When David took his men to Maon to work as guards, he followed the customs (ancient rules) in that region. He did not ask whether those rules were right or wrong. Nobody did that; everyone considered their customs to be the law. David acted as the chief (manager and master) of his men. He organised their work; he punished them if they did not behave. They were responsible to him.
Davidís men had to work closely with the shepherds (the men who looked after the sheep and goats). Often, the shepherds who worked for several different owners would all gather with their animals in a particular place. So, the guards (such as Davidís men) would not just be protecting the animals for one owner at a time. They would guard everyoneís animals.
The proper time for payment for the guards was when an owner sheared (cut the wool from) his sheep. The owner gathered together all his animals then, so it was possible to count the animals. Someone who had more animals had to pay a higher price to the guards. So, a rich man paid much more than a poor man.
There were no courts or judges to make sure that people obeyed these rules. Instead, the chief of the guards would punish any owner who did not pay. He would consider the owner to be his enemy, and he would send his guards to attack that owner and his men. The two sides would act as if there was a war between them. It was a very severe matter to refuse to make the proper payment.
David did not expect Nabal to cause any trouble. David knew that his men had protected Nabalís animals well. So, David sent Nabal a friendly greeting with a polite request for the usual payment. David called it a gift; but of course, everyone knew that the payment was due.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.