No Innocent Death
David, Abigailand Nabal
In his escape from King Saul, David arrives in the Judean Desert with an unruly band of men in tow: “Everyone who was in straits and everyone who was in debt and everyone who was desperate joined him, and he became their leader” (1 Samuel 22:2). During his stay, David extends his protection to the region’s inhabitants — farmers and shepherds — against outlaws, services for which he demands payment (even though he was never asked to perform them). Chapter 25 of 1 Samuel tells about one of the wealthy men in the region by the name of Nabal the Carmelite, who celebrates the festival of the shearing of the sheep at a feast with his shearers (another such shearing feast is mentioned in 2 Samuel 13:23–28). David dispatches his men to Nabal with a request that he award David goods for his services. Nabal refuses, and in his reply he refers to David and his band as fugitives fleeing the law: “Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many slaves nowadays who run away from their masters. Should I then take my bread and my water, and the meat that I slaughtered for my own shearers, and give them to men who come from I don’t know where?” (1 Samuel 25:1011). Enraged by Nabal’s ungratefulness, David sets out at the head of his army to take revenge (v. 13), ready to wipe Nabal, his people, and all Nabal’s property from the face of the earth.
David would have succeeded were it not for the intervention of Nabal’s wife, Abigail, who acts quickly to calm David’s fury. Without her husband’s knowledge, the “intelligent and shapely” Abigail