We are diving into our study of Abigail this week; we will see that she was a lady of intelligence and of great character. We started off with a long scripture passage last time, but we needed to lay the foundation for our study. Be sure to have your Bibles open so that we can refer to those verses again, OK? (Grin) We will learn of Abigail's wisdom, her decisiveness, and her beauty -- she had great "people skills" and she also had patience. As with all of the stories that we read in our Bibles, this story is there for a purpose: so that we can learn!
If we had a narrator, he or she would probably tell us the background of our story -- David is a man who has already been tapped to be the next king of Israel, but he's not the king yet. Instead, he's being hunted and harassed by his predecessor, King Saul. Why? Because Saul is insanely (and I choose that word on purpose!) jealous. David is extremely popular and God is blessing his military conquests. The people greet David when he returns with celebrations and songs that contrast his exploits with the seemingly lesser conquests of King Saul.
By the time of our story of Abigail, David, and Nabal, there are about six hundred men accompanying David while he is "on the run." Trying to escape Saul's sword, David and his men lived in the hills around a valley called the Ponderosa.
No, I'm kidding. But it does indeed seem to be a huge ranch, like the Cartwrights had in the old television show. The owner of this spread, Nabal, was extremely wealthy, judging by the numbers of animals . . . the Scripture mentions a thousand goats, and three thousand sheep. Now, the significance of the army of David and the ranch we are reading about is this -- for several weeks now, they've been acting as guards for the sheep. Unofficial, unpaid, but wow, did they do a great job! During the time that they guarded this massive number of animals, David's men worked well with the shepherds of Nabal. Not only did they treat them politely, but none of the livestock was missing -- not one!
The custom of the time was that when sheep shearing time came, the rancher would hold a large celebration. And if someone had helped you by guarding your flocks, you would choose the shearing celebration-time to compensate them. Think of it as a large "tip" for services rendered. (Grin)
So, David sends ten of his men to collect their "tip." And that is where the tale gets interesting. Up until now, it's been nothing but hiding in the hills, taking care that marauders and rustlers don't get any sheep, and sleeping under the stars at night, listening to the calm bleats of the ewes and lambs. But the story picks up speed here . . . .
I can see it in my mind's eye; the ten men approach the main "headquarters," probably a fancy tent with the head honcho seated outside crunching numbers as the shepherds bring the reports from the shearing areas nearby. The atmosphere is festive, and the air is filled with the aromas from the cooking fires. David's hungry men are practically drooling!
Let's cut to the chase, here. Instead of responding with hospitality, and with gratitude for their service, Nabal tells these half-starved soldiers:
Oh. My. Word.
What a grump!
Oh, wait, he's more than just grumpy! He's insulting! This is not the kind of thing that you say to six hundred fighting men with a famous leader, who have all been performing a service for you for weeks -- now they're about to starve and you can't give them a little food?
Is the guy nuts?
Um, I guess we'd better go back and talk about Nabal. This is truly distressing -- let's figure this out.
I think we can find some really good clues here, in the verses. We don't even have to strain our brains, here; it's laid out in black and white!
First of all, his name is a huge clue: in Hebrew, his name means "a fool."
Ouch. Can't say that I think much of his parents' choice of a name for their child. But then, maybe it was mean to be.
Because the Bible calls him a "harsh and evil" man. That word "harsh" in Hebrew carries a whole bunch of meanings, and none of them are nice! Here are the synonyms I found: cruel, churlish, hard-hearted, obstinate, rough, and stubborn!
Our third clue is that his own household, the servants say, "He is such a wicked man, that no one can speak to him."
Wow. Rotten to the core. He must have been pretty greedy and ruthless, too, for I can't imagine someone this difficult to get along with, being able to get rich through niceness and honest deals. Am I right?
I hear our narrator . . . he's saying that David's men have gotten back to him and reported. And David? His reaction? To say that he was furious would be an understatement! Now, just because David is a "man after God's heart" doesn't mean that he doesn't make mistakes, right? We've already studied a passage where he blows it big time!
But yes, he does get really angry and tells four hundred of his best soldiers to get ready to head over to the ranch and settle the score . . .
I think we need a hero here. Or maybe the cavalry to ride in.
Ahhhh, but we don't need either of those options -- we have a heroine!
We'll talk about her tomorrow!