Book of Shmuel
#49: CHAPTER 45
THE CARMELITE (PART III)
THE PARALLEL BETWEEN AVIGAYIL AND RUTH THE
the previous lecture, we saw how Avigayil, in her remarkable wisdom,
successfully prevented David from engaging in unnecessary bloodshed; despite the
severity of Naval's action, it did not warrant the death penalty for him and his
entire house, as David had initially planned to impose. To David's credit it may
be said that he succeeded in internalizing Avigayil's message, and even blessed
her for having prevented him from carrying out his original strategy.
is an interesting correspondence between the figure of Avigayil in our chapter
and a figure that preceded her chronologically - Ruth the Moavitess, David's
great-grandmother. Let us note the parallels between the two stories and the two
personalities, and especially between the encounter between David and Avigayil
and the encounter between Ruth and Boaz:
both stories a woman expresses her respect for a man in an identical
she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground.
she fell before David on her face, and bowed herself down to the
(I Shemuel 25:23)
It should be noted that Ruth and Avigayil are the only women in Scripture
about whom the expression is used: "She fell on her face."
are the only two women in Scripture who hint to a man about their desire to
marry him. Ruth says to Boaz:
she answered, "I am Ruth your handmaid; spread therefore your skirt over your
handmaid, for you are a near kinsman." (Ruth 3:9)
And similarly, Avigayil says to David:
it shall come to pass, when the Lord shall have done to my lord according to all
the good that He has spoken concerning you and shall have appointed you prince
over Israel… then remember your handmaid. (I
both cases, the man blesses the woman for the good that she did for him, using
identical language. Boaz says to Ruth:
be you of
the Lord, my daughter. (Rut 3:10)
And similarly David blesses Avigayil:
blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you. (I Shemuel
This formulation is also unique to these two instances, appearing nowhere
else in Scripture.
two stories end with the marriage of the man to the woman:
Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife. (Rut
David sent and spoke concerning Avigayil, to take her to him to wife…
and she became his wife. (I
is difficult to ignore another expression that appears only in these two
stories. Boaz turns to his young men and tells them:
do not reproach (takhlimuha) her. (Rut 2:15)
The very same wording is found in David's words to Naval, and afterwards
in the words of Naval's young men to Avigayil:
we did them no hurt (hekhlamnum)… and we were not hurt
(I Shmuel 25:7-15)
Both incidents take place during a
festive period from an economic perspective; the incident involving Ruth and
Boaz takes place during the harvest season, and the incident involving David and
Avigayil during the sheep-shearing season.
is the meaning of this correspondence?
It seems that this is the way in which Scripture tries to answer an
important conceptual question: Why did David merit Avigayil's stepping in and
preventing him from sinning? Why didn't other sinners merit having someone stop
them along the way? In light of this correspondence, it can be argued that "the
merit of fathers" – and more precisely, "the merit of mothers" – is what came to
David's rescue. In reward for Ruth's acts of kindness and humility, her
great-grandson, already standing at the edge of the abyss, merited to be saved
from doing evil by way of a woman who was similar in character to his
"WITH NAVAL YOU SHALL SHOW YOURSELF SUBTLE"
can now move on to the end of the story – the death of Naval the
And Avigayil came to Naval; and, behold, he held a feast in his house, like the
feast of a king; and Naval's heart was merry within him, for he was very
drunken; wherefore she told him nothing, less or more, until the morning light.
(37) And it came to pass in the morning, when the wine was gone out of Naval,
that his wife told him these things, and his heart died within him, and he
became as a stone. (38) And it came to pass about ten days after, that the Lord
smote Naval, so that he died.
For the first time since the beginning of the story, God intervenes in
what is happening and brings death upon Naval. In this way, as was noted in
previous lectures, expression is given to Scripture's assessment of Naval, who
paid with his life for his treatment of David.
way that Naval met his death is especially interesting. Scripture first
describes Naval's feast as being "like the feast of a king," and there Naval
becomes "very drunken." These expressions demonstrate Naval's arrogance, which
operates without boundaries and without constraints. Avigayil's wisdom stands
out in contrast to her husband's behavior. She understands that it would not be
right to talk to him while he is drunk, for in any event her words would have no
effect; she therefore waits until morning, until he sobers up, and only then
does she speak to him.
Something happpens now quite unexpectedly: "And his heart died within
him, and he became as a stone." Why? What was so terrible about what Avigayil
said to Naval? Rashi offers a strange explanation: "And his heart died within
him – he was distressed about the present that had been brought to David" (see
also the Radak). In my humble opinion, it is difficult to say that Scripture is
referring to Naval's miserliness, because of which he was unable to accept
Avigayil's gift to David to the point that his heart stopped to function. The
Metzudat David suggests that Naval's alarm stemmed from his fear that
eventually David would come and fight against him.
