I Samuel – Chapter 25

Naval Lives Up to His Name

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

The prophet Shmuel (Samuel) died and the entire nation mourned for him. David, experience telling him not to trust Shaul, resumed his flight.

There was a wealthy man named Naval who owned a lot of sheep. Naval was a descendant of the noble Calev (Caleb), but he was an evil, petty man. David’s men had provided protection to Naval’s shepherds so, when Naval made a feast, David sent men to ask him for food. Naval refused the request in the harshest terms, disparaging David in the process. (As a descendant of a prominent prince of the Tribe of Judah, Naval may have considered himself more qualified than David to be king.)

Naval’s reply did not sit well with David. Having been anointed by Shmuel, David was a rightful king and Naval’s response constituted rebellion, a capital crime. David decided that this prerogative should be exercised since, given his wealth and lineage, Naval was in a position to lead an insurgence against David; such a person could not be left unchecked. David’s men strapped on their swords and headed for Naval’s home.

Naval’s wife Avigayil (Abigail) heard what David was doing. Avigayil hurried to prepare food for David’s camp. She loaded the provisions on donkeys and took an attendant with her to bring them to David. She encountered David coming the other way and begged him to reconsider, not because Naval was innocent, but because he wasn’t worthy of David taking the action. (The word “naval” means lowly or base. She said he lived up to his name.) She assured David that G-d would do great things for him and she asked that he remember her. (She was hinting that David marry her after her husband’s death, which was inappropriate to discuss while she was still married.) David accepted her advice (and the food) and blessed her.

Avigayil returned home where Naval was having his party and was drinking heavily. The next morning she told him what had nearly happened, which stunned Naval. Ten days later, Naval died. David heard and praised Hashem for defending his honor without David having to take Naval’s life himself. David sent messengers to take Avigayil to him for a wife, as they had discussed. David also married a woman named Achinoam, but Shaul had annulled David’s marriage to his daughter Michal. Shaul gave Michal to a man named Palti, but Palti considered Michal still married to David and never lived with her.

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