Advent: December 3

1 Samuel 25:1-13

David moved his camp to Paran Desert. Nabal was a very rich man who lived in Maon. He owned three thousand sheep and a thousand goats, which he kept at Carmel. His wife Abigail was sensible and beautiful, but he was from the Caleb clan and was rough and mean.  One day, Nabal was in Carmel, having his servants cut the wool from his sheep.

David was in the desert when he heard about it. So he sent ten men to Carmel with this message for Nabal: I hope that you and your family are healthy and that all is going well for you. I've heard that you are cutting the wool from your sheep. When your shepherds were with us in Carmel, we didn't harm them, and nothing was ever stolen from them. Ask your shepherds, and they'll tell you the same thing. My servants are your servants, and you are like a father to me. This is a day for celebrating, so please be kind and share some of your food with us.

David's men went to Nabal and gave him David's message, then they waited for Nabal's answer. This is what he said: Who does this David think he is? That son of Jesse is just one more slave on the run from his master, and there are too many of them these days. What makes you think I would take my bread, my water, and the meat that I've had cooked for my own servants and give it to you? Besides, I'm not sure that David sent you! The men returned to their camp and told David everything Nabal had said. "Everybody get your swords!" David ordered. They all strapped on their swords. Two hundred men stayed behind to guard the camp, but the other four hundred followed David.


David is in hiding from jealous King Saul, who wants to destroy him. David had surprised Saul while he was asleep in his tent and could have killed him. Although Saul acknowledged that David had spared him and that he would be Saul’s successor as king, David continues to be cautious. He moves camp and hears that Nabal is in the area. David’s men had always been careful to honour Nabal by allowing his sheep and goats to graze safely and to protect his servants, and hopes that he will offer David some of his food for a religious festival that David wanted to celebrate. David wasn’t looking for party food.

David sends a polite and respectful request to Nabal, who actually owes David a great debt of gratitude.  Nabal, a rough meanie, refuses the request. Nabal has considered his own needs to be higher than those of a stranger in the area. His refusal was the last decision he ever made. You need to read on in the passage to find out what happened to him.

David’s reasonable expectation of hospitality being offered to him is so entrenched in him that he calls his men to arms at Nabal’s refusal.

Nabal was not unaware of the rules of hospitality. His response to David is cold and vindictive. In the presence of David’s loyal soldiers, he describes their leader as a runaway slave. It seems as if Nabal is trying to find excuses that would free him from the ancient law of hospitality. If he could see David as someone unworthy of hospitality, then perhaps he could get away from his duty of hospitality. He doesn’t stop there, though. He goes on to disrespect the soldiers to their faces by suggesting they could be lying to him. This is a pathetic twist. If he thought the soldiers were lying he would have responded to that first. Perhaps Nabal is all too aware that he has offered a pathetically poor excuse for refusing David’s request, so he tries to move the goalposts. In so doing, he digs a bigger hole for himself. It was a denial of hospitality wrapped in a blanket of slander.

Read the rest of the chapter to see how women know how to ease tense situations caused by bigmouth idiots. Read, too, about Abigail the diplomat’s reward. It’s a good read.

Is hospitality dependent on what you get out of it?

Does God ignore the hospitable?

What do you do if your enemy is hungry?

Has a refusal on your part ever felt as if it continued to hang in the air around you?

Father God, it is all too easy to be judgemental over people, or to let past grievances get in the way of building relationships. I know that neither is an excuse before you, and I confess my pride, and allow You to root it out. Amen.

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.