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Jamieson, Fausset & Brown :: Commentary on 1 Samuel 25

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The First Book of Samuel, Otherwise Called the First Book of the Kings

Commentary by ROBERT JAMIESON

CHAPTER 25

1Sa 25:1-9. SAMUEL DIES.

      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 Scripture worthies.
      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 window.
      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 followers.
      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 peaceful inhabitants.

      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].

      1Sa 25:10-13. THE CHURLISH ANSWER PROVOKES HIM.

      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 1Sa 22:2 ).

      1Sa 25:14-35. ABIGAIL PACIFIES HIM.

      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 as he.

      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.

      1Sa 25:36-44. NABAL'S DEATH.

      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 hilarity.

      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.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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