Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 25:1
The death of Samuel is inserted here, because it occurred at that time. The fact that all Israel assembled together to his burial, and lamented him, i.e., mourned for him, was a sign that his labours as a prophet were recognised by the whole nation as a blessing for Israel. Since the days of Moses and Joshua, no man had arisen to whom the covenant nation owed so much as to Samuel, who has been justly called the reformer and restorer of the theocracy. They buried him "in his house at Ramah." The expression "his house" does not mean his burial-place or family tomb, nor his native place, but the house in which he lived, with the court belonging to it, where Samuel was placed in a tomb erected especially for him. After the death of Samuel, David went down into the desert of Paran, i.e., into the northern portion of the desert of Arabia, which stretches up to the mountains of Judah (see at Num 10:12); most likely for no other reason than because he could no longer find sufficient means of subsistence for himself and his six hundred men in the desert of Judah.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 25:2
The following history of Nabal's folly, and of the wise and generous behaviour of his pious and intelligent wife Abigail towards David, shows how Jehovah watched over His servant David, and not only preserved him from an act of passionate excitement, which might have endangered his calling to be king of Israel, but turned the trouble into which he had been brought into a source of prosperity and salvation.
At Maon, i.e., Main or the mountains of Judah (see at Jos 15:55), there lived a rich man (גּדול, great through property and riches), who had his establishment at Carmel. מעשׂה, work, occupation, then establishment, possessions (vid., Exo 23:15). Carmel is not the promontory of that name (Thenius), but the present Kurmul on the mountains of Judah, scarcely half an hour's journey to the north-west of Maon (see at Jos 15:55). This man possessed three thousand sheep and a thousand goats, and was at the sheep-shearing at Carmel. His name was Nabal (i.e., fool): this was hardly his proper name, but was a surname by which he was popularly designated on account of his folly. His wife Abigail was "of good understanding," i.e., intelligent, "and of beautiful figure;" but the husband was "harsh and evil in his doings." He sprang from the family of Caleb. This is the rendering adopted by the Chaldee and Vulgate, according to the Keri כּלבּי. The Chethibh is to be read כּלבּו, "according to his heart;" though the lxx (ἄνθρωπος κυνικός) and Josephus, as well as the Arabic and Syriac, derive it from כּלב, and understand it as referring to the dog-like, or shameless, character of the man.
When David heard in the desert (cf. Sa1 25:1) that Nabal was shearing his sheep, which was generally accompanied with a festal meal (see at Gen 38:12), he sent ten young men up to Carmel to him, and bade them wish him peace and prosperity in his name, and having reminded him of the friendly services rendered to his shepherds, solicit a present for himself and his people. לשׁלום לו שׁאל, ask him after his welfare, i.e., greet him in a friendly manner (cf. Exo 18:7). The word לחי is obscure, and was interpreted by the early translators merely according to uncertain conjectures. The simplest explanation is apparently in vitam, long life, understood as a wish in the sense of "good fortune to you" (Luther, Maurer, etc.); although the word חי in the singular can only be shown to have the meaning life in connection with the formula used in oaths, נפשׁך חי, etc. But even if חי must be taken as an adjective, it is impossible to explain לחי in any other way than as an elliptical exclamation meaning "good fortune to the living man." For the idea that the word is to be connected with אמרתּם, "say to the living man," i.e., to the man if still alive, is overthrown by the fact that David had no doubt that Nabal was still living. The words which follow are also to be understood as a wish, "May thou and thy house, and all that is thine, be well!" After this salutation they were to proceed with the object of their visit: "And now I have heard that thou hast sheep-shearers. Now thy shepherds have been with us; we have done them no harm (הכלים, as in Jdg 18:7 : on the form, see Ges. 53, 3, Anm. 6), and nothing was missed by them so long as they were in Carmel." When living in the desert, David's men had associated with the shepherds of Nabal, rendered them various services, and protected them and their flocks against the southern inhabitants of the desert (the Bedouin Arabs); in return for which they may have given them food and information. Thus David proved himself a protector of his people even in his banishment. וימצאוּ, "so may the young men (those sent by David) find favour in thine eyes! for we have come to a good (i.e., a festive) day. Give, I pray, what thy hand findeth (i.e., as much as thou canst) to thy servant, and to thy son David." With the expression "thy son" David claims Nabal's fatherly goodwill. So far as the fact itself is concerned, "on such a festive occasion near a town or village even in our own time, an Arab sheikh of the neighbouring desert would hardly fail to put in a word either in person or by message; and his message both in form and substance would be only the transcript of that of David" (Robinson, Palestine, p. 201).
