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Poole's on 1 Samuel 25:18-22: The Wisdom of Abigail, Part 2

Verse 18:[1] Then Abigail made haste, and (Gen. 32:13; Prov. 18:16; 21:14) took two hundred loaves, and two bottles of wine, and five sheep ready dressed, and five measures of parched corn, and an hundred clusters (or, lumps[2]) of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid them on asses.

[Abigail made haste] Because the force of the disease was suffering no delay of the medicine (Sanchez).

[Five cooked rams, וְחָמֵ֙שׁ צֹ֤אן עֲשׂוּוֹת֙] And five sheep made (Septuagint, Montanus), or cooked (Osiander Strigelius), or prepared (Syriac, Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus), as in John 13:2, with supper done,[3] that is, prepared/ready (Mariana). Or slaughtered, and prepared for eating (Piscator). Herd animals stuffed (Jonathan); herd animals prepared (Junius and Tremellius, Mariana), sheep or she-goats; for צֹאן comprehends both kinds (Piscator, thus Mariana). It is generally taken in this way, but sometimes it is used by way of distinction from goats, as in verse 2[4] (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 2:43:432).

[Five sata[5] of parched grain[6] (thus Pagnine, Montanus)] Or of parched wheat (Syriac, Arabic, Munster); of the meal of parched ears (Vatablus). Concerning the word סֵאָה/seah, see on Genesis 18:6;[7] and concerning קָלִי, parched grain, 1 Samuel 17:17[8] (Malvenda). A saton was containing a modius[9] and a half (Piscator).

[An hundred clusters of sun-dried grape, or dry grapes (Pagnine),וּמֵאָ֥ה צִמֻּקִ֖ים] And an hundred dried bunches (Montanus, Tigurinus), or sun-dried grapes (Junius and Tremellius), grapes thoroughly dried, parched, shriveled (certain interpreters in Malvenda); an hundred bundles of grapes dried, more specifically, in an oven, or in the sun (Vatablus). Clusters of sun-dried grapes (Jonathan); bunches of dry grapes (Vatablus). Perhaps they were dried grapes compressed together into a mass, just as they are brought to us from Greece. Perhaps also they are called ligaturæ/bundles, because bunches were gathered two by two, as it is done in Apulia,[10] as they were divided into vessels; but not because the stuffed bags ligarentur, were bound, by those cords (Menochius). Others understand certain masses of grapes of a certain weight and measure. Wherefore the Septuagint translates it as an Homer (Aquila, Ephah[11]) of sun-dried grapes. It was containing ninety-six ounces of sun-dried grapes. With this passage compare 1 Samuel 30:12, in which two צִמֻּקִים/Tsimmukim are given to that Egyptian. Or rather a ligatura/bundle signifies a binding together of multiple boughs, as it was done in the Neopolitan kingdom[12] (Lapide). [But the Syriac and Arabic have here one hundred cheeses; perhaps they understand masses made in the form of cheeses.]

[And two hundred masses of carics[13] (thus Pagnine), or of figs (Tigurinus), וּמָאתַ֣יִם דְּבֵלִ֑ים] And two hundred carics (Montanus), cakes of preserved fruit (Septuagint, Syriac), of figs (Syriac), rolls of dried figs (Hebrews in Vatablus), that is, gathered together until they become like rolls of bread. The Chaldean: two hundred Roman pounds[14] of masses of carics. Dry figs, dried in the sun, are called carics (Vatablus). It signifies figs compressed into a mass, and compacted in some manner, so that they might be more easily preserved, lest they become too dry, and devoid of moisture (Menochius). Question: Whether Abigail acted rightly? Responses: 1. The wife has more right unto the goods of her husband, than either a servant, or their children; she is placed under neither a servile nor a civil relation, but her husband. 2. Therefore, she is able to do this on occasion, when it is pursued both for the glory of God, and for the preservation of her husband; when, moreover, her husband is brutish, or permits nothing to be given to relieve the necessities of others. Thus Joanna, the wife of Chuza, the Steward of Herod, was ministering to Christ (Willet). 3. To give shared goods without the consent of the husband would be to violate the rights of marriage. Alms are indeed to be given, but of thine own substance (Martyr). 4. Necessity frees Abigail from fault, because she was not able to address her husband. Seeing that his drunkenness had come near to natural stupidity. But, if one were to draw this into example, that it were lawful to all wives to bear away whatever of their husbands’ goods, he would go far wide of the mark. For the husband is the head of the wife, etc.[15] And it is not at all doubtful, that God directed this woman by His Spirit (Calvin). Therefore, this case is strange, and extraordinary (Martyr).

