Purpose of this lesson: to focus on David's human nature and to focus on David's spirit of repentance.
David and his men located themselves for some time in the wilderness area of Maon (Maon was a town). Often shepherds took flocks of sheep and goats to wilderness areas to graze. When such occasions were necessary, shepherds were nervous. What we would consider to be outlaw groups frequented the same areas. When shepherds and such gangs met, shepherds were at a decided disadvantage. Being a shepherd in the wilderness involved some serious risks!
Remember that an enormous geographical area is not under consideration. It would be wise for David to relocate after his encounter with King Saul. The King changed his mind frequently. Please note a wilderness area was often a dangerous place for shepherds.
However, David and his men were different! They did not represent risk or danger! They were protection! David and his men made certain nothing bad happened to the shepherds or their flocks!
David and his men did not represent danger to the shepherds--they represented security. They neither demanded anything or took anything. The shepherds could go about their work with a feeling of protection.
A rich man named Nabal had shepherds with significant flocks of sheep and goats in the wilderness near the community of Maon. Nabal lived in the city of Carmel [not Mount Carmel]; was a Calebite [a clan of Israelites]; and was married to a beautiful, intelligent woman named Abigail.
Nabal must have been a good business man in his circumstances. He seemingly was a "city dweller" with extensive livestock holdings (much like Lot). He seemed to live in the town/city of Carmel while servants managed his flocks in the wilderness area. Nabal seemed to be good at making money, but not good at working with people.
Nabal and Abigail, though married, were genuine contrasts. The contrast was not in intelligence. Nabal was intelligent, else he would not have been a rich man who was successful in business. However, Nabal loved money and used people to acquire money. Abigail cared about people. She was a wise encourager. Even servants who feared approaching Nabal did not fear approaching Abigail. Abigail was a "people person" who knew how to respect and work with people. Nabal was not a "people person"--he was harsh and mean-spirited with others.
The contrast is not in the intelligence of the two, but in the wisdom of the two. Successful greed requires intelligence. Respecting people requires wisdom. Nabal loved money. Abigail respected people. Nabal seemingly was not approachable, but Abigail was approachable.
The time came for Nabal to have his sheep sheared. This was a time of celebration because hard work literally became profit! David sent a delegation to Carmel to carry his greeting to Nabal and to [appropriately] request a gift of appreciation in the spirit of the season. David's ambassadors were to report the protection David and his men provided the shepherds, invite Nabal's inquiry about their protection, and request a gift of food to be determined by Nabal. Given that the season of sheering represented a festive time of the year, and given that Nabal was a rich man, David's request was reasonable and appropriate.
The time of sheep shearing was a festive occasion. The sheered wool would soon become money. Hard work and long term investment would soon be profit rather than potential. David respected and protected Nabal's servants. Nabal benefited from David's protection in a "dollars and cents" way. Appreciating David and his men's help and saying "Thank you" at this festive time was entirely appropriate.
However, Nabal did not respond with appreciation or respect. He responded with insults. Remember the area was small. Remember that greedy Nabal was successful in business and likely "politically correct." He likely knew what happened to the priests at Nob. He likely knew Saul's campaigns in the area to capture David as the King's enemy. If he did not align himself with the right side, he had a lot to lose. It likely did not seem prudent to help a man the King hated. So he responded, "Who is David? Everywhere servants are rebelling against their masters! It is not appropriate to take food prepared for my shearers and give it to people I do not even know!"
There were likely numerous factors at work in Nabal's rejection of David's request: greed, the deaths of the priests at Nob, and the fact that Saul was king. Nabal was being a good business man, not a good human being.
However, Nabal did not need to insult David in rejecting David's request.
David's ambassadors took Nabal's insults back to David. None of Saul's injustices angered David, but Nabal's insults enraged David. He told his men to arm themselves for battle. David's intent was to kill every man who worked for Nabal before the next morning.
It was certain that David would hear Nabal's insults. David did something uncharacteristic of his responses to King Saul's harassment (whom he also served and received only injustice): David reacted and by reacting gave Nabal control of his feelings and actions.
