Christian Churches of God

No. CB91



David, Nabal and Abigail


(Edition 1.0 20060825-20060825)

Nabal is killed and David asks Abigail to become his wife and she agrees. Samuel is already dead and the battles continue. King Saul takes his own life rather than face the prospect of being tortured and killed by his enemies. Saul’s three sons are also killed in battle. This paper has been adapted from Chapters 93-95 of The Bible Story Volume IV by Basil Wolverton, published by Ambassador College Press.




Christian Churches of God





(Copyright ã 2006 Christian Churches of God, Ed. Wade Cox)


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David Marries Abigail


Samuel dies

Now Samuel died, and all Israel gathered for his funeral and buried him in his family plot at Ramah (1Sam. 25:1).

David wasn't among those who attended. He knew that he would be risking his life to go where Saul was. Instead, he moved his men on to the Paran Desert, farther away from Ramah and Gibeah. There his small army moved from place to place, not staying in one spot very long because of the necessity of obtaining food as well as the need to keep Saul guessing David's location.

David, Nabal and Abigail

Food wasn't always easy to get. David sent bands of mounted men to help farmers with their crops and flocks and herds, obtaining food and supplies for their services.

A wealthy man from Maon owned a sheep ranch there, near the village of Carmel. He had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats, and was at his ranch at this time for the sheep shearing. His name was Nabal and he had a beautiful and intelligent wife named Abigail. Regardless of his possessions, Nabal was a sullen, unfriendly, ill-tempered man whose main interest was in increasing his wealth (vv. 2-3). Nabal means stupid or wicked and we will see that he certainly was that.

When David heard that Nabal was shearing his sheep, he sent ten of his young men to Carmel to give him a message. They carefully explained that they had never harmed any of the shepherds among whom they lived and never stole from them. Then they asked Nabal for a little contribution for David and his men, as it was a festive time. When the young men had given Nabal David’s message they then waited for his reply (vv. 4-9).

"You say you were sent from some fellow by the name of David, who is the son of Jesse?" Nabal questioned them. "Who are David and Jesse? Am I supposed to know them? And why should I believe that David sent you? There are many hungry servants on the move who have run away from their masters. Why have you come to me?"

"Our leader is in need of food for his soldiers, and he feels that you might be willing to help him", the men replied.

"Ah! Now it comes out", Nabal scoffed. "You're hoping to talk me out of the bread, water and meat I have to furnish for my shearers! Well, I don't know you, and I'm not giving anything to strangers" (vv. 10-11).

David wasn't pleased when he heard of Nabal's attitude, and he decided that Nabal needed a lesson in courtesy. Leaving two hundred men to guard the camp, he led the other four hundred on a march back to Carmel.

One of Nabal's men was afraid that something like this would happen. He went to Abigail, Nabal's wife, and told her how angry and disdainful and insulting her husband had been with David's men.

"David’s men were very good to us and we never suffered any harm from them; in fact they protected us and the sheep and nothing was stolen from us while they were with us. His stubbornness and ill temper could lead to trouble," the man explained. (vv.12-17).

Fearing what David might do, Abigail decided to try to meet him before he could reach Carmel. While her husband was busy overseeing the sheepshearing, she had some of her servants load donkeys with food, and sent the servants and the loaded animals off ahead of her. Abigail hoped there would be enough to show appreciation for what David's men had done. There were two hundred loaves of bread, two goatskins of wine, five dressed sheep, at least ten gallons of parched corn, a hundred large clusters of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs.

Abigail then mounted a donkey and set out after them. As she was riding down the trail she met David coming towards her (vv.18-20).

David's anger, kindled by Nabal's bad conduct, was out of control and he had made it known to his officers that he wouldn't leave a man alive at Nabal's ranch, thus temporarily lowering himself, by a vengeful state of mind, below Nabal's level of character.

Just then Abigail appeared. She hurried ahead of her servants, dismounted from her donkey and bowed her head to the ground before David.

