1 Samuel 25

1 SAMUEL CHAPTER 25

The Death of Samuel

      • Samuel died and all of Israel gathered together and mourned for him. They buried him at his home in Ramah. Then David left and went down to the wilderness of Paran.

        • Guzik writes, “Samuel’s heritage lived on in a remarkable way. 1 Chronicles 9:22 suggests he organized the Levites in the service of the sanctuary which was completed by David and Solomon. 1Chronicles 26:27-28 says Samuel began collecting treasures for building the temple in Solomon’s day. 2 Chronicles 35:18 reports that Samuel remembered the Passover and kept Israel in remembrance of God’s great deliverance. Psalm 99:6 and Jeremiah 15:1 commemorate Samuel as a man of great intercession. Hebrews 11:33 puts Samuel among God’s “Heroes of Faith.”

        • Benson Commentary includes an interesting note, “…his remains, many centuries after, were removed with incredible pomp, and almost one continued train of attendants, from Ramah to Constantinople, by the Emperor Arcadius, A.D. 401.”

        • Modern Bible translations disagree on whether David went to the wilderness of Paran or the Wilderness of Maon because, as NET Bible’s text critical notes explain, “The LXX reads ‘Maon’ here instead of ‘Paran,’” perhaps because the following account of Nabal is said to be in Maon (v. 2).” I’ll include the reasoning provided by two commentaries representative of opposing views:

          • Barnes’ Notes on the Bible: “The Septuagint has the far more probable reading “Maon.” The wilderness of Paran lay far off to the south, on the borders of the wilderness of Sinai Numbers 10:12; 1 Kings 11:18, whereas the following verse 1 Samuel 25:2 shows that the scene is laid in the immediate neighborhood of Maon.”

        • Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers: “’Paran’ is properly the south of the Arabian peninsula, west of Sinai; ‘but it seems to have given its name to the vast extent of pasture and barren land now known as the Desert of El Tih. Of this the wilderness of Judah and Beersheba would virtually form part, without the borders being strictly defined. The LXX. emendation, therefore, is quite unnecessary.’—Dean Payne Smith.”

David, Nabal, and Abigail

      • There was a very wealthy man in Maon named Nabal who owned property in Carmel. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, and he was shearing his sheep in Carmel. Nabal’s wife’s name was Abigail and she was both wise and beautiful, but Nabal, a Calebite, was harsh and mean in his dealings.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible clarifies, “Carmel was a village near Maon, not to be confused with the famous mountain from the Elijah narrative in 1 Kgs 18. It was in this village that Saul had erected his monument to celebrate victory over the Amalekites (1 Sam 15:2).”

        • NET Bible’s notes say, “The name…(Nabal) means ‘foolish’ or ‘senseless’ in Hebrew, and as an adjective the word is used especially of persons who have no perception of ethical or religious claims. It is an apt name for this character, who certainly typifies such behavior.”

        • There is another discrepancy here between the Masoretic and the LXX text:

          • Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers explains, “In the original Kalibi, i.e., of the house or family of Caleb. Thus the word is read in the Hebrew Bible. There is, however, an alternative reading—K’libi—with different vowel-points in the written text, which would be read ‘according to his heart.’ Josephus, the LXX., and the Arabic and Syriac Versions understand it as derived from kelev, a dog, and render—’and he was a cynical man’ (that is, ‘one of a dog-like character’…). The Chaldee…and Vulgate…follow the text which is read in the Hebrew Bible, and translated in our version, ‘of the house of Caleb,’ which seems, on the whole, the preferable and most likely meaning.”

          • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible agrees with the conclusions above adding, “Since the time of the Israelite conquest and settlement of the Negev, Hebron was associated with the hero Caleb (Jos 14:13-15; Jdg 1:20)…in view of the genealogical information in 1 Ch 2:18-55, which links the settlement of Bethlehem with the descendants of Caleb (see especially 1 Ch 2:19, 50-51, 54)- Nabel the Calebite was a kinsman of David, making David’s request of him all the more reasonable.”

        • Benson Commentary notes, “This is added to aggravate his crime, that he was a degenerate branch of that noble stock of Caleb, and consequently of the tribe of Judah, as David was.”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible also writes, “Shearing time (in the spring) would have been a time of abundance and gladness and, one would hope, generosity. If, as early second-millennium BC texts from the Babylonian city of Larsa indicate, one sheep would produce over two pounds of wool at shearing time, then Nabal’s 3,000 sheep (v.2) would have produced over three tons of wool. Further evidence of Nabal’s wealth is the quantity of the goods that Abigail brings to David in v. 18.”

