," with the Septuagint and many commentators. On the contrary, we have seen that the hold in ch. 24:22 was the hill Hachilah in that neighbourhood, and David now moved southward towards the edge of this vast wilderness.
And there was a man in Maon, whose possessions were in Carmel; and the man was very great, and he had three thousand sheep, and a thousand goats: and he was shearing his sheep in Carmel.
Verse 2. - A man in Maon. Though strictly by descent belonging to Maon (for which see on 1 Samuel 23:24), his possessions - rather, "his business," "occupation" (see Genesis 47:3, and Ecclesiastes 4:3, where it is translated work) - were in Carmel, the small town just north of Maon, where Saul set up a trophy at the end of the Amalekite war (1 Samuel 15:12), and to which Abigail belonged (1 Samuel 27:3). He is described as very great because of his wealth arising from his large flocks of sheep and goats, which fed upon the pasture land which forms the elevated plateau of Carmel, where he was shearing his sheep, usually a time of lavish hospitality (2 Samuel 13:23, 24).
Now the name of the man was Nabal; and the name of his wife Abigail: and she was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb.
Verse 3. - Nabal, the word rendered fool in Psalm 14:1; literally, "flat," "vapid." Abigail means "one who is the cause (father) of joy," i.e. one who gives joy. She, with her bright understanding and beautiful person (the Hebrew word takes in much more than the countenance; see 1 Samuel 16:18, where it is rendered comely person), is in contrast with the coarse, churlish man who was her husband. His name was either one which he had acquired by his conduct, or if given him by his parents shows that they were clownish people. He was of the house of Caleb. The written text has, "he was according to his heart," celibbo, i.e. a self-willed man, or one whose rude exterior answered to his inner nature; but there are linguistic difficulties in the way of this reading, and the Kri is probably right in correcting calibbi, a Calebite, a descendant of Caleb, who had large possessions assigned him in the neighbourhood of Hebron (Joshua 15:13-19), which is only ten miles northwest of Carmel. The versions support the Kri, though the Syriac and Septuagint render doglike - one who, like a dog, though he has plenty, yet grudges others. The meaning of the name Caleb is literally "a dog."
And David heard in the wilderness that Nabal did shear his sheep.
Verses 4, 5. - Though David had gone some distance southward of Carmel, yet it was worth his while to send men to Nabal's sheep shearing, as the maintenance of his numerous force must have been a continual difficulty. The large number, ten, also shows that he expected a liberal gift of food. Probably such missions were not uncommon, and the large sheep masters were glad to supply the wants of one who guarded their flocks and defended them from the incursions of the desert tribes.
And David sent out ten young men, and David said unto the young men, Get you up to Carmel, and go to Nabal, and greet him in my name:
And thus shall ye say to him that liveth in prosperity, Peace be both to thee, and peace be to thine house, and peace be unto all that thou hast.
Verses 6-8. - Say to him that liveth in prosperity. The Hebrew is obscure, but the rendering of the A.V. is untenable, and also very tame. Literally it is, "Ye shall say to him, For life!" Probably it was a colloquial form of greeting, and equivalent to "good luck, "success," life in Hebrew being sometimes used for prosperity. So Luther translates it, and Rashi and the Babylonian Talmud are also in its favour. The reading of the Vulgate, "To thy brothers" (be peace), is to be altogether rejected. We hurt them not. Literally, "we caused them no shame" (see Judges 18:7), we did nothing to vex and injure them. Really the words mean that David had protected them, and enabled them to feed their flocks in safety. The fact that David waited till the sheep shearing, when hospitality was the rule, proves that he did not levy blackmail upon his countrymen, though necessarily he must have depended upon them for the food indispensabIe for the support of his men. A good day. I.e. a festive day, which should bring us a share in thy prosperity. Thy son David. A title expressive of the reverence due from the youthful David to his senior, and an acknowledgment of Nabal's superiority over his fugitive neighbour.
And now I have heard that thou hast shearers: now thy shepherds which were with us, we hurt them not, neither was there ought missing unto them, all the while they were in Carmel.
Ask thy young men, and they will shew thee. Wherefore let the young men find favour in thine eyes: for we come in a good day: give, I pray thee, whatsoever cometh to thine hand unto thy servants, and to thy son David.
And when David's young men came, they spake to Nabal according to all those words in the name of David, and ceased.
Verse 9. - They... ceased. Literally, "they rested;" i.e. either they remained quiet awaiting Nabal's answer, or sat down, as is the custom in the East, for the same purpose.
And Nabal answered David's servants, and said, Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants now a days that break away every man from his master.