David's messengers delivered their message to Nabal, ויּנוּחוּ, "and sat down," sc., awaiting the fulfilment of their request. The rendering given by the Chaldee (פּסקוּ, cessaverunt loqui) and the Vulgate (siluerunt) is less suitable, and cannot be philologically sustained. The Septuagint, on the other hand, has καὶ ἀνεπήδησε, "and he (Nabal) sprang up," as if the translators had read ויּקם (vid., lxx at Sa1 20:34). This rendering, according to which the word belongs to the following clause, gives a very appropriate sense, if only, supposing that ויּקם really did stand in the text, the origin and general adoption of ויּנוּחוּ could in any way be explained.
Nabal refused the petitioners in the most churlish manner: "Who is David? who the son of Jesse?" i.e., what have I to do with David? "There by many servants now-a-days who tear away every one from his master." Thus, in order to justify his own covetousness, he set down David as a vagrant who had run away from his master.
"And I should take my bread and my water (i.e., my food and drink), and my cattle, ... and give them to men whom I do not know whence they are?" ולקחתּי is a perfect with vav consec., and the whole sentence is to be taken as a question.
The messengers returned to David with this answer. The churlish reply could not fail to excite his anger. He therefore commanded his people to gird on the sword, and started with 400 men to take vengeance upon Nabal, whilst 200 remained behind with the things.
1 Samuel 25:14-31
However intelligible David's wrath may appear in the situation in which he was placed, it was not right before God, but a sudden burst of sinful passion, which was unseemly in a servant of God. By carrying out his intention, he would have sinned against the Lord and against His people. But the Lord preserved him from this sin by the fact that, just at the right time, Abigail, the intelligent and pious wife of Nabal, heard of the affair, and was able to appease the wrath of David by her immediate and kindly interposition.
Abigail heard from one of (Nabal's) servants what had taken place (בּרך, to wish any one prosperity and health, i.e., to salute, as in Sa1 13:10; and יעט, from עיט, to speak wrathfully: on the form, see at Sa1 15:19 and Sa1 14:32), and also what had been praiseworthy in the behaviour of David's men towards Nabal's shepherds; how they had not only done them no injury, had not robbed them of anything, but had defended them all the while. "They were a wall (i.e., a firm protection) round us by night and by day, as long as we were with them feeding the sheep," i.e., a wall of defence against attacks from the Bedouins living in the desert.
"And now," continued the servant, "know and see what thou doest; for evil is determined (cf. Sa1 20:9) against our master and all his house: and he (Nabal) is a wicked man, that one cannot address him."
Then Abigail took as quickly as possible a bountiful present of provisions, - two hundred loaves, two bottles of wine, five prepared (i.e., slaughtered) sheep (עשׁוּות, a rare form for עשׂוּית: see Ewald, 189, a.), five seahs (an ephah and two-thirds) of roasted grains (Kali: see Sa1 17:17), a hundred צמּקים (dried grapes, i.e., raisin-cakes: Ital. simmuki), and two hundred fig-cakes (consisting of pressed figs joined together), - and sent these gifts laden upon asses on before her to meet David whilst she herself followed behind to appease his anger by coming to meet him in a friendly manner, but without saying a word to her husband about what she intended to do.
