We have seen so far that Nabal refused hospitality to David and his men and he refused to consult others about his decision. What else might we learn from this story recounted in 1 Samuel 25?
Nabal refused to even recognize David. In verse 10, Nabal says, "David who? Never heard of him." Well, everyone had heard of David. People knew that David had been anointed as King and that King Saul was hunting him to kill him to prevent him from becoming king. People knew that David had killed Goliath. In fact, Abigail (v 28) acknowledges that David will become king and cleverly reminds him of his victory over Goliath (v 29). There is no way that Nabal didn't know who David was.
One thing in Nabal's favor is that he has married a woman who is both beautiful and intelligent. Actually, Abigail is the heroine of this story. With disaster for her entire household immanent (v 22), she takes action. She gathers bread and wine, sheep and grain, figs and raisins on a donkey train and sets out for David's camp. She doesn't hesitate. She leaves quickly and meets David on his way to wipe out her household. David is determined to have his vengeance.
When Abigail meets David on the path, she throws herself face-down at his feet and takes the blame for what her husband has done. Abigail, who comes riding on a donkey, with bread and wine, lamb and fruit, brings peace. She takes the blame, the sin of her husband (the refusal of hospitality, of food and drink and just payment for David's protection) on herself.
Abigail, not David, is the Jesus figure in this story. She is the one riding on a donkey, providing bread and wine, and taking all the responsibility for what went wrong on her shoulders. She is the princess of peace, if you will, offering a way out for David, a way for him to save face and not take vengeance into his own hands. It is the right of God alone to take vengeance (v 26).
For Reflection: Jesus comes to us offering peace, and everything else we need. He offers to take the blame for what others have done to us. Will we accept his gifts? Will we lay down our weapons no matter what was done to us and let him take the blame? Will we put not only our sins but also the sins of others against us onto the cross with him? Can we say, "That's enough. I'm done seeking revenge. It is finished."
Let us pray. Jesus, I've been seeking revenge for a long time. I've wanted to hear an apology. I've wanted to see them punished for what they did to me. But I see now that I have to let it go. I'm giving the hurt to you. You do with them whatever you think is right.
Jesus, I need healing for all the bad things that have happened in my life. Please meet me on the path at Calvary and heal me.
In looking again at 1 Samuel 25, we see that Nabal acted rashly toward David's emissaries. The account doesn't tell us that Nabal consulted any of his men about the truth of the men's claims that they had been guarding his shepherds through the winter. Had he consulted his shepherds, they would have told him the truth of the matter. So, not only does Nabal send them away without basic hospitality (about which he could have consulted his wife Abigail), but also without verifying their claims (about which he could have consulted his shepherds).
In response, David too acts rashly. He is immediately incensed at Nabal's refusal and has his men take up their swords with the intent of marching to Carmel and slaying all of Nabal's men. The record does not show that David stopped to pray or to consult anyone about the appropriate response. No, David sets out to take vengeance against not just Nabal but all the men belonging with Nabal.
For Reflection: Do I consult others before I make important decisions? Do I ask God for wisdom? Have I taken vengeance into my own hands?
Let us pray. Jesus, you are the seat of all wisdom. You know everything. You know people's hearts, including the hearts of those who have harmed me. It was not right for me to take vengeance into my own hands. I repent of doing that. I ask your forgiveness and the forgiveness of those whom I hurt.
Have you read 1 Samuel 25 lately? Me neither, until someone suggested it this week. It is part of the saga of David before he becomes king. In this episode, David and his men have spent the winter near Carmel during which time they protected the sheepherders of a man named Nabal. When time came for shearing the sheep, a time of festival, David sent some of his men to Nabal to ask for hospitality for him and his men. But Nabal, a wicked and surly man, refuses.
David's men return to him and give him the message. David is incensed and determines to slaughter all of Nabal's men. Meanwhile, Nabal's shepherds go to his wife Abigail and report what has happened, urging her to do something to avoid war.
While David and his men are marching toward Carmel, here comes Abigail, riding on a donkey, bringing bread and wine, raisins and figs, along with lamb meat and grain. They meet in a valley and Abigail is able to turn aside David's wrath by apologizing and making reparation for the refusal of hospitality by her husband. Abigail's quick action averted war and saved the lives of many.
Abigail returned home to find her husband drunk from the party. So she waited until the next morning to tell him what she had done.
For Reflection: There are many things we can learn from this story, but let us begin with the first item: refusal of hospitality. Hospitality was extremely important in the Hebrew world. Particularly in a desert region, which this was, one was never to refuse the basics of food, drink and lodging. Yet Nabal did, even though he was rich and David and his men had been protecting Nabal's men all winter. Do we identify with Nabal or with David?
Is there anyone to whom we have refused hospitality? Why? Can this be remedied?
We may not want to welcome a stranger into our home today, but do we look out for the lost and the homeless? Are we kind to those who need to see a friendly, smiling face? Have we failed to return a favor or pay it forward? God calls us to peace and hospitality.
Let us pray. Jesus, sometimes I identify with Nabal. Why should I share more of my hard-earned resources with others? There have also been times when I've refused a family member entry to my home. I'd like to be more like Abigail and find a way to bring peace. I know you don't want me to be at odds with anyone. Show me a way through. Show me the way to stop the war, make amends and bring peace to the family. Help me to be hospitable.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.