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Lectionary

21 October 19.

The Calebites were the descendants of Caleb — the only man of the generation of the generation who saw the plagues of Egypt with their own eyes and stood before the mountain when Moses got the law but Joshua to enter the land of Canaan and gain an inheritance. Caleb means dog, and the implication was that the tribe was hard.

Nabal was harder: he grasped more, and he would disavow the implied contracts that his servants made. His reputation was in tatters. But his wife was wise.

And when Nabal denied the request of the anointed king of Israel Abigail knew her life and the life of all her family was forfeit unless she acted. David would not tolerate that insult.

And his appeals to the law of Saul or to the letters of his contract would have no lasting effect, for he and all the men of his household would be dead.

1 Samuel 25:2-22

2 Now there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel; and the man was very rich, and he had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. And it came about while he was shearing his sheep in Carmel 3 (now the man’s name was Nabal, and his wife’s name was Abigail. And the woman was intelligent and beautiful in appearance, but the man was harsh and evil in his dealings, and he was a Calebite), 4 that David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep. 5 So David sent ten young men; and David said to the young men, “Go up to Carmel, visit Nabal and greet him in my name; 6 and thus you shall say, ‘Have a long life, peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have. 7 Now I have heard that you have shearers; now your shepherds have been with us and we have not insulted them, nor have they missed anything all the days they were in Carmel. 8 Ask your young men and they will tell you. Therefore let my young men find favor in your eyes, for we have come on a festive day. Please give whatever you find at hand to your servants and to your son David.’”

9 When David’s young men came, they spoke to Nabal according to all these words in David’s name; then they waited. 10 But Nabal answered David’s servants and said, “Who is David? And who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants today who are each breaking away from his master. 11 Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men whose origin I do not know?” 12 So David’s young men retraced their way and went back; and they came and told him according to all these words. 13 David said to his men, “Each of you gird on his sword.” So each man girded on his sword. And David also girded on his sword, and about four hundred men went up behind David while two hundred stayed with the baggage.

14 But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, saying, “Behold, David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master, and he scorned them. 15 Yet the men were very good to us, and we were not insulted, nor did we miss anything as long as we went about with them, while we were in the fields. 16 They were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the time we were with them tending the sheep. 17 Now therefore, know and consider what you should do, for evil is plotted against our master and against all his household; and he is such a worthless man that no one can speak to him.”

18 Then Abigail hurried and took two hundred loaves of bread and two jugs of wine and five sheep already prepared and five measures of roasted grain and a hundred clusters of raisins and two hundred cakes of figs, and loaded them on donkeys. 19 She said to her young men, “Go on before me; behold, I am coming after you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal. 20 It came about as she was riding on her donkey and coming down by the hidden part of the mountain, that behold, David and his men were coming down toward her; so she met them. 21 Now David had said, “Surely in vain I have guarded all that this man has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belonged to him; and he has returned me evil for good. 22 May God do so to the enemies of David, and more also, if by morning I leave as much as one male of any who belong to him.”

David also was being driven by anger, which he called honour. He was coming for utu — recompense, revenge, of an insult. He had vowed to kill all who remained of Nabal. It was the wisdom of Abigail — and the speed with which she reacted — that saved her household.

One should not underestimate the value of a wise woman, and disavow that power. The very fact that the servants went to her and not to her husband — who no man would speak well of — indicates that they were fearful for their lives, and would break the protocol and customs and traditions of that time.

For David was coming.

Consider this: the son of David is greater that David, and he also is coming. Will you be Nabal, and deny him, or Abigail, and welcome him? Do not rely on your wealth, status, or the letter of the Law. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of a God, who knows you have rejected his love, and spurned his redemption offered to you at great cost.

For that which will not last, and would not save you.