Shmuel 1-Chapter 25: The passing of Shmuel and the story of Naval

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Chapter 25: The passing of Shmuel and the story of Naval

1. Shmuel passes away:

  • Shmuel passed away, and all the Jewish people gathered and eulogized him. They buried him in his home in Rama. After this occurred, Dovid got up and descended to the desert of Paran [due to fear that the people traveling to Ramah to eulogize Shmuel may find him.[1]]

2. Naval celebrates the sharing of his sheep and Dovid and his men request to join the feast:

  • Naval and Avigail: There was a man who lived in the city of Maon although his work took place in the area of Carmel. This man was very wealthy as he had 3000 sheep and 1000 goats. The following took place when he was sharing his sheep in the Carmel [and making the customary feast for his shepherds that took place on the day of the sharing[2]]. The name of this man was Naval [which stands for impurity and depravity, having gained this name due to his wicked actions and personality[3]] while his wife’s name was Avigayil. Avigail was a very intelligent woman, as well as very beautiful. However, her husband Naval was a difficult man and evil spirit and deed. He was from the [tribe of Yehuda] from the family of Calev. [Alternatively, the verse is coming to say that he acted like a dog who barks at his own species and does not help it. Similarly, Naval, instead of helping Dovid was from his own tribe of Yehuda, he ignored him.[4]]
  • Dovid sends messengers to request food from the feast of Naval: While Dovid was in the desert he heard that Naval was sharing his sheep [and that he would be making the accustom feast for his shepherds]. So, Dovid sent ten of his young men to Naval with the following mission: Dovid said to the lads, “Go to the Carmel region and arrived to the area of naval and ask him in my name as to how he is doing and if peace is upon him. You should bless him by saying that G-d should merit him to be able to share his sheep again next year as well. You should then continue to bless him and say, that peace should be onto you and peace should be onto all of your household, and on all that belongs to you there should be peace. Continue and say to him, I have now heard that you are sharing your sheep. Now, you should know that your shepherds were with us, and we never shamed them or harmed them and gave them whatever they requested, and no flock was ever lost from them during all the days that they were in the Carmel with us [as we helped guard them and protect them[5]]. You can ask your own shepherds and they will tell you that what we are saying is true. Now, let my young men find favor in your eyes, as we have come to join your feast. Please provide us with whatever you can to your servants and to your son Dovid [as they did not have anything to eat at the time, and some say that that that day was Erev Rosh Hashanah, and they needed food for the Yom Tov meal[6]].”

3. Naval refuses to recognize Dovid and to give him or his men any food:

  • The young man that Dovid sent arrived to Naval and spoke to him all the words that they were sent to relay in the name of the Dovid, and they then rested from their journey [awaiting a reply from Naval[7]]. Naval responded to the servants of Dovid saying, “Who is Dovid and who is the son of Yishai [that I should listen to their request, as does he not come from Ruth the Moabite[8]]. Today, there are many servants who are rebelling against their masters [telling their masters what to do as if that they are greater than them, and Dovid too has rebelled against Shaul[9]]. I will take my bread and my water and my slaughtered meat and give them only to my shepherds, to those who shear my sheep. Do you really think I will give my food to people who I do not know from where they have come?”

4. Dovid and his men prepare to annihilate Naval:

  • The young men that were sent by Dovid returned back to Dovid and when they arrived, they told him the response of Naval. Dovid then instructed his men that they should each garb themselves with their sword. So they all put on their sword and Dovid as well put on his sword [as he was personally very angry at the response of Naval, viewing it as treason to his monarchy which was by then already well known throughout all Israel that he had been anointed to be king, even though he had enough men to take care of the issue themselves[10]].
  • There were 400 men who went with the while 200 remained guard their possessions.

5. Avigail appeases Dovid and sends food him and his men:

  • Avigail is warned of the imminent threat to her household: Avigail, the wife of Naval, was informed by a certain lad from amongst her lads that Dovid had sent messengers from the desert to give blessings to their master. Naval had instead shunned them and shooed them away [acting like a cruel bird[11]]. The lad told Avigail, that the men of Dovid were very good to them and “they did not shame us, and on the contrary, they protected us, and thereby throughout all the days that we traveled with them within the field we did not lose any of our flock.” They were a wall of protection for us both by night and by day, throughout all the days that they were with us when we were shepherding the flock. Now, pay attention and see what you can do as the anger of Dovid and his men have erupted against Naval and against all of his household. Naval is a wicked man and should not have spoken to Dovid the way he did.
  • Avigail prepares food for Dovid and his men: Avigail hurried and took 200 loaves of bread, two jugs of wine, five prepared stuffed sheep, five Seah of roasted wheat, 100 raisins, and 200 dates, and she placed them all on the donkeys. She told her lads that they should pass in front of her and that she will come behind them [to greet Dovid and his men with the food]. She did not inform her husband Naval of what she was doing. She was riding on a donkey and went down the mountain into the valley that was before another mountain [on which Dovid and his men were located]. Dovid and his men were going down towards her from there mountain which was before the valley and she then met them there.
  • Dovid confronts Avigail and threatens to annihilate everything of her husband: Dovid said [to himself[12]], it was for nothing and all this time I had guarded all that belong to Naval while in the desert and assisted to make sure that none of his flock would get lost. He has now returned evil to me in place of the good I did for him. Dovid then made a swear to avenge the betrayal of Naval, “I swear that so should G-d do to the enemies of Dovid and so He should add if I leave any remnant of Navals [household or property] until the morning. I will not even allow to live those which urinate on the wall [i.e. all male creatures including dogs[13]].” [Dovid had the right to kill Naval and his family being that he was already publicized as the anointed king of Israel and Naval was therefore considered a rebel who was deserving of death.[14]]
  • Avigail appeases Dovid and his men: Avigail saw Dovid and she hurriedly went towards him. She descended from the donkey and fell on her face in front of Dovid and prostrated herself on the ground. She felt to his feet and said to him, “The sin that you have mentioned is with me [i.e. my household], and please let your maidservant speak to your ears and listen to what your maidservant has to say. Please my master, do not pay attention to the words of Naval who is a wicked man. He is like his name, as his name is Naval and he performs abominations. Now, I your maidservant never saw the servants of my Master that you had sent. Now my master, I swear by the life of G-d and by your life that [by sending me here[15] ] G-d has prevented you from spilling blood and he has saved you from personally being involved in taking vengeance against them [and getting yourself punished[16]]. Now may all your enemies be like Naval [who has no power to harm you and who through Ruach Hakodesh has been revealed to me that will die shortly[17]] and may all those who seek you evil find the same fate. Now, your maidservant has brought this blessing of food to my master and it should be given to the lads who accompany my master on his journeys. Now, please forgive the sin of your maidservant, as G-d will build for my master a trustworthy home, as my master fights the war of G-d and evil will never find you all your days. People [i.e., Shaul] will get up to chase you and to seek your life, however you my master will be bound with the rock of life which is Hashem your G-d, while the soul of your enemy will be thrown into the slingshot [i.e. purgatory]. When G-d does for my master all that He has spoken to do good for you, and He appoints you a leader upon Israel, do not allow this occurrence with Naval be for you a source of pain or stumbling block for my master [by people saying that you are a murderous king and causing G-d to take vengeance from you[18]], and please do not spill innocent blood and take vengeance for yourself. Hashem will do good for my master and you shall remember your maidservant.

