His Ways are Perfect
Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse?
I Samuel 25:10
The man’s steely eyes were as cold and hard as the iron forged by the Philistines, and they were riveted to the man who stood before him—a man twice his age, who deserved his honor and respect but received neither. The younger knew he had won this battle, and it brought the pleasure of both victory and revenge.
“Please, Nabal, I beg of you, anything but this,” the older man pleaded, already knowing it was useless.
Nabal threw his head back and laughed maliciously, as though the whole situation was nothing more than a cruel joke. When the mocking sound of his laughter died away, his face grew deathly serious, and hatred laced his every feature. His upper lip twitched, his dark bushy brows drew together like the clouds of a pending storm as he spoke once again—now, in a tone so quiet that Hezrai would have missed it, had it not been for the intensity of the moment. Nabal moved within a handbreadth of Hezrai’s wrinkled face, his breath hot and labored with emotion.
“You once swore I would never have her, that I was the last man in Israel to whom you would give your child.” The last word sprayed forth with insult. “You laughed.” Deadly silence hung between them for one brief eternal moment as Nabal’s cruel smile slowly twisted his lips. “But who’s laughing now?” Without another word, he turned on his heels and strode away, his chin high and his back straight. Pride oozed from every pore, and the crunch of Nabal’s sandals upon the gravel made Hezrai think of all the lives this man had ruthlessly ground into powder under his wheel of ambition. His shoulders slumped as he turned to enter the courtyard beside his home.
“Oh, Father, what have I done?” He reached the seclusion of the grove before he buried his face in his hands and wept.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Abigail stood motionless before the rabbi, although a close observer would have seen the slight trembling of her fingers. Abigail—joy of her father—and truly she lived up to her name. Any father in Carmel would have gladly claimed her as his own. Any father in Carmel would have gladly slit Nabal’s throat as well.
She thought back to her first encounter with the man beside her. He had taunted her, and she had snubbed him. Her eyes held the pain of the memory: He had grabbed her arm and roughly turned her around to face him, swearing that she would one day be his. She momentarily closed her eyes, remembering her father’s fury when he had heard her story and seen the bruises. At that time, Nabal’s father still lived, keeping his oldest son in check, while lamenting his son’s rude behavior. Jesher was a wealthy man, but God had not allowed him to father children until later in life. He was overjoyed when a son was born, but everyone was surprised when he chose the name Nabal, meaning fool.
“Look at him. Watch him,” Jesher responded to anyone who asked. He would lift the infant high in the air and swing him low, bringing a gurgling laugh and a toothless grin. “He is no fool, but a silly, little child who will bring us much joy!”
However, the laughter soon turned into sighs as Nabal’s true nature manifested itself. Even as a child, Nabal was heartless, wanting his own way and always wanting more. From the moment of his father’s death, Nabal’s reign had been one of terror and sadness. Many said that his mother died of a broken heart, and although the deaths of his two younger brothers could never be proven, everyone suspected Nabal had a hand in the matter.
Abigail’s mind was brought back to the present with the sound of music. The song should have brought her joy, but even the rabbi’s voice trembled with sadness. Nabal had made all the arrangements. He had decked her in the finest linens, veiled her with elaborate lace, and shrouded the day with bowers of blooms, but nothing could bring even a shred of joy to the sad occasion.
He had already informed her father that he had built himself a house further north, and that he and Abigail would start their new life there—a distance too great to be easily traversed. The night that her grief-stricken father had told her the news, she cried herself to sleep—only one of many nights when she did the same.
“Drink up, Hezrai, your debt is paid in full,” Nabal mocked as he tipped his glass and guzzled the wine. Everyone tried to enjoy Nabal’s feast, fearing his wrath.
Natal stood to his feet, the wine dulling what wits he possessed. He swayed slightly. “Drink, dance, be marry! Rejoice with my wife, for today she becomes a wealthy woman.” He pulled her to him and kissed her roughly. Hezrai rose to his feet in anger, clenching his hands and moving towards the couple.
The intoxicated groom looked his way, pulling Abigail closer and laughing. “There’s nothing you can do, old man,” he jeered. The room fell silent, and every heart but one ached for justice.
Nabal looked around the area, a storm brewing on his face, but without another word, he drug his bride to the door. She turned to embrace her family, but Nabal never let go.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Her home was beautiful beyond description—surely, beyond anything she had dreamed of as a child. Servants hustled and bustled about, doing everything which she pictured herself doing as a married woman. She had plenty of food, plenty of space, plenty of time. All that was missing from her perfect setting was a loving husband—a key ingredient to a happy life.
There had been moments when Abigail felt that she could nearly tolerate her husband. She had learned quickly that life would be better if she pleased him; however, pleasing him was a volatile thing. The servants loved her, and she found in them the love which was needed to mend her broken heart.
As much as she longed for children, she felt relief every month when her body refused conception. How could she have tolerated Nabal’s anger against her own flesh and blood? And she knew the tantrums would come. Instead, his anger and disgust turned against her and her inability to produce an heir.
