A Deeply Disturbing Bible Passage

Posted on October 13, 2021

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By David Ettinger

Just the Idea of It
This blog falls into the category of, “Just the idea of it.”

This is because it concerns David before he became king of Israel and before his sin with Bathsheba. It concerns David when he was running from King Saul; when his heart was tender to God; and when he hadn’t yet marred his life with blatant transgression.

The account – 1 Samuel Chapter 25 – is fairly familiar to Bible readers.

For some time, David and his mercenary army of 600 men (at least some of them) served as a voluntary security force for the servants of a wealthy man named Nabal as they tended the sheep (vv. 15-17). David no doubt did this so that he might one day reap a reward for his troubles. And that day came – so David thought – during sheep-shearing time:

So David sent ten young men … and … said, “Go up to Carmel and visit Nabal … and this is what you shall say: ‘… your shepherds have been with us; we have not harmed them, nor has anything of theirs gone missing all the days they were in Carmel. … Therefore let my young men find favor in your eyes, for we have come on a festive day. Please give whatever you find at hand to your servants and to your son David’” (vv. 5-8).

In return for his goodness, Nabal treated David despicably, insultingly, and refused to give him a thing (vv. 10-11). David in turn ordered his men to get ready for battle. He wanted revenge and planned to kill Nabal.

That’s Not All
As the account progresses, we discover in verse 22 that David was bent on killing not only Nabal: “May God do so to the enemies of David, and more so, if by morning I leave alive as much as one male of any who belong to him.”

Now perhaps – and a pretty weak perhaps at that – an excuse can be made on David’s behalf that the servants he planned to murder were merely property. But I’m not buying that. These men were sons, husbands, and fathers who had done nothing wrong. They were in no way responsible for Nabal’s actions, and therefore were innocent in the matter. Just the thought of it – that David would slaughter them – is appalling.

But David took none of this into account. He was blatantly snubbed by Nabal, was irate, wanted Nabal dead – and by extension his servants – and had the means to do bring it about. In his blood lust, David – this man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14) – lost complete control of his reason, was driven by anger, and was intent on personal revenge.

Fortunately, Nabal’s servants appealed to his godly wife Abigail, who met David and his men after they had set out on their mission, and saved the day by appeasing David (vv. 18-31).

David expresses his gratitude to Abigail for preventing him from “avenging myself by my own hand” (v. 33). Yet, he almost sounds upset about it: “Nevertheless, as the LORD God of Israel lives, who has restrained me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, there certainly would not have been left to Nabal until the morning light as much as one male” (v. 34).

Deeply Disturbing
I find David’s attitude deeply disturbing. I know we have to consider the time in which this took place, but still, how can David be justified? Yes, his rebuff by Nabal was odious, but to butcher multiple innocent men for one man’s actions is reprehensible.

David was in no way behaving like a man after God’s own heart, and I believe God used Abigail to not only prevent David from avenging himself (v. 26), but to spare many innocent lives.

David’s ugly, murderous attitude is something believers today should consider. How often have we in our hearts cursed and uttered ugly denunciations against believer and unbeliever alike? How often have we cursed our elected political officials? How often have we wished evil upon our neighbors? How often have we condemned our pastors and fellow Christians?

May God remind us of this deeply disturbing passage concerning David that we may examine the cruelty in our own hearts, turn from it, and seek God’s merciful forgiveness!