Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. Samuel died--After a long life of piety and public usefulness,
he left behind him a reputation which ranks him among the greatest of
buried him in his house at Ramah--that is, his own mausoleum. The
Hebrews took as great care to provide sepulchers anciently as people do
in the East still, where every respectable family has its own house of
the dead. Often this is in a little detached garden, containing a
small stone building (where there is no rock), resembling a house,
which is called the sepulcher of the family--it has neither door nor
David arose, and went down to the wilderness of Paran--This removal
had probably no connection with the prophet's death; but was probably
occasioned by the necessity of seeking provision for his numerous
the wilderness of Paran--stretching from Sinai to the borders of
Palestine in the southern territories of Judea. Like other
wildernesses, it presented large tracts of natural pasture, to which
the people sent their cattle at the grazing season, but where they were
liable to constant and heavy depredations by prowling Arabs. David and
his men earned their subsistence by making reprisals on the cattle of
these freebooting Ishmaelites; and, frequently for their useful
services, they obtained voluntary tokens of acknowledgment from the
2. in Carmel--now Kurmul. The district takes its name from this town,
now a mass of ruins; and about a mile from it is Tell Main, the hillock
on which stood ancient Maon.
the man was very great--His property consisted in cattle, and he was
considered wealthy, according to the ideas of that age.
3. he was of the house of Caleb--of course, of the same tribe with
David himself; but many versions consider Caleb ("dog") not as a
proper, but a common noun, and render it, "he was snappish as a dog."
4-9. Nabal did shear his sheep, and David sent out ten young men,
&c.--David and his men lurked in these deserts, associating with the
herdsmen and shepherds of Nabal and others and doing them good offices,
probably in return for information and supplies obtained through them.
Hence when Nabal held his annual sheep-shearing in Carmel, David felt
himself entitled to share in the festival and sent a message,
recounting his own services and asking for a present. "In all these
particulars we were deeply struck with the truth and strength of the
biblical description of manners and customs almost identically the same
as they exist at the present day. On such a festive occasion, near a
town or village, even in our own time, an Arab sheik of the neighboring
desert would hardly fail to put in a word either in person or by
message; and his message, both in form and substance, would be only a
transcript of that of David" [ROBINSON].
10-12. Nabal answered David's servants, . . . Who is David?
&c.--Nabal's answer seems to indicate that the country was at the time
in a loose and disorderly state. David's own good conduct, however, as
well as the important services rendered by him and his men, were
readily attested by Nabal's servants. The preparations of David to
chastise his insolent language and ungrateful requital are exactly what
would be done in the present day by Arab chiefs, who protect the cattle
of the large and wealthy sheep masters from the attacks of the
marauding border tribes or wild beasts. Their protection creates a
claim for some kind of tribute, in the shape of supplies of food and
necessaries, which is usually given with great good will and gratitude;
but when withheld, is enforced as a right. Nabal's refusal, therefore,
was a violation of the established usages of the place.
13. two hundred abode by the stuff--This addition to his followers
was made after his return into Judah (see
14-18. Then Abigail made haste--The prudence and address of Nabal's
wife were the means of saving him and family from utter destruction.
She acknowledged the demand of her formidable neighbors; but justly
considering, that to atone for the insolence of her husband, a greater
degree of liberality had become necessary, she collected a large amount
of food, accompanying it with the most valued products of the country.
bottles--goatskins, capable of holding a great quantity.
parched corn--It was customary to eat parched corn when it was
fully grown, but not ripe.
19. she said unto her servants, Go on before me; behold, I come after
you--People in the East always try to produce an effect by their
presents, loading on several beasts what might be easily carried by
one, and bringing them forward, article by article, in succession.
Abigail not only sent her servants in this way, but resolved to go in
person, following her present, as is commonly done, to watch the
impression which her munificence would produce.
23. she hasted, and lighted off the ass, and fell before David on her
face--Dismounting in presence of a superior is the highest token of
respect that can be given; and it is still an essential act of homage
to the great. Accompanying this act of courtesy with the lowest form of
prostration, she not only by her attitude, but her language, made the
fullest amends for the disrespect shown by her husband, as well as paid
the fullest tribute of respect to the character and claims of David.
25. Nabal--signifying fool, gave pertinence to his wife's remark.
26. let thine enemies . . . be as Nabal--be as foolish and contemptible
29. the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the
Lord thy God--An Orientalism, expressing the perfect security of
David's life from all the assaults of his enemies, under the protecting
shield of Providence, who had destined him for high things.
32-35. David said to Abigail, Blessed be the Lord--Transported by
passion and blinded by revenge, he was on the eve of perpetrating a
great injury. Doubtless, the timely appearance and prudent address of
Abigail were greatly instrumental in changing his purpose. At all
events, it was the means of opening his eyes to the moral character of
the course on which he had been impetuously rushing; and in accepting
her present, he speaks with lively satisfaction as well as gratitude to
Abigail, for having relieved him from bloodshed.
36. he held a feast in his house, like the feast of a king--The
sheep-shearing season was always a very joyous occasion. Masters
usually entertained their shepherds; and even Nabal, though of a most
niggardly disposition, prepared festivities on a scale of sumptuous
liberality. The modern Arabs celebrate the season with similar
37, 38. in the morning . . . his wife had told him these things, that
his heart died within him--He probably fainted from horror at the
perilous situation in which he had unconsciously placed himself; and
such a shock had been given him by the fright to his whole system, that
he rapidly pined and died.
39-42. the Lord hath returned the wickedness of Nabal upon his own
head--If this was an expression of pleasure, and David's vindictive
feelings were gratified by the intelligence of Nabal's death, it was an
instance of human infirmity which we may lament; but perhaps he
referred to the unmerited reproach
(1Sa 25:10, 11),
and the contempt of God implied in it.
David sent and communed with Abigail, to take her to wife--This
unceremonious proceeding was quite in the style of Eastern monarchs,
who no sooner take a fancy for a lady than they despatch a messenger to
intimate their royal wishes that she should henceforth reside in the
palace; and her duty is implicitly to obey. David's conduct shows that
the manners of the Eastern nations were already imitated by the great
men in Israel; and that the morality of the times which God permitted,
gave its sanction to the practice of polygamy. His marriage with
Abigail brought him a rich estate.
44. Michal--By the unchallengeable will of her father, she who was
David's wife was given to another. But she returned and sustained the
character of his wife when he ascended the throne.