Abigail’s story begins during a traditionally joyful time, the sheep shearing festival. Many guests had gathered, and there was much feasting. Abigail was well-known for her gracious hospitality, and all the tables were generously supplied.
As the celebration wore into the evening, ten plainly dressed men entered the pavilion and came to address Nabal. Would he be willing to share some of the festival food with a fellow Judahite, David? For David, along with his 600 warriors, had not only protected Nabal’s herds from marauders and wild animals all throughout the year, he had made sure Nabal’s property and servants were also protected.
What they asked was well within the cultural ethos of their day. Tribes took care of their own, and both David and Nabal were of the tribe of Judah. What’s more, David’s father was also a wealthy and well-respected landowner and herdsman. But even if this were not so, God’s Law was clear.
If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be.
Be careful that you do not entertain a mean thought . . . and therefore view your needy neighbor with hostility and give nothing; your neighbor might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt.
Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake.
Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.”Deuteronomy 15:7-11 (NRSV)
There was only one possible answer Nabal could have given—a warm welcome and a generous sweep of his hand, come join us in the feast.
But that is not what happened.