v1: David was in the wilderness of Paran, in the southern part of Judah; in this area were Maon, Carmel, Ziph, and En-Gedi. This sparsely populated area was liable to attacks from the Philistines, and from other nations. Nabal's servants testified that David and his men protected them (v15-16).
The writer refers to Samuel’s death in a verse; Israel mourned him, but David had little opportunity to do so.
v2-3: Nabal was very rich, but harsh and evil, and not generous. His servants described him as a "wicked man" (v17); and Abigail described him as a "fool" (v25). Nabal was a man without love for God. The devotion and commitment of Caleb had become self-interest and harshness in Nabal. In contrast Abigail was a beautiful woman of intelligence.
Nabal and Abigail make an unlikely pair. There was little real closeness between them; this was true also of David and Michal. It sometimes happens that only one partner is truly spiritual.
v4-8: David made a request for food from Nabal. Presumably, when bands of fighting men provided protection for local farmers, they would expect payment in kind.
v9-11: Nabal claimed not to know of David; perhaps in his selfishness, he had taken no interest in wider issues. In rejecting David's request, he referred to "my shearers", but it seems he had little real concern for them.
v12-13: The message was reported back to David. His reaction was uncharacteristically hasty. He was provoked to anger, even to murder; such a contrast with his gracious attitude towards Saul (ch 24 and 26). Beware the hasty word; Ps 141.3; Matt 12.36.
v14-17: One of Nabal's servants reported his words to Abigail. His mention of David indicates that David was known amongst the servants, see also Abigail’s words in v29-30.
v18-20: Abigail worked quickly to prepare a gift for David. The gift is quiet substantial; it was likely that she had provided for Nabal's many servants. It is significant that she did not tell Nabal of her plans.
v21-22: Even as Abigail was bringing her gift, David was urging his men on to kill Nabal and his servants.
v23-27: Abigail interceded for her large household; this was the only way to prevent death. Later David testified that her words had saved the lives of the household (v34). Abigail pleaded for the life of someone unworthy, and she relied upon David's mercy.
v28-31: Abigail also had some knowledge of David, in contrast to Nabal's ignorance. She recognised that he fought "the Lord's battles", and that another, that is Saul, was pursuing him. She prayed for deliverance and safety. Her confidence was that God's promises to David would be fulfilled.
Abigail was also concerned for David’s conscience, that he would not have to bear “the staggering burden of needless bloodshed.”
v32-35: God overruled, and the household of Nabal was preserved, and David was kept from serious sin.
At no stage did David avenge himself; he did avenge others, such as those who killed Ishbosheth and the man who claimed to have killed Saul. Later, Solomon avenged David, having David and Shimei killed.
v36-38: Nabal had been enjoying himself, ignorant of the events around him. He was shocked when Abigail explained what had happened.
There was no need for David to strike Nabal. In 26.10, David said, "the Lord Himself will strike him", of Saul. It seems that David maintained this principle, not attacking the people of Israel.
v39: David had been right to leave God to vindicate him. The prayer of Abigail was central to this turn of events. We must leave the Lord God to plead our cause, and to remove our reproach. We are not to fight for our own rights but trust God to change our circumstances..
v40-44: David took the opportunity to marry the now widowed Abigail. She was delighted to have the opportunity to "wash the feet of my master's servants". While others seek the honour of a great name, Abigail sought the place of service.