"I know why you are here, sir," she said to David. "I am Nabal's wife, and I can understand how you must feel toward him because of how he has treated your men. He is one who is by nature unsociable, and who can't communicate with others without troubling them. If you will allow me to speak on, I would like to make an apology for him."

"Your husband must account for his own shortcomings and make his own apologies," David solemnly informed Abigail, "but I am interested in what you have to say."

"Thank you, sir," Abigail continued. "I didn't know about how your men were insulted by my husband until a servant reported it to me. Now it is my desire to try to make amends by bringing this gift of food here on these donkeys. It isn't much, but I trust that it will help you realise that we are thankful for what your men have done. I hope that it will help remind you, if you are planning to destroy my husband and his men, that it isn't according to your usual fair way of settling matters. For your sake, as well as ours, I trust that you will be merciful to us. I know that your life lately is a perilous one because of being constantly pursued. You are pressed to deal harshly with your enemies, but I know also that God must be your real protection against those who oppose you. One day soon you will be king of Israel. I hope that you won't have to recall how you and your men took the lives of my husband and his men for the mere sake of vengeance. If I am able now to persuade you to be merciful, and if God is pleased by it, please remember, when you are king, that I was a help to you" (vv. 21-31).

David was both surprised and pleased by Abigail's understanding words, sincerity and beauty. Here was reason enough to call off the expedition.

"May God bless you for meeting me here," David said to Abigail. "I'm happy that I've heard what you have to say to cause me to realise how rash I've been in this matter. If it weren't for your efforts to divert me from my purpose, my soldiers would probably be punishing all the men on your property by now. And thank you for bringing food to us. We greatly appreciate it. I shall not forget you for this great favour" (vv. 32-34).

David and his men happily accepted the food and David told Abigail to return in peace to her home, and promised that he would take his men back to their camp.

When Abigail returned home she found that Nabal had thrown a big party and he was very drunk. So Abigail said nothing that night about David to her husband. Next morning, when he had recovered, she informed him of how close he had come to losing his property and his life. His fears, frustrations and gnawing hatreds were too much for his heart, and he had a stroke and died about ten days later, for the Lord had killed him (vv. 35-38).

When David heard of Nabal's death, he knew that it all had come about through God's planning. He was very thankful that he had been spared from carrying out his own rash plan of vengeance.

David's marriage

One of David's many disappointments during his time of banishment was to learn that Saul had given his wife Michal in marriage to another man. Abigail had impressed him as a beautiful and intelligent woman. David wasted no time in sending messengers to Abigail to ask her to become his wife. She quickly agreed and taking five of her servant girls Abigail followed the men back to David (vv. 39-42).

The Bible mentions another marriage of David to a woman named Ahinoam, but it’s not known when the marriage took place. We also know that David had a number of wives (vv. 43-44).

David spares Saul’s life again

When the men of Ziph saw David returning to their territory, they again sent men to Saul to report what was going on. This time Saul didn't delay as he had before when informed of David's presence there. He chose three thousand of his best soldiers to go after David to hunt him down. Saul camped at the edge of the wilderness where David was hiding but he knew of Saul’s arrival and sent his spies to watch his movements (1Sam. 26:1-4).

We see that once again Saul plots to take David‘s life. This is symbolic of how Satan tried to destroy Christ who is to replace him as Morning Star.

After determining how he might reach Saul's camp, David asked for someone to volunteer to go with him. Abishai, one of his nephews (1Chro. 2:13-16), offered to go, and the two men quietly crept to where Saul slept with a few of his officers, including Abner, the commander-in-chief (vv. 5-7).

"God has given you this chance to destroy your enemy," Abishai whispered.

"I have no desire to destroy him," David whispered back. "Then let me do it for you," Abishai pleaded. "I'll run a spear into him with such force that no other blow will be necessary to do away with him instantly."

"No!" David said, seizing Abishai's arm. "Saul was ordained by God to be king of Israel. If you kill him, God will surely punish you. If Saul is to die, let God take him. His time will come, and probably in battle with the Philistines. For now, let's be content to take his spear and his water jug and then get out of here."

