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Abigail’s Answer

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

How a Woman Saved David from Himself

Before David became king of Israel, his life was chaotic. Saul wanted his head on a platter, and survival for David depended on staying one step ahead of Saul, keeping his men on the move, and hiding out in caves.

While in hiding, David came to the Wilderness of Paran, near the territory of a wealthy man named Nabal (1 Samuel 25). Nabal may have had business sense, but his character left much to be desired. The Bible describes him as “harsh and badly behaved” (v. 3). Twice, people who were close to him called him “worthless” (vv. 17, 25). He is also called a “Calebite” (v. 3), which may be a reference to his clan, but it seems more likely that this description has to do with the literal meaning of the name “Caleb,” which is “dog.” His own name, Nabal, meant “fool.” If we were to judge this man by the names he was called, our estimation of him would not be good: he was a dog and a fool.

David, on the other hand, had been gracious to Nabal without ever having met him. While he and his men camped in Nabal’s territory, they had protected his shepherds from raiders and anything else that would seek to harm them. They had been as a “wall” of protection to Nabal (v. 16). The time for shearing sheep was at hand, a time for feasting and celebration, and David and his men asked Nabal to provide them with food and drink for the celebrations. This would not have been an unusual request in those days, but Nabal was furious. He refused, saying, “Who is David? …Shall I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers and give it to men who come form I do not know where?” (vv. 10-11).

David was the anointed successor to the throne in Israel. He was not accustomed to this kind of treatment, especially since it came from a man who owed him so much. He drew his sword and prepared his men for battle.

But Nabal had a wife named Abigail. She was “discerning and beautiful” (v. 3). Abigail brought gifts to David and convinced him not to seek revenge against her husband and her people. There is much wisdom in her words. She explained that God would seek vengeance against her husband for what he had done to David. And then, she explained to David, “my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for my lord taking vengeance himself” (v. 31).

Abigail’s words convinced David to show mercy. And about ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal dead, and Abigail became David’s wife (vv. 38, 42).

The story of Nabal is a familiar one. All of us have felt mistreated and wanted revenge. Perhaps some of us went as far as getting revenge, only to feel the “pangs of conscience” for heaping more sin on top of the wrongs that were done to us. The counsel of Abigail is wise. If we look closely, we can find at least three lessons regarding vengeance:

1. The seeds of our good works take time to germinate. Solomon said, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days” (Ecclesiastes 11:1, emphasis added). Likewise, Paul encouraged us not to grow weary of doing good, saying, “for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). God promises to reward our good works, but there is no guarantee that these rewards will come soon, or even in this lifetime (cf. Matthew 5:11-12).

2. Only God is in a position to exact vengeance. If David had gotten even, he would have only added his own bloodguilt to Nabal’s evil (1 Samuel 25:33). God, on the other hand, is righteous and was able to return the evil of Nabal on his own head (v. 39). We are not in a position to bring justice to the world. Therefore, we are advised, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leaeve it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengenance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Rom. 12:19).

3. Since we cannot bring justice, our only response to evil is to “overcome evil with good.” Paul continues his discussion of revenge, saying, “To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:20-21).

Revenge can be tempting, but in the end it only leads to regret. Let God make things right, and be patient as you wait for him to act. In the meantime, combat evil with good. After all, the best way to defeat an enemy is to make him your friend.