When David was told, “Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are looting the threshing floors,” he inquired of YAHWEH, saying, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?”
YAHWEH answered him, “Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.”
But David’s men said to him, “Here in Judah we are afraid. How much more then, if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces!”
Once again David inquired of YAHWEH and YAHWEH answered him, “Go down to Keilah, for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand.” So David and his men went to Keilah, fought the Philistines and carried off their livestock. He inflicted heavy losses on the Philistines and saved the people of Keilah. (Now, Abiathar son of Ahimelech had brought the ephod down with him when he fled to David at Keilah.)
Saul was told that David had gone to Keilah, and he said, “Elohim has handed him over to me, for David has imprisoned himself by entering a town with gates and bars.” And Saul called up all his forces for battle, to go down to Keilah to besiege David and his men.
When David learned that Saul was plotting against him, he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod.”
David said, “O YAHWEH, Elohim of Israel, your servant has heard definitely that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the town on account of me. Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me to him? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O YAHWEH, Elohim of Israel, tell your servant.”
And YAHWEH said, “He will.”
Again David asked, “Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?”
And YAHWEH said, “They will.”
So David and his men, about six hundred in number, left Keilah and kept moving from place to place. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he did not go there.
David stayed in the desert strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but Elohim did not give David into his hands.
While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in Elohim. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” The two of them made a covenant before YAHWEH. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh.
The Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hakilah, south of Jeshimon? Now, O king, come down whenever it pleases you to do so, and we will be responsible for handing him over to the king.
Saul replied, “YAHWEH bless you for your concern for me. Go and make further preparation. Find out where David usually goes and who has seen him there. They tell me he is very crafty. Find out about all the hiding places he uses and come back to me with definite information. Then I will go with you; if he is in the area, I will track him down among all the clans of Judah.”
So they set out and went to Ziph ahead of Saul. Now David and his men were in the Desert of Maon, in the Aragah south of Jeshimon. Saul and his men began the search, and when David was told about it, he went down to the rock and stayed in the Desert of Maon. When Saul heard this, he went into the Desert of Maon in pursuit of David.
Saul was going along one side of the mountain, and David and his men were on the other side, hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his forces were closing in on David and his men to capture them, a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Come quickly! The Philistines are raiding the land.” Then Saul broke off his pursuit of David and went to meet the Philistines. That is why they call this place Sela Hammahlekoth. And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of En Gedi.
After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the Desert of En Gedi.” So Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats.
He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. The men said, “This is the day YAHWEH spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.
Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, “YAHWEH forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, YAHWEH’s anointed or should lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of YAHWEH.
Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, “My master the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. He said to Saul, “Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you? This day you have seen with your own eyes how YAHWEH delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is YAHWEH’s anointed. See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. Now understand and recognize that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. May YAHWEH judge between you and me. And may YAHWEH avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.
“Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea? May YAHWEH be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand.”
When David finished saying this, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, David my son?” And he wept aloud. “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. You have just now told me of the good you did to me; YAHWEH delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me. When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May YAHWEH reward you well for the way you treated me today. I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. Now swear to me by YAHWEH that you will not cut off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family.”
Food for Thought
So David gave his oath to Saul. Then Saul returned home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.
Now Samuel died and all Israel assembled and mourned for him; and they buried him at his home in Ramah.
Then David moved down into the Desert of Maon. A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel. His name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband, a Calebite, was surly and mean in his dealings.
While David was in the desert, he heard that Nabal was shearing sheep. So he sent ten young men and said to them, “Go up to Nabal at Carmel and greet him in my name. Say to him: ‘Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours!
‘”Now I hear that it is sheep-shearing time. When your shepherds were with us, we did not mistreat them, and the whole time they were at Carmel nothing of theirs was missing. Ask your own servants and they will tell you. Therefore be favorable toward my young men, since we come at a festive time. Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.’”
When David’s men arrived, they gave Nabal this message in David’s name. Then they waited.
Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?”
David’s men turned around and went back. When they arrived, they reported every word. David said to his men, “Put on your swords!” So they put on their swords, and David put on his. About four hundred men went up with David, while two hundred stayed with the supplies.
One of the servants told Nabal’s wife Abigail: “David sent messengers from the desert to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them. Yet these men were very good to us. They did not mistreat us, and the whole time we were out in the fields near them nothing was missing. Night and day they were a wall around us all the time we were herding our sheep near them. Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.”
Abigail lost no time. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. Then she told her servants, “Go on ahead; I’ll follow you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal.
As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her and she met them. David had just said, “It’s been useless—all my watching over this fellow’s property in the desert so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good. May YAHWEH deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!”
When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. She fell at his feet and said: “My master, let the blame be on me alone. Please let your servant speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. May my master pay no attention to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name is Fool, and folly goes with him. But as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my master sent.
“Now, since YAHWEH has kept you, my master, from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, as surely as YAHWEH lives and as you live, may our enemies and all who intend to harm my master be like Nabal. And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my master, be given to the men who follow you. Please forgive your servant’s offense, for YAHWEH will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my master, because he fights YAHWEH’s battles. Let no wrongdoing be found in you as long as you live. Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my master will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by YAHWEH your Elohim. But the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. When YAHWEH has done for my master every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him leader over Israel, my master will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when YAHWEH has brought my master success, remember your servant.
David asked that Abigail be blessed for her "good judgment." What do you think that means?
David said to Abigail, “Praise be to YAHWEH, the Elohim of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. Otherwise, as surely as YAHWEH, the Elohim of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.”
Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, “Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request.”
When Abigail went to Nabal, he was in the house holding a banquet like that of a king. He was in high spirits and very drunk. So she told him nothing until daybreak. Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and his heart failed him and he became like a stone. About ten days later, YAHWEH struck Nabal and he died.
When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise be to YAHWEH who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.”
Then David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife. His servants went to Carmel and said to Abigail, “David has sent us to you to take you to become his wife.”
She bowed down with her face to the ground and said, “Here is your maidservant, ready to serve you and wash the feet of my master’s servants.” Abigail quickly got on a donkey and, attended by her five maids, went with David’s messengers and became his wife. David had also married Ahinoam of Jezreel, and they both were his wives. But Saul had given his daughter Michal, David’s wife, to Paltiel son of Laish, who was from Gallim.