In 1 Samuel 25, the story is told of David, Nabal, and Abigail. You can really feel the tension in this little triangulation.
You have the village idiot, a wise woman, and a bit of a hothead. And in the end, the confrontations of toxicity work together swimmingly.
The story goes a little something like this
David, anointed king of Israel but not yet in place to do his thing, is running from King Saul. Saul, a toxic leader, is jealous of David’s exploits and continually jumps back and forth between murderer and penitent.
Meanwhile, David and his band of loyal followers are living off the land on the run and come across a wealthy landowner named Nabal. Nabal had a boatload of goats and sheep and quite a few employees looking after them.
Chapter 25 describes Nabal as “harsh” and “badly behaved.” He is our second toxic leader in the story.
On the other hand, his wife, Abigail, was a beauty and is described as “discerning.” And that makes for the big face off and a great story.
A Man Scorned
David and his men had been hanging out and a “feast day” is upon them. He sends his men to Nabal to ask that his men be allowed to join Nabal’s feast. He tells his men to make mention that in all the time he and his men were chilling with Nabal’s shearers, there was no stealing from Nabal’s herds or other such nonsense.
Nabal, because he is harsh and badly behaved [aka village idiot], told David’s men,
“Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants these days who are breaking away from their masters. Shall I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers and give it to men who come from I do not know where?”
[1 Samuel 25:10-11 (ESV)]
Nabal was not lacking for resources…he was just a downright scoundrel. In that culture, this was the height of offense to decline hospitality to travelers. And unbiblical to boot.
David, because he is a bit of a hothead, tells his men to gird up their loins…actually, he said to strap on their swords (no AK47s back in those days) and prepare to wipe the idiot off the face of the earth.
But a wise servant of Nabal’s went to the woman of the house, who you will remember is discerning and beautiful, and told her of her husband’s inhospitableness. And he explained that David’s men not only did not steal from them, but was a protective “wall to [them] both by night and by day.”
Abigail, wise and wonderful as she was, made haste with a boatload of wine, bread, raisins, figs, and sheep and had a visit with David.
Her speech is really quite something
She bows before David and begins by taking the blame for her “worthless fellow” of a husband, Nabal. She praises David’s wisdom for not killing Nabal (though David has just noted before she got there, that he was going to do just that). She asks David to forgive her worthless husband.
Now, the best part.
David recognizes and admits his foolish hotheadedness. He says,
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand! For as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has restrained me from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, truly by morning there had not been left to Nabal so much as one male.”
[1 Samuel 25:32-34 (ESV)]
I love that.
A toxic leader would have either ignored Abigail or come up with a way to suggest he would never have done such a thing as attack Nabal, taking the praise for being so wise.
- David notes first of all his sinful desires to murder Nabal.
- He, secondly, gives Abigail the honor of having been the one to challenge his sin.
- And, thirdly he recognizes that the Lord, Himself has protected Abigail where David may have let his wrath fly on one so intimately connected to the worthless fellow…thereby being under judgment for a great evil himself.
There is a fourth thing David recognizes
Abigail stopped him from bringing what he thought was justice by his own hand rather than trusting God to do what was true justice. And in so doing, he had the opportunity to see the Lord bring judgment on Nabal.
In the end, when told that David would have destroyed him if it were not for his wife, Nabal dies.
God indeed brought vindication and we (and David) get to see the hand of the Lord working on his behalf, strengthening the faith of his people for millenia to come.