When she came down riding upon the ass by a hidden part of the mountain, David and his men came to meet her, so that she lighted upon them. ההר סתר, a hidden part of the mountain, was probably a hollow between two peaks of a mountain. This would explain the use of the word ירד, to come down, with reference both to Abigail, who approached on the one side, and David, who came on the other.
Sa1 25:21 and Sa1 25:22 contain a circumstantial clause introduced parenthetically to explain what follows: but David had said, Only for deception (i.e., for no other purpose than to be deceived in my expectation) have I defended all that belongs to this man (Nabal) in the desert, so that nothing of his was missed, and (for) he hath repaid me evil for good. God do so to the enemies of David, if I leave, etc.; i.e., "as truly as God will punish the enemies of David, so certainly will I not leave till the morning light, of all that belongeth to him, one that pisseth against the wall." This oath, in which the punishment of God is not called down upon the swearer himself (God do so to me), as it generally is, but upon the enemies of David, is analogous to that in Sa1 3:17, where punishment is threatened upon the person addressed, who is there made to swear; except that here, as the oath could not be uttered in the ears of the person addressed, upon whom it was to fall, the enemies generally are mentioned instead of "to thee." There is no doubt, therefore, as to the correctness of the text. The substance of this imprecation may be explained from the fact that David is so full of the consciousness of fighting and suffering for the cause of the kingdom of God, that he discerns in the insult heaped upon him by Nabal an act of hostility to the Lord and the cause of His kingdom. The phrase בּקיר משׁתּין, mingens in parietem, is only met with in passages which speak of the destruction of a family or household to the very last man (viz., besides this passage, Kg1 14:10; Kg1 16:11; Kg1 21:21; Kg2 9:8), and neither refers primarily to dogs, as Ephraem Syrus, Juda ben Karish, and others maintain; nor to the lowest class of men, as Winer, Maurer, and others imagine; nor to little boys, as L. de Dieu, Gesenius, etc., suppose; but, as we may see from the explanatory clause appended to Kg1 14:10; Kg1 21:21; Kg2 9:8, to every male (quemcumque masculi generis hominem: vid., Bochart, Hieroz. i. pp. 776ff., and Rdiger on Ges. Thes. pp. 1397-8).
Sa1 25:23 is connected with Sa1 25:20. When Abigail saw David, she descended hastily from the ass, fell upon her face before him, bowed to the ground, and fell at his feet, saying, "Upon me, me, my lord, be the guilt; allow thy handmaid to reveal the thing to thee." She takes the guilt upon herself, because she hopes that David will not avenge it upon her.
She prayed that David would take no notice of Nabal, for he was what his name declared - a fool, and folly in him; but she (Abigail) had not seen the messengers of David. "The prudent woman uses a good argument; for a wise man should pardon a fool" (Seb. Schmidt). She then endeavours to bring David to a friendly state of mind by three arguments, introduced with ועתּה (Sa1 25:26, Sa1 25:27), before asking for forgiveness (Sa1 25:28). She first of all pointed to the leadings of God, by which David had been kept from committing murder through her coming to meet him.
(Note: "She founds her argument upon their meeting, which was so marvellously seasonable, that it might be easily and truly gathered from this fact that it had taken place through the providence of God; i.e., And now, because I meet thee so seasonably, do thou piously acknowledge with me the providence of God, which has so arranged all this, that innocent blood might not by change be shed by thee." - Seb. Schmidt.)
"As truly as Jehovah liveth, and by the life of thy soul! yea, the Lord hath kept thee, that thou camest not into blood-guiltiness, and thy hand helped thee" (i.e., and with thy hand thou didst procure thyself help). אשׁר, introducing her words, as in Sa1 15:20, lit. "as truly as thou livest, (so true is it) that," etc. In the second place, she points to the fact that God is the avenger of the wicked, by expressing the wish that all the enemies of David may become fools like Nabal; in connection with which it must be observed, in order to understand her words fully, that, according to the Old Testament representation, folly is a correlate of ungodliness, which inevitably brings down punishment.