Verses 10, 11. - There be many servants, etc. Nabal would scarcely have ventured to speak in so insulting a manner if David had been at Maon, but as he had moved with his men a long distance towards the south, he. gave free vent to his rude feelings without restraint. David was to him a mere slave who had run away from his master, Saul. My bread,... my water. These are the necessaries of life, while the flesh was the special luxury provided for the festival. David's ten young men would not literally carry water to him at so great a distance, nor did Nabal mean more than our phrase "meat and drink." The use, nevertheless, of water as equivalent to drink marks the value of water in the hill country, and also the abstemious habits of the people.
Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be?
So David's young men turned their way, and went again, and came and told him all those sayings.
Verses 12, 13. - Gird ye on, etc. David's determination was fierce and violent. No doubt Nabal's insult irritated him, and possibly also the rude outlaws round him would have protested against any other course; but Nabal's words, rude though they were, would not justify David in the rough vengeance which he meditated. Abigail throughout her speech argues that David was taking too violent a course, and one for which he would afterwards have been sorry. ABIGAIL PACIFIES DAVID (vers. 14-35).
And David said unto his men, Gird ye on every man his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword: and there went up after David about four hundred men; and two hundred abode by the stuff.
But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal's wife, saying, Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to salute our master; and he railed on them.
Verses 14-17. - One of the young men. Hebrew, "a lad of the lads," i.e. one of the servants (see on the word 1 Samuel 1:24); when used in this sense it has no reference to age (see 1 Samuel 2:17). This man was probably some old and confidential servitor. To salute. Hebrew, "to bless" (see 1 Samuel 13:10; 2 Kings 4:29). He railed on them. Literally, "flew upon them like a bird of prey." We were not hurt. Literally, "not put to shame" (see on ver. 7). The language of a people always bears witness to their character, and it is a mark of the high spirit of the Israelites that they thought less of the loss than of the disgrace of an injury. As long as we were conversant with them. Hebrew, "as long as we went about with them." In the fields. Really, "in the field," the wilderness, the common pasture land. A wall. I.e. a sure protection both against wild beasts and Amalekite and other plunderers. A son of Belial. A worthless, bad man (see on 1 Samuel 1:16), so coarse and violent that it is hopeless to expostulate with him.
But the men were very good unto us, and we were not hurt, neither missed we any thing, as long as we were conversant with them, when we were in the fields:
They were a wall unto us both by night and day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep.
Now therefore know and consider what thou wilt do; for evil is determined against our master, and against all his household: for he is such a son of Belial, that a man cannot speak to him.
Then Abigail made haste, and took two hundred loaves, and two bottles of wine, and five sheep ready dressed, and five measures of parched corn, and an hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid them on asses.
Verses 18-20. - Five measures of parched corn. The measure named here, the seah, contains about a peck and a half. As this seems little, Ewald reads 500 seahs, but probably it was regarded as a delicacy. Clusters of raisins. Rather, as in the margin, lumps of raisins. The bunches of grapes when dried were pressed into cakes. Sending her servants in front leading the asses which carried the present, she followed behind, and met David as she was coming down by the covert of the hill. Hebrew, "in secret of the hill," under cover of the hill, i.e. she met him as she was descending into some glen into which he had entered from the other end.
And she said unto her servants, Go on before me; behold, I come after you. But she told not her husband Nabal.
And it was so, as she rode on the ass, that she came down by the covert of the hill, and, behold, David and his men came down against her; and she met them.
Now David had said, Surely in vain have I kept all that this fellow hath in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that pertained unto him: and he hath requited me evil for good.
Verses 21, 22. - David justifies his fierce anger by referring to the services he had rendered Nabal, and which had been requited so shabbily. For the phrase so do God unto the enemies of David see on 1 Samuel 20:16. A superstitious feeling probably lay at the root of this substitution of David's enemies for himself when thus invoking a curse.
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.
And when Abigail saw David, she hasted, and lighted off the ass, and fell before David on her face, and bowed herself to the ground,
Verses 23-25. - Abigail... fell before David on her face. This very abject obeisance may have been grounded on her belief in David's future kingship, or it may simply mark the inferior position held by women in those days (see ver. 41). Her whole address is couched in very humble terms. David (1 Samuel 24:8) only stooped with his face to the ground before Saul. Upon me. Abigail represents herself as the person really guilty, on whom the iniquity, i.e. the punishment of the offence, must fall. Nabal is a mere son of Belial, a worthless, bad man, whose name Nabal, i.e. fool, is a sign that folly is with him, and accompanies all his acts. As a fool he is scarcely accountable for his doings, and Abigail, whose wont and business it was to set things to rights, saw not the young men, and so was unable to save them from her husband's rudeness.
