Now Samuel died, and all Israel assembled and mourned for him; and they buried him at his home in Ramah. Then David moved down into the Desert of Paran. A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel. His name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband was surly and mean in his dealings—he was a Calebite. While David was in the wilderness, he heard that Nabal was shearing sheep. So he sent ten young men and said to them, “Go up to Nabal at Carmel and greet him in my name. Say to him: ‘Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours! “ ‘Now I hear that it is sheep-shearing time. When your shepherds were with us, we did not mistreat them, and the whole time they were at Carmel nothing of theirs was missing. Ask your own servants and they will tell you. Therefore be favorable toward my men, since we come at a festive time. Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.’ ” When David’s men arrived, they gave Nabal this message in David’s name. Then they waited. Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?” David’s men turned around and went back. When they arrived, they reported every word. David said to his men, “Each of you strap on your sword!” So they did, and David strapped his on as well. About four hundred men went up with David, while two hundred stayed with the supplies. One of the servants told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “David sent messengers from the wilderness to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them. Yet these men were very good to us. They did not mistreat us, and the whole time we were out in the fields near them nothing was missing. Night and day they were a wall around us the whole time we were herding our sheep near them. Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him. – 1 Samuel 25:1-17
David and his band of misfits are still on the run from Saul. In this passage he finds out that there are those who’s side with Saul, or are at least out for themselves. That seems to be the case for Nabal. By all accounts he is a piece of work…wealthy, selfish, surly, and mean. His wife Abigail seems to be a woman who has a heart for God even though she is married to a jerk.
David sends messengers to Nabal to see if he will share some of his wealth and abundance. It sounds like David and his merry men have been running sheep in the same vicinity as Nabal’s men, but the name David meant nothing to Nabal and so he refused to share food and water with David and his men. Nabal’s servants have experienced what men of integrity David’s men are and they think Nabal is treating them unfairly…Abigail agrees.
Nabal is so focused on his wealth and possessions that he cannot see those in need around him. The things he owns have ended up owning him. It is hard to have humility in abundance and maintain a perspective and posture. His servants describe him as such a wicked man that no one can talk to him. The ability to talk and listen is a sure sign of one’s posture toward others. Nabal clearly has no patience for talking or listening to people.
When I finished my PhD and started teaching I realized that I was not a good listener. I had probably not been a good listener for some time before that, but it took me that long to figure it out. Listening remains a growth area for me, and it is an area that God is actively smoothing and shaping in me. When I started teaching I printed out a phrase that said “teach and learn rather than know and tell”. This phrase reminds that it does not matter how much I know if I cannot maintain a posture that let’s my students know how much I care.
Prayer: God give us the ability to see those in need around us and become good at listening and talking with others.