SIGNIFICANT NAMES: v3 A wordplay on the name “Naval” adds flavor to this story.  One application of the root nbl, נבל, means “foolish, senseless,” particularly with regard to ethics. “Churlish” appears in KJV, rendering kasheh, “hard”(I render it as “harsh.”) and in LXA (from the Greek) rendering Calbi.  In this context Calbe probably refers to a member of the Calev (Caleb) family. The root means “dog” and the form is adjectival. The Septuagint translated it as kunikos “dog like,” or “cynical.”  I think churl sounds right as English for naval.
GLOSSARY: vs5,6 Shalom, “peace, wellbeing, completeness,” used both as a greeting and a condition. The accompanying verb in v5 is “ask.” To ask one’s shalom is to ask how a person is doing. In this instance, David instructs his emissaries to point out delicately just how useful protection services have been to the wealthy man.
v18 Seah, a unit of dry measure. Based on ancient storage jugs that archaeologists have found with their labels, one seah seems to have been the equivalent of two of our bushels.
v22 “So may God do to David…” is the oath form, where we are to visualize a deadly gesture accompanying the words. In this instance, the word for enemy is inserted: “So may God do to David’s enemies…” This looks like a tiqun sofrim a scribal emendation by some pro-David copyist who was troubled by linking destruction to the hero. The insertion renders the oath odd.  The LXX preserves what is most likely the original phrasing, which I accept.
vs23 “Fell on her face” translates literally the common Hebrew idiom for “prostrate oneself in obeisance.” No nasal or facial damage is implied.  Similar to our “he fell to his knees,” the description exaggerates to emphasize the intended devotion. To be sure, one occurrence of the phrase does indeed describe a full fall: Goliath, after being shot by David (17:49).
vs27,32,33 Baruch, frequently translated “blessed,” or “praised” is, I think, better understood as an exalted greeting, a showing of appreciation and honor.  Its root ברכ means “knee,” which would be bent in formal greeting.  The word occurs three times in v. 32,33, once towards God, once towards the woman’s disposition, and once towards her person.  I render “hail,” or “all hail.” In v27, B’rachah, a different form of the word, is “greeting,” in this instance, fortified with rich provisions.
GEOGRAPHY: Carmel. In the mountains south of Hevron is an Arab village named Karmil, with an archaeological site nearby.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Thank you to Dr Edward McCrorie for reading and suggesting better wordings.

