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David and Nabal the Fool

25 Samuel died. All the Israelites met together and mourned his death. They buried him at his home in Ramah.

Then David moved to the desert of Maon.[a] There was a very rich man living in Maon. He had 3000 sheep and 1000 goats. That man was in Carmel taking care of some business. He went there to cut the wool from his sheep. This man’s name was Nabal.[b] He was from Caleb’s family. Nabal’s wife was named Abigail. She was a wise and beautiful woman, but Nabal was a mean and cruel man.

David was in the desert when he heard that Nabal was cutting the wool from his sheep. David sent ten young men to talk to Nabal. He told them, “Go to Carmel. Find Nabal and tell him ‘Hello’ for me.” David gave them this message for Nabal: “May you and your family be well and all that you own be well. I heard that you are cutting wool from your sheep. Your shepherds were with us for a while, and we did nothing wrong to them. We never took anything from your shepherds while they were at Carmel. Ask your servants and they will tell you this is true. Please be kind to my young men. We come to you now, at this happy time. Please give these young men anything you can. Please do this for me, your friend[c] David.”

David’s men went to Nabal. They gave his message to Nabal, 10 but Nabal said, “Who is David? Who is this son of Jesse? There are many slaves who have run away from their masters these days. 11 I have bread and water, and I have the meat I killed for my servants who cut the wool from my sheep. But I won’t give them to men I don’t even know.”

12 David’s men went back and told him everything that Nabal had said. 13 David’s response was, “Put on your swords.” So David and his men put on their swords. About 400 men went with David while 200 of them stayed with the supplies.

Abigail Prevents Trouble

14 One of Nabal’s servants spoke to Nabal’s wife Abigail. The servant said, “David sent messengers from the desert to meet our master, but Nabal was rude to them. 15 These men were very good to us while we were out in the fields with the sheep. David’s men were with us the whole time, and they never did anything wrong to us. They did not take anything from us. 16 His men protected us night and day. They were like a wall around us—they protected us while we were with them caring for the sheep. 17 Nabal was foolish to say what he did. Terrible trouble is coming to our master and all his family. You need to think of something to do.”

18 Abigail quickly gathered up 200 loaves of bread, two full wine bags, five cooked sheep, about a bushel[d] of cooked grain, about 2 quarts[e] of raisins, and 200 cakes of pressed figs. She put them on donkeys. 19 Then Abigail told her servants, “Go on. I’ll follow you.” But she did not tell her husband.

20 Abigail rode her donkey down to the other side of the mountain. She met David and his men coming from the other direction.

21 David was saying, “I protected Nabal’s property in the desert. I made sure not one of his sheep was missing. I did all that for nothing. I was good to him, but he was rude to me. 22 I swear,[f] I won’t let even one man in Nabal’s family live until tomorrow morning.”

23 Just then Abigail arrived. When she saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down with her face to the ground in front of him. 24 Abigail fell at his feet and said, “Sir, please let me talk to you. Listen to what I say. Blame me for what happened. 25 I didn’t see the men you sent. Sir, don’t pay any attention to that worthless man, Nabal. His name means ‘Foolish,’ and that is what he is. 26 The Lord has kept you from killing innocent people. As surely as the Lord lives and you as well, may your enemies and anyone else who wants to harm you be as cursed as Nabal is. 27 Now, I am bringing this gift to you. Please give these things to your men. 28 Please forgive me for doing wrong. I know the Lord will make your family strong because you fight his battles. People will never find anything bad about you as long as you live. 29 If someone chases you to kill you, the Lord your God will save your life. But he will throw away your enemies like a stone from a sling. 30 The Lord promised to do many good things for you, and he will keep his promises. He will make you leader over Israel. 31 So don’t do anything that would make you guilty of killing innocent people. Please don’t fall into that trap. Please remember me when the Lord blesses you.”

