1 Samuel 25: The Redemption of the Olive Tree Branches

Now we come to see how David sent these ten young men (v.5) in a similar manner to how Abraham sent his servant to seek for his Son a wife (Genesis 24) – and so these young men came in the name of David (v.9) just as we are proclaiming the victory of Christ in His name.  Yet, this Nabal was a lost sheep in the wilderness (v.4) – and David, the shepherd at heart, goes out with his men to redeem and reclaim this lost sheep and his wife Abigail, and usurp Nabal’s position as the man with possessions in the garden-land Carmel (v.2, v.14), a shadow of Christ restoring us to our position as righteous children and stewards in the true Garden of Eden through his prayer in the garden of Gethsemane.

Verses 6-8 are reflective of David’s compassion on Nabal and Abigail: “Peace be with you… to your house… to all that you have”.  How is this peace obtained?  Because Nabal’s business consists of the shearing of sheep in Carmel (v.2), and the shepherd need be protected to manage the sheep – these very shepherds being  protected by David (v.7) during the time at Carmel.  David had secured peace for Nabal in a variety of ways; by the first defeat of Goliath by David’s self-election; by the defeat of the Philistines, by the protection of Nabal’s shepherds, and even through his ancestor’s Caleb’s obedience that the land Carmel, near Hebron, was even inherited and passed down (Joshua 14:14; Joshua 15:54-55) – from both a wider and more specific context, we can see that David achieved salvation for Nabal and his household as a type of Christ just as Caleb was.  This day, he came to find favour in his eyes as they came on a feast day (v.8).

And this is not how our Christ achieved salvation for us long before we knew him?  He had ensured our greatest peace with the Father through his work on the cross (Romans 5:1) that our household may inherit the covenant of grace through Christ, so that on the day when the Saviour comes to find us in the wilderness, we may have a feast day with him in anticipation of the Resurrection feast day.

Yet, Nabal’s answer is typical of the unbeliever – “Who is this David?  Who is the son of Jesse?”  What ridicule!  This Calebite, his very existence dependent upon his father Caleb who stood faithfully by Yeshua/Joshua, was the only spy who came back alive from tasting the firstfruit of Canaan (Numbers 13:20-27), and yet this Nabal would not recognise the true Yeshua typified in David, son of Jesse.  Who is this Jesus Christ, son of Joseph?  Who is this Jesus Christ, son of God?  These words are treated with contempt – and to those who ignore the peace achieved in Christ remains condemnation and wrath on their heads (John 3:18; Romans 1:18-32).

Hope is not lost on Nabal’s household as one young man manages to recount the glory of David to Nabal’s wife – “David sent messengers out of the wilderness… the men were very good to us… we suffered no harm, and we did not miss anything when we were in the fields, as long as we went with them.  They were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep”.   This young man spoke of the salvation through David; he was giving his testimony to Abigail – and like the pillar of cloud and fire (Exodus 13:21), so David and his men shielded these shepherds who were also in themselves sheep which needed divine protection.

This entire episode bears semblance to the Angel of the LORD seeking for Moses’ life for failing to circumcise his child, but by the mediation of the blood of the child’s circumcision was this wrath propitiated; so also we see the mediation of Nabal by the sacrifice of Abigail (v.18).  Is not David’s work to lead us to salvation, his blessings for the intention of repentance (Romans 2:4)?  Yet, if it does not achieve this effect, then David’s work of salvation is indeed done in vain; so also Christ’s work on the cross and His blessings to us is entirely meaningless if we do not confess Him to be our Saviour, though that work of salvation indeed did occur and remains true.

However, what we see next is a wonderful word-play of David as Abigail’s lord, fighting the battles on the LORD (the Father’s) behalf – and what we see here is Abigail expounding a Trinitarian understanding of how salvation is effected:

“24She fell at his feet and said,(AC) “On me alone, my lord, be the guilt. Please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant. 25Let not my lord regard(AD) this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal[c] is his name, and folly is with him. But I your servant did not see the young men of my lord, whom you sent. 26Now then, my lord,(AE) as the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, because(AF) the LORD has restrained you from bloodguilt and from(AG) saving with your own hand, now then(AH) let your enemies and those who seek to do evil to my lord be as Nabal. 27And now let this(AI) present that your servant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who follow my lord. 28Please forgive the trespass of your servant. For the LORD will certainly make my lord(AJ) a sure house, because my lord(AK) is fighting the battles of the LORD, and evil shall not be found in you so long as you live. 29If men rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the LORD your God. And the lives of your enemies(AL) he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling. 30And when the LORD has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel, 31my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for my lord(AM) taking vengeance himself. And when the LORD has dealt well with my lord, then remember your servant.””