(Note: Seb. Schmidt has justly observed, that "she reminds David of the promise of God. Not that she prophesies, but that she has gathered it from the general promises of the word of God. The promise referred to is, that whoever does good to his enemies, and takes no vengeance upon them, God himself will avenge him upon his enemies; according to the saying, Vengeance is mine, I will repay. And this is what Abigail says: And now thine enemies shall be as Nabal.")
The predicate to the sentence "and they that seek evil to my lord" must be supplied from the preceding words, viz., "may they become just such fools."
It is only in the third line that she finally mentions the present, but in such a manner that she does not offer it directly to David, but describes it as a gift for the men in his train. "And now this blessing (בּרכה here and Sa1 30:26, as in Gen 33:11 : cf. ἡ εὐλογία, Co2 9:5-6), which thine handmaid hath brought, let it be given to the young men in my lord's train" (lit. "at the feet of:" cf. Exo 11:8; Jdg 4:10, etc.).
The shrewd and pious woman supports her prayer for forgiveness of the wrong, which she takes upon herself, by promises of the rich blessing with which the Lord would recompense David. She thereby gives such clear and distinct expression to her firm belief in the divine election of David as king of Israel, that her words almost amount to prophecy: "For Jehovah will make my lord a lasting house (cf. Sa1 2:35; and for the fact itself, Sa2 7:8., where the Lord confirms this pious wish by His own promises to David himself); for my lord fighteth the wars of Jehovah (vid., Sa1 18:17), and evil is not discovered in thee thy whole life long." רעה, evil, i.e., misfortune, mischief; for the thought that he might also be preserved from wrong-doing is not expressed till Sa1 25:31. "All thy days," lit. "from thy days," i.e., from the beginning of thy life.
"And should any one rise up to pursue thee, ... the soul of my lord will be bound up in the bundle of the living with the Lord thy God." The metaphor is taken from the custom of binding up valuable things in a bundle, to prevent their being injured. The words do not refer primarily to eternal life with God in heaven, but only to the safe preservation of the righteous on this earth in the grace and fellowship of the Lord. But whoever is so hidden in the gracious fellowship of the Lord in this life, that no enemy can harm him or injure his life, the Lord will not allow to perish, even though temporal death should come, but will then receive him into eternal life. "But the soul of thine enemies, He will hurl away in the cup of the sling." "The cup (caph: cf. Gen 32:26) of the sling" was the cavity in which the stone was placed for the purpose of hurling.
Abigail concluded her intercession with the assurance that the forgiveness of Nabal's act would be no occasion of anguish of heart to David when he should have become prince over Israel, on account of his having shed innocent blood and helped himself, and also with the hope that he would remember her. From the words, "When Jehovah shall do to my lord according to all the good that He hath spoken concerning him, and shall make thee prince over Israel," it appears to follow that Abigail had received certain information of the anointing of David, and his designation to be the future king, probably through Samuel, or one of the pupils of the prophets. There is nothing to preclude this assumption, even if it cannot be historically sustained. Abigail manifests such an advance and maturity in the life of faith, as could only have been derived from intercourse with prophets. It is expressly stated with regard to Elijah and Elisha, that at certain times the pious assembled together around the prophets. What prevents us from assuming the same with regard to Samuel? The absence of any distinct testimony to that effect is amply compensated for by the brief, and for the most part casual, notices that are given of the influence which Samuel exerted upon all Israel.
Sa1 25:31 introduces the apodosis to Sa1 25:30 : "So will this (i.e., the forgiveness of Nabal's folly, for which she had prayed in Sa1 25:28) not be a stumbling-block (pukah: anything in the road which causes a person to stagger) and anguish of heart (i.e., conscientious scruple) to thee, and shedding innocent blood, and that my lord helps himself. וגו ולשׁפּך is perfectly parallel to וגו לפוּקה, and cannot be taken as subordinate, as it is in the Vulgate, etc., in the sense of "that thou hast not shed blood innocently," etc. In this rendering not only is the vav cop. overlooked, but "not" is arbitrarily interpolated, to obtain a suitable sense, which the Vulgate rendering, quod effuderis sanguinem innoxiam, does not give. והיטיב is to be taken conditionally: "and if Jehovah shall deal well with my lord, then," etc.
