If you’re old enough, you most likely remember the above quote from the 1994 film, Forrest Gump.
Although 3,000 later, Forrest could have well been referring to a man in the Bible.
His name was Nabal. And his story is found in 1 Samuel 25.
You’ll need to read the story for yourself, but here’s the summary:
David sent his men to receive kindness from Nabal since David and his men had already shown mercy and kindness to Nabal. But, Nabal disrespected them, impugned David, and scoffed at their need. Nabal didn’t merely act stupidly – he made his reply personal. (Someone once said, “Placing duct tape on someone’s mouth can muffle sound; but it can’t muffle stupid.”) When word reached David of Nabal’s insolence, he was furious and rode with his men to kill not only Nabal, but all of his sons as well.
Abigail, Nabal’s wife, was the polar opposite of Nabal. She was wise, humble, and treated others as though they have value and worth. And she was brutally honest. When she saw David and his men approaching to slaughter her husband she ran to David and pleaded,
“…pay no attention to this worthless fool, Nabal, for he lives up to his name. His name means ‘stupid,’ and stupidity is all he knows.”
The Hebrew word for Nabal – nᵊḇālâ – means “fool” or “stupid.” One translation renders Vs 25, “Foolishness oozes from him.”
Abigail’s comment wasn’t referring to Nabal’s business acumen for vs 2 describes Nabal as a “very rich man.” What Abigail was describing was Nabal’s immoral, profane behavior, and his complete disregard for love and compassion for others.
So, did Nabal get away with his cruelty and arrogance?
Here’s how vss 36-38 describe what happened following Abigail’s encounter with David:
“When Abigail went to Nabal, he was in the house holding a banquet like that of a king. He was in high spirits and very drunk. So she told him nothing at all until daybreak. Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him [all about how she convinced David to spare his life], and his heart failed him and he became like a stone. About ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died.”
There are a number of principles in this story. I want to point out just one.
As Abigail was pleaded for David’s mercy, David found himself being reminded that there is one God – and David is not him.
God was quite capable of dealing with Nabal. David realized, thanks to Abigail, he should move along and leave Nabal to God. Notice how quickly David’s anger could have led him to behave every bit as stupidly as Nabal. We all need friends like Abigail.
About a millennium later, Paul would write,
Do not avenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to God’s wrath, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. (One translation puts it this way: “Don’t hit back.”)
Paul was quoting part of Deuteronomy 32:35 –
“It is mine to avenge (vengeance belongs to me, says the Lord); I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.”
When we’re treated hatefully, we want justice. It’s human nature. As C.S. Lewis commented that we’re “bent” that way.
But, God warns, in essence,
“Don’t be stupid. Vengeance belongs to me. Don’t touch it! I’ll take care of it in the right way, and in the right time.”
That principle is repeated in scripture.
“If you set a trap for others, you will get caught in it yourself. If you roll a boulder down on others, it will crush you instead.” (Proverbs 26:27)
And that’s exactly what happened with Nabal:
“The Lord brought Nabal’s evil deeds back on his own head.” (vss 36-38)