Abigail took two hundred loaves; which she did without his leave, and against his mind, because it was a case of apparent necessity, for the preservation of herself, and husband, and all the family from imminent ruin. And surely that real and urgent necessity which dispenseth with God’s positive commands, might well dispense with the husband’s right in this case.

Verse 19:[16] And she said unto her servants, (Gen. 32:16, 20) Go on before me; behold, I come after you. But she told not her husband Nabal.

[Go on before me] She commanded this, so that, with her gifts presented, the things to be accepted might delay David from vengeance; she purchased, I suppose, time and delay, so that she might compose herself decently, to the end that she might might appear more pleasing to Royal eyes (Sanchez).

I come after you; for she knew she could quickly over take them.

Verse 20:[17] And it was so, as she rode on the ass, that she came down by the covert of the hill, and, behold, David and his men came down against her; and she met them.

[And she had come down to the roots of the mountain, בְּסֵ֣תֶר הָהָ֔ר] In the secret place (in the hidden place [Osiander], by a hidden way [Pagnine, Junius and Tremellius], by secret paths [Syriac], in the covering [Septuagint]) of the mountain (Montanus); the mountain secretly (Tigurinus); she descended secretly to the side of the mountain (Munster). In a hiding place of the mountain (Strigelius); by the side of the mountain (Jonathan in Vatablus). The sides of mountains are wont to be hidden from those ascending and descending on the other side (Vatablus). On a path dense with growth (Osiander); whence neither was she seeing David with his company (Osiander, thus Mariana, Vatablus); nor was he seeing her, until they met (Osiander). Perhaps she took her journey by a short cut through a more secret part of the mountain (Malvenda out of Martyr), lest she be impeded by anyone that she might meet; or so that she might contemplate what she would say to David, etc. (Martyr). Or, he calls the lower part of the mountain, which is not so conspicuous and prominent, the shelter of the mountain (Malvenda).

By the covert of the hill; in the lower part and under the shadow of the hill, or of the trees that grew upon it; so that David did not see her till she met him.

[They were descending, etc.] Both David and Abigail descended; therefore, there was a valley lying between (Castalio).

David and his men came down, to wit, from another opposite hill.

Verse 21:[18] Now David had said, (Ecclus. 12:1[19]) Surely in vain have I kept all that this fellow hath in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that pertained unto him: and he hath requited me evil for good.

[And David says, אָמַר] He said (Montanus); he had said (thus nearly all interpreters). Before he was committing himself to the journey; or he was saying, on the journey itself (Vatablus).

David had said; either in his journey, or as soon as he heard that reproachful answer.

[In vain have I kept, לַשֶּׁקֶר[20]] In vain (Jonathan, Munster, Montanus); to no purpose (Syriac, Arabic, Pagnine, Junius and Tremellius); according to falsehood (Piscator); oh how falsely have I kept, etc., that is, how have I been disappointed in my hope! (certain interpreters in Malvenda). It is vain that I have kept (Tigurinus).

This fellow; whom he thought unworthy to be named, for his barbarous ingratitude and churlishness.

Verse 22:[21] (Ruth 1:17; 1 Sam. 3:17; 20:13, 16) So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I (1 Sam. 25:34) leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light (1 Kings 14:10; 21:21; 2 Kings 9:8) any that pisseth against the wall.

[May God do these things to the enemies of David, etc.] The oath is with execration, or imprecation (Estius, Menochius, Tirinus, similarly Lyra, Piscator, Sanchez). David said, May God do these things to me: but κατ᾽ εὐφημισμὸν, by euphemism, the expression has been changed. See Ruth 1:17 (Grotius). To the enemies of David, that is, to David himself. Irony κατ᾽ εὐφημισμὸν, by euphemism: which sort is found in 1 Samuel 14:41; Job 2:10 (Piscator, similarly Sanchez, Montanus, Tirinus, Lyra, Lapide, Martyr). And thus the Greeks render it, May God do these things to David; thus the Septuagint has it. Otherwise there would be no execration, and the oath would be ridiculous, if evil be imprecated only upon his enemies (Estius, Lapide). He speaks in this way to soften the imprecation, which to turn upon himself appears insane (Menochius); because men by nature shrink from imprecating evil upon themselves (Piscator). There is a similar expression in 1 Samuel 20:13, 16. [See what things were there noted.] David appears here to imprecate upon himself something adverse, but prosperous and favorable to his enemies; that is to say, May God provide for my enemies, that they might be superior in array against me, to the end that they might cast me down from the state of life, unless, etc. (Tirinus).

