“David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands.” – 1 Samuel 25:32-33
Have you ever been pulled into the conflict of others? You see the impending collision between two egos and you step in to de-escalate the situation? How has that gone for you?
I often feel a tension between two scriptures:
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” – Matthew 5:9
“Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.” – Proverbs 26:17
What are we to do when we sense conflict brewing around us?
In 1 Samuel 25 we find a fascinating story centered around three characters and a looming disaster.
Nabal (whose name can mean “Foolish” or “Misery”) is a wealthy sheep herder whose flocks were being sheared. David heard that Nabal was shearing his sheep and would be flush with resources so David sent his men to Nabal. Keep in mind that, at this time, David was no longer a boy but not yet a king. He was an experienced fighter with soldiers at his command. He was, in a sense, a warlord. David, the nomadic warrior, asks Nabal’s servants to give him provisions. Nabal refuses.
Abigail, Nabal’s wife, learns of her husband’s refusal. She also hears from Nabal’s servants that David’s soldiers did not mistreat the shepherds and even offered them protection. Upon learning this Abigail pulls together a large offering of food and provisions and personally accompanies the delivery to David. She meets David and pleads for mercy with her words and with her gift. David’s response to her is the highlighted scripture above (1 Samuel 25:32-33).
Both Nabal and David bear the weight of fault in this passage.
Nabal denied the sacred responsibility of hospitality and let his heart be ruled by his lust for wealth.
David’s actions bordered on extortion and his murderous vengeance was way over the top.
Abigail literally stepped between these two in order to forge a peaceful path.
And while the story ends with peace, it fills me with tension.
On one hand, I want to praise Abigail. Her decisive, proactive, and clever approach de-escalated the situation and created peace.
On the other hand, I want to weep for Abigail. I have seen firsthand women having to rise up and de-escalate a situation between violent men. It was a scary scene and it remains an unpleasant memory.
I feel frustration with David and Nabal rise up within me. Either man could have made a move toward peace. Either man could have taken God up on the higher calling they had received. But their misguided sense of self-worth led them on a collision course that would have brought about death and destruction. Abigail was forced to find a peaceful path because if she had not, she would have perished. She would have died not because she did something wrong, but because those with power wielded it as though their desires were the only dreams that mattered.
I want the scripture to highlight the hubris of Nabal and David (Nabal does get his comeuppance but David marries Abigail, as well as other women, and moves on).
More than this though, I want to live in a world where we understand the purpose of power. Power is not meant so that we could create our own little fiefdoms. Power is meant to strengthen the vulnerable, heal the hurting, and level the playing field (Isaiah 40:4). This is how Christ used power. This is how Christ sought peace. May we use whatever power we have to lift up those laid low and may we follow our Prince of Peace.