Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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.Ch. 1 Samuel 25:1. Samuel’s death and burial
1. all the Israelites, &c.] A public mourning was held as after the death of Moses (Deuteronomy 34:8), and the whole nation met to do honour to him, who for well nigh eighty years had gone in and out amongst them as Prophet, Judge, and Counsellor of the King.
in his house] Not actually in the house, which would have been inconsistent with the laws of ceremonial purity (Numbers 19:16), but in some court or garden attached to the house. Compare 2 Chronicles 33:20 with 2 Kings 21:18. The Mussulman tradition places the prophet’s tomb on the hill known as Neby Samwil, five miles N.W. of Jerusalem, but see note on 1 Samuel 1:1.
the wilderness of Paran] A general name for the great tract of desert south of Palestine, between the wilderness of Shur on the west, Edom on the east, and the wilderness of Sinai on the south. It was the abode of Ishmael (Genesis 21:21); the scene of the wanderings of the Israelites; and the place from which the spies were sent (Numbers 10:12; Numbers 13:3). The Sept. reads Maon, but the change is unnecessary, if we suppose the term Paran to be used with some latitude.
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.2–13. Nabal’s churlish behaviour to David
2. a man in Maon] Nabal’s home was in the city of Maon, and his possessions (or, his business) about a mile to the north at Carmel. These places are mentioned together in Joshua 15:55. See also note on ch. 1 Samuel 15:12.
very great] i.e. very rich. The same epithet is applied to (2 Samuel 19:32).
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.3. Nabal] The name means Fool. It is the word used in Psalm 14:1; Proverbs 30:22; &c.
churlish] Lit. hard. Cp. Matthew 25:24, where the same Greek word is used as in the Sept. here (σκληρός).
of the house of Caleb] Who settled at Hebron (Joshua 15:13). Cp. “the south of Caleb” in ch. 1 Samuel 30:14. The Sept. rendering “dog-like” (κυνικός), referring to his character, is not to be followed.
And David heard in the wilderness that Nabal did shear his sheep.
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.6. to him that liveth in prosperity] The meaning of the single Heb. word thus rendered is exceedingly obscure. It seems best to explain it as an exclamation, “Hail!” literally, “For life!”
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.7. that thou hast shearers] Sheep-shearing was and still is an occasion of festivity. See 2 Samuel 13:23-24. David’s message was not a demand for black-mail. He had done Nabal real service, by protecting his flocks from roving marauders, and he was entitled to recompence. “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, Bibl. Res. 1. 498.
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.8. a good day] A day of festivity and rejoicing. Cp. Esther 8:17.
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.10. Who is David, &c.] Cp. Jdg 9:38.
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?11. my water] Perhaps water is specially mentioned because it is scarce in the district. Cp. Joshua 15:19. The Sept. however has “wine.”
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.13. abode by the stuff] Remained to guard their property. On “stuff” see 1 Samuel 10:22 : cp. 1 Samuel 30:24.
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.14–22. Abigail’s wise counsel
14. to salute] Lit. to bless, as in ch. 1 Samuel 13:10. Cp. 2 Kings 4:29, and the form of salutation in 1 Samuel 15:13.
he railed on them] Lit. flew upon them; the same word as in 1 Samuel 14:32.
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:15. as long as we were conversant with them] Lit. all the days we went to and fro with them. “Conversant” from Lat. conversari, to dwell or abide with, signifies “associated” or “living along with.”
They were a wall unto us both by night and day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep.16. a wall unto us] A defence against the predatory tribes of the desert. See Job 1:15; Job 1:17.
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.17. such a son of Belial] Such an evil man. See on 1 Samuel 1:16. So wilful and obstinate that his servants dared not try to reason with him, but appealed to Abigail instead.
