How to Interpret Scripture – a Prototype Lesson

Please read 1st Samuel 25 in The Message which you can find free at Bible Gateway.com  It is a modern translation and reads easily.

There are at a minimum three ways to interpret scripture.  In this story the 1st, basic way is to recognize that it is a historical piece about David before he became king of Judah, Nabal, a wealthy rancher, and Abigail, his wife.  Anyone who reads a Bible can understand the meaning level of the story.

The second level is the interpretation of the story as a model for good and bad management, several other lessons about human nature, what to do, and what not to do and why.  The third level is the spiritual interpretation which you can read in a piece about Nabal.

Going back to level 2, we learn that Nabal (whose name means “fool” reminding you that you should name your children wisely) owns a huge ranch with thousands of sheep and goats.  Here in Texas you need 25 acres for 100 sheep so Nabal needs 750 acres for his sheep alone plus 10 goats per acre at a very minimum, about 1000 acres including some for the humans.  In Texas there is a privately owned ranch larger than the State of Rhode Island; animals need large amounts of grazing land and supervision is difficult.

David has 600 followers guarding Nabal’s land mass the final stages of growth prior to the sheep shearing when rustlers could steal unguarded animals or even murder the herders.  For this season David’s unseen army has been their protector, so he asks Nabal for proper payment for his services.  Nabal brushes him off, saying since he didn’t see him how does he know he has actually done his job?  Nabal could not possibly have known whether his land was being protected and by whom given its size.

Last year a man brandished a gun against his ex-wife who was hiding out in my building, on my floor.  I knew nothing of it.  You do not have to see a crime in process to acknowledge you are being protected.  That is why we pay our army and the sheriff even though we may never see results with our own eyes.  The very fact that we live in peace means they are minding our business.

David becomes incensed and resolves to slaughter Nabal and his employees.  Abigail, a wife who is no fool, gathers together a meal for David’s men and takes it there to prevent any retribution.  David is properly thankful and his men enjoy their feast.

When Abigail returns home she finds her husband dead drunk after a giant party, but she waits to tell her husband how she paid off David until Nabal is sober.  He goes into a coma – we can project here that perhaps it is the DT’s – and after 10 days dies.  Abigail then becomes wife #2 for David.

Here are the lessons to learn.

  • Just because you don’t see the protection you have does not mean you are not responsible for blessing them.  That is why we pay our taxes.  A workman is worthy of his hire.  The size of the payment was equal to the size of the job they did.
  • The blessing must be equal the task.  Abgail did not show up with 3 sheep and a few loaves of bread, but enough for the entire crowd.  We are to pay what we owe.
  • When the proper authorities fail to do their duty you can step in to compensate.
  • Vengeance is mine says the Lord. David’s hot head reaction was about to do him in which he recognized (verse 30 ff). This could have cost him the throne of Israel.  see post on vengeance
  • Recognize, as David did, that someone was sent by God to prevent his planned revenge.  David was having a testosterone fit and defending his ego.  Don’t do it.  God will make things right.
  • Nabal acted rashly and so did David. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
  • Wait until someone is sober before telling them the truth.  I’ve used this on occasion and it works.  The person may not accept what you say but don’t waste good revelation on someone whose mind is damaged by drink or drugs.

Level 2 is where ministers get their sermon material, so you need not wait for them to preach – study it yourself.

The third level of interpretation is the one which looks at some spiritual truth in the story by digging into details.  I’ll cover that in another post on Nabal.

There is also a subsidiary lesson on the judgment of nations, about which  there appears to be little written. Nabal died after 10 days and ten is the number of The Law.  If someone died :under the “Law” that is without mercy or grace of God, the Law must be satisfied.  Jesus’ death satisfied the requirements of the Law, but we have traditionally applied that only to individuals.  But God judges nations too.

There are sheep nations and goat nations. One of my tasks for future study is to sort out what the Law requires for national status before God. We know that Israel is the chosen people and more importantly the chosen piece of real estate; we also know that the USA has special status and continues, in spite of its many sins, because she both protects other nations and is a zealous missionary nation. In 2012 there were 419,000 Christian foreign missionaries and if course many others inside the country.  Per capita South Korea has even more and she will be rewarded by reuniting with North Korea when the time comes.

The Bible states that “the iniquity of the Amorites” (Genesis 15:16) be fulfilled before God will judge them.  We, the readers, are not told how many days, weeks, or months it will take for “sin to be fulfilled” but we can be sure that it will be applied.  I’ve fumed over the fact that Syria has been allowed for so very long to murder its own citizens.  I’ve asked God to judge this nation, but it does not happen, because apparently Syria’s sin is not up to the brim in fulfilling the law.

Hence, 10 more days or periods of time, and 10 could easily be ten more years, or in the case of Syria, 10 more decades. I, as an American, am not told how long we must wait for Syria’s sin to be fulfilled, but if  I were a Syrian I’d ask God and if He revealed that, then I and my believing friends could pray according to the prophecies (1 Timothy 1:18) spoken over us  to bring down our corrupt government.  We do know that God tries to get every one out before He lowers His hammer.  Lot and his daughters got out of Sodom in the nick of time.  In fact he was so pokey the judgment rained down the very same day he left. Luke 17:29.

Abigail became the wife of the King of Israel as a result of her generous and also dangerous act.  Nabal had the authority in that culture, and certainly enough power, to kill his wife for taking family property to provide for David and 600 men.  Nabal’s coma protected Abigail, another blessing from God.

The Lord wants us to dig deep into His word.  We get to know Him, His plans, and Himself.

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