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of Israel come out ? after whom dost thou pursue ? after a dead dog, after a flea. Jehovah, therefore, be judge, and judge between me and thee, and see and plead my cause, and deliver me out of thine hand.” And it came to pass, when David had made an end of speaking these words unto Saul, that Saul said, is this thy voice, my son David ? And Saul lifted up his voice, and wept. And he said to David, thou art more righteous than I: for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil. And thou hast shewed this day how that thou hast dealt well with me: forasmuch as when Jehovah had delivered me into thine hand, thou killedst me not. For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away? Wherefore Jehovah reward thee good, for that thou hast done unto me this day. And now, behold I know well that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand. Swear now, therefore, unto me by Jehovah, that thou wilt not cut off my seed after me, and that thou wilt not destroy my name out of my father's house. And David sware unto Saul.*
Saul had all along professed, that the motive for his cruel persecution of David, was the conviction that David had a secret purpose to take away his life; and he urged this as the justification of his conduct, both to the Benjamites and to Abimelech ;f it was therefore with peculiar propriety that God so ordained, as that David might not only have an opportunity of rescuing his character from this reproach in the sight of all Israel ; but also of convincing Saul bimself, if he really entertained any such apprehension, that David had no evil purpose towards him or his family. It might have been expected too, that this procedure of David, and especially after such declarations as Saul made, and the apparent feeling which he exhibited, would have induced him
I Sam. xxiv. 9-22.
+ 1 Sam. xxii. 8. 13.
to restore David to his confidence, and have preserved him from any further malicious attempts; but unhappily, we shall find from the sequel, that this was not the case; and this, it would seem David was well aware of, for notwithstanding the apparent reconciliation, and not intending to place any confidence in Saul, he not only did not ask for any reciprocal pledge of amity and good will, but immediately after the conference, he and his men retreated again into their hold.*
According to the sacred writer, it was soon after this interview that the prophet Samuel died, when all the Israelites were gathered together, and lamented him, and buried him in his house at Ramah : immediately after which David arose, probably thinking that now the holy prophet was dead, Saul would proceed to greater violence than before, and went down to the wilderness of Paran, on the borders of the land of Canaan.
Whilst David was wandering in Maon, there was a man of the name of Nabal, of the house of Caleb, who possessed great wealth, and amongst other substance, 3000 sheep and 1000 goats, which were feeding in Carmel, of Judah, near to Maon; but David and his men had never, in their utmost necessities, committed any plunder upon any part of this man's cattle, who it is said was a churl, and evil in his doings.
Whilst David was in Paran, which was in the wilderness, and had now been wandering about for a long while without a settled habitation, he heard that Nabal was shearing his sheep in Carmel, and he thought that in his present necessity, and especially at such a time of festivity and abundance, he might with propriety make an appeal to the generosity, if not to the gratitude, of Nabal. He therefore sent a respectful embassy of ten young men, with orders to greet him, and to say to him that liveth in prosperity, peace be both to thee
* i Sam. xxiv. 22.
eyes : for
and peace be to thine house, and peace be unto all that thou hast. And now I have heard that thou hast shearers : now thy shepherds which were with us, we hurt them not, neither was there ought missing unto them, all the while they were in Carmel. Ask thy young men, and they will shew thee. Wherefore let the young men find favour in thine we come in a good day: give, I pray thee, whatsoever cometh to thine hand, unto thy servants, and to thy son David.* The rich churl answered this civil and respectful application, with all the insolence of overgrown wealth ; “ Who is David ? and who is the son of Jesse ? there be many servants now a days that break away every man from his master. Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be?”+
It is bighly improbable that Nabal could have been ignorant either who David was, or of the special purpose of Jehovah concerning him; and still less of his forbearing and perhaps protecting conduct towards his own cattle in Carmel, and we cannot therefore wonder, that David was exceedingly angry when he received this insulting message. Although the rash resolve he made is incapable of justification upon any principles whatever, for he said, surely in vain have I kept all that this fellow hath in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that pertained unto him, and he hath requited me evil for good. So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light, a single male. And he commanded every man to gird on his sword, and he girded on his own sword, and there went up after him about 400 men.
This unjustifiable purpose of vengeance, into which David
* I Sam. xxv. 6–8. Harmer, i. 239. + 1 Sam. xxv. 10, II. # 1 Sam. xxv. 21, 22. f 1 Sam. xxv. 13.
had been thus hastily betrayed, was happily diverted by the prudence of one of Nabal's servants, and by the address of Abigail, the wife of Nabal. This faithful domestic having overheard both the message and reply, and rightly apprehending the probable result, went to his mistress, and said, “ Behold David sent messengers out of the wilderness to salute our master, and he railed on them. But the men were very good unto us, and we were not hurt; neither missed we any thing as long as we were conversant with them when we were in the fields : they were a wall unto us, both by night and day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep. Now, therefore, know and consider what thou wilt do, for evil is determined against our master, and against all his household: for he is such a son of Belial, that a man cannot speak to him.”
Abigail lost no time in preparing a magnificent present of 200 loaves, two skins of wine, five sheep ready dressed, five measures of parched corn, 100 clusters of raisins, 200 cakes of figs, with which she sent her servants forward towards David, that his wrath might be, in some measure, apppeased by the present, before she made her appearance herself. When she approached, (and we are told she was a woman of a beautiful countenance, as well as of a good understanding) she lighted from her ass, and bowed herself to the ground, and fell on her face before the feet of David, and said, “ Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be: and let thine handmaid, I pray thee, speak in thine audience, and hear the words of thine handmaid. Let not, my lord, I pray thee, regard this man of Belial, even Nabal: for as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him: but I, thine handmaid, saw not the young men of my lord, whom thou didst send. Now therefore, my lord, as Jehovah liveth,
* 1 Sam. xxv. 14-17,
and as thy soul liveth, seeing Jehovah liath withholden thee from coming to shed blood, and froin avenging thyself with thine own hand, now let thine enemies, and they that seek evil to my lord, be as Nabal. And now this blessing, which thine handmaid hath brought unto my lord: let it even be given unto the young men that follow my lord. I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid: for Jehovah will certainly make my lord a sure house ; because my lord fighteth the battles of Jehovah, and evil hath not been found in thee all thy days. Yet a man is risen to pursue thee, and to seek thy soul : but the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with Jehovah, thy God; and the souls of thine enemies, then shall he sling out, as out of the middle of a sling. And it shall come to pass, when Jehovah shall have done to my lord, according to all the good that he bath spoken concerning thee, and shall have appointed thee ruler over Israel; that this shall be no grief unto thee, nor offence of heart unto my lord, either that thou hast shed blood causeless, or that my lord hath avenged himself: but when Jehovah shall have dealt well with my lord, then remember thine handmaid.” And David said to Abigail, blessed be Jehovah, God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me: and blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which bast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand. For, in very deed, as Jehovah, God of Israel liveth, which hath kept me back from hurting thee, except thou hadst hasted and come to meet me, surely there had not been left unto Nabal, by the morning light, a single male. So David received of her hand that which she had brought him, and said unto her, go up in peace to thine house; see, I have hearkened to thy voice, and have accepted thy person.*
* | Sam. xxv. 24–35. Harmer, i. 240.