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The Story of David: Abigail and David

Once upon a time, long before he became a king, when David was still running away from King Saul, afraid that Saul would kill him, he and his six hundred followers travelled to the wilderness of Paran.

In Carmel, which was near the wilderness of Paran, there lived a rich man named Nabal, who owned three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. Nabal was married to a woman named Abigail, who was clever and beautiful. Nabal himself, however, was rude and ill-natured; his name meant “The Fool.”

In the wilderness, David heard that Nabal was shearing his sheep. He decided to send ten young men to Nabal. David said to them, “Go to Carmel, find Nabal, and give him my greetings. Say to him, ‘Peace be upon your peace be upon your household, peace to all you have.’ Tell him that we have been living here among his shepherds, and we have not attacked them, nor have we stolen anything from them;— we have only the best intentions towards him and all those who work for him. You will arrive at his household on a feast day, and ask him if he would please give whatever food and drink he might have on hand to me and all of us.” David knew that anyone who lived in that land would feel compelled by the laws of hospitality to give at least some food to a band of men living in the wilderness.

David’s ten young men went to see Nabal the Fool, and they politely passed on David’s greetings, and his request for hospitality. But Nabal spoke to them harshly.

“Who is this David?” he said. “There are many servants who try to run away from their masters. Why should I take bread and meat and water away from the people who have been shearing my sheep, and give it to people who come from I know not where?”

When the ten young men came back to David and told him what had happened, he told four hundred of his men to strap on their swords.

“I protected his shepherds and everything else Nabal had in the wilderness, but for this good I did, he returned to me only evil,” said David. “Now we will go and kill every male in his household.”

They followed David towards Nabals’ house, while the remaining two hundred men stayed to guard the animals and the camp.


Meanwhile, one of the young men who worked for Nabal went to tell Abigail, Nabal’s wife, what had happened. The young man said that David had sent messengers to bring greetings to Nabal, but Nabal had only hurled insults at them. But, the young man said, when they had been out in the fields with Nabal’s sheep, David’s men had been good to them, and had even helped to protect them. And now David had decided to attack the household of Nabal, because Nabal was so bad-natured that no one can talk to him.

Abigail thought quickly. She ran and got two hundred loaves of bread, five sheep that had been butchered, one hundred clusters of raisins, two hundred cakes of figs, some grain, and some wine. She got her young men to load everything onto donkeys, and, without telling Nabal where she was going, she went along the mountain along the way she knew David would be taking.

When Abigail saw David, she got down from her donkey and hurried towards him. She fell to her knees, and bowed down before him.

“The guilt is mine alone,” she said. “My lord, please don’t take the words of ill-natured Nabal seri-ously. He is what his name says he is, a fool. I should have seen the young men you sent to our household, and then none of this would have happened.

“Now that I am here, there is no need to take vengeance, there is no need to shed blood. Please take all this food I have brought to you from Nabal’s household, and give it to your men.”

David listened to Abigail, and then said, “Blessed be your good sense, and blessed be you. If you hadn’t come to meet me, by the end of this morning my men and I would have killed every male in your household, and I would have incurred bloodguilt. Only Adonai, the God of the Israelites, is allowed to take vengeance. You have saved me from trying to take vengeance into my own hands.”

David and his men took everything Abigail brought to them. “See, I have done what you asked,” David said to her. “Go in peace.”


So Abigail went back to Nabal’s house. He was holding a feast, and he was very drunk, and acting very merry. Abigail waited until the next morning to tell him what had happened: that he had mortally insulted a band of six hundred warriors, warriors who had protected his shepherds, six hundred men to whom he at least owed ordinary hospitality. She told him how she had brought food to David and his men, and had intercepted them.

Nabal realized what a fool he had been, and his heart died within him. He became like a stone, and ten days later he died.

When David heard that Nabal had died, he sent messengers to Abigail, and asked her to marry him. And she agreed that she would marry him, and went off to live with David.


There is much more to the story of David, more than we have room to tell here.

At long last Saul was killed in battle, along with his son Jonathan. David cried when he heard that Saul had died, and that his best friend Jonathan had died, too. When Saul was killed, Samuel had died, too, and no one remembered that David was supposed to be the next king after Saul.

But eventually David did become king of Israel, and sat, as he was meant to do, in the throne once occupied by his old friend Saul. He was not only a warrior and a musician, he is said to have written many great poems, some of which were collected in a book known as the Psalms. And although he made mistakes, David ruled so wisely that we still tell stories about him today.


Source: Hebrew Bible, 1 Samuel 25.2-42.