32 David answered Abigail, “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel. Praise God for sending you to meet me. 33 God bless you for your good judgment. You kept me from killing innocent people today. 34 As surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, if you hadn’t come quickly to meet me, not one man in Nabal’s family would have lived until tomorrow morning. But the Lord prevented me from hurting you.”

35 Then David accepted Abigail’s gifts. He told her, “Go home in peace. I have listened to your request, and I will do what you asked.”

Nabal’s Death

36 Abigail went back to Nabal, who was in the house. He had been eating like a king, and he was drunk and feeling good. So Abigail told Nabal nothing until the next morning. 37 The next morning, Nabal was sober, so his wife told him everything. He had a heart attack and became as stiff as a rock. 38 About ten days later, the Lord gave him a stroke and Nabal died.

39 When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise the Lord! He judged Nabal to be wrong for insulting me and kept me from doing something wrong. The Lord made Nabal pay for what he did.”

Then David sent a message to Abigail and asked her to be his wife. 40 His servants went to Carmel with this message, “David sent us to get you. He wants you to be his wife.”

41 Abigail bowed her face to the ground. She said, “I am willing to be your slave woman, even if it is only to wash the feet of my master’s servants.”

42 Abigail quickly got on a donkey and brought five of her maids with her. They followed David’s messengers. So Abigail became David’s wife. 43 David had also married Ahinoam of Jezreel. Both Ahinoam and Abigail were David’s wives. 44 David was also married to Saul’s daughter Michal, but Saul had taken her away from him and had given her to a man named Palti, son of Laish. Palti was from the town named Gallim.

David and Abishai Enter Saul’s Camp

26 The people of Ziph went to see Saul at Gibeah and said to him, “David is hiding on Hakilah Hill, across from Jeshimon.”

Saul gathered 3000 of the best soldiers in Israel and went down to the desert of Ziph to search for David there. Saul set up his camp by the road at Hakilah Hill, across from Jeshimon.

David was out in the desert and saw that Saul had come out into the desert after him. So David sent out spies to know for certain that Saul had come after him again. Then David went to where Saul had set up his camp. David saw where Saul and Abner were sleeping. (Abner son of Ner was the commander of Saul’s army.) Saul was sleeping in the center of a circle of men that surrounded him.

David talked to Ahimelech the Hittite and Abishai son of Zeruiah. (Abishai was Joab’s brother.) He asked them, “Who would like to go down into the camp with me after Saul?”

Abishai answered, “I’ll go with you.”

When night came, David and Abishai went into Saul’s camp. Saul was asleep in the middle of the circle of men. His spear was stuck in the ground near his head. Abner and the other soldiers were asleep around Saul. Abishai said to David, “Today God has given your enemy to you. Let me pin Saul to the ground with his spear. I’ll only do it once!”

But David said to Abishai, “Don’t kill Saul! Anyone who hurts the Lord’s chosen king[g] must be punished. 10 As surely as the Lord lives, the Lord himself will punish Saul. Maybe Saul will die naturally or maybe he will be killed in battle. 11 But I pray that the Lord never lets me hurt the Lord’s chosen king. Now pick up the spear and water jug by Saul’s head and let’s go.”

12 So David took the spear and water jug that were near Saul’s head, and then David and Abishai left Saul’s camp. No one knew what had happened. No one saw it. No one even woke up. Saul and all of his soldiers slept because the Lord had put them into a deep sleep.

David Shames Saul Again

13 David crossed over to the other side of the valley. He stood on top of the mountain across the valley from Saul’s camp. David and Saul’s camp were far apart. 14 David shouted to the army and to Abner son of Ner, “Answer me, Abner!”

Abner answered, “Who are you? Why are you calling the king?”

15 David said, “You are an important man, aren’t you? You are better than any other man in Israel. Is that right? So why didn’t you guard your master, the king? An ordinary man came into your camp to kill your master, the king. 16 You made a big mistake. As surely as the Lord is alive, you and your men should die, because you didn’t protect your master, the Lord’s chosen king. Look for the king’s spear and the water jug that was near Saul’s head. Where are they?”

