Foolish Nabal, rather than supporting David, snubbed and insulted David. Nabal implied that David and his men had abandoned those charged with their care; Nabal felt no obligation to take the “bread and water, and the meat” he had set aside for his own slaves and “give it to men coming from who knows where” (1 Samuel 25:11). This is an ugly example of a wealthy man’s sinful self-centeredness.
When “David’s men turned around and went back” to Paran, all that the delegation of ten brought to David were the contemptuous words Nabal had spoken. David’s response was instant and heated: “Put on your swords!” Mustering two-thirds of his troops, David led them up to retaliate against Nabal. The remainder stayed behind to protect the supplies.
In 1 Samuel 25:14–19, while the events of 1 Samuel 25:12–14 were still in progress, an unnamed servant went to his master’s wife, Abigail, to report Nabal’s shameful treatment of David’s men. Though the servant’s immediate concern was to convey the implications of Nabal’s actions, Half of his report detailed David and his men’s virtues.
David’s men were “very good” to Nabal’s servants. These men “did not mistreat” Nabal’s servants, and thanks to them “nothing was missing” from Nabal’s flocks. In fact, under his leadership David’s men “were a wall around” (1 Samuel 25:16) Nabal’s possessions and workers by night and by day.
Nabal’s servant urged Abigail to consider carefully his report and then respond appropriately. The matter was urgent, for “disaster is hanging over” (1 Samuel 25:17) the entire household because of Nabal’s foolish actions. Losing no time, Abigail immediately set about preparing a generous gift for David and his men (1 Samuel 25:18). This amount of food would not have been enough to feed six hundred men plus their families for any length of time, but it did represent a significant token of appreciation.
Once the provisions were prepared and assembled, Abigail had them taken to David, and she followed soon after. Abigail’s initiative and independence were certainly rare for a married woman in the ancient Near East. In this case it was downright scandalous, since it entailed a secret meeting with one of her husband’s enemies.
In 1 Samuel 25:20–22, Abigail’s encounter with David occurred in a remote “mountain ravine” (1 Samuel 25:20), when she, riding on a donkey, met “David and his men descending toward her.” David was venting his frustrations regarding Nabal as Abigail approached. David’s high level of aggravation with Nabal is evident in the fact that he referred to him merely as “this fellow” (1 Samuel 25:21).
Verses 21–22 present what may be the bitterest recorded declaration coming from David’s lips in 1, 2 Samuel. In his venomous speech David did three things:
- First, he evaluated the efforts he put forth to protect Nabal’s property to have been “useless.”
- Second, he analyzed his interaction with Nabal as being a matter of “good” being paid back with “evil”;
- Third, he vowed to kill every “male of all who belong to” Nabal.
David even took an oath to emphasize the degree to which he was committed to bringing about a vengeful death to Nabal and his male clan members. Interestingly, however, David’s oath was not taken in the Lord’s name.