These words could not fail to appease David's wrath. In his reply he praised the Lord for having sent Abigail to meet him (Sa1 25:32), and then congratulated Abigail upon her understanding and her actions, that she had kept him from bloodshed (Sa1 25:33); otherwise he would certainly have carried out the revenge which he had resolved to take upon Nabal (Sa1 25:34). ואוּלם is strongly adversative: nevertheless. מהרע, inf. constr. Hiph. of רעע. כּי, ὅτι, introduces the substance of the affirmation, and is repeated before the oath: אם כּי ... לוּלי כּי, (that) if thou hadst not, etc., (that) truly there would not have been left (cf. Sa2 2:27). The very unusual form תּבאתי, an imperfect with the termination of the perfect, might indeed possibly be a copyist's error for תּבאי (Olsh. Gr. pp. 452, 525), but in all probability it is only an intensified form of the second pers. fem. imperf., like תּבואתה (Deu 33:16; cf. Ewald, 191, c.).
David then received the gifts brought for him, and bade Abigail return to her house, with the assurance that he had granted her request for pardon. פּנים נשׂא, as in Gen 19:21, etc.
When Abigail returned home, she found her husband at a great feast, like a king's feast, very merry (עליו, "therewith," refers to משׁתּה: cf. Pro 23:30), and drunken above measure, so that she told him nothing of what had occurred until the break of day.
Then, "when the wine had gone from Nabal," i.e., when he had become sober, she related the matter to him; whereat he was so terrified, that he was smitten with a stroke. This is the meaning of the words, "his heart died within him, and it became as stone." The cause of it was not his anger at the loss he had sustained, or merely his alarm at the danger to which he had been exposed, and which he did not believe to be over yet, but also his vexation that his wife should have made him humble himself in such a manner; for he is described as a hard, i.e., an unbending, self-willed man.
About ten days later the Lord smote him so that he died, i.e., the Lord put an end to his life by a second stroke.
When David heard of Nabal's death, he praised Jehovah that He had avenged his shame upon Nabal, and held him back from self-revenge. וגו רב עשׁר, "who hath pleaded the cause of my reproach (the disgrace inflicted upon me) against Nabal." "Against Nabal" does not belong to "my reproach," but to "pleaded the cause." The construction of ריב with מן is a pregnant one, to fight (and deliver) out of the power of a person (vid., Psa 43:1); whereas here the fundamental idea is that of taking vengeance upon a person.
He then sent messengers to Abigail, and conveyed to her his wish to marry her, to which she consented without hesitation. With deep reverence she said to the messengers (Sa1 25:41), "Behold, thy handmaid as servant (i.e., is ready to become thy servant) to wash the feet of the servants of my lord;" i.e., in the obsequious style of the East, "I am ready to perform the humblest possible services for thee."
She then rose up hastily, and went after the messengers to David with five damsels in her train, and became his wife.
The historian appends a few notices here concerning David's wives: "And David had taken Ahinoam from Jezreel; thus they also both became his wives." The expression "also" points to David's marriage with Michal, the daughter of Saul (Sa1 18:28). Jezreel is not the city of that name in the tribe of Issachar (Jos 19:18), but the one in the mountains of Judah (Jos 15:56).
But Saul had taken his daughter Michal away from David, and given her to Palti of Gallim. Palti is called Paltiel in Sa2 3:15. According to Isa 10:30, Gallim was a place between Gibeah of Saul and Jerusalem. Valentiner supposes it to be the hill to the south of Tuleil el Phul (Gibeah of Saul) called Khirbet el Jisr. After the death of Saul, however, David persuaded Ishbosheth to give him Michal back again (see Sa2 3:14.).