Before beginning with the relevant Scripture, let's review the previous sections to put all of this into context. David had risen to national prominence after slaying Goliath, successfully battling the Philistines, marrying Saul's daughter, being pursued by Saul and, finally, being pronounced by Saul as the next king. Surely no one in the kingdom, save the king himself (Samuel had died), would have had so much notoriety. As the successor, anointed by God, he would expect to be treated with a degree of propriety.
4And David heard in the wilderness that Nabal did shear his sheep. 5And David sent out ten young men, and David said unto the young men, Get you up to Carmel, and go to Nabal, and greet him in my name: 6And thus shall ye say to him that liveth in prosperity, Peace be both to thee, and peace be to thine house, and peace be unto all that thou hast. 7And now I have heard that thou hast shearers: now thy shepherds which were with us, we hurt them not, neither was there ought missing unto them, all the while they were in Carmel. 8Ask thy young men, and they will show thee. Wherefore let the young men find favour in thine eyes: for we come in a good day: give, I pray thee, whatsoever cometh to thine hand unto thy servants, and to thy son David. 9And when David's young men came, they spake to Nabal according to all those words in the name of David, and ceased. 10And Nabal answered David's servants, and said, Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants now a days that break away every man from his master. 11Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be? 12So David's young men turned their way, and went again, and came and told him all those sayings. 13And David said unto his men, Gird ye on every man his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword: (1 Sam 25)
David responded to the insolence by purposing to kill Nabal and all the men of his household. When referring to this episode, it is frequently said that David acted out of anger-that he was something of a hothead. One should thoughtfully consider any presumption of motive and consider the possibility other, equally plausible, motives.
Was David given to frequent outburst of sudden anger? In what other instances did he act rashly or without thought? The situation was a problem for David in that, as a leader, he could not be seen as weak and indecisive. Even Nabal's servant, who was not present for David's reaction to this humiliation knew that David needed to act. Abigail, when she heard of the incident, also knew that he needed to act. More importantly, David knew that he needed to act. If David showed that he could not stand up for himself then he could not lead, he could not be king, he could not fulfill the mission that God had set for him.
God appoints men to authority. To fail to show respect to a leader is to fail to show respect to God. What is an appropriate action?
Let me interpose a related problem. Suppose an 8th grade student were to behave insolently and disrespectfully to a teacher in front of an entire class. Should the teacher simply pray about the matter and wait for God to intervene in his/her life? Or should he/ she discipline to restore order and maintain respect within the class? My experience tells me that the one who prays but doesn't act had better be able to call down lightening from heaven because without a bolt from heaven that class will turn into chaos.
The question is: "What type of act would be most appropriate?" I don't have the answer to that. Probably David had many opportunities to think about this episode and to reconsider his actions. Later in life he encountered a similar incident.
5And when king David came to Bahurim, behold, thence came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera: he came forth, and cursed still as he came. 6And he cast stones at David, and at all the servants of king David: and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. 7And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial: 8The LORD hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and the LORD hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son: and, behold, thou art taken in thy mischief, because thou art a bloody man. 9Then said Abishai the son of Zeruiah unto the king, Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head. 10And the king said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? so let him curse, because the LORD hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so? (2 Sam 16)
It might seem that David had learned to turn these things over to God's hands. But this is not the final part of this story. Having lived a full life and now close to death, having gained years of experience as a king, David told his son how to handle the insult:
8And, behold, thou hast with thee Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite of Bahurim, which cursed me with a grievous curse in the day when I went to Mahanaim: but he came down to meet me at Jordan, and I sware to him by the LORD, saying, I will not put thee to death with the sword. 9Now therefore hold him not guiltless: for thou art a wise man, and knowest what thou oughtest to do unto him; but his hoar head bring thou down to the grave with blood. (1 Kings 2)
Corrections or comments, anyone?