Andrew McFarland Campbell  

David and Nabal

These exhortations were given by me between 1999 and 2005. That was a long time ago, and I have grown a lot since then. They may not reflect my current beliefs.

I want to look this morning at an incident from the life of David. Particularly in his early life, David was an immensely passionate man. Yes, he was deeply spiritual, but he also felt powerful emotion, perhaps even prone to over reacting on occasion. The particular incident I want to look at is in 1 Samuel, chapter 25.

First a bit of background. In the previous chapter, David and Saul had just been reconciled because David cut off the corner of Saul’s cloak rather than killing him. Then at the start of chapter 25, Samuel dies, and after his burial David and his men go to the desert of Maon, which is roughly 30 miles south of Jerusalem. This was not the first time David and his men had been there. It was one of the places they had hidden during the recent rift with Saul. There was a rich man who lived in Maon, and his name was Nabal, and his path had certainly crossed David’s before. There was one time when David’s men protected Nabal’s shepherds, and they protected them well. It wasn’t a euphemistic protection, where David and his men took advantage of the shepherds, it was a noble, honest protection. It was the sort of assistance that David would probably have appreciated in his days as a shepherd. In 1 Samuel 25, it is said “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:” David’s men were kind and fair towards Nabal’s men. They didn’t exploit their strength, they used that strength to protect the weak, which is exactly what the strong should be doing.

So David is now back in Maon, and he sends messengers to Nabal. Verses 6 to 9:

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. 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.

David was reminding Nabal of their previous relationship, and he was now asking for something in return. Of course, it wasn’t as straightforward as that. David was upright and honest. Nabal, unfortunately, as verse 3 tells us, was churlish and evil. Of course he sends a churlish and evil reply back to David. Verses 10 and 11:

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. 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?

Nabal was happy to accept the protection David offered, but in return he insulted him: “there be many servants now a days that break away every man from his master.” Imagine how that must have sounded to David. David never broke away from his master, even when his master turned on him.

David is annoyed.

David is angry.

Verses 21 and 22:

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. 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 man.

David takes 400 of his men and they march towards Nabal and his camp, with the intent of killing all of Nabal’s men in revenge. It barely needs to be pointed out to us that what David was going to do was utterly wrong. In the previous chapter we saw him forgive Saul, who had done much more to him that Nabal. Now he is not only going after Nabal, but after Nabal’s men too. And remember, Nabal didn’t have significant military strength himself, so its not even going to be a fair fight.

What happens? Well, Abigail, Nabal’s wife, hears about David and she takes food and supplies out to him. When they meet, she falls at his feet. Verses 24 to 27:

She 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. 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.

How does David respond? Well, he’s almost shocked, and he comes to his senses.

And David said to Abigail, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me: 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.

David realises the contrast between the way he behaved towards Saul and the way he was going to treat Nabal. Addressing Saul in verse 12 of the previous chapter he said “The LORD judge between me and thee, and the LORD avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.”

David is thankful that Abigail has prevented him from avenging himself.

The story continues. The churlish and evil Nabal doesn’t get off Scot free. That evening there was a feast in Nabal’s house, so Abigail didn’t tell him what she had done. Verse 37:

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.

Nabal died as a direct result of his evil and churlish behaviour. Now, I could have made this an exhortation about evil and churlish behaviour, but this story isn’t really about that. It’s really about the next verse, verse 39:

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.

“Thank you God, for keeping me from doing evil, ” says David. He’s almost saying “Thank you for leading me not into temptation, and deliver me from evil.”

Nabal did something wicked to David, but David didn’t have to avenge himself, and for that David was thankful. David knew that what he was going to do was wrong, and he knew that the hand of God had not only stopped him the once, by sending Abigail, but it had removed the underlying temptation. David didn’t just sit there smugly, pleased that his enemy had been finished off while leaving his hands clean. “And David sent and communed with Abigail, to take her to him to wife.” Abigail was a significant player in this story. Without her intervention David may have slaughtered Nabal and his men. She was a good woman, and she was left as a widow. David didn’t abandon her. He took her as a wife, and looked after her. By becoming David’s wife she was protected. It wasn’t about David getting Abigail as a trophy. She was a good woman, and had helped David, so David helped her when she needed it.

I want to look at some verses from today’s readings. Psalm 94:

O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth; O God, to whom vengeance belongeth, shew thyself. Lift up thyself, thou judge of the earth: render a reward to the proud.

Verse 16:

Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity? Unless the LORD had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence. When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O LORD, held me up. In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul. Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law? They gather themselves together against the soul of the righteous, and condemn the innocent blood. But the LORD is my defence; and my God is the rock of my refuge. And he shall bring upon them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness; yea, the LORD our God shall cut them off.

But the LORD is my defence; and my God is the rock of my refuge. And he shall bring upon them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness; yea, the LORD our God shall cut them off.

Now, lets look at 1 Corinthians 6, verses 9 and 10:

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the Kingdom of God.

Firs beautifully with “And he shall bring upon them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness” doesn’t it? When we look at it that way there is no real point to us taking revenge on those around us, because all that really, truly, matters is inheriting the Kingdom of God, and the unrighteous aren’t going to do that anyway. Any revenge will only make us dirty, just as if David had slain Nabal and his men there would have been a major blot on his character that would be remembered as surely as we remember David’s sin with Bathsheba.

We don’t have to take revenge, because vengeance belongs to God. We should not take revenge because we can do nothing that will not damage us in the process.

As a quick aside, this is one of the passages that becomes much clearer in a modern translation. In the NIV verse 10 reads: “nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the Kingdom of God”.

The list of sins in verses 9 and 10 is really quite comprehensive. You could argue that stealing once or twice doesn’t really make you a thief, and one or two sly remarks about someone doesn’t really make you a slanderer. Even if you take that stance, practically nobody escapes being labelled as unrighteous here.

That is why verse 11 is so important.

And such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.




We have all sinned in the past, and we will probably all sin again in the future. But we have been washed, we have been sanctified, we have been justified. Everything should fall into insignificance we think about that. Our own sins that make us despair, the sins of others that we so badly want to stop. We are washed, we are sanctified, we are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

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