1Sh’muel died. All Yisrael gathered and mourned him.  They buried him at his home in Ramah.  David stood up and descended to the wilderness around Maon.
2There was a man of Maon whose business was in the Carmel [just to the north.]  The man was very wealthy, owning a flock of three thousand of which a thousand were goats.  It was shearing time for his flocks in the Carmel.
3The man’s name was Naval.  His wife was Avigayil.  She had good sense and beautiful looks while the man was harsh and a trouble maker.  He was a Calbi [of the Calev clan in the tribe of Y’hudah.]
4David, in the wilderness, heard that Naval was shearing his flock.  He sent ten youths: “Go up to Carmel and approach Naval.  Ask him, in my name, his shalom.  5Say to him, this live one: “How’s your shalom?  Your household’s shalom?  All of yours’ shalom?  7I have just heard that they are shearing for you.  Now those shepherds of yours have been around us.  We have not given them a hard time.  Not a thing of theirs went missing so long as they were in the Carmel.  8Ask your youths and they’ll tell you.  Let my youths find favor in your eyes – we come at a good time.  So, please, whatever you have at hand, make a gift to David, your servant, your son.”
9David’s youths came and spoke all these words to Naval in David’s name and then they paused.  10Naval answered David’s servants: “Who is this David?  Who is benYishai?  These days so many slaves break away from their masters.  11I should take from my bread and my water and my meat slaughtered for my shearers?  And give it to men I don’t know where they came from?”
12David’s youths did an about-face for the road.  When they arrived they told him the gist of Naval’s words.  13David ordered his men: “Every man belt on his sword.”  David did so, along with his men.  About four hundred men followed David while two hundred stayed with the gear.
14Avigayil, Naval’s wife, got a report from one of the youths: “Here’s what happened.  David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master and he hollered at them.  15These men have been very good to us.  We have not been put down and not a thing has gone missing in all the time we moved back and forth among them, while we were in the field.  16They were a wall around us, day and night, all the time we were with them pasturing the flock.  17So now you know.  See what you can do. For bad stuff has completely taken over our master, and it’s on his whole house.  He is a lowlife beyond talking to.”
18Quickly Avigayil took two hundred breads, two jugs of wine, five sheep, dressed, five seah of roasted grain, a hundred bunches of raisins, two hundred cakes of dried figs, and loaded the donkeys.  19To her youths she said: “Go on ahead of me.  I’ll be coming right behind you.”  To her husband, Naval, she told nothing.  
20She was riding the donkey down a hidden path on the hill, while David and his men were descending to meet her.  She spotted them.  21David was saying: “It was a bad deal. I protected every bit of this one’s possessions in the wilderness.  Not a thing went missing.  He repaid me bad for good. 
 “22So may God do to David and even more, if by morning I leave him as much as a single wall pisser!” 
 23When Avigayil spotted David she got off the donkey fast. She fell on her face before him, bowing to the ground.  24Falling again at his feet, she said: “The fault, my lord, is entirely mine.  Let your handmaid speak in your ear.  Hear your handmaid’s words.  25Let my lord, please, pay no attention to this lowlife, Naval, for he is just like his name.  His name is “Churl” and he is churlish.  I, your handmaid, I did not see the youths you sent.  26Now, my lord, by the life of Yahh, by your life, it is Yahh who prevented you from plunging into bloodshed, and saved you your hand.  Let your enemies be like Naval and any who seek to harm my lord.
27“Consider now the greeting your maidservant brings to my lord.  Let it be given to the youths who march at my lord’s feet.  28Forgive your handmaid’s offense for Yahh will surely make a stable dynasty for my lord who fights Yahh’s battles.  No evil is found in you all your days.  29Should anyone rise to pursue you or to seek your life, may my lord’s life be bound into the bundle of life with Yahh, your God!    Let your enemy’s life be shot from the pouch of a sling. 30Let it be that when Yahh does for my lord as all the good He has spoken for you, and He has ordered you commander over Israel, 31let this not be a stumbling block or a mental obstacle for my lord: shedding blood for nothing. My lord be saved from such and Yahh be good to my lord.  Let it be that you remember your handmaid.”
32Then David said to Avigayil: “Hail Yahh God of Yisrael Who sent you this day to meet me.  33All hail your disposition.  All hail to you who stopped me this day from getting into bloodshed, saving me my hand. 34But, by the life of Yahh God of Yisrael, He Who prevented me from harming you, had you not hurried in coming to meet me, not so much as a single wall pisser would have remained till daybreak!”
35From her hand David took what she had brought him, saying: “Go up in shalom to your home.  See I have listened to you and lifted your face.”
36Avigayil arrived at Naval’s.  He had a drinking party going on at his house.  Like a royal drinking party.  Naval was feeling good hearted being very drunk.  She told him not a thing, big or small, till daybreak.  37In the morning, when the wine had left Naval, his woman told him these things and his heart died within him.  He was like stone.  38About ten days later Yahh struck Naval and he died.
39David heard that Naval had died and he said: “Hail Yahh Who took up the case of my insult at the hand of Naval.  He held back His servant from bad.  Naval’s badness Yahh turned on his own head.”  
David then sent word to Avigayil to take her as his woman.  40The servants came to Karmel and spoke to Avigayil: “David sent us to you to take you as his woman.”
41She rose and bowed face to the ground and said: “Ah, your handmaid becomes your maid servant to wash the feet of my lord’s servants.”  42Quickly she rose and mounted the donkey, with her five serving girls walking at her feet.  She followed David’s messengers and became his woman.

43(Additionally, David took Achinoam from Yizra’el and the two of them became his women.  44Sha’ul had given his daughter Michal, David’s woman, to Palti benLayish from Galim.)

© Rabbi David L. Kline  

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