Unto the enemies of David, that is, Unto David himself. But because it might seem ominous and unnatural to curse himself, therefore by a figure called euphemismus, instead of David, he mentions David’s enemies. See 1 Samuel 20:16. The words may be thus rendered: So and more also let God do for (the Hebrew ל/lamed being very oft so used) the enemies of David, that is, let God work for them, and give them as much prosperity and success as Nabal hath hitherto had. Or, let God utterly destroy their enemies; and especially myself, the chief of them, if I do not destroy this man.

[If I leave…one urinating against a wall, מַשְׁתִּ֥ין בְּקִֽיר׃] One urinating upon or against a wall (Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Montanus). Question: What is signified by this phrase? Response 1: The sense: lest I leave even a dog (thus Vatablus, Sanchez, Castalio, Hebrews in Munster, Lyra, Estius, Lapide, Martyr, Menochius, Junius, Piscator). Dogs are wont to urinate, with lifted leg, against a wall (Lyra, similarly Vatablus). Thus Aurelian in Flavius Vopiscus, When he had come to Tyana,[22] and found it shut up, he is reported to have said in anger, I will nto leave a dog in this town (Malvenda). So now concerning slaughter of every sort they thus speak; that not even a dog or cat was left (Estius, Lapide). [To others this interpretation is not satisfying:] For, 1. this description does not pertain to every sort of dog, but only to males, and those at length in their sixth or eighth month, as Aristotle in his History of Animals 6:20 and Pliny in his Natural History 10:63 testify. 2. If you take it in this way, in no manner will those things cohere, I will cut off, etc., the one that urinates against a wall, and the one shut up and left in Israel, 1 Kings 14:10; 21:21; 2 Kings 9:8 (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:56:675). [See what things are to be observed on those passages.] Response 2: Others understand males or men (thus Bochart in A Sacred Catalogue of Animals, Martyr, certain interpreters in Munster, Rabbi Levi and Elias[23] in Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals). For men urinate against a wall, but not women (Elias in Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals). Thus the expression is to be taken in the passages already cited, 1 Kings 14, etc. For, when Jehu fulfilled that oracle, he killed only the males, 2 Kings 10:11, etc., but no woman at all, with Jezebel excepted, concerning whom there was a particular prophecy, 2 Kings 9:8-10, because the other prediction was pertaining to males alone. And they were slaughtering males alone even in the most savage wars. See Genesis 34; Numbers 31; Deuteronomy 20:13, 14. In vain does that learned man [he understands Louis de Dieu, in which are found these and the following things] object that in the east men do not urinate against a wall, but sit after the manner of women. It is indeed, says he, a European custom, which peoples have garments fit for this, but not Asiatic, which peoples wear garments reaching to the ankle, etc. For, 1. concerning the Persians alone that was true; the Turks after our custom urinate against the wall, as Olearius[24] in his Persian Travels[25] 5:570. The Greeks also did the same, as it is evident from the Life of Æsop;[26] and from Lærtius[27] (in which Diogenes[28] urinated like a dog at certain ones that had thrown bones at him, as if he were a dog), and Hesychius on the term ἐν Πυθίω, in the Pythian Temple (where the Athenians urinated on the hedge of the Temple of Apollo, etc.), and Herodotus (who, so that he might demonstrate that the Egyptians conduct themselves differently in a great many things than other men, has these among the rest), the women do indeed urinate while standing, but the men while sitting.