Who was Nabal in the Bible?

Nabal's account can be found in 1 Samuel 25. Nabal was a very wealthy man living in the Desert of Maon. He was a descendant of Caleb, but the Bible records that he was "harsh and badly behaved" (1 Samuel 25:3). After Saul had threatened David's life, David fled to the Desert of Maon with his six hundred men (1 Samuel 25:13). They provided protection for Nabal's shepherds and flocks while taking refuge in this area. When it came time to shear the sheep, thus harvesting their wool to use and sell, owners would celebrate. In fact, Nabal was "holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king" (1 Samuel 25:36). During this festive time, when owners would provide bread, water, and meat to their workers, David sent ten of his men to ask for remuneration for having protected Nabal's shepherds and flocks (1 Samuel 25:5–8, 21). However, Nabal refused their request and "railed at them" (1 Samuel 25:14). David decided he would take his revenge and kill Nabal and all his men (1 Samuel 25:13).

One of Nabal's servants went to Nabal's wife, Abigail, who was "discerning and beautiful" and warned her of the "harm [] determined against our master and against all his house" (1 Samuel 25:3, 17). Abigail met David on his way, begged his forgiveness for her "fool" of a husband (Nabal means fool and Abigail said "folly is with him" (1 Samuel 25:25)), presented his men with the food and wine they were due, acknowledged David's rightful place as "appointed [] prince over Israel," and encouraged him to "have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for my lord working salvation for himself" (1 Samuel 25:30, 31). She believed God sent her to intervene saying, "the LORD has restrained you from bloodguilt and from saving with your own hand" (1 Samuel 25:26). David agreed responding, "Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand!" (1 Samuel 25:32–33). Thus, Nabal and his men were spared. "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. And about ten days later the LORD struck Nabal, and he died" (1 Samuel 25:37–38). Then, Abigail became David's wife (1 Samuel 25:42).

It is interesting to understand Nabal's story in the larger context of David's relationship to Saul. In many ways, Nabal parallels Saul and his interactions with David. Both men shared a general disdainful attitude toward David. Nabal's account is sandwiched between two instances where David spared Saul's life, so David's desire for revenge against Nabal highlights his restraint toward Saul. Nabal's death at the hands of God alone assures David that he need not seek revenge or salvation for himself, but that God will accomplish His will in His appointed time. Abigail's acknowledgement of David's future kingship further encourages him to trust the Lord. Finally, Saul had originally given his daughter Michal to David as a wife, but had since given her to another man, Palti. Thus, God counteracted the intentions of Saul by providing David a new, wise, and worthy wife in Abigail. God used Nabal and his wicked ways to help assure David of God's trustworthiness in bringing justice, loyalty to His promises, and faithfulness to provide.

Related Truth:

Who was Abigail in the Bible?

How does the Bible describe a fool?

Who was Jael in the Bible?

Who was Haman the Agagite in the Bible?

Why is knowing about the various characters in the Bible important?

Return to:
Truth about People in the Bible

Subscribe to the CompellingTruth.org Newsletter:

Preferred Bible Version:

CompellingTruth.org is part of Got Questions Ministries

For answers to your Bible questions, please visit