Saul is a man losing his reason, and Nabal is a man who has a serious lapse in wisdom, one which costs him his life. The story is told slowly, and in detail. The point is clear, that David is not only battling king Saul, but other hostile enemies, too; and here, he almost gives into his rage at the insults he faces, only to be rescued by a woman who is the wisest of them all. Her wisdom saves her people – if not her husband – and it’s a wisdom that David himself needs in abundance, if he is to live his difficult life well.
Nabal has married out of his league, and his wife Abigail clearly knows it (vv.2-3, compare v.25). Fool that Nabal is, when David asks him, quite reasonably, for a few sheep for his men who have, afterall, been blameless around Nabal’s flocks, Nabal treats him with a heartless, rude disdain (vv.5-11). David cannot believe his ears when the messengers bring this news back. He wants a bloody justice (vv.12-13).
One of Nabal’s servants knows what will happen. Rushing to Abigail, he declares David innocent of any wrongdoing, and brazenly accuses Nabal of the opposite (vv.14-17). Abigail knows she must act to save many lives. Her reaction is a picture of wisdom. She shows exactly the generosity her husband failed to, as well as the respect and tact Nabal failed to display (vv.18-25).
Her wise words and intervention of gifts pacify David, and win his admiration of Abigail (vv.26-35). Nabal, though, suddenly realises what a fool he’s been. Maybe he thinks that, although David’s wrath has been turned away now, he might be biding his time for his revenge. Whatever his reasoning, he suffers either a stroke or a heart-attack. His foolishness takes him to the grave (vv.37-38).
Was David right to take such satisfaction in Nabal’s sudden death (v.39)? Who knows? The fact is, he did, and he took Abigail’s hand, too. Saul, we learn, took away his daughter Michal, David’s first wife, but David is said to have married now two women. There is a foreboding tone, here. And love for a woman, we know, will be the drastic point of failure for David, a few years down the line.
“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honour you. She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown” (Proverbs 4.7-9).
David’s Son, Solomon, will one day address his own son with these words. Wisdom in Proverbs is likened to a woman, an Abigail-like woman, urging her listeners to flee the temptations of anger, sexual immorality and pride. Jesus, the Wisdom of God, still does the same, urging us through His Word, and empowering us by His Spirit, to flee temptation. Let’s listen to him, not our self-righteous desires, and walk humbly, and wisely, before our God.