1 Samuel 25:4 - 8
ESV - 4 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, and go to Nabal and greet him in my name.
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It is my humble opinion that David had expected a measure of gratitude from Nabal. Here is why: It is important to remember that everything in the Bible is put there in the way that it is because God wants it there and in that way. There is a lot of material for us to gather from the passage, so, let us start from the top. Note in the previous chapter (1 Samuel 24) the episode where David had just spared Saul after cutting off a corner of his robe while he was in a rather compromised position in a cave. David was smart enough to stay out of Saul's way, despite their apparent reconciliation. Let's continue. We are informed in the first verse of 1 Samuel 25 that Samuel was dead and widely mourned. You will remember that Samuel had informed Saul that the kingdom would be removed from him and given over to a man better than him, i.e. David (1 Samuel 15:28). And, in 1 Samuel 24:21 Saul had just requested David not cut off his offspring, (it was a typical practice to completely annihilate a deposed king's familial line so that no one from that family would take revenge on the usurper), so even Saul had had a moment of clarity. At this point, Samuel had stopped talking with Saul since 1 Samuel 15:35. A good number of years, and chapters, have passed. Let us not also forget that the last several chapters have been filled with accounts of the warring between the Israelites and the Philistines. We then learn in 1 Samuel 25:2-3 that David is in Paran, and Nabal, a rich business man from Maon is in Carmel. All of these territories are nearby. In context of all of the action we have seen, the wilderness of Ziph is where David has been hiding out. The reader will remember that Saul had been chasing David up and around Maon, but then broke pursuit to fight against invading Philistines, and David went to the Engedi. All of this is within an area of about 10-15 miles. There is no doubt that Nabal, and everyone else, is aware of what is going on. Nabal is contrasted with his wife in the following verse; he is a fool, whereas she is intelligent and beautiful. We are also informed that Nabal is a Calebite, a descendent of Caleb, who was one of two people (the other being Joshua) who had spied out the land and survived the 40 years in the desert to then help clear the land for the children of Israel; impressive lineage to say the least. Not only that, but the fact that Nabal is a Calebite reveals that he is actually a fellow clansman and kinsman of David, being that they are both descendants of Judah. They share blood as well as land. In 1 Samuel 25:4-9, we further learn that David, at personal cost, had been protecting Nabal's men from any threats that could have injured them, which, in turn, would have injured Nabal's wealth. In fact, it is ultimately because of the protective presence of David and his men that Nabal is able to live in safety and security while maximizing his profits. Up to this point, David had not asked for anything in return. Names are important (especially in Hebrew culture) because they have meaning and tell people about the person in possession of the name. When David tells his men to greet Nabal in his name, he is trusting in the fact that Nabal knows about his fellow kinsman, and what he has done for him (not to mention that David was famous enough to have songs sung about him. 1 Samuel 18:7). At the very least, between David's war exploits, the slaying of Goliath, and the claiming of 200 Philistine foreskins (1 Samuel 18:27), David has accrued a certain level of renown. Add to all of that that David was to be the next king. When Nabal gives his little rant in 1 Samuel 25:10-11, Nabal (whom we have just discovered as being kin who owed David) says "Who is David?" Within the context of everything we have read, we learn that it is impossible for Nabal to not know who David is, and what he has done for Nabal. Nabal shows himself to be, in the words of his wife, a worthless fellow (1 Samuel 25:25). Shalom!
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