(Naʹbal) [foolish, senseless].
A wealthy Maonite sheep owner who pastured and sheared his flocks in Carmel of Judah. Nabal was also known as a Calebite, that is, a descendant of Caleb. (1 Sam. 25:2, 3) Few Bible characters are so contemptuously described as is Nabal. “[He] was harsh and bad in his practices” (vs. 3); “he is too much of a good-for-nothing fellow [son of Belial] to speak to him” (vs. 17); “he repays . . . evil in return for good” (vs. 21); “senselessness is with him.”—Vs. 25.
Nabal’s flocks of 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats had been protected from marauding bands by David’s men. After showing this kindness and not being guilty of any misappropriation, David requested Nabal to provide some material assistance for him and his men at shearing time, a traditional time of feasting and hospitality. But Nabal “screamed rebukes” at David’s messengers and sent them away empty-handed. Nabal’s own men feared David’s reaction, but did not feel free to speak to Nabal about the matter. One of them, however, told Nabal’s wife Abigail, who, with generous gifts, went to meet David as he approached intending to slay Nabal, and persuaded him not to become guilty of shedding her husband’s blood. On her return home, she found Nabal “as drunk as could be,” so waited until the next morning to tell him of her encounter with David and how near death he had caused them all to come. Thereupon, Nabal’s “heart came to be dead inside him, and he himself became as a stone,” perhaps indicating some type of paralysis or else referring to the effect on Nabal’s inner emotions. (Compare Deuteronomy 28:28; Psalm 102:4; 143:4.) About ten days later Nabal was struck dead by Jehovah. (1 Sam. 25:2-38) David then took the sensible and courageous Abigail as his wife.—1 Sam. 25:39-42; 27:3; 30:5; 2 Sam. 2:2; 3:3.