[29] Likewise also the Romans. See Lucretius, On the Nature of Things[30] 1020. But also the Hebrews, as that Talmudic law teaches, Let no one urinate on the wall of his neighbor, unless he has first withdrawn from it three handbreadths.[31] A learned man adds that by the Hebrews urine is called water of the feet, because, when they squat, it is emitted between the feet. As if he did not know that in Hebrew under the name of feet is reckoned whatever is lower than the belly, and especially those parts whence urine is emitted. See on Genesis 49:10; Deuteronomy 28:57. You will ask, if urinating against a wall signifies neither a dog, nor a man, as the learned man contends: what then should we understand? Boyhood, says he, which is not ashamed to urinate against a wall. This does not satisfy; for, 1. with men excluded, not even the boys would remain: because here we take men, not as they are opposed to boys, but to women (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:56:675). But, that this is not able to be explained of men alone, is evident from verse 34, God hath kept me back from hurting thee. But, if the former were true, Abigail was in no danger (Martyr). 2. If any are to be excluded, that rather pertains to boys, who on account of that very thing, that nothing shames them, do not so much urinate against a wall, as anywhere in public (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:56:676). This is a manner of expression among the Hebrews, if at any time they wish to signify that they are going to leave absolutely nothing; that is to say, May God destroy me, if I overthrow not all that Nabal has, etc. (Vatablus). [Others translate the passage otherwise:] If anything be left…hung on the wall (Syriac, similarly the Arabic). In the place of מַשְׁתִּין, one urinating, they read מוּשְׁתִין, those placing, or those placed, on the wall. Which reading is inept and absurd. Nevertheless, Jonathan was thus reading it, who renders it, one knowing knowledge: For there is an allusion, say the Hebrews, to Jeremiah 4:19, where the vitals are called the walls of the heart;[32] and hence, according to his understanding, those that are by age already sharers in reason in some measure are called those placing on the wall, supply, of their heart. But, so that I might pass over the rest in silence, this interpretation is not able to stand with the Sacred History, which teaches that in the house of Ahab no one was spared[33] (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:56:676). Moreover, David sinned in the uttering of this oath (Menochius, Tirinus); 1. because it proceeded from vengeful passion. 2. Because he decided to inflict a punishment greater than the sin (Menochius). For Nabal was not obliged to pay with his head, on account of incivility, or ingratitude, or even insulting behavior. 3. And, if the crime had been capital, he ought only to have been punished by the magistrate (Tirinus, similarly Lapide, Menochius). 4. Because it was animus to rage against innocents (Menochius, similarly Tirinus, Martyr), against the law of God, Deuteronomy 24. See also 2 Kings 14 (Martyr). He sinned in the swearing, but he would have sinned more in fulfilling the oath (Tirinus). He sinned out of youthful and martial impetus and fury (Lapide). Great injuries sometimes drive out even the greatest gentleness (Grotius).