      • While David was in the wilderness, he heard that Nabal was shearing his sheep, so he sent ten young men and instructed them, “Go up to Nabal in Carmel and greet him in my name saying, ‘Peace to you and your house! Peace to all that is yours! I hear that you are having your sheep sheared. When your shepherds were with us in Carmel, we never harmed them, and nothing was ever stolen from them. Ask your young men and they will tell you. Therefore, may my young men find favor with you, since we have come at a festive time. Please give us- your servants and your son David- whatever you can spare.’”

        • Guzik writes, “David made this request because he performed a valuable service for Nabal, protecting his flocks when Philistine raids were common. To our modern ears it might sound like David ran some kind of ‘protection racket,’ but that wasn’t the case at all. He performed a worthy, valuable service for Nabal and expected to be compensated. This [coming at shearing time] means David waited until the right time to ask for compensation for his services. David protected Nabal’s shepherds and flocks a long time but did not expect to be compensated until Nabal himself made his money at the ‘harvest’ of sheep shearing…David made the request politely. He did it through messengers so Nabal would not be intimidated. He sent the messengers with a greeting full of warmth and kindness (Peace be to you), so Nabal would not give out of fear or intimidation. David did not demand any specific payment from Nabal or set a price – he simply left it up to Nabal’s generosity. Then David’s messengers simply waited for the reply.”

      • So David’s young men went, gave Nabal his message, and waited. Nabal answered David’s young men, “Who is David? Who is Jesse’s son? There are many slaves breaking away from their masters these days. Why should I take my bread, my water, and my meat that I have slaughtered for my shearers and give them to men who have come from who knows where?”

        • Guzik explains, “It can’t be that Nabal did not know who David was, because David was famous throughout all Israel (1 Samuel 18:5-7). Nabal said this as a direct insult to David – knowing who he was but refusing to recognize him. In our modern way of speaking, Nabal said, ‘Who does he think he is?’ Nabal deepened his insult, saying that David is simply a rebellious servant. This was completely false because David had continually (though not perfectly) conducted himself wisely when attacked by Saul.”

      • David’s men turned around and went back and reported what had been said. And David instructed his men, “Each of you strap on your sword.” So David and all his men put on their swords. About 400 men followed David while 200 stayed with the supplies.

      • But one of Nabal’s young men informed Abigail, “Look, David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our lord, but he yelled at them. But these men were very good to us- we were not harmed and nothing was stolen from us when we were in the fields as long as we went with them. Night and day they were a protective wall around us while we were herding sheep. Be aware of this and consider what you should do because disaster has been planned for our lord and all of his household. He is such a worthless man that no one can talk to him.”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible explains, “With these words, one of Nabal’s servants explicitly confirmed to Abigail that David’s clai to have safeguarded Nabal’s flocks…was true. For this service, Nabal’s servants had as much reason to be grateful to David as Nabal himself. In the ancient Near East, sheep owners often contracted with shepherds to tend their flocks…in the dry summer months shepherds would often have to travel considerable distances to find suitable pasturage for the flocks and be gone for long stretches of time. As a reward for fulfilling their duties, the shepherds could expect a certain amount of wool per adult sheep, as well as milk while in the field, meat at slaughter time, etc. For their part, shepherds assumed liability for the welfare of the sheep and were responsible to return the right total at shearing time (calculated on the basis of normal rates of birth and natural attrition, and with agreed upon means of proving loss by disease or animal attack). Should the shepherds come up short, they would themselves have to make up the lack.”

      • Abigail acted quickly. She took 200 loaves of bread, 2 skins of wine, 5 butchered sheep, a bushel of roasted grain, 100 clusters of raisins, and 200 cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them onto donkeys. She told her young men, “Go on ahead of me and I’ll follow you.” She did not tell her husband Nabal.

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible says, “These further gifts were in keeping with a time of festival and were suggestive of hospitality, not simply of repayment…Chiefly, of course, Abigail’s immediate concern was to make amends for her foolish husband’s actions and to appease the affronted David. David was affronted not simply by Nabal’s unwillingness to compensate for services rendered (even if they were technically unsolicited), but also by the dishonor/shame that Nabal’s refusal to recognize him as more than a runaway slave heaped upon David.”