17 Saul knew David’s voice and said, “Is that your voice, David my son?”

David answered, “Yes, it is my voice, my lord the king. 18 Sir, why are you chasing me? What wrong have I done? What am I guilty of? 19 My lord the king, listen to me. If the Lord caused you to be angry with me, let him accept an offering. But if men caused you to be angry with me, I ask the Lord to curse them because they forced me to leave the land that the Lord gave me and told me to go serve other gods. 20 Now don’t make me die far away from the Lord’s presence. The king of Israel has come out looking for a flea. You are like a man hunting partridges in the mountains.”[h]

21 Then Saul said, “David, my son! I have sinned. Come back. Today you showed me that my life is important to you, so I won’t try to hurt you. I have acted foolishly. I have made a big mistake.”

22 David answered, “Here is the king’s spear. Let one of your young men come here and get it. 23 The Lord pays every man for what he does—he rewards him if he does right, and he punishes him if he does wrong. The Lord gave you to me today, but I wouldn’t harm the Lord’s chosen king. 24 Today I showed you that your life is important to me. In the same way the Lord will show that my life is important to him. He will save me from every trouble.”

25 Then Saul said to David, “God bless you, David my son. You will do great things and you will win.”

David went on his way, and Saul went back home.

David Lives With the Philistines

27 But David thought to himself, “Saul will catch me some day. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up looking for me in Israel. That way I will escape from Saul.”

So David and his 600 men left Israel and went to Achish son of Maoch. Achish was king of Gath. David, his men, and their families lived in Gath with Achish. David had his two wives with him—Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail of Carmel. Abigail was the widow of Nabal. People told Saul that David had run away to Gath, so Saul stopped looking for him.

David said to Achish, “If you are pleased with me, give me a place in one of the country towns. I am only your servant. I should live there, not here with you in this royal city.”

That day Achish gave David the town of Ziklag. And Ziklag has belonged to the kings of Judah ever since. David lived with the Philistines one year and four months.

David Fools King Achish

David and his men went to fight the Amalekites and Geshurites who lived in the area from Telem[i] near Shur all the way to Egypt. David’s men defeated them and took their wealth. David defeated the people in that area. He took all their sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels, and clothes and brought them back to Achish. But David didn’t let any of those people live.

10 David did this many times. Each time Achish asked David where he fought and took those things. David said, “I fought against the southern part of Judah,” or “I fought against the southern part of Jerahmeel,” or “I fought against the southern part of the Kenizzites.”[j] 11 David never brought a man or woman alive to Gath. He thought, “If we let anyone live, they might tell Achish what I really did.”

David did this all the time he lived in the Philistine land. 12 Achish began to trust David and said to himself, “Now David’s own people hate him. The Israelites hate him very much. Now he will serve me forever.”


  1. 1 Samuel 25:1 Maon This is from the ancient Greek version. The standard Hebrew text has “Paran.”
  2. 1 Samuel 25:3 Nabal This name means “foolish.”
  3. 1 Samuel 25:8 friend Literally, “son.”
  4. 1 Samuel 25:18 about a bushel Literally, “5 seahs” (36.5 l).
  5. 1 Samuel 25:18 about 2 quarts Literally, “1 omer” (2.2 l).
  6. 1 Samuel 25:22 I swear Literally, “May God do so and so for David’s enemies if ….”
  7. 1 Samuel 26:9 chosen king Literally, “anointed one.” Also in verses 16, 23.
  8. 1 Samuel 26:20 hunting partridges in the mountains People hunted these birds until the birds became too tired to go on. Then they killed the birds. Saul was chasing David the same way. This is also a wordplay. The Hebrew word for “partridge” is like the word for “calling” in verse 14.
  9. 1 Samuel 27:8 Telem This is found in copies of the ancient Greek version. The standard Hebrew text has “long ago.”
  10. 1 Samuel 27:10 Judah, Jerahmeel, Kenizzites All these places belonged to Israel. David made Achish think he had fought against his own people, the Israelites.

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