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.1 Samuel 25:1. And Samuel died — According to the best chronologers, he governed Israel after the death of Eli sixteen years or upward, and lived about forty years after in the reign of Saul; and all the Israelites lamented him — It is no wonder that so wise and holy a man, so righteous a ruler, so just a judge, and so enlightened a prophet, should be uncommonly and universally lamented; especially when the wisdom and equity of his government, compared with Saul’s tyranny and extravagance, made his memory more dear and his loss more regretted. “Those have hard hearts,” says Henry, “that can bury their faithful ministers with dry eyes, and are not sensible of the loss of them who have prayed for them, and taught them the way of the Lord.” And buried him in his house in Ramah — Where, it is likely, there was a burying-place for his family in some part of his garden, or some field adjacent. For they had then no public places of interment. He was now attended by all Israel to his grave, and his remains, many centuries after, were removed with incredible pomp, and almost one continued train of attendants, from Ramah to Constantinople, by the Emperor Arcadius, A.D. 401.
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.1 Samuel 25:2. Whose possessions were in Carmel — In some part of this wilderness Israel wandered, when they came out of Egypt. The place would bring to David’s mind God’s care over them, which he might now improve for his own encouragement.
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.1 Samuel 25:3. The name of his wife was Abigail — That is, the joy of his father; yet he could not promise himself much joy of her, when he married her to such a husband; it seems, by inquiring (no unfrequent thing) more after his wealth than after his wisdom. He was of the house of Caleb — This is added to aggravate his crime, that he was a degenerate branch of that noble stock of Caleb, and consequently of the tribe of Judah, as David was.
And David heard in the wilderness that Nabal did shear his sheep.1 Samuel 25:4-6. Nabal did shear his sheep — Which times were celebrated with feasting. That liveth in prosperity — In the Hebrew it is, To him that liveth, but the word life in Scripture often signifies happiness, as death signifies misery. By speaking thus, David both congratulates Nabal’s felicity, and tacitly intimates to him the distress in which he and his men were.
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.
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.1 Samuel 25:7-8. We hurt them not, &c. — This, considering the licentiousness of soldiers, and the necessities David and his men were exposed to, was no small favour, which Nabal was bound both in justice and gratitude, and prudence, to requite. We come in a good day — That is, in a day of feasting and rejoicing; when men are most cheerful and liberal; when thou mayest relieve us out of thy abundance without damage to thyself; when thou art receiving the mercies of God, and therefore obliged to pity and relieve distressed and indigent persons. Give, I pray thee, whatsoever cometh to thy hand — Most obliging words, and full of respect, mixed with strong arguments; and they did not desire delicacies, but any thing that was at hand which he could spare.
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.
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.1 Samuel 25:10. Who is David? — There be many servants, &c. — He reproaches them all as a company of fugitives and vagabonds; and, in effect, taxes David with infidelity to his master Saul; a most rude and brutish answer to such a civil message and humble request.
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.
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.1 Samuel 25:14-17. But one of the young men told Abigail, &c. — One of those belonging to Nabal. Who can help admiring the wisdom and fidelity of this shepherd, who admonished his mistress of the danger her family was in; as he rationally concluded from the rude abuse that had been put upon David, whose merits he honestly set forth before her. They were a wall unto us — This servant says more than David’s men had said of themselves; that they not only did them no harm, but were a guard to them against robbers and against wild beasts. A man cannot speak to him — But he flies into a passion. Nabal must have been a most brutish, churlish man, to extort such a character of himself from his own servants.
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.1 Samuel 25:18-19. Then Abigail took two hundred loaves, &c. — This shows he was a great man, who had plenty of provisions in his house. Abigail did this of her own accord, without her husband’s leave, because it was a case of apparent necessity, for the preservation of herself and husband, and all the family, from imminent ruin. She said unto her servants, Go on before me, &c. — They carried the present, that David, beholding it, might be a little mitigated before she came to him.