      • As she rode her donkey down a mountain pass hidden from view, she saw David and his men coming toward her, and she met them. Now David had said, “I guarded everything that belonged to this man in the wilderness for nothing. Nothing that belonged to him was stolen, yet he has paid me evil for good. May God do so to David and more, if I leave alive so much as one male of all who belong to him!”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible notes, “Saul said this earlier too (14:44), and also got talked out of it. It is a standard oath formula, and therefore would be assumed to be binding. It was nevertheless recognized that changing conditions could be reason to negate an oath…”

      • When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey, and bowed down before him with her face to the ground. Falling at his feet she said, “My lord, I accept all the guilt! But please let your servant speak to you! Please listen to what your servant says! My lord, please pay no attention to the worthless man Nabal. His name means ‘fool’ and he lives up to it, he is foolish indeed. But I, your servant, didn’t see the men my lord sent. Now my lord, as surely as Yahweh lives, and as you yourself live, it is Yahweh who has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself. May your enemies and all those who intend to harm my lord be like Nabal. Now let this gift that your servant has brought my lord be given to the men who follow you. Please forgive your servant’s sin. Yahweh will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord because my lord is fighting the battles of Yahweh, and evil won’t be found in you as long as you live. When someone sets out to chase you and kill you, my lord’s life will be bound securely in the bundle of life under the care of Yahweh your God. However, He will fling away your enemies’ lives as from the pocket of a sling.”

        • What in the world does Abigail mean when she says, “When someone sets out to chase you and kill you, my lord’s life will be bound securely in the bundle of life under the care of Yahweh your God.”? Two commentaries provide some interesting information:

          • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible briefly notes one theory, “…the ‘bundle of the living’ is a document that has been bound, or tied up- thus ‘Document of the Living.’ The concept of a heavenly ledger is present in the ancient Near East from earliest times…”

          • This is one of the earliest and most definite expressions of a sure belief in an eternal future in the presence of God, and Hebrew tradition from the very earliest times down to our day has so regarded it. It is now a favourite and common inscription on Jewish gravestones. Keil beautifully paraphrases the words of the original. ‘The words,’ he writes, ‘do not refer primarily to eternal life with God in heaven, but only to the safe preservation of the righteous on this earth in the grace and fellowship of the Lord. But whoever is so hidden in the gracious fellowship of the Lord in this life, that no enemy can harm him or injure his life, the Lord will not allow to perish, even though temporal death should come, but will then receive him into eternal life’—Keil.”

          • The image, as so often in Eastern teaching, is taken from common every-day life—from the habit, as Dean Payne Smith remarks, of packing up in a bundle articles of great value or of indispensable use, so that the owner may carry them about his person…Among the striking references in the Babylonian Talmud to this loved and cherished saying of the wife of Nabal, we find how, in one of the Treatises of Seder Moed, ‘Rabbi Ezra says, The souls of the righteous are hidden beneath God’s glorious throne: as it is said, The soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the Lord thy God.’—Treatise Shabbath, fol. 152, col. 2.”

          • What student of this verse of the Book of Samuel, and the beautiful Talmud comments on the far-reaching words, can fail to see in them the original of St. John’s well-known picture of the ‘souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held?’ (Revelation 6:9)—these souls of the righteous hidden beneath the glorious throne of God.”

          • The thought is embodied in the following extract. ‘The angel of death came and stood before Moses. Give me thy soul, said he; but Moses rebuked him, and said, thou hast no permission to come where he (Moses) was; and he departed crest-fallen. Then the Holy One—blessed be He !—took the soul of Moses, and hid it under His throne of glory: as it is said (1Samuel 25:29): “And the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life.” But when He took it He took it by means of a kiss.’—Avoth. of Rabbi Nathan, 1 Samuel 12.”

          • The simile was one Abigail had with all probability heard from one or other of the prophets or their pupils. It was not unlikely originally suggested by the ever memorable encounter between David and Goliath: as in the case of the souls of the righteous, in the passage just discussed, the reference in the first instance was to the fate of the enemies of God in this life; but Hebrew theologians in all times have understood it in a deeper and more solemn sense, as a reference to the doom after death reserved for all unrighteous.”

        • In the same most ancient writing–which, most probably, contains the teaching of the great Jewish schools before the Christian era—we read: ‘The souls of the wicked are incessantly thrown by angels, as with a sling, from one end of the world to the other, as it is said: “The souls of thine enemies shall he sling out, as out of the middle of a sling;” and what, asks Ravah of Rav. Nachman (this is a later comment), is the lot of those who are neither righteous nor wicked? They, as well as the wicked, are handed over to “Dumah”—silence (see Psalm 115:17)—an angel who has charge of disembodied spirits. The former, the neither righteous nor wicked, have rest; the latter, the wicked, have none.’—Treatise Shabbath, fol. 152, col. 2.”