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.18. Abigail made haste, and took] A store of provisions was prepared for the shearing feast (1 Samuel 25:11). For the different items of the present compare 2 Samuel 16:1; 1 Chronicles 12:40.
two bottles of wine] Skins, holding a considerable quantity. Ziba only brought one “bottle” of wine for David in his flight (2 Samuel 16:1). Those now used in the East are made of kid, goat, or ox skins, according to the size required.
five measures of parched corn] See on 1 Samuel 17:17. The “measure” (Heb. seah) contained one third of an ephah. See on 1 Samuel 1:24. Parched corn was only a delicacy, which accounts for the comparatively small quantity.
clusters of raisins] Lumps of dried grapes. The vineyards near Hebron still produce the largest and best grapes in all the country, and the finest of them are dried as raisins. Robinson’s Bibl. Res. I. 214, II. 81.
cakes of figs] Figs dried and compressed. They still grow in abundance in the neighbourhood of Hebron.
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.20. came down by the covert of the hill] Abigail was apparently riding down a defile between two hills, which is called “the covert” (lit. “the secret place of the mountain”), because it was concealed from observation. David’s troop came down the opposite hill to meet her. “Covert” from Fr. couvert means shelter, hiding-place. On “against” see 1 Samuel 9:14.
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.21. Surely in vain] Only to be deceived and disappointed. The same word is used in Jeremiah 3:23.
pertained] i.e. belonged. “Pertain” is derived from Lat. pertineo, through O. Fr. partenir. Cp. “appertain” from appartenir.
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.22. unto the enemies of David] In the usual oath-formula the swearer invokes divine vengeance upon himself (1 Samuel 20:13), or upon the person adjured (1 Samuel 3:17). And so the Sept. here; “So God do to David.” “The enemies of David” may possibly be an euphemism, introduced by a corrector who was unwilling to let David invoke vengeance upon himself for an oath which he afterwards broke. Comp. the note on 1 Samuel 20:16.
if I leave … any, &c.] David vows that he will exterminate the family and not leave a single man alive. Cp. Deuteronomy 20:13.
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,23–31. Abigail’s meeting with David
23. lighted off the ass] i.e. got down from, an old form of alighted. The Heb. word is different from that similarly translated in Joshua 15:18, and simply means “to descend.”
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.24. and fell at his feet] Apparently she first prostrated herself and did the usual obeisance as soon as she saw David, while he was still some distance off, and then afterwards approached and knelt down at his feet in the posture of a suppliant to make her petition.
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.26. Now therefore, &c.] Render, And now, my lord, as Jehovah liveth, and by the life of thy soul, surely Jehovah hath withholden thee from coming into blood-guiltiness, and saving thyself with thine own hand. And now let thine enemies, &c. Abigail solemnly affirms that it is God who by her means has restrained David from committing a great crime. She feels at once that she has gained her point, and clenches the matter by putting the whole question in the most solemn light.
let thine enemies … be as Nabal] As foolish, and consequently as little able to injure thee. In view of Nabal’s fate, the words are almost prophetic.
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.27. this blessing] So a complimentary present is styled in ch. 1 Samuel 30:26. Cp. Genesis 33:11; 2 Corinthians 9:5 (εὐλογία, as here in the Sept.).
unto the young men] She does not presume to offer it for David’s own use.
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.28. the trespass of thine handmaid] She takes the blame of the wrong done to David upon herself, as in v.24.
for the Lord, &c.] Abigail grounds her request on the conviction that David will succeed to the kingdom, when, as she points out in 1 Samuel 25:30-31, such an act of violence as he was minded to commit would be a burden on his conscience. Her conviction rests (1) on the fact that he has proved himself the champion of Jehovah’s people (see on 1 Samuel 18:17); (2) on his blameless life. Doubtless the nation was already anxiously looking forward to David as its future king.
will certainly make my lord a sure house] Will establish him and his posterity on the throne. For the phrase see 1 Samuel 2:35; and compare the promise in 2 Samuel 7:16. The same epithet is applied to David himself in 1 Samuel 22:14 (E. V. faithful).
evil hath not been found in thee] Cp. 1 Samuel 24:11; Psalm 7:3. David’s generous and winning character was in sharp contrast to Saul’s jealous suspicion and mad cruelty.