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.1 Samuel 25:21. Surely in vain have I kept all that this fellow hath — Though David justly thought he had no right to take any part of the flock of Nabal by way of plunder; yet, when he and his men had taken the trouble of defending them for some time from all damage, which, probably, they otherwise could not have escaped, he concluded, with much reason, that he and his men, when reduced to necessity, had cause to expect something by way of gratuity from Nabal, for the services they had done him.
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.1 Samuel 25:22. So and more also do God unto the enemies of David — That is, unto David himself. But because it might seem ominous to curse himself, therefore, instead of David, he mentions David’s enemies: see 1 Samuel 20:16. The meaning seems to be, that he wishes God might bless his enemies, and pour evil upon himself, if he did not destroy Nabal and all the males of his family before the morning. But is this the voice of David? Can he speak so unadvisedly with his lips? Has he been so long in the school of affliction, and learned no more patience therein? Lord, what is man? And what need have we to pray, Lead us not into temptation! David’s wrath, though perhaps justly moved, here carried him to a pitch that, if executed, would have filled him with remorse, sorrow, and shame, as it could by no means have been reconciled to the laws of that God who was his defender, and whom alone he confided in for support under, and deliverance out of, his troubles. In which laws, too, he was well instructed, and therefore ought to have been governed by them, and not by his furious resentment.
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,
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.1 Samuel 25:24. Upon me, my lord, let this iniquity be, &c. — Impute Nabal’s sin to me; and, if thou pleasest, punish it in me, who here offer myself as a sacrifice to thy just indignation. This whole speech of Abigail shows great wisdom. By an absolute submitting to mercy, without any pretence of justification of what was done, (but rather with aggravation of it,) she endeavours to work upon David’s generosity, to pardon it. And there is hardly any head of argument, whence the greatest orator might argue in this case, which she doth not manage to the best advantage.
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.1 Samuel 25:25. Let not my lord regard this man of Belial, &c. — She represents him as a man that offended out of folly, rather than malice; which might in some degree excuse his rudeness. For as his name is, so is he — Nabal in the Hebrew signifies a fool, though not one by nature, but rather through pride and insolence.
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.1 Samuel 25:26. Seeing the Lord hath withholden thee from coming to shed blood — Nothing could possibly be spoken to David with more effect, to turn away his wrath, than thus to insinuate such an opinion of his goodness and clemency, as already to conclude she had diverted him from his purpose; or, rather, that God had interposed by his good providence to hinder him from shedding blood. Now let thine enemies be as Nabal — Let them be as contemptible as Nabal is, and will be for this odious action; let them be as unable to do thee any hurt as he is; let them be forced to yield to thee, and implore thy pardon, as Nabal now doth by my mouth; let the vengeance thou didst design upon Nabal and his family fall upon their heads, who, by their inveterate malice against thee, do more deserve it than this fool for this miscarriage; and much more than all the rest of our family, who, as they are none of thine enemies, so they were no way guilty of this wicked action. And therefore spare these, and execute thy vengeance upon more proper objects.
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.1 Samuel 25:27. Now this blessing — That is, this present or gift. The same phrase is used, 1 Samuel 30:26; 2 Kings 5:15. A present is termed a blessing, not only because the matter of it comes from God’s blessing, but also because it is given with a blessing, or with a good will. Let it be given unto the young men — As being unworthy of David’s own acceptance. Thus humbly she speaks of the noble present she had brought.
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.1 Samuel 25:28. Forgive the trespass of thy handmaid — That is, the trespass which I have taken upon myself, and which, if it be punished, the punishment will reach to me. Sure house — Will give the kingdom to thee, and to thy house for ever, as he hath promised thee. And therefore let God’s kindness to thee make thee gentle and merciful to others; do not sully thy approaching glory with the stain of innocent blood; but consider that it is the glory of a king to pass by offences: and that it will be thy loss to cut off such as will shortly be thy subjects.