And fell at his feet, and said, Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be: and let thine handmaid, I pray thee, speak in thine audience, and hear the words of thine handmaid.
Let not my lord, I pray thee, regard this man of Belial, even Nabal: for as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him: but I thine handmaid saw not the young men of my lord, whom thou didst send.
Now therefore, my lord, as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, seeing the LORD hath withholden thee from coming to shed blood, and from avenging thyself with thine own hand, now let thine enemies, and they that seek evil to my lord, be as Nabal.
Verses 26, 27. - Abigail begins her appeal by affirming that it was Jehovah who thus made her come to prevent bloodshed; she next propitiates David with the prayer that his enemies may be as Nabal, insignificant fools; and finally asks him to accept her present, not for himself, - that would be too great an honour, - but as good enough only for his followers. The first of these affirmations is obscured by the rendering in the A.V., and should be translated, "And now, my lord (an ordinary title of respect, like our sir), as Jehovah liveth, and as thy soul liveth, so true is it that Jehovah hath withholden thee from blood guiltiness, and from saving thyself with thine own hand; and now let thine enemies," etc. The same words recur in vers. 31, 33. Blessing. I.e. gift, present (see 1 Samuel 30:26). This beautiful term shows the deep religiousness of the Hebrew mind. The gift is something that comes not from the donor, but from God, in answer to the donor's prayer.
And now this blessing which thine handmaid hath brought unto my lord, let it even be given unto the young men that follow my lord.
I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid: for the LORD will certainly make my lord a sure house; because my lord fighteth the battles of the LORD, and evil hath not been found in thee all thy days.
Verse 28. - Forgive the trespass of thine handmaid. Reverting to her words in ver. 24, that the blame and punishment must rest on her, she now prays for forgiveness; but the intermediate words in ver. 26, emphasised in ver. 31, have raised her request to a higher level. Her prayer rests on the ground that she was saving David from a sin, and that in his thirst for vengeance he was bringing upon himself guilt. If the form of Abigail's address was most humble, the matter of it was brave and noble. A sure house. I.e. permanent prosperity (see on 1 Samuel 2:35). Because my lord fighteth. Hebrew, "will fight." David was not fighting these battles now because he was not yet enthroned as the theocratic king. It was Saul's business at present to fight "Jehovah's battles," either in person or by his officers (1 Samuel 18:17). The words, therefore, distinctly look forward to the time when David as king will have the duty imposed upon him of protecting Jehovah's covenant people. Evil hath not been found in thee. Hebrew, "shall not be found in thee," i.e. when the time comes for thee to take the kingdom no one shall be able to allege against thee any offence by which thou hast lost thy title to the kingly office; nor afterwards as king shalt thou be guilty of any breach of thy duty to Jehovah, Israel's supreme Ruler, so as to incur rejection as Saul has done.
Yet a man is risen to pursue thee, and to seek thy soul: but the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the LORD thy God; and the souls of thine enemies, them shall he sling out, as out of the middle of a sling.
Verses 29-31. - Yet a man is risen. Rather, "And should any one arise to pursue thee," etc. The reference is of course to Saul, but put with due reserve, and also made general, so as to include all possible injury attempted against David. Bound in the bundle of life. Hebrew, "of the living." The metaphor is taken from the habit of packing up in a bundle articles of great value or of indispensable use, so that the owner may carry them about his person. In India the phrase is common; thus, a just judge is said to be bound up in the bundle of righteousness; a lover in the bundle of love. Abigail prays, therefore, that David may, with others whose life is precious in God's sight, be securely kept under Jehovah's personal care and protection. In modern times the two words signifying "in the bundle of the living" form a common inscription on Jewish gravestones, the phrase having been interpreted in the Talmud, as also by Abravanel and other Jewish authorities, of a future life. Shall he sling out, etc. In forcible contrast with this careful preservation of David's life, she prays that his enemies may be cast away as violently and to as great a distance as a stone is cast out of a sling. The middle is the hollow in which the stone was placed. Ruler. i.e. prince. It is the word rendered captain in 1 Samuel 9:16; 1 Samuel 10:1, but its meaning is more correctly given here. Grief. The word really means much the same as stumbling block, something which makes a person stagger by his striking against it unawares. Abigail prays, therefore, that when David has become prince, and so has to administer justice, this violent and revengeful act which he was purposing might not prove a cause of stumbling and an offence of heart to himself, by his conscience reproaching him for having himself done that which he had to condemn in others.