Any that pisseth against the wall, that is, any of the males, for they only do so; and of them this phrase is manifestly understood, 1 Kings 14:10; 21:21; 2 Kings 9:8; and men not wholly barbarous have generally spared women in such cases. Question: Why then was Abigail so much concerned and afraid? Answer: Partly from humanity, and the horror of so general and dreadful a slaughter of her family and nearest relations; and partly because when the sword was once drawn, she knew not where it would rest, nor whether she should escape; for she knew nothing of this limitation of David’s threatening till she came to him.

[1] Hebrew: וַתְּמַהֵ֣ר אֲבוֹגַ֡יִל וַתִּקַּח֩ מָאתַ֙יִם לֶ֜חֶם וּשְׁנַ֣יִם נִבְלֵי־יַ֗יִן וְחָמֵ֙שׁ צֹ֤אן עֲשׂוּוֹת֙ וְחָמֵ֤שׁ סְאִים֙ קָלִ֔י וּמֵאָ֥ה צִמֻּקִ֖ים וּמָאתַ֣יִם דְּבֵלִ֑ים וַתָּ֖שֶׂם עַל־הַחֲמֹרִֽים׃ [2] Hebrew: צִמֻּקִים. [3] John 13:2: “And supper being ended (δείπνου γενομένου; cœna facta, with supper done/prepared, in the Vulgate), the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him…” [4] 1 Samuel 25:2: “And there was a man in Maon, whose possessions were in Carmel; and the man was very great, and he had three thousand sheep (צֹאן), and a thousand goats (עִזִּים): and he was shearing his sheep (צֹאנוֹ) in Carmel.” [5] The σάτον appears to be a little larger than an English peck (two dry gallons). [6] Hebrew: וְחָמֵ֤שׁ סְאִים֙ קָלִ֔י. A seah is a measure, of perhaps seven quarts. [7] Genesis 18:6: “And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures (סְאִים) of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth.” [8] 1 Samuel 17:17: “And Jesse said unto David his son, Take now for thy brethren an ephah of this parched corn (הַקָּלִיא֙ הַזֶּ֔ה), and these ten loaves, and run to the camp to thy brethren…” [9] A modius contained about two dry gallons. [10] Apulia is a region running along the south-eastern coast of Italy. [11] An ephah was approximately eight dry gallons. [12] The Kingdom of Naples reigned over the Italian peninsula south of the Papal States from 1282 to 1816. [13] A type of fig from Caria in southwestern Asia Minor. [14] A Roman pound is twelve ounces. [15] See 1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:23. [16] Hebrew: וַתֹּ֤אמֶר לִנְעָרֶ֙יהָ֙ עִבְר֣וּ לְפָנַ֔י הִנְנִ֖י אַחֲרֵיכֶ֣ם בָּאָ֑ה וּלְאִישָׁ֥הּ נָבָ֖ל לֹ֥א הִגִּֽידָה׃ [17] Hebrew: וְהָיָ֞ה הִ֣יא׀ רֹכֶ֣בֶת עַֽל־הַחֲמ֗וֹר וְיֹרֶ֙דֶת֙ בְּסֵ֣תֶר הָהָ֔ר וְהִנֵּ֤ה דָוִד֙ וַאֲנָשָׁ֔יו יֹרְדִ֖ים לִקְרָאתָ֑הּ וַתִּפְגֹּ֖שׁ אֹתָֽם׃ [18] Hebrew: וְדָוִ֣ד אָמַ֗ר אַךְ֩ לַשֶּׁ֙קֶר שָׁמַ֜רְתִּי אֶֽת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֤ר לָזֶה֙ בַּמִּדְבָּ֔ר וְלֹא־נִפְקַ֥ד מִכָּל־אֲשֶׁר־ל֖וֹ מְא֑וּמָה וַיָּֽשֶׁב־לִ֥י רָעָ֖ה תַּ֥חַת טוֹבָֽה׃ [19] Ecclesiasticus 12:1: “When thou wilt do good know to whom thou doest it; so shalt thou be thanked for thy benefits.” [20]שֶׁקֶר signifies deception, disappointment, or falsehood. [21] Hebrew: כֹּה־יַעֲשֶׂ֧ה אֱלֹהִ֛ים לְאֹיְבֵ֥י דָוִ֖ד וְכֹ֣ה יֹסִ֑יף אִם־אַשְׁאִ֧יר מִכָּל־אֲשֶׁר־ל֛וֹ עַד־הַבֹּ֖קֶר מַשְׁתִּ֥ין בְּקִֽיר׃ [22] On the southeastern coast of Asia Minor. [23] Elias Levita (1468-1549) was a Jewish Hebrew grammarian, respected among Christians such as Munster and Fagius. He wrote Tishbi, was a lexicon presenting for the German reader seven hundred and twelve words used in the Talmud and Midrash; and Sefer Meturgeman, explaining all the Aramaic words found in the Targum. [24] Adam Olearius (1599-1671) was a German scholar, mathematician, geographer, and librarian. He served as secretary to an ambassador sent by the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp to Moscovy and Persian, and he wrote of his travels. [25]Beschreibung der Muscowitischen und Persischen Reise. [26] In Life of Æsop 28, Æsop learns to urinate while walking from his master, Xanthus. [27] Diogenes Lærtius was a biographer of Greek philosophers, writing his Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers probably sometime during the third century AD. [28] Diogenes of Sinope (c. 412-323 BC) was a Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Cynicism. He criticized the pretentiousness, artificiality, and hypocrisy of culture by his own simple and austere life. [29]Histories 11:35. [30]De Rerum Natura. Titus Lucretius Carus (c. 99-c. 55 BC) was a Roman poet and Epicurean philosopher. He was a proponent of a materialistic atomism, and thus a critic of religions. [31]Babylonian Talmud “Bava Bathra” 1. [32] Jeremiah 4:19: “My bowels, my bowels (מֵעַ֣י׀ מֵעַ֙י׀)! I am pained at my very heart (קִיר֥וֹת לִבִּ֛י, the walls of my heart); my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.” [33] See 2 Kings 10:11.

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