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NABAL (nā'băl, Heb. nāvāl, fool). A rich sheepmaster of Maon in the southern highland of Judah. The vivid narrative in 1Sam.25.1-1Sam.25.42 tells how he insulted David when the latter asked for food for his men, who had protected Nabal’s men and flocks, how his wife Abigail averted David’s vengeance by her gifts and by wise words and so won David’s esteem. Abigail returned home to find Nabal feasting like a king. After he sobered she told him, and his heart died within him, and he became as a stone, dying ten days later. Then David sought and won Abigail as his wife.

NABAL nā’ bəl (נָבָ֔ל, Ναβάλ; foolish). A wealthy descendant of Caleb who lived in Maon eight m. S of Hebron (1 Sam 25:2ff.). He owned 3000 sheep and 1000 goats which he pastured in the vicinity of Carmel (present Kurmul just N of Maon). He is described as “churlish and ill-behaved” (v. 3). David, a fugitive from Saul, had been in the neighborhood for a period when sheepshearing time, normally festive, came for Nabal. David had been giving protection to Nabal’s flocks from marauding Bedouins (vv. 15, 16) and so sent ten of his men now to extend good wishes to Nabal, remind him of his service to him, and request a gift in return. Nabal showed his ungrateful character in not only refusing David’s understandable request but also returning insulting remarks. David was a vagrant, escaped from his master like many others of the era. Immediately David prepared with 400 men to bring retaliation. However, Nabal’s wife Abigail, described as a woman “of good understanding and beautiful” (v. 3), came quickly to David to make amends. She brought a bountiful gift of food, needed by David and his men, and made humble apology for her husband’s conduct, asking David not to inflict his intended reprisal. David agreed. When Abigail later told her husband of his narrow escape, “his heart died within him” (v. 37), and ten days later he died. David then made Abigail one of his wives.


The Books of Samuel, KD (1868), 238-247; E. G. Kraeling, Bible Atlas (1956), 187.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

A wealthy man of Maon in the highlands of Judah, not far from Hebron, owner of many sheep and goats which he pastured around Carmel in the same district. He was a churlish and wicked man (1Sa 25:2 ). When David was a fugitive from Saul, he and his followers sought refuge in the wilderness of Paran, near the possessions of Nabal, and protected the latter’s flocks and herds from the marauding Bedouin. David felt that some compensation was due him for such services (1Sa 25:15, 25), so, at the time of sheep-shearing--an occasion of great festivities among sheep masters--he sent 10 of his young men to Nabal to solicit gifts of food for himself and his small band of warriors. Nabal not only refused any assistance or presents, but sent back insulting words to David, whereupon the latter, becoming very angry, determined upon the extermination of Nabal and his household and dispatched 400 men to execute his purpose. Abigail, Nabal’s wife, a woman of wonderful sagacity and prudence as well as of great beauty, having learned of her husband’s conduct and of David’s intentions, hurriedly proceeded, with a large supply of provisions, dainties and wine, to meet David and to apologize for her husband’s unkind words and niggardliness, and thus succeeded in thwarting the bloody and revengeful plans of Israel’s future king. Upon her return home she found her husband in the midst of a great celebration ("like the feast of a king"), drunken with wine, too intoxicated to realize his narrow escape from the sword of David. On the following morning, when sober, having heard the report of his wife, he was so overcome with fear that he never recovered from the shock, but died 10 days later (1Sa 25:36-38). When David heard about his death, he sent for Abigail, who soon afterward became one of his wives.y Paul) make use of expressions and analogies derived from the mystery-religions; but, so far as our present evidence goes, we cannot agree that the pagan cults exercised a central or formative influence on them.