This is her response upon hearing from the young man of the testimony of the lord David; and in the household of Nabal, in which the covenant of peace was made, Nabal did not represent the entire house, just as Jacob was not the representative of the entire nation of Israel.  Even in the house of Israel, there are plenty of Nabals (fools), just as there are plenty of Abigails who, upon hearing the word (Romans 10:14) are convicted of the truth of the Anointed One.  Just as she cannot serve two lords, she has decidedly put herself before David in worship and reverence, just as men have bowed before the Angel of the LORD rather than mere angels (Numbers 22:31 against Exodus 23:24).  She readily calls her husband, her first lord a fool; but rather submit herself to the second lord David whose victories are by the LORD in heaven.  Is this not also true of us?  That we may denounce our first man Adam to receive the second Adam?  To denounce the first king Saul to receive the true prince David (v.30)?  Just as the LORD redeemed Lot from the land of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), had preserved a remnant of Israel in times of overt heresy and rebellion (Romans 11:5), so David preserved at least one in the household of Nabal.  Are we to remain in the house of Adam if we do not receive Christ and His Spirit by Whom we are reborn into the body of the new Head, of the new prince, of David?  If so, we will perish alongside Nabal – and it does not please David to hurt (v.34), just as it does not please the LORD to see people die (Ezekiel 18:31).

So the death of Nabal shall come in the same way as the drunken and merry heathens experienced – that the coming of Christ and his redemptive work was actually necessary, true, and a great surprise (2 Peter 2).  “In the morning, when the wine had gone out of Nabal, his wife told him these things, and his heart died within him, and he became as a stone” (v.37).  As if the news of David coming to cleanse the household of Nabal was not sobering enough, the judgment came from the hand of the Father though the condemnation already came by Christ.

What then of Abigail, who now has no husband?  Just as we were once married (Romans 7:2), by the death of Nabal is Abigail freed from the head of her household, that she should attach herself to the new and true lord David as her new husband – so we also escape from Adam, our flesh crucified in Christ, and reborn under the new head of Jesus.

It is here that we need to differentiate between the grammatico-hermeneutical method of exegesis and the Christological hermeneutic – here, David (and like many before him, such as Abraham) takes two more wives (besides Michal) – Ahinoam and Abigail.  Though it is apparent why Abigail is taken (for she was redeemed from the hands of the false steward, an analogy of the salvation of the church-sheep from the clutches of the Satan), what of Ahinoam?

In 1 Samuel 14:50, Saul’s wife is mentioned as Ahinoam, named my brother is delight, the daughter of Ahimaaz, named my brother is anger.  Yet, Saul has, instead of contributing to any delight in his wife’s life has instead become an epitome of anger and jealousy in the latter half of the first book of Samuel.  Contrarily, we have here a juxtaposition of David taking a bride of the same name as Saul’s wife placed next to a verse where David’s first wife is given away by Saul, and taking the faithful wife Abigail; instead, Michal is not ‘redeemed’ by David until 2 Samuel 3; and her demise is summed up in 2 Samuel 6:23 – that she shall have no more children.  Michal, though faithful to David and truly loved David in 1 Samuel 18, did not love David’s LORD.  Yet, Abigail and by implication Ahinoam are David’s new wives who do love the LORD – and here we see the unnatural olive tree branches implanted as the natural olive tree branch is removed (Romans 11).  Though David returns to buy her back (2 Samuel 3) such that our LORD God has not forsaken the Israelites his first bride, her limp response to him when he danced before the LORD truly portrayed a bride who was not suitably dressed for the true Wedding Day (Matthew 22:11).

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1 Samuel 25: The Redemption of the Olive Tree Branches

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