Women of the
Avigail is praised for her beauty and understanding, qualities that she had shown so as to be appreciated by the psalmist and anointed king of Israel.
There was a
man in Ma’on, whose possessions were in Karmel; and the man was very
great, and he had three thousand sheep, and a thousand goats: and he was
shearing his sheep in Karmel. Now the name of the man was Naval; and the
name of his wife Avigail; and the woman was of good understanding, and
of a beautiful face: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings;
and he was of the house of Kalev.
Why would a beautiful and intelligent woman marry a worthless, foolish man, is a mystery that maybe only a woman may explain, and I am not… The contrast between her and her husband is pointed out by the writer in the introduction of the story which brought her to encounter David.
in the wilderness that Naval was shearing his sheep. David sent ten
young men, and David said to the young men, «Go up to Karmel, and go to
Naval, and greet him in my name: and thus shall you tell him who lives
[in prosperity], Shalom be to you, and shalom be to your house, and
shalom be to all that you have. Now I have heard that you have shearers:
your shepherds have now been with us, and we did them no hurt, neither
was there anything missing to them, all the while they were in Karmel.
Ask your young men, and they will tell you: therefore let the young men
find favor in your eyes; for we come in a good day. Please give whatever
comes to your hand, to your servants, and to your son David». When
David's young men came, they spoke to Naval according to all those words
in the name of David, and ceased. Naval answered David's servants, and
said, «Who is David? and who is the son of Yishai? there are many
servants who break away from their masters these days. Shall I then take
my bread, and my water, and my meat that I have killed for my shearers,
and give it to men who I do not know where they come from?» So David's
young men turned on their way, and went back, and came and told him
according to all these words. David said to his men, «Gird you on every
man his sword». 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 baggage.
This event took place in the period in which David was a runaway with his own army, even being the king anointed by Prophet Samuel, because Shaul was still ruling. In his wanderings across the wilderness of Yehudah, David requests hospitality from Naval, as his soldiers were protecting Naval’s men in a previous occasion. Naval shows off his foolishness, not only denying what David requested, but also pointing out that David was an outlaw who broke away from his king. A sheep farmer with few servants dares to challenge a leader of six-hundred warriors! Naval signed his own death sentence.
But one of
the young men told Avigail, Naval's wife, saying, «Behold, David sent
messengers out of the wilderness to greet our master; and he railed at
them. But the men were very good to us, and we were not hurt, neither
missed we anything, as long as we went with them, when we were in the
fields: they were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the while
we were with them keeping the sheep. Now therefore know and consider
what you will do; for evil is determined against our master, and against
all his house: for he is such a worthless fellow that one cannot speak
Avigail’s wisdom was recognized by Naval’s servants. This young man was not supposed to neglect his master’s authority by reporting to his mistress what happened, but he knew that she was the only person who was able to find a solution to the very grave incident caused by his master’s foolishness. Even though David was determined to make a clean sweep of Naval’s household and property, the servant was confident that Avigail would have appeased David’s anger.
made haste, and took two hundred loaves, and two bottles of wine, and
five sheep ready dressed, and five measures of parched grain, and one
hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid
them on donkeys. She said to her young men, «Go on before me; behold, I
come after you». But she did not tell her husband, Naval. It was so, as
she rode on her donkey, and came down by the covert of the mountain,
that behold, David and his men came down toward her; and she met them.