My lord fighteth the battles, &c. — For the Lord, and for the people of the Lord, against their enemies; especially the Philistines. And, as this is thy proper work, and therein thou mayest expect God’s blessing; so it is not thy work to draw thy sword in thy own private quarrel against any of the people of the Lord; and God will not bless thee in it. Evil hath not been found in thee, &c. — Though thou hast been charged with many crimes, by Saul and others, yet thy innocence is evident to all men. Do not therefore, by this cruel act, justify thine enemies’ reproaches, or blemish thy great and just reputation.
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.1 Samuel 25:29. A man hath risen to pursue thee — Saul, though no way injured. To seek thy soul — To take away thy life. Bundle of life — Or, in the bundle: that is, in the society, or congregation of the living; out of which men are taken, and cut off by death. The phrase is taken from the common usage of men, who bind those things in bundles which they are afraid to lose. The meaning is, God will preserve thy life; and therefore it becomes not thee, unnecessarily, to take away the lives of any; especially of the people of thy God. With the Lord — That is, in the custody of God, who, by his watchful providence, preserves this bundle, and all that are in it; and thee in a particular manner, as being thy God in a particular way, and special covenant. The Jews understand this, not only of the present life, but of that which is to come, even the happiness of separate souls; and therefore use it commonly as an inscription on their grave-stones. “Here we have laid the body, trusting the soul is bound up in the bundle of life with the Lord.” Them shall he sling out — God himself will cut them off suddenly, violently, and irresistibly; and cast them far away; both from his presence and from thy neighbourhood, and from all capacity of doing thee hurt.
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.1 Samuel 25:31. This shall be no grief unto thee — Thy mind and conscience will be free from all the torment which such an action would cause in thee. By which, she insinuates what a blemish this would be to his glory, what a disturbance to his peace, if he proceeded to execute his purpose; and withal implies, how comfortable it would be to him to remember that he had, for conscience toward God, restrained his passions. Shed blood causeless — Which, she signifies, would be done if he should go on. For though Nabal had been guilty of abominable rudeness and ingratitude, yet he had done nothing worthy of death by the laws of God or of man. And whatsoever he had done, the rest of his family were innocent. Or that my lord hath avenged himself — Which is directly contrary to God’s law, Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 32:35. Then — When God shall make thee king, let me find grace in thy sight.
And David said to Abigail, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me:1 Samuel 25:32-33. Blessed be the Lord, &c. — Who, by his gracious providence, so disposed matters that thou shouldst come to me. He rightly begins at the fountain of this deliverance; and then proceeds to the instruments. Who hast kept me from coming, &c. — Which I had sworn to do. Hereby it plainly appears, that oaths, whereby men bind themselves to any sin, are null and void; and, as it was a sin to make them, so it is adding sin to sin to perform them.
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.1 Samuel 25:35-36. I have accepted thy person — That is, showed my acceptance of thy person by my grant of thy request. Behold, he held a feast — As the manner was upon those solemn occasions. Sordid covetousness and vain prodigality were met together in him. Told nothing — As he was then incapable of admonition, his reason and conscience being both asleep.
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.
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.1 Samuel 25:37-38. His heart died — He fainted away through the fear and horror of so great a mischief, though it was past. As one, who, having in the night galloped over a narrow plank, laid upon a broken bridge over a deep river, when in the morning he came to review it, was struck dead with the horror of the danger he had been in. The Lord smote Nabal — God either inflicted some other stroke upon him, or increased his grief and fear to such a height as killed him.
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.1 Samuel 25:39. Blessed, &c. — This was another instance of human infirmity in David. David sent — But this doubtless was not done immediately after Nabal’s death, but some time after it; though such circumstances be commonly omitted in the sacred history, which gives only the heads and most important passages of things.
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.
But Saul had given Michal his daughter, David's wife, to Phalti the son of Laish, which was of Gallim.