          • The strange wild statement, as it seems to us, is no doubt a cryptograph; and the great rabbis of old days in their famous schools would now and again unrol its meaning. With that, for the present, we have not to concern ourselves. But the bare text, as we copy it from the Talmud, conveys to us this important fact,—that men and women in the Canaan of Samuel and Saul—people who lived remote, as it would seem, from any famous centre of civilisation, in the midst of shepherds and herdsmen in the lone sheep farms of Judah and Benjamin—believed in the glories of the life eternal with God, and looked on to a future state of rewards and punishments, instead of limiting their hopes and fears to the sitting in quiet peace under the vine and the fig tree of their own loved land of promise.”

          • The knowledge of a future state of existence was ever the blessed heritage of the chosen race—but the spread of that knowledge and the re-awakening of that belief we ascribe to the beneficial influence of one man. The Divine record, if we read between its lines, and the mighty wealth of Hebrew tradition, if we take sufficient pains to make it our own, tell us one story—how Samuel, whom, when he was a child, the God of Israel loved: with whom, during his long and blameless life, He used to speak face to face—now by a vision, now by the echo of a voice—tell us how Samuel was the founder of those great Prophetic Schools where the lamp of the knowledge of God was re-lit, and then kept burning with a steady flame through his time and for centuries after: the one bright light during the long, sad record of Israel.”

          • Hero-kings like David, prophets like Gad and Nathan, the great psalm writers and musicians of the Temple of Solomon, were the more prominent results of the peculiar teaching and spirit of these ‘schools;’ but their noblest work, after all, was the high and beneficial influence they exercised over the people of the land—an influence exemplified in such characters as that of Abigail, the sheep-master of Carmel’s wife, a page of whose life story we have just been considering.”

      • David said to Abigail, “Praise Yahweh, the God of Israel, who sent you today to meet me. Praise your discretion and may you yourself be rewarded, because today you have kept me from bloodshed and from avenging myself by my own hand. Otherwise, as surely as Yahweh the God of Israel lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come to meet me quickly, by daybreak not one single male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive.” Then David accepted what she had brought to him and told her, “Go back to your home in peace. Be assured that I have listened to you and granted your request.”

      • When Abigail went back to Nabal he was holding a feast in his house like the feast of a king. He was in a good mood because he was very drunk, so she didn’t tell him anything until the next morning. In the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him about everything, then he had a stroke and lay paralyzed like a stone. About 10 days later Yahweh struck him and he died.

        • Guzik writes, “Nabal lived up to his name; he was a fool. His life was in imminent danger – his wife knew it, all his servants knew it, but he didn’t know it. He eats and gets drunk as if all were fine, and didn’t have a care in the world…In this regard, Nabal is a picture of the sinner who goes on rejecting God without regard to God’s coming judgment. David certainly would have killed Nabal and it is certain that God will judge the sinner who continues to reject Him…Abigail’s wise action saved Nabal from David and saved David from himself. But it could not save Nabal from God’s judgment. Nabal was never out of God’s reach and when it was the right time, God took care of him.”

        • HCSB notes, “How did Nabal die? English Bible versions differ based on the translators’ decisions about how far to pursue a medical diagnosis based on the Hebrew description. The MT in verse 37 reads, lit., ‘His heart died in his midst, and he became a stone.’ This could be taken to mean that Nabal experienced a heart attack, became dispirited, had a seizure, or suffered a stroke. Temporary loss of consciousness, paralysis, or coma could have followed…”

      • When David heard that Nabal had died, he said, “Praise Yahweh who has avenged the insult I received from Nabal. Yahweh has kept His servant from doing evil and has returned Nabal’s evildoing upon his own head.” Then David sent messengers to Abigail to talk to her about becoming his wife.

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible provides some perspective here, “While modern, Western readers might read these lines as a tale of romance, in the ancient Near East marriage and politics were often intertwined. Whatever may have been David’s personal feelings for Abigail- ‘an intelligent and beautiful woman’ (v.3)- he undoubtedly benefited politically from this and other marriages…”

      • When David’s servants came to Abigail at Carmel they said to her, “David has sent us to you to bring you to him as his wife.” She got up, bowed with her face to the ground, and replied, “I am your servant and ready to wash the feet of my lord’s servants.” Then Abigail went quickly and mounted her donkey, and accompanied by five of her young women she went with David’s messengers and became his wife.

        • Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary writes, “Abigail believed that David would be king over Israel, and greatly esteemed his pious and excellent character. She deemed his proposal of marriage honourable, and advantageous to her, notwithstanding his present difficulties. With great humility, and doubtless agreeably to the customs of those times, she consented, being willing to share his trails. Thus those who join themselves to Christ, must be willing now to suffer with him, believing that hereafter they shall reign with him.”