Now David had said, «Surely in vain have I kept all that this fellow has
in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that pertained to
him: and he has returned me evil for good. God do so to the enemies of
David, and more also, if I leave of all that belongs to him by the
morning light so much as one boy». When Avigail saw David, she hurried,
and alighted from her donkey, and fell before David on her face, and
bowed herself to the ground. She fell at his feet, and said, «On me, my
lord, on me be the iniquity; and please let your handmaid speak in your
ears. Hear the words of your handmaid. Please do not let my lord regard
this worthless fellow, even Naval; for as his name is, so is he; Naval
is his name, and folly is with him: but I your handmaid did not see the
young men of my lord, whom you did send. Now therefore, my lord, as
HaShem lives, and as your soul lives, seeing HaShem has withheld you
from blood guiltiness, and from avenging yourself with your own hand,
now therefore let your enemies, and those who seek evil to my lord, be
as Naval. Now this present which your servant has brought to my lord,
let it be given to the young men who follow my lord. Please forgive the
trespass of your handmaid: for HaShem will certainly make my lord a sure
house, because my lord fights the battles of HaShem; and evil shall not
be found in you all your days. Though men be risen up to pursue you, and
to seek your soul, yet the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle
of life with HaShem your God; and the souls of your enemies, them shall
he sling out, as from the hollow of a sling. It shall come to pass, when
HaShem 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,
that this shall be no grief to you, nor offense of heart to my lord,
either that you have shed blood without cause, or that my lord has
avenged himself. When HaShem shall have dealt well with my lord, then
remember your handmaid».
Here we find a
woman who breaks all the conformist rules taught by the religious
establishment: she acts by her own initiative, without the permission of
her husband, and carries on an action which is exactly the contrary to
her husband’s will. She usurped his authority! Then, she presents
herself before David with humility, and takes on herself the
responsibility for “not having seen David’s messengers”… what could she
have done against the will of her husband? Would she have given a
countermand? This is not all, but she also dares to qualify her husband
as a fool!
David said to
Avigail, «Blessed be HaShem, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to
meet me: and blessed be your understanding, and blessed be you, that
have kept me this day from blood guiltiness, and from avenging myself
with my own hand. For in very deed, as HaShem, the God of Israel, lives,
who has withheld me from hurting you, except you had hurried and come to
meet me, surely there would not have been left to Naval by the morning
light so much as one boy». So David received of her hand that which she
had brought him: and he said to her, «Go up in shalom to your house;
behold, I have listened to your voice, and have accepted your person».
The mighty warrior’s anger was appeased by the understanding of a woman. The prince of Yehudah and Israel paid heed to a woman’s advice, and praised her for her intelligence. He made her know that she had already saved the life of all the males who belonged to Naval – and herself from being taken as part of the booty (although we know who would have taken her…).
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:
therefore she told him nothing, less or more, until the morning light.
It happened 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. It happened about ten days after, that HaShem struck
Naval, so that he died. When David heard that Naval was dead, he said,
«Blessed be HaShem, who has pleaded the cause of my reproach from the
hand of Naval, and has kept back his servant from evil: and the
evil-doing of Naval has HaShem returned on his own head». David sent and
spoke concerning Avigail, to take her to him as wife. When the servants
of David were come to Avigail to Karmel, they spoke to her, saying,
«David has sent us to you, to take you to him as wife». She arose, and
bowed herself with her face to the earth, and said, «Behold, your
handmaid is a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord».
Avigail hurried, and arose, and rode on a donkey, with five ladies of
hers who followed her; and she went after the messengers of David, and
became his wife.
disobedient wife, was relieved from her husband, who was instead
punished for his misbehavior towards David. Having heard the news, David
recalls the advice given to him by her, blessing God for having kept him
back from taking revenge. The lady had left such an impression in him,
that he wished her as wife – he indeed “remembered” her as she
requested, even before than the Lord had dealt well with him!
Batsheva is usually considered to be jointly liable with David for his sin. Nevertheless, the Scriptures do not charge on her any blame, but only on David. Batsheva was not only a beautiful lady, but also faithful and gifted.
at the return of the year, at the time when kings go out [to battle],
that David sent Yoav, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and
they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David
stayed at Yerushalayim.
What was David doing in his palace, while all his people was out for the war, and it was his duty to be in the battle camp? This was not the behavior of the mighty warrior he was! The great fighter who was praised for his valor, always at the head of his undefeatable armies… This was his first fault, which led him to the following ones. He did stay at home, not because he was getting old and was no longer able to battle, as he still warred after this event and he had even fathered many sons – at least five with Batsheva (including the first-born who died, as 1Chronicles 3:5 mentions four) plus those of his concubines