Daily she thanked her God for the lessons her father had so tenderly taught her. She was also thankful that he had never remarried when her mother had died. It had been just the two of them, working side by side, loving and caring for one another, and she treasured every memory. Early on in her life, Abigail proved to be a quick learner, and Hezrai wasted no time teaching her not only the workings of the business world, but also the wisdom of God. Now, every moment seemed to require those lessons as she continually reminded herself of her God’s never-ending love for her.
As the years rolled by, Nabal seemed to become more and more consumed with increasing his wealth which ultimately made Abigail’s life easier. He was away from home more often, and in the quiet solitude of her opulence, Abigail strengthened herself in the LORD.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
She would never forget the day when everything changed—the day God answered her prayers. The image of Nabal’s servant running to her would always remain fresh in her mind. Every detail was forever etched in her memory. She had been in the kitchen, helping Hadassah prepare for the upcoming feast. Nabal had been gone with the sheepshearers for almost a week now, and she had relished the opportunity to help out. Her hair was loosely pulled in a braid, much like she had worn it as a young girl, instead of in the elaborate twists bedecked with jewels which Nabal demanded. You are the wife of Nabal. If you cannot perform the role, you certainly will fulfill it in every other way, he had informed her early on.
She looked up at the sound of rushing footsteps to see Zimri coming into the kitchen, his eyes wild with fear.
“What is it Zimri? What has happened?” she asked in alarm.
Zimri took a moment to catch his breath before the story unfolded in a rush of words.
“David sent messengers out of the wilderness to salute our master; and he railed on them. But the men were very good to us, and we were not hurt, neither missed we anything, as long as we were conversant with them, when we were in the fields: They were a wall unto us both by night and day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep.”
He paused for a moment, hesitating to go on but pressed with the urgency of the matter. “Now therefore know and consider what you will do; for evil is determined against our master, and against all his household: for he is such a son of Belial, that a man cannot speak to him.”
Abigail knew that Nabal would have had her head if he knew how she allowed the servants to speak of him, but the seriousness of the situation pushed the thought from her mind. David, the mighty warrior, the anointed one of Israel was heading her way, probably with his band of soldiers!
Praying as she went, her orders flew. She looked around the kitchen at the food which they had been preparing for the feast. “Quickly, get the two skins of wine from the cellar,” she ordered as she moved to place the two hundred loaves of bread, which they had just pulled from the ovens, into sacks. “And the five sheep you just dressed, get them ready as well.” She moved to gather the clusters of raisins and cakes of figs. “Zimri, please get a mount ready.” She looked around at all the worried faces. “And not a word to my husband.” She knew she didn’t need to remind them, but thought it the better part of wisdom to be certain.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Adino watched David as they rode through the valley. His fearless leader looked like a obsessed man, and Adino knew the insults hurled at David cut him deeply. “David, the man deserves to taste the tip of your sword. You are the next king of Israel,” he urged.
“Surely in vain I have protected all that this fellow has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belongs to him. And he has repaid me evil for good. May God do so, and more also, to the enemies of David, if I leave one male of all who belong to him by morning light.” David spurred his steed forward, anger coursing through his veins.
Samuel was gone, and already David ached for his words of wisdom. Even though he had spared Saul’s life and the king had admitted that David was to be the next king, he was still a man on the run, without enough provisions to feed his men. And this fool, who has more than enough, will not even repay my men’s kindness with bread.
As his men were nearly through the pass, David spied several riders approaching. As they drew near, he was surprised to see that the forward rider was a woman—a beautiful woman. Without a word, she dismounted and fell on her face before him, bowing down to the ground. David halted his men and came to stand before her, wondering who she was and why she had obviously ridden hard to meet him.
“On me, my lord,” she cried. “On me let this iniquity be! And please let your maidservant speak in your ears. Please hear the words of your maidservant.”
Before David could answer, the woman continued, looking at him beseechingly. “Please, let not my lord regard this scoundrel Nabal. For as his name is, so is he: Nabal is his name, and folly is with him. But I, your maidservant, did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent.
“Now therefore, my lord, as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, since the LORD has held you back from coming to bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hand, now then, let your enemies and those who seek harm for my lord be as Nabal.”
Slowly, Abigail rose to her feet, seeking mercy on David’s face and finding it. “And now this present which your maidservant has brought to my lord, let it be given to the young men who follow my lord.” She gestured to the pack animals burdened with food, looking down only briefly. Her heart beat wildly at the thought of standing in the presence of their next king, and she silently prayed for strength.
His kind eyes urged her on. “Please forgive the trespass of your maidservant. For the LORD will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord fights the battles of the LORD, and evil is not found in you throughout your days.
“Yet a man has risen to pursue you and seek your life, but the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the LORD your God; and the lives of your enemies He shall sling out, as from the pocket of a sling.
“And it shall come to pass, when the LORD has done for my lord according to all the good that He has spoken concerning you, and has appointed you ruler over Israel, that this will be no grief to you, nor offense of heart to my lord, either that you have shed blood without cause, or that my lord has avenged himself. But when the LORD has dealt well with my lord, then remember your maidservant.”