6. Dovid accepts the words of Avigail and aborts his plans to murder Naval and his household:

  • Dovid said to Avigail, “Blessed be the G-d of Israel who has sent you today to come greet me. Blessed be your advice and blessed be you, that you have today abstained me from committing murder and have thereby brought me salvation. I swear by the life of G-d that it is He who has prevented me from committing this evil, as if you would not have hurriedly come here today to greet me Naval would not have remained until morning and neither would have any creature that “urinates on the wall” [i.e. any male or member of the household].”
  • Dovid accepts the food and tells Avigail to return home: Dovid took from her hand that which she brought to him [i.e. the food]. He then told her that she should return home in peace, as he had heard her request and accepted it.

7. Avigail returns home and informs her husband of the news:

  • The feast of Naval and the delayed message from Avigail: Avigail returned home to her husband Naval while he was in the midst of feasting with his household with a feast fit for a king. Naval was in a very good mood and was very drunk. His wife, Avigail, did not relay to him anything about what had happened until the next morning.
  • Naval reacts stoneheartedly: In the morning, when Naval had recovered from his intoxication and became sober, his wife informed him of all the previous day’s events with Dovid. Naval reacted emotionlessly [to the good news that his life and those of his household were saved], as if his heart had died and turned to stone [as he was so wicked that he could think of nothing else but to grieve over the fact that his wife gave from his food to Dovid and his men, and due to this he felt very distressed[19]].

8. G-d arranges Naval’s death:

  • Approximately 10 days after the above events, Naval fell ill with a disease brought to him by G-d, and he died. [Naval was sick for three days and then died on the 10th day from the start of the above events. G-d did not kill him right away as he waited for the Shiva for the death of the prophet Shmuel to conclude. Some say that the above occurred during the 10 days of repentance and G-d waited until after Yom Kippur to exact retribution against Naval.[20]]
  • Dovid’s reaction to Naval’s death: When Dovid heard that Naval had died he blessed G-d saying, blessed be G-d who fights my battles and took vengeance for my shame in the hands of Naval. And that he has saved his servants from any evil, and that the evil of Naval, G-d returned onto his own head.

9. Dovid marries Avigail and other women:

  • After Naval’s death, Dovid sent a messenger to speak with Avigail and ask her if she will consent to become his wife. The servants of Dovid came to Avigail in the Carmel region and spoke to her saying that Dovid had sent them to her, to take her for him as a wife. Avigail stood up and prostrated her face to the ground [out of sheer joy and excitement of the preposition] and [humbly] said, “I [am not befitting to become his wife[21] but rather] will become a maidservant and bathe the feet of the servants of my master.” Avigail hurried and left her area riding on a donkey. She had five of her maidservants travel with her. She traveled after the messengers of Dovid, and when she arrived, she became Dovid’s wife.
  • Dovid’s second wife: Dovid married a second wife by the name of Achinoam from the region of Yizrael. She and Avigail both became the wives of Dovid [in addition to his first wife Michal[22]].
  • What happened with his wife Michal: Dovid’s original wife Michal who was the daughter of Shaul was given by her father Shaul to Palti Ben Layish from the town of Megalim. [However, knowing that she was married to Dovid, he refused to touch her, and a sword was placed between him and her throughout all of their days.[23]]


[1] Metzudas Dovid 25:1

[2] Rashi 25:2

[3] See Radak 25:3

[4] Ralbag 25:3

[5] Rashi 25:7

[6] Rashi 25:8

[7] Rashi 25:9

[8] Rashi 25:10

[9] Mahariy Karo 25:10

[10] Radak 25:13

[11] Ralbag 25:14

[12] Rashi 25:21

[13] 2nd Pirush in Rashi 25:22

[14] Ralbag 25: 22

[15] Rashi 25:26

[16] Rashi 25:26

[17] Rashi 25:26

[18] See Rashi 25:31 and other Mefarshim

[19] Rashi 25:37

[20] Rashi 25:38

[21] See Metzudos Dovid 25:41

[22] Metzudos Dovid 25:43

[23] Radak 25:43; Ralbag ibid

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