Bible: What Does 1 Samuel 24-26 Teach Us About David, Abigail, and Abishai?
The LORD's Anointed
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1 Samuel 24
After Saul finishes his business with the Philistines, he chooses three thousand “special forces” to assault David at En-Gedi on the Rocks of the Wild Goats (vv. 1-2).
Hidden in a cave with his men, David spies Saul coming in to "attend to his needs" (v. 3).
Believing that the appointed time had come for the true king (David) to take vengeance on the adversary, his men urge him to kill Saul.
David, however, stays his hand from slaying him, yet does secretly cut off the corner of his robe (v. 4).
Afterwards, a troubled conscience warns David that he does not have the right to depose the former king.
Thus, he informs his men that neither he nor they ought to "stretch out" their hand against the LORD's anointed (vv. 5-7).
However, that prohibition does not prevent him from making use of the king's fabric.
While standing a safe distance from Saul, David not only makes himself known, but he also submits himself before the king (v. 8).
Trying to reason with Saul, David points out that he could have killed him in the cave, but that he restrained himself (vv. 9-10).
As proof of this claim, he holds up the severed corner of Saul's robe, and then announces for all to hear that he will never try to kill him (vv. 11,12b, 13b).
Saul in his hatred has continually sought David's life (vv. 11b, 13a, 14), but the latter has determined to rely on Yahweh's justice to save him from the king's persecution (vv. 12a, 15).
David's words "cut Saul to the quick," causing the latter to realize not only his enemy's righteousness and mercy, but also his own wickedness (vv. 16-18).
Saul wishes God's blessing upon David, especially the conferral of the kingdom (vv. 19-20), and then pleads for mercy upon his house after he dies (v. 21).
David swears to that effect, and Saul departs; the former, however, remains in the stronghold (v. 22).
Abigail, Nabal's Wife
The Meaning of Nabal's Name
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1 Samuel 25
Sad news spreads throughout Israel: Samuel has died and been buried in Ramah (v. 1a; see 19:18ff for the last reference to this great prophet/priest).
After this “departure,” David travels to the Wilderness of Paran (v. 1b).
When he hears that Nabal, a wealthy rancher, is shearing sheep in nearby Carmel, David sends a contingent in his name to ask this landowner, whose property the king has been protecting, to provide hospitality for his men on the feast day (v. 2-9).
Comment: The writer also mentions that Nabal has a beautiful, intelligent wife, Abigail, who figures prominently later in this account (v. 3).
Nabal answers David's servants in an incredibly selfish manner, refusing to part with even one sheep for the king's sake (vv. 10-11).
When word returns to David, he orders two-thirds of his men to arm themselves to teach Nabal a lesson while allowing the other third to stay put (vv. 12-13).
Quick to sense a disaster in the making, one of Nabal's hired hands tells Abigail about her husband's rude response to the kindness of David's men, and he encourages her to take action (vv. 14-17).
[Notice the servant had no qualms about calling Nabal a scoundrel right before the latter’s wife! Nabal's disreputable character is surely well established!]
In great haste she assembles a very generous feast for her visitors, hoping to ward off a great tragedy (vv. 17-18).
Sending the laden donkeys ahead, Abigail follows secretly on her own animal and sees David coming toward her (vv. 19-20).
While still fuming about Nabal's discourtesy and planning the execution of all his enemy's men, David encounters this submissive, self-sacrificing woman pleading for a hearing (vv. 21-24).
Once she dismisses Nabal as an utter fool—rightly named—worthy of punishment and admits her inability at first to attend to David's servants, Abigail offers the king and his men the hospitality they deserve (vv. 25-27).
In addition, she professes her belief in David as a man destined to reign over an "enduring house," a lord whose life "shall be bound in the bundle of the living," a warrior whose enemies he shall “sling out” (vv. 28-29).
[Undoubtedly, this is a reference to David's famous victory over Goliath].
Abigail convincingly argues for David to extend mercy and not seek vengeance, lest the memory of shedding blood without sufficient cause should haunt him in the future (vv. 30-31).
The king speaks nothing but blessings—for the LORD, for Abigail's advice, and for Abigail herself—for she surely prevented David from killing every male belonging to Nabal (vv. 32-34).
He gratefully receives her gift and allows her to return home safely (v. 35).
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1 Samuel 26
The Ziphites give Saul a second tip at Gibeah (v. 1; cf. 23:19).
[This account differs slightly from the earlier one.
Here, Saul pursues David and encounters him in the hill of Hachilah; in chapter twenty-three David flees to Maon before any confrontation occurs].
Saul recruits the same number of men he chose when he sought David at En Gedi (v. 2; cf. 24:2).
Seeking confirmation that his enemy still wants him dead, David himself sends out spies and discovers that such is the case (vv. 3-4).
Again, the persecuted takes the opportunity to practice the lesson he first learned in the cave at En-Gedi.
After discerning Saul's location in the camp (that is, center stage with his army surrounding him), David asks for a volunteer to accompany him; Abishai, Joab's brother, steps forward (vv. 5-6).
While observing the sleeping soldiers, Abishai requests from David the privilege of harpooning Saul to the ground (vv. 7-8).
Having resolved earlier not to kill "the LORD's anointed," David discourages his zealous companion against carrying out such a deed; rather, he instructs him to remove the spear and jug of water lying beside Saul's head (vv. 9-11).
Since no one in the camp awakes from a divinely induced sleep, Abishai easily pilfers these articles (v. 12).
From a distance David now shouts to Abner, Saul's general, and reprimands him for not guarding his king very well.
Then by directing him to look for Saul's spear and jug, David shows him that he has stolen directly from under his nose (vv. 13-16).
Saul now recognizes his "son's" voice, which proceeds to question why he continues to pursue him (vv. 17-18).
By one way or another—sacrifice to God or curse upon men—David wishes to put an end to the intolerable situation (v. 19).
He likens Saul's actions against him to his seeking a flea or hunting a partridge in the mountains (v. 20).
[Both activities, of course, would involve incredible frustration for the hunter, for the hunted are exceedingly elusive creatures.
What else might David mean by these analogies?]
Understanding that he has once again received mercy from his enemy, Saul confesses his sin to all and appears remorseful (v. 21).
David hands over Saul's spear, and prays the LORD's recompense upon both the righteous and the wicked (vv. 22-24).
[Notice that he does not expect Saul to change; David depends upon God to deliver him].
After Saul again blesses David, predicting both greatness and victory for him, he departs for home (v. 25).
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