David had sent a friendly message to Nabal. With that message, he requested the usual payment for his men who had worked as Nabalís guards. Of course, David expected a polite and friendly reply, especially as Nabal and David were distant relatives.
So Nabalís reply caused great shock for David and his men. Nabal not only refused to pay; his words were cruel and nasty. Nabal said that he did not know David or his family. Nabal called David a servant who had not been loyal to his master (King Saul). Nabal refused to respect Davidís men, although they had worked hard for him for several months. Clearly, Nabal intended that his words would offend David and his men.
For David, this was a matter of honour. David cared little about personal insults (see 2 Samuel 16:5-13), but he had a duty to defend his men. Even the payment now seemed unimportant; Nabal had behaved terribly and David would punish him and his men. So David ordered his men to prepare to fight; Nabal was now his enemy.
By the customs and ancient rules of that region, David had the right to act as he did. That was how the chiefs (leaders of groups of guards) always acted. If they were strong enough, they would attack such an enemy. They would only accept the loss if they were too weak to fight.
However, David had not realised how this matter affected his relationship with God. David was trusting God to deal with Saul (24:12). He needed to trust God now to deal with all his enemies, including Nabal. Otherwise, many innocent men would die when David attacked Nabal. They included Nabalís servants who looked after his sheep.
It was the sensible words of one of those servants that saved both the servants and David from that result (25:14-17).
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© 2014, Keith Simons.