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.29. Yet a man, &c.] Better, And though men have arisen … yet the soul of my lord shall be bound up in the bundle of the living. The figure is taken from the practice of binding up valuables in a bag or bundle. Cp. Genesis 42:35. Of course the immediate reference is only to the safe preservation of David’s temporal life.
shall he sling out, &c.] A vigorous metaphor to express total rejection. Cp. Jeremiah 10:18.
the middle of a sling] Lit. the pan or hollow in which the stone was placed. The marginal rendering “bought” means “the bowed or bent part of a sling on which the stone was placed.” See the Bible Word-Book, p. 73.
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;30. appointed thee ruler] The same Heb. words are used in 1 Samuel 13:14, where the E. V. has “commanded him to he captain.” Cp. also 1 Samuel 9:16, 1 Samuel 10:1.
Abigail’s prudence, and her familiarity with the true idea of the theocratic king which was to be realised in David, suggest that she may have received instruction from Samuel, or some other prophet. Cp. 2 Kings 4:8 ff.
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.31. grief] The Heb. word, which occurs nowhere else, probably means stumbling-block. Such a crime as David had meditated would have remained as an obstacle in the way of his enjoying a clear conscience.
And David said to Abigail, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me:32–35. David’s favourable answer
32. Blessed be the Lord] David rightly recognises that the intervention of Providence has saved him from a foolish and wicked revenge. Compare his prayer in Psalm 19:13. There is no lack of faults in David’s life, and this outburst of passion was one of them; but with all his faults he had that spirit of genuine repentance which makes it possible for men
“To rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.”
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.33. advice] Better, discretion.
from coming to shed blood] From coming into blood-guiltiness, as in 1 Samuel 25:26.
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.35. have accepted thy person] Here in a good sense = I have granted thy petition. Cp. Genesis 19:21.
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.36–38. Nabal’s death
36. a feast … like the feast of a king] His shearing-revel (cp. 2 Samuel 13:23) was on a scale of regal luxury.
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.37. and his wife, &c.] Better, that his wife told him … and his heart died, &c. An outburst of passion on hearing that his will had been thwarted brought on a fit of apoplexy, in which he lingered on insensible for ten days, until
And it came to pass about ten days after, that the LORD smote Nabal, that he died.38. the Lord smote Nabal] His death was a divine judgment none the less that a partly natural cause may be assigned for it in his intemperance and passion. For “smote” comp. the use of the same word in ch. 1 Samuel 26:10, and 2 Chronicles 13:20 (E. V. struck).
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.39–44. David’s marriage with Abigail
39. pleaded the cause, &c.] Exacted from Nabal a due penalty for the injury he did me. Cp. 1 Samuel 24:15. In those days godly men looked for visible judgments upon the wicked in this world, and rejoiced in them as a vindication of God’s righteous government.
hath kept his servant from evil, &c.] The E. V. misses the striking contrast between David and Nabal. Render, hath restrained his servant from wickedness, but the wickedness of Nabal hath Jehovah returned upon his own head.
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.41. and bowed herself, &c.] With the obsequiousness characteristic of Oriental nations, she expresses her devotion both by gesture and word. “Washing the feet” like “loosing the shoe-latchet” (Mark 1:7) was the service of the meanest slaves.
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.43. took] Had taken, before his marriage with Abigail. Ahinoam stands first in the list of his wives in 2 Samuel 3:2.
of Jezreel] A city in the mountains of Judah near Carmel and Juttah. See Joshua 15:55-56.
But Saul had given Michal his daughter, David's wife, to Phalti the son of Laish, which was of Gallim.44. Saul had given Michal] Probably he did it when David fled, to mark the completeness of the breach between them. David afterwards compelled Phalti (or Phaltiel) to restore him Michal (2 Samuel 3:15).
Gallim] Only referred to again in Isaiah 10:30, from which passage it appears that it was between Gibeah and Jerusalem. The name of Phalti’s father Laish was probably derived from the place Laish mentioned in the same verse.