Who Exactly is a Fool?

Who Exactly is a Fool? 
Robert Wurtz II

“Now therefore, know and consider what you should do, for evil is plotted against our master and against all his household; and he is such a worthless man that no one can speak to him.” (1 Samuel 25:17 NASB)
I wish to examine a carefully placed account of a man that the Bible defines as ‘a fool.’ I have chosen this text in 1 Samuel 25:17 to introduce an incident that took place just prior to David becoming king of Israel. It happens that David was traveling with about six-hundred mighty men that had been keeping a certain part of the country secure, including the flocks and shepherds of Nabal. Now there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel; and the man was very rich, and he had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. And it came about while he was shearing his sheep in Carmel (now the man’s name was Nabal, and his wife’s name was Abigail. And the woman was of good understanding and beautiful in appearance, but the man was harsh and evil in his dealings, and he was a Calebite (1 Samuel 25:3 NASB)

Nabal is the Hebrew word for fool. You will notice that he is contrasted with his wife that was of good understanding and beautiful in appearance. Nabal was a very rich sheepmaster on the confines of Judea and the desert. His ranch was on the southern Carmel, in the pasture lands of Maon. It was the custom of the shepherds to drive the sheep into the wild downs on the slopes of Carmel; and it was while they were on one of these ‘pastoral excursions’ that they met a David and his mighty men, who showed them unexpected kindness, protecting them by day and night, and never themselves taking anything from them. (1 Samuel 25:7, 15, 18) 

A Love Gift? 

When David heard in the desert (cf. v. 1) that Nabal was shearing his sheep, which was generally accompanied with a festal meal (see at Gen. 38:12), he sent ten young men up to Carmel to him, and bade them wish him peace and prosperity in his name, and having reminded him of the friendly services rendered to his shepherds, solicit a present for himself and his people. (Keil and Delitzsch) Obviously Nabal was a very greedy man, though exceedingly rich, he refused to share anything with David. We read, Then Nabal answered David’s servants, and said, “Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants nowadays who break away each one from his master. Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers, and give it to men when I do not know where they are from?” (1 Samuel 25:11 NKJV) This response show the level of madness this man was moving in. In order to justify his own covetousness, he posited David as a vagrant slave who had run away from his master! He had totally ignored what he had been told about David’s protection of his sheep and shepherds. His twisted mind could not see the wisdom of giving David and his men some basic rations for their services. This is yet another example of the noetic effects of sin. He was covetous, therefore an idolator (Colossians 3:5). This was one of the sins that corrupted his thinking processes. Think about it. It would be common sense to give David and his men some gift for the services rendered; but this man could not see the sense of it. He got angry and acted out even for them asking! This is pure unmitigated madness. 

Saddle Up Boys!

When word gets back to David he is furious, and rightfully so. And David said unto his men, Gird ye on every man his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword: and there went up after David about four hundred men; and two hundred abode by the stuff. (1 Samuel 25:13) Good times are about to go bad for Nabal. David could slay this man and his whole house as if it were a light thing. A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rages, and is confident. (Proverbs 14:16) Nabal went running headlong into mortal danger. A wise man would have had the good sense to know David deserved something, especially in light of how nicely he asked for it. Had he been a common thug he would have just taken what he wanted and defied anyone to say something. Moreover, a wise man would have been careful, thoughtful, self-mistrusting and reserved; a disposition which flows from the reverential awe of God (fear of the Lord). The fool, on the contrary, is self-confident, regardless and secure. While a wise man will avoid evil and carefully goes out of its way, the fool has no sense of the situation he/she is in. 

The Wilted Mind

“Now therefore, know and consider what you should do, for evil is plotted against our master and against all his household; and he is such a worthless man that no one can speak to him.” (1 Samuel 25:17 NASB)

Talking to a fool is like talking to the wall, but why? They cannot reason rightly about moral and spiritual issues and will even act out so that no one can speak to him. But why? We have a few clues from the Psalmist, The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. (Psalm 14:1 KJV) Here is our word Nabal again, only it is translated as fool. The word in Hebrew comes from a root nabel and it means ‘to wilt.’ We have this word used concerning those that delight in the law of the Lord, And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. (Psalm 1:3) Here wither is nebal. The law is the revelation of God; that is to say, it is light. Those that walk in the light as He is in the light will not wither. This implies that what withers was once healthy. Wilting in plants can be caused by either lack of water or sunlight. If this condition progresses wilting becomes withering. This is explained on a spiritual level in Romans 1:22, professing themselves to be wise they became foolsBecame vain (emataiōthēsan). Ingressive first aorist passive indicative of mataioō from mataios (empty). Empty reasonings as often today. Became fools (emōranthēsan). Ingressive first aorist passive of mōrainō, to be a fool, old word from mōros, a fool. (This means he had entered into a state of being a fool). An oxymoron or sharp saying, true and one that cuts to the bone. (Robertson)
Evil for Good

Now David had said, 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 repaid me evil for good. (1 Samuel 25:21)

 Let us observe the mentality of a fool, they reward evil for good. Such dastardly behavior ought to smite the conscience, but not Nabal. His mind had been darkened until he could not make even the most obvious moral judgment. What caused it? Obviously he was not born a fool. The word Nabal implies wilting from a state of health. This is the pattern for the Noetic effect of sin. Sin has a direct effect on a persons moral reasoning. However, Nabal’s wife Abagail went to David and brought a large gift and pleaded with him to have mercy on the ‘scoundrel’ (as she called him 1 Samuel 25:17). Though he had not the good sense to see the danger he was in, his wife interceded with the soon to be king for him. David spared Nabal for her sake. 


The Finality of the Fool

But that was not all. So it was, in the morning, when the wine had gone from Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became like a stone. (1 Samuel 25:37) Nabal was not only drunk, but he was in a state of moral intoxication. But somehow in the morning he sobered up in both cases. Once he realized that he narrowly escaped death for himself and his whole house, his heart died. Matthew Henry comments, His heart overnight merry with wine, next morning heavy as a stone; so deceitful are carnal pleasures, so soon passes the laughter of the fool; the end of that mirth is heaviness. Drunkards are sad, when they reflect upon their own folly. About ten days after, the Lord smote Nabal, that he died. David blessed God that he had been kept from killing Nabal. Worldly sorrow, mortified pride, and an affrighted conscience, sometimes end the joys of the sensualist, and separate the covetous man from his wealth; but, whatever the weapon, the Lord smites men with death when it pleases him. 





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