      • David had also married Ahinoam of Jezreel, both of them became his wives. But Saul had given his daughter Michal, David’s wife, to Paltiel who was Laish’s son, who was from Gallim.

        • HCSB writes, “Throughout his lifetime David acquired at least eight wives (2 Sm 3:2-5, 14-16; 1 Ch 3:1-5) and 10 concubines (2 Sm 15:16), in addition to Saul’s harem (2 Sm 12:8)…It would have destructive consequences later, when deadly rivalries developed between the women (see 1 Kg 1:1-4; 2:17-25) and families (2 Sm 13:1-32; 1 Kg 2:24-25) within David’s harem. God’s ideal plan for people from the beginning was for one man to marry one woman, and for the couple to remain in exclusive sexual relationship for as long as both partners were alive…”

        • Who was Ahinoam and did David marry her before or after Abigail? There is debate on both of these questions. I’ll list some sources of information below:

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible clarifies where Ahinoam is said to be from, “This Jezreel was a village in the vicinity of Maon, Ziph, and Carmel in Judah (Josh 15:55-56) and not the better-known northern city of Jezreel.”

        • The only other Ahinoam mentioned in the OT is Saul’s wife Ahinoam (1 Sam 14:50). Combining this fact with Nathan’s statement in 2 Sam 12:8 regarding David’s being given his “master’s wives into [his] arms”, some scholars have speculated that Ahinoam was Saul’s wife. However, most scholars don’t believe this scenario is likely. In OT scholar Dr. Claude Mariottini’s article “Ahinoam, the Mother of Amnon” he cites Diana Edelman’s rebuttal to this theory:

          • Such a presumption would require David to have run off with the queen mother while Saul was still on the throne, which seems unlikely. In view of the possession of the royal harem as a claim to royal legitimacy, Nathan’s comment can be related to David’s eventual possession of Saul’s wives after he ascended the throne in the wake of Eshbaal’s death. Nathan refers to David’s possession of more than a single wife of Saul’s in v 23, which precludes the application of the phrase to Ahinoam alone.”

        • The question of who came first, Abigail or Ahinoam, is more difficult to answer. Really, it seems either conclusion could be accurate.

          • Some take the view that David actually married Ahinoam first for the following reasons:

            • As Mariottini mentions [although he seems to opt for the opposite view) in his article, “Ahinoam’s name is always mentioned first, except in one context. Linda Schearing (2000: 48), in her article on Ahinoam said that ‘Of the five contexts in which Ahinoam appears, only in her marriage notice (1 Sam 25:43) does she come after Abigail.’”

            • Mariottini also cites the support to this view given by the Jewish historian Josephus, “Josephus, Ant 6, 13, 8 seems to imply that Ahinoam was David’s first wife: ‘Now David had a wife before, whom he married from the city Abesar; for as to Michal, the daughter of king Saul, who had been David’s wife, her father had given her in marriage to Phalti, the son of Laish, who was of the city of Gallim.’”

          • However, those who take the view that David married Abigail first respond to the first argument above by pointing out, as Mariottini does, that the reason Ahinoam is listed first everywhere else other than her marriage announcement is due to the fact that she gave birth to David’s first son.

            • Mariottini also cites scholarly support to explain why this would be the case, “Although David married Abigail before Ahinoam, it was Ahinoam who gave David his firstborn son. Gafney (2017: 207) said that David wanted to make sure Abigail was not pregnant with Nabal’s child before he slept with her. She wrote, ‘Abigail does not give birth until after Ahinoam, suggesting that David did not sleep with her until he was sure she was not pregnant with Nabal’s child.’”

          • Additionally, “It is doubtful that Amnon was the only son of Ahinoam. In the list of David’s children by his many wives, only the firstborn sons of his wives are mentioned. This is one of the reasons the author of 2 Samuel emphasizes that Amnon was David’s firstborn son.”

        • One last issue with the ending of this chapter remains and HCSB addresses it, “Who became Michal’s next husband after David? The text here states that Saul gave Michal to Palti (also known as Paltiel, 2 Sm 3:15); however, in 2 Sm 21:8 many English versions state that Michal’s husband was Adriel. This textual tension apparently arises from an ancient scribal error in 2 Sm 21:8, where the MT links Michal with Adriel. On the other hand, the Septuagint, Syriac, and even some Hebrew manuscripts state in the same verse that Merab, not Michal, was Adriel’s wife. Especially in the light of 1 Sm 18:19 and 2 Sm 6:23, it seems the Septuagint and Syriac preserve the correct reading.”