Scripture is honest about the men and women it describes, telling us not only about their positive qualities but also about their sins and foolishness. Even the most important people in biblical history are treated honestly. If the person was a sinner, we are going to see it somewhere in the biblical narrative.
First Samuel 25 is the first place we see David’s sins clearly revealed. Thus far, David has been more or less exemplary. We have seen his courage and faith in fighting Goliath, his service to the king, and his refusal to take vengeance on Saul (chs. 17–24). However, shortly after he spared Saul’s life the first time, he very nearly acted in the same bloodthirsty manner for which Saul was known.
David and his men had been active in the wilderness of Paran, even helping to protect several of the shepherds of Israel whose flocks grazed there (25:1, 14–16). Given that David’s forces had treated these shepherds well and had kept many of them safe, he reached out to one of the wealthy men in the area—Nabal the Calebite—and asked for some supplies (vv. 1–8). Nabal, whose name means “fool,” responded foolishly, refusing to share his goods with David and accusing him of rebelling against Saul (vv. 9–11). In response, David erupted. He took four hundred of his men, had them arm themselves, and went out to slaughter Nabal and the men of his household (vv. 12–13, 21–22). Such a disproportionate response to Nabal’s rejection is the first hint we get that while David was the model king of Israel in many ways, he would not be the perfect leader of God’s people. Israel would need a greater king, a flawless son of David, if the nation were to fulfill the calling God gave it (Ps. 110; Mark 12:35–37).
The son of Jesse was kept from fulfilling his bloodlust only through the timely intervention of Nabal’s wife, Abigail, and one of Nabal’s servants. To save the household, Abigail went behind Nabal’s back and gave supplies to David and his men (1 Sam. 25:14–20, 23–31). Abigail recognized that David was God’s chosen king, so she did what Nabal should have done in the first place.
This act brought David back to his senses. He recognized that God had worked through Abigail to keep him from bringing bloodguilt on himself, and he praised her for her wisdom. The Lord struck Nabal dead, and David took the wise and beautiful Abigail as one of his wives (vv. 32–44).