And it shall come to pass, when the LORD shall have done to my lord according to all the good that he hath spoken concerning thee, and shall have appointed thee ruler over Israel;
That this shall be no grief unto thee, nor offence of heart unto my lord, either that thou hast shed blood causeless, or that my lord hath avenged himself: but when the LORD shall have dealt well with my lord, then remember thine handmaid.
And David said to Abigail, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me:
Verses 32-35. - David, in his thankful acknowledgment of Abigail's remonstrance, sees in it the hand of Jehovah the God of Israel, who had sent her, i.e. stirred her up to come. He commends also her advice, literally, her "taste," i.e. wisdom, discretion. It is the word rendered behaviour in 1 Samuel 21:13. But for this prudent conduct on her part in thus coming to meet him on the way, he solemnly assures her on oath that nothing could have saved Nabal and every male in his household from death. Finally, he accepts her present and dismisses her with the assurance that all was forgiven. DEATH OF NABAL AND MARRIAGE OF DAVID AND ABIGAIL (vers. 36-42).
And blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand.
For in very deed, as the LORD God of Israel liveth, which hath kept me back from hurting thee, except thou hadst hasted and come to meet me, surely there had not been left unto Nabal by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall.
So David received of her hand that which she had brought him, and said unto her, Go up in peace to thine house; see, I have hearkened to thy voice, and have accepted thy person.
And Abigail came to Nabal; and, behold, he held a feast in his house, like the feast of a king; and Nabal's heart was merry within him, for he was very drunken: wherefore she told him nothing, less or more, until the morning light.
Verses 36-38. - For he was very drunken. Hebrew, "and he was very drunken." This was not the cause of his heart being merry, but the result; he gave himself up to enjoyment till he became drunken, and then his merriment was over. When Abigail came back he was stupefied by drink, and it was not until the next day, when his debauch was passing off, that he was capable of being told what his wife had done. And when Abigail recounted to him David's fierce resolve, and how she had pacified him, he seems to have given way to a fit of violent indignation, flying out possibly at her as he had at David's messengers (ver. 14), the result of which was an attack of apoplexy, and after lying in a state of insensibility for ten days, he died.
But it came to pass in the morning, when the wine was gone out of Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became as a stone.
And it came to pass about ten days after, that the LORD smote Nabal, that he died.
And when David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, Blessed be the LORD, that hath pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal, and hath kept his servant from evil: for the LORD hath returned the wickedness of Nabal upon his own head. And David sent and communed with Abigail, to take her to him to wife.
Verses 39-42. - Hath pleaded the cause of my reproach. In the causes tried at the gate of an Israelite city the friends of the accused both pleaded his cause, defended him from wrong, and punished any who had wronged him. So God had avenged David, while preventing him by Abigail s interference from avenging himself (see 1 Samuel 24:13). As a widow's legal mourning seems to have lasted only seven days, David, on hearing of Nabal's death, sent messengers to Abigail at Carmel to ask her in marriage. He was probably moved to this not merely by her sensible conduct, but also by the news that Michal had been given to another. She expresses her willingness in true Oriental fashion by saying she was ready to perform the most abject menial duties, even for his servants, and at once with five maidens proceeds to join him. It is a proof that David considered himself practically secure against Saul's attempts that he thus married and allowed women to accompany his small force, as their presence would not only impede the rapidity of his movements, but also implies a certain amount of case and comfort for their maintenance. ADDITIONAL PARTICULARS RESPECTING DAVID'S MARRIED Life (vers. 43, 44).
And when the servants of David were come to Abigail to Carmel, they spake unto her, saying, David sent us unto thee, to take thee to him to wife.
And she arose, and bowed herself on her face to the earth, and said, Behold, let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.
And Abigail hasted, and arose, and rode upon an ass, with five damsels of hers that went after her; and she went after the messengers of David, and became his wife.
David also took Ahinoam of Jezreel; and they were also both of them his wives.
Verses 43, 44. - Besides Abigail, David also took to wife Ahinoam of Jezreel, a small village among the hills of Judah (Joshua 15:56), and not the better known town of that name in the tribe of Issachar. Ahinoam was the name also of Saul's wife (1 Samuel 14:50). They were also...his wives. I.e. besides Michal. She had been given by Saul to Phalti the son of Laish, called Phaltiel in 2 Samuel 3:15, where we read of his lamentation at her being torn from him by Ishbosheth in order that she might be restored to David. Gallim is described in Isaiah 10:30 as being situated between Gibeah of Saul and Jerusalem.

But Saul had given Michal his daughter, David's wife, to Phalti the son of Laish, which was of Gallim.
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