It seems, however, that we should look at the picture from a wider
perspective. It stands to reason that Avigayil's story brought Naval to
understand, for the first time in his life, where his despicable conduct had
brought him. Avigayil had indeed succeeded in stopping David's onslaught, but
were it not for Avigayil, who had adopted an approach totally opposite to that
of Naval, David's attack would have wiped out Naval and his entire house. It is
difficult to know whether Naval's reaction involved recognition of the sinful
path in which he had previously walked and the beginning of a process of
repentance, or if it merely reflected a feeling of fear and frustration about
his situation. Chazal appear to have been aware of the complexity of
it came to pass about ten days after, that the Lord smote Naval" – what [ten
days]? … Rav Nachman said in the name of Rabba bar Avuha: These are the ten days
between Rosh ha-Shana and Yom Kippur.
(Rosh Ha-shana 18a)
God appears to have given Naval ten days to complete the process and
repent, and therefore Chazal saw these days as paralleling the ten days
of repentance. But Naval, so it seems, failed to internalize the lesson, and did
not change his ways in any significant way. When the initial shock wore off,
Naval returned to his long-standing and habitual conduct. For this reason, after
ten days, God smote him and he died.
dramatic story ends on a festive note:
And when David heard that Naval was dead, he said, "Blessed be the Lord, that
has pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Naval and has kept back
His servant from evil; and the evildoing of Naval has the Lord returned upon his
own head." And David sent and spoke concerning Avigayil, to take her to him to
be his wife. (40) And when the servants of David were come to Avigayil to
Carmel, they spoke unto her, saying, "David has sent us unto you, to take you to
him to be his wife. (41) And she arose, and bowed down with her face to the
earth, and said, "Behold, your handmaid is a servant to wash the feet of the
servants of my lord." (42) And Avigayil hastened, and arose, and rode upon an
ass, with five damsels of hers that followed her; and she went after the
messengers of David, and became his wife.
Scripture seems to be emphasizing the connection between David's
recognition of the rightness of Avigayil's way and his desire to take her as his
wife. David thanks God for pleading his cause and preventing him from sinning;
in other words, he repeats what Avigayil had said. In this short account as
well, Avigayil's modest personality comes to the fore, as she does not see
herself worthy of marrying David. David's marriage to Avigayil gives expression
to his desire to continue the line of kindness and humility going back to his
great-grandmother. We shall later discuss the impact that this story had on
David and his attitude toward human life.
We have still not reached the end of the chapter, and two additional
facts are yet to be noted:
David also took Achinoam of Yizra'el; and they became both of them his wives.
(44) Now Shaul had given Mikhal his daughter, David's wife, to Palti the son of
Layish, who was of Gallim.
Whereas David's marriage to Avigayil can be seen from a positive
perspective, his marriage to Achinoam arouses questions. David was already
married to Mikhal the daughter of Shaul, and taking a third wife, that is, two
wives in addition to Mikhal – does not look good. It should be remembered that
Mikhal had risked her life and gone against her father Shaul in order to save
David, her beloved husband. It stands to reason that Shaul had already given
Mikhal to Palti the son of Layish at some earlier point, as is indicated by the
past perfect, ve-Shaul natan (as opposed to va-yiten Shaul). But
Scripture's juxtaposition of the two events alludes that there exists a
connection, if only moral-conceptual, between David's taking of additional wives
and his losing Mikhal as his wife.
On the other hand, we must examine the situation from Mikhal's side as
well. Scripture presents Mikhal's two identities, one alongside the other: "his
[= Shaul's] daughter" on the one hand, and "David's wife" on the other.
Scripture does not specify Mikhal's attitude toward her father's action, but the
silence suggests that she did not express serious objection. Later events also
imply that a positive relationship developed between Mikhal and Palti the son of
Layish (see II Shmuel 3:15-16). What caused this great gap between
Mikhal's love for and dedication to David in chapters 18-19 and her marriage to
Palti the son of Layish in chapter 25?
It seems that the answer to this question lies in what was stated at
length in chapter 18 (lecture no. 36). As stated, Mikhal's love for David was
one-sided. In such circumstances, Mikhal's dedication to David and ability to
stand up to her father could not have continued indefinitely. With David's
flight and the severance of the active bond between him and Mikhal, Shaul's
influence upon her became stronger, and she began to feel that she is first and
foremost "Shaul's daughter" and only secondarily "David's wife." Despite all the
assistance that she had given David, she chose to stay home and did not join
David in his wanderings. This choice, which in the end brought her to be married
to someone else, was a fateful choice, which impacted upon her life from then on
and until her dying day.
by David Strauss)