For a moment, David stood silent, amazed at the woman’s courage and boldness, for she spoke as a prophetess. Surely, this couldn’t be the wife of a fool! But as he thought of her words, he knew it was true. Pity filled his heart for the beautiful, wise woman chained to Nabal. How he wished that she had not come, and that he could have released her from her fool!
“Blessed is the LORD God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! And blessed is your advice and blessed are you, because you have kept me this day from coming to bloodshed and from avenging myself with my own hand. For indeed, as the LORD God of Israel lives, who has kept me back from hurting you, unless you had hastened and come to meet me, surely by morning light no males would have been left to Nabal!” As he spoke, the irony of the situation was clear to them both and seemed to pass between them in that brief moment.
“Go up in peace to your house. See, I have heeded your voice and respected your person,” David said.
As the men distributed the food, Abigail watched her future king, thankful for this chance meeting. He was all that she had heard, and she silently praised God for lifting up such a man to rule her country.
He nodded to her once before mounting and riding away. As she watched him go, she wondered what her life could have been, but stopped the thoughts. She would gladly have followed him and become his servant, but wisdom led her to do the right thing—honor her husband. “Oh, Father, help me,” she murmured.
“Did you say something, Mistress,” Zimri called from behind her.
Abigail lifted her chin, “Just a prayer of thanksgiving, Zimri,” she answered as a tear escaped and ran down her cheek.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
As Abigail drew near the house, she could see that the feasting was well under way. She was quick to change and ready herself for the feast. The servants had been busy for days preparing enough provisions for the entire village, for Nabal never did anything half-hearted. I can admire him for that, she thought ruefully. With a heavy heart hidden safely behind her veils and jewels, she sought out her husband and wasn’t surprised to find him very drunk. With disgust, she turned to leave, but not soon enough.
“Ah, there you are, my queen,” Nabal slurred. He wove his way to her, and pulled her to him, kissing her crudely, nearly toppling them both. Hatred flared in her eyes as tears threatened to spill. He grabbed her chin and turned her face towards his guests. “Look at my beautiful wife, my beautiful wife who will give me no sons.” His voice was loud and cruel.
No one dared to intervene, learning from past experiences that Abigail would only suffer more shame.
“A toast to Nabal, whose riches flow like milk and honey, and whose touch turns everything to gold.” Abigail saw the man, thanking him with a nod.
“Here, here,” many shouted, and the diversion worked. Others came to slap Nabal on his back, congratulating him for his fine harvest of wool, while Abigail slipped away.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Nabal rolled to his back, his head ready to split, and groaned. Standing in the doorway, Abigail watched him for a moment before bringing a hot cup of spiced milk to him. He slowly opened his eyes and struggled to sit up, taking the cup. He sipped it slowly, taking his time and enjoying her servant-like stance.
“Where were you?” he snarled with a gravelly voice.
“I was appeasing the future king of Israel.”
He looked at her in surprise. “Go on,” he ordered.
Abigail took a deep breath and let it out slowly to calm her words. “One of the servants told me all that happened at the sheep shearing, how you answered David. He also told me that David’s men truly had protected them, and that David spoke earnestly and wisely, not asking for more than would have been proper.”
She watched his indifference and continued. “I met him in the valley between here and Carmel.” Now she had his attention. “He was coming here with four hundred of his men, planning vengeance on every man,” she spoke quietly but forcefully, wondering what his response would be.
He turned his face away from her and stared off into the distance. Suddenly, his eyes widened with horror, and the cup slipped to the floor, shattering into pieces, as his head fell back against the wall and his mouth went slack.
Abigail watched in confusion. What was wrong with him? Slowly, she went to him, touching his head and hands, and then bending down to listen for a heartbeat. A faint pulse tapped against her ear.
“Zimri,” she cried as she ran from the room.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
For ten days, they waited and wondered. Abigail tried to pray, but found the words jumbled in confusion. How should she pray—for his life, or for his death?
The physician examined him, but shook his head questioningly. “He’s neither dead nor alive. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
On the evening of the tenth day, Abigail was sitting beside her husband’s bed, when his breathing became labored. She went to him and took his hand, pity filling her heart. “Oh, Nabal, are you ready to meet Jehovah?”
His eyes flew open, wild with fear. He clutched at her, trying to speak, but no words came. And then, his eyes widened and a cry of anguish crossed his lips. Gasping for air, he fell back onto the bed.
His gaze was so focused that Abigail turned, half expecting to see someone or something at the foot of the bed. She looked at him, knowing that he was dead. Her hands trembled and a jagged cry broke from her throat as she realized that God had released her from her tormentor.
My former life is but a dim memory. I am now the wife of my king, but he is so much more than that! He is a great man, a good and kind man. Some struggle to gain his favor, but I do not need any more favor—he rescued me from an horrible pit, as he would say! God, Jehovah is my portion. He raised me from the ash heap and put my feet in a palace. And if that were not enough, He has blessed me with a son, a son that is his father through and through! We live in peace: the wife of a king, the son of a king. No more needs to be said.