A young servant heard Nabal's insults. He did not go to Nabal declaring the folly of Nabal's insults (Nabal's response invited disaster rather than averting trouble), but the servant quickly reported the matter to Abigail. The servant affirmed to Abigail that David and his men had shown the shepherds extraordinary kindness, respect, and protection. He urged Abigail to act promptly with wisdom to prevent great consequences on those who worked for the worthless Nabal.
The servant's actions indicate that in delicate considerations Nabal was not approachable, but Abigail was. This servant knew Nabal's response had been a thoughtless, dangerous response. He also knew Abigail was much more capable of responding to this crisis than was Nabal.
Abigail's actions and words were remarkable. She quickly took food prepared for the shearers and sent it by some servants to David. The servants were to intercept David before he arrived. Then she followed in an undetectable manner and arrived after the gift was presented to David and his men.
Abigail's plan was quick, thoughtful, and wise. Obviously, she knew how to respond to a dangerous situation quickly when she was under pressure. Her hidden approach to David may have been to keep Nabal from preventing her action as well as not unduly angering David prior to her appearance. Abigail's gift to David had to be received by David as an act of respect, not as an expression of condescension. David must be honored, not patronized.
Consider her words and actions. (1) She immediately honored David by bowing [though she was the wife of a rich man and David was living as a renegade]. (2) She assumed full responsibility for the incident--she failed to see the young men coming. (3) She pledged loyalty to David and called him lord [the precise opposite of Nabal's insults] (4) She urged David not to cover his hands with innocent blood in an act of personal vengeance, something David had never done. Nabal was not worth David doing an evil act! (5) David would surely become Israel's king, and David did not need this act of evil on his conscience when he became King.
Focus on the wisdom of her encounter with David. Contrast her thoughtful actions and words with Nabal's insults. Make the point that David had never acted in personal vengeance. That motivation made this incident entirely different--it was a reaction, not an action based on a commitment to God.
This wise woman deeply, immediately impressed David. He blessed God for Abigail's actions, words, and wisdom. Though David had killed many men avenging God, David had never killed a person avenging himself. Had David acted in anger against Nabal and his servants, his anger would make David act in ways he never acted previously. David realized what a significant transition would occur in him if he allowed anger to make him guilty of shedding innocent blood.
David immediately recognized wisdom when he heard/saw it. In a righteous person, wisdom is more powerful than personal anger. David recognized Abigail's words and acts as a gift from God.
David accepted her gift and encouraged her to leave in peace. Later, at an appropriate time, she told Nabal of her actions. Upon hearing what she did, Nabal's heart died within him. Ten days later, Nabal died. After Nabal's death, David [with Abigail's approval] married Abigail. Evidently David had not seen Michal since she helped David escape from Saul. Saul [legally] took Michal back into his own family and gave her to be Palti's wife.
This paragraph is not an attempt to justify David's decision to marry Abigail. This lesson does not focus on a polygamy or divorce question. God's intent of one husband for one wife was from creation, not from the coming of Jesus. The focus of the lesson should remain on David's character and willingness to repent.
For Thought and Discussion:
The wilderness could be a dangerous place for shepherds. Lawless groups could put their work and lives in jeopardy.
They protected the shepherds and their flocks from threats rather than posing a danger to them or their work.
He obviously was a capable business man. However, he loved money more than people. He used people to fulfill his greed. He was not skilled at showing respect to people or at recognizing the value of others.
Nabal loved money and used people. Abigail respected people. To Nabal, goods (food) were money. To Abigail, goods (food) were a means of showing respect and appreciation to people.
It was the time of the year to give such gifts. It was appropriate to express appreciation to David and his men for their kindness to Nabal's shepherds. Nabal could surely afford to be gracious and thankful.
He did not recognize David as a future king of Israel. Nabal spoke of David as a rebellious, evil person. He declared David's request was unwarranted and unreasonable.
David's first intent was to kill all the men who served Nabal. He would destroy Nabal by destroying his work force.
She sent a gift of food to David, assumed full responsibility for the incident, reminded David that this action was unlike him, declared confidence in the fact David would be Israel's next king, and declared Nabal was not worthy David's anger.
Basically, it would be an act of personal vengeance rather than a defense of the honor and glory of God. This action would be about David, not about God.
When Nabal heard, his heart turned to stone. Ten days later, Nabal died.
Link to Student Guide Lesson 9
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