David and Abishai successfully left Saul's camp without anyone waking up because the Lord had caused Saul and his men to fall into a deep sleep (vv. 8-12).

They climbed the mountain slope opposite the camp until they were at a safe distance. Then David shouted down to Abner and Saul.

"Wake up Abner!" David yelled to the commander-in-chief.

"Who is it?" Abner shouted back.

"You have the reputation of being the bravest and most alert officer in the Israelite army!" David yelled. "Then why weren't you watching last night? Why did you allow some intruder to get so near Saul that he could have killed the king while he slept? Explain, if you can, what happened to Saul's spear and water jug!" (vv. 13-16).

Then Saul said, "Are you David, my son-in-law?"

"I am, sir!" David shouted back. "Please tell me why you and your soldiers are out looking for me again. What have I done to cause you to desire to kill me? If it is God who sent you after me, why hasn't He put me into your hands? You know that God would accept an offering if I had committed an offence against you. If men have talked you into this chase, a curse should be on them for causing me to have to stay away from the Tabernacle and go to live among heathen (vv.17-20).

Then Saul confessed. "I have done wrong", he shouted to David. "Come back to Gibeah, and I'll see that no harm comes to you, inasmuch as you kept me from harm last night!"

"Then here is your spear", David answered. "Send one of your men to get it. As for what has happened here, God will deal with each of us according to what each of us has done. He made it possible last night for me to take your life, but I couldn't do it because He at one time ordained you as the king of Israel! As I spared you, so do I trust that God will spare me from trouble and death."

"I hope that you will receive God's protection and blessings", Saul shouted back. "I believe that you shall one day become Israel's ruler, and a successful one" (vv. 21-25).

It is obvious that a wrong spirit was present in Saul as he continued to plot to kill David. Also Satan knew that the Messiah would be born through the line of David from the tribe of Judah, and not from the tribe of Benjamin through Saul.

Refuge among the Philistines

David was thinking to himself that one day Saul would destroy him so the best thing was to escape to the land of the Philistines. So David and the six hundred men with him went over to Achish, son of Maoch king of Gath and there they settled with their families. When Saul heard this news he no longer searched for David (1Sam. 27:1-4).

Then David asked Achish if it would be possible for him and his soldiers and families to go to some small country town to live. David pointed out that it wasn't right that strangers should dwell in a royal Philistine city for very long, because the people of Philistia wouldn't understand.

Achish agreed and gave him Ziklag. David then lived in Philistine territory for sixteen months (vv. 5-7).

After David and the people with him were settled at Ziklag, David went up and raided the Geshurites, the Girzites and the Amalekites. Every time David attacked one of these groups, all the people were killed. The livestock was seized and clothes taken and then he returned to Achish.

Although God had instructed the Israelites to destroy most of the heathen tribes in and close to Canaan (Ex. 23:20-25; Deut. 7:1-5; 1Sam. 15:1-3), David's main reason for doing away with the desert people was to prevent information of his raids getting to Achish, who presumed that these attacks were against Israelite farms and towns.

The bloody raids on the desert tribes continued for several months. Once in a while some of the captured cattle, donkeys, camels and sheep would be herded into Gath, much to the satisfaction of Achish. At such times he would ask where the animals were rounded up, and David would explain that they came from various places in the south part of Judah, so that Achish would be led to believe that David had taken them from Israelites. Gath's ruler was more and more pleased with this state of affairs, never guessing that David was deceiving him. He considered David a traitor to Israel, and one who had such a hatred for his own people that he would long remain a great help to the Philistines (vv. 8-12).

In this matter David was not being honest. Possibly he was inspired by God to take measures to preserve himself and those with him, but his words and actions were too extreme to indicate that God was backing him up in all that he did. This also may be why God didn't allow David to build the Temple in Jerusalem when he finally became king, as he was a man of war and had shed much blood (1Chron. 22:7-8).

David had been in Philistia for well over a year (1Sam. 27:7) when Achish confided in him that the leaders of the nation were planning an attack against Israel with their combined armies.

"Of course your men will join my men to go with the troops that will very soon rally from all parts of Philistia," Achish told David.

"Then you will see for yourself what your servant can do," was David's answer.

David didn't promise allegiance to Philistia by that remark. The king of Gath assumed that David was talking about the enemy of Philistia, whereas he was really referring to the enemy of Israel.

Achish said, " I will make you my bodyguard for life" (I Sam. 28:1-2.)

Saul and the Witch of Endor

The Philistines set up their camp at Shumen while Saul and the Israelites camped at Gilboa. When Saul saw the Philistine army he was terrified. He inquired of the Lord but the Lord did not answer him. Saul could think of only one other possibility. Although in the past he had made great efforts to drive wizards, sorcerers, magicians and mediums out of Israel, he was now confronted with what he thought was the necessity of making use of such a person. If he had turned to God in a spirit of repentance, God wouldn't have remained silent.

"Find me a woman who can contact the spirit world," Saul commanded some of his officers. Not wishing it to be generally known what he was doing, Saul chose only two of his officers to accompany him to the woman who was known as the witch of Endor. Dressed in ordinary clothes so that they wouldn't be recognised, they went by night to the town of Endor. Saul was introduced only as one who desired to get in touch with the spirit of a dead friend (vv. 3-8).

The woman said, "Don't you know that Saul has driven out of the land those who deal with the spirit realm? I could be put to death if a rumour were to start that I am a sorceress."

Saul said, "I promise that no harm will come to you if you will bring the spirit of Samuel, the late judge of Israel, up from the dead" (vv. 9-11).

The woman was startled at this request. She knew that Samuel was dead and couldn't appear in any form, but it was her craft to contact demons who would produce illusions and voices to satisfy people who believed the ancient fable that dead people can travel about in spirit form and manifest themselves to live human beings. This pagan concept is still widely believed today even among people who term themselves Christians, although the Bible plainly states that the dead know nothing (Eccl. 9:5) and that the earliest resurrection of true Christians to eternal life as spirit beings will not be until Christ returns to Earth (Rev. 20). Saul must have known that the dead don't communicate with the living, but he was desperate enough to try anything.

When the woman saw Samuel she cried out in a loud voice that she saw elohim or gods coming out of the earth and said to Saul, "Now I know that you are King Saul. Why have you tried to fool me?"

The king told her not to be afraid and asked what she saw.

"I see a spirit (elohim) coming out of the ground," the woman said.

"What does he look like?" Saul asked.

"An old man wearing a robe is coming up", she said.

Then Saul knew it was Samuel and he bowed down with his face to the ground (vv. 12-14).

"If God has refused to help you, why do you consult me?" the voice of Samuel asked. "By now you should understand that rulership of the kingdom of Israel has been taken from you and will be given to David, the man you have troubled so long. This is because you disobeyed God in many matters, including your refusal to destroy all the Amalekites and their belongings."

"You won't defeat the Philistines," the voice continued. "Tomorrow will be the day of battle, and tomorrow you and your three sons will be killed and join me in the state of the dead!"

This shocking statement was too much for Saul, who was already in a weakened condition from hunger. He was so scared at what he heard that he collapsed on the floor. The woman urged Saul to eat something so he could regain his strength but he refused. However, his men also urged him to eat and eventually Saul and his men ate and then went out into the night (vv. 15-25).

Of course, the figure Saul saw wasn't that of Samuel, physical or spiritual. Samuel was dead and buried, and wouldn't become conscious until more than three thousand years later when he will be resurrected to meet Christ when the Son of God returns from heaven to begin ruling the people on Earth (Heb. 11:32-35; 1Cor. 15:51-52; 1Thess. 4:14-17). The sorceress had not created an illusion by her own powers either, but she had wrongly contacted an evil spirit who was able to impersonate Samuel. But Satan and the demons cannot do anything that God does not allow them to do (Job 1:8-12).

God uses His obedient angels for many wondrous purposes. But He also allows the fallen ones, or evil spirits, to promote or carry out certain designs, inasmuch as they are in utter fear of their Creator. Satan and his demons ordinarily go their own evil way, just as many human beings do, but God limits their powers and exerts control over them whenever He decides that it's necessary.

Because Saul looked to evil spirits for advice, God allowed a demon to inform him that he would die within a few hours. God doesn't want human beings to seek contact with evil spirits (Deut. 18:9-13). Nevertheless, there are people even in these days, called mediums, who claim that they have the power to get in touch with the dead. They cleverly cause illusions and sounds through natural means. They can't contact the dead, but as in Saul's case, they are inviting evil spirits to contact them.

God gave Saul forty years to rule as king of Israel. The number forty is the set period for repentance, either in days, weeks, years or Jubilees. As we continue with the story of the kings we will see that David and Solomon also ruled for forty years each. For more information on this subject see the paper Forty Years for Repentance (No. 290) and also Rule of the Kings: Part 1: Saul (No. 282A)).

David sent back to Ziklag

Achish's soldiers were the last to move out of Philistia. The rulers of Philistia asked about David and his men being there among their ranks. Achish replied, "Is this not David who was an officer of King Saul of Israel? He has already been with me for over a year, and I have found no fault with him." This reply angered the other leaders, and they demanded that David be sent home with his men, lest they be plotting to attack the rear ranks of the Philistine troops to gain favour with Saul (1Sam. 29:1-5).

Although he was disappointed in losing David and his men, Achish had to agree to the demands of the other leaders. Whether David was really disappointed or relieved isn't indicated in the Bible, though to Achish he gave the impression that he was disappointed.

However, this decision meant that David was kept from fighting against his own people. God was going to deal with Saul in this battle and David was kept out of it. So David and his men stayed that night, and started back for Ziklag next morning as the Philistines moved into battle positions (vv. 6-11).

David destroys the Amalekites

David and his men reached Ziklag three days later to find that the Amalekites had raided their city and burned it to the ground. They also took all the women and children and went on their way.

David and his men were greatly distressed and loudly wept with grief until they were nearly exhausted.

Some of David’s men blamed him for the situation, and even mentioned stoning him to death. His followers were devoted to him, but the calamity of losing their families temporarily caused them to be seized by a wild desire for revenge, and David was the only object they could find (1Sam. 30:1-6).

David had to look to God for the answer. Abiathar the priest still accompanied the soldiers, and David requested him to pray about the matter, asking God if they should pursue the Amalekites. David prayed also. God made it known to them that the Amalekites should be pursued. To David's relief and joy, God also predicted that the Israelites would overtake the Amalekites and recover all that had been taken by them.

So David and six hundred of his men set out after the Amalekites. When they reached Besor Brook, two hundred of the men were too exhausted to cross, but the others kept going. Along the way they found an Egyptian youth in the field and brought him to David. He had not had anything to eat or drink for three days and nights so they gave him food (vv. 7-12).

"Who are you and where did you come from," asked David.

"I am an Egyptian – the servant of an Amalekite", he replied. "My master left me behind three days ago because I was sick. "We were returning from raiding in the Negeb, and had raided the south of Judah and the land of Caleb, and had burned Ziklag."

"Do you know where the Amalekites are now?" David asked. "I will guide you to them if you will swear by your God that you won't kill me and that you won't take me back to my master", the young man replied (vv. 13-15).

"We have no intention of killing you or taking you back to your master," David firmly told the Egyptian.

So he led them to the Amalekite camp where they were spread out across the fields, eating and drinking and dancing with joy because of their successful raids.

When the Israelites rushed down on them from all directions a few minutes later, the Amalekites were so surprised that they had little opportunity to prepare to defend themselves. A great part of them lost their lives by that first onslaught of David and his men, but about four hundred Amalekites managed to escape on camels. All during the night and until evening of the next day the Amalekites struggled to beat off David's soldiers. David's men finally wiped out the last stubborn resisters. Then came the joyful rescue of the women and children and others who had been taken from Ziklag. David found his two wives safe and well. Other men’s wives and their children were discovered to be unharmed by their abductors. David’s men rounded up all the flocks and herds and drove them on ahead of them. They told David that these were his reward (vv. 16-20).

When they reached the stream where two hundred of David's men had been left behind, David greeted them joyfully. Those who had grumbled because these men had stayed behind began to complain again. This time it had to do with how the recovered property should be distributed.

David sharply informed the grumblers, "At least they watched over the heavy supplies we left with them so that we could travel faster. Those who are left behind in war should receive their just share, and I'll do my best to see that it always will be that way in Israel" (vv. 20-25).

And from among the livestock and other property the Amalekites had taken from the Philistines, and that was now in David’s possession he sent valuable presents to those friends in Judah who had helped him and his men during their long ordeal of running from Saul (vv. 26-31).

The King is dead

Meanwhile the Philistines had begun the battle against Israel, and the Israelites fled from them and were slaughtered in great numbers on Mount Gilboa. The Philistines closed in on Saul and killed his sons Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua.

Then the archers overtook Saul and wounded him badly. "I don't want it to be said that I was killed by a Philistine!" Saul shouted to his armour-bearer. "Run me through with your sword before one of these heathen gets to me."

His armour-bearer was afraid to kill his master and king, even in mercy. He also knew that if any of the Israelites should see him kill Saul, they wouldn't believe that Saul had requested it.

So Saul took his own sword and fell upon the point of the blade, and it pierced him through.

Saul died because he went to consult a medium (i.e. a wrong spirit) and he did not wait on the Lord for an answer. Often our prayers are not answered when we think we need something but rather God answers us when it is appropriate and within His Plan (cf. 1Chron. 10:13). Saul also failed to feed God’s people, Israel (cf. 1Chron. 11:2).

When his armour-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died with him. So Saul, his three sons, his armour-bearer and his troops died together that same day (1Sam. 31:1-6).

When the Israelites along the valley and those across the Jordan Rivers saw that the Israelite army had fled, and that Saul and his sons had died, they abandoned their towns and fled. Then the Philistines came and occupied them. Because Israel had forsaken God's right ways, they no longer had His protection.

The day after the battle, Philistine soldiers set out to strip the dead Israelites of their weapons and valuables. They cut off Saul’s head and stripped off his armour. They sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines to proclaim the news in the temple of their idols and among their people. Saul’s armour was placed in the temple of Ashtaroth, and his body was fastened to the wall of Beth-shan (vv. 7-10).

When they learned what the Philistines had done to the remains of Saul and his sons, the more courageous men of Jabesh-gilead decided that something should be done about it. Warriors from that town travelled all night to Beth-shan and took down the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall and brought them to Jabesh, where they burned them.

It wasn't an Israelite custom to burn bodies, but the men of Jabesh-gilead didn't want the Philistines to recover what had been taken from that wall of Beth-shan. After the remains had been burned, the bones were buried under a tree. Satisfied that they had done their best to save their former king from further desecration by their enemies, the devoted men of Jabesh-gilead paid their last respects by fasting for seven days (vv. 11-13).

Thus the unpredictable Saul came to his end. Under his leadership, Israel had both good and bad times. Israel's welfare wasn't completely determined by the conduct of its ruler, but if a ruler obeys God's Laws, the people he rules are more obedient. And obedience to God's ways always leads to happiness, prosperity and protection (Deut. 28:1-14).

With the death of Saul we come to the end of the first forty years of the reign of the Kings of Israel. This period of forty years is equal to the first forty years of the life of Moses – which was 3 x 40 year periods i.e. 120 years. This period also represents the first 2000 years of the creation up to the flood and the calling of Abraham.

We will continue with the story of Israel’s kings in the paper King David (No. CB92).

Sources of Reference:

Rule of the Kings Part I: Saul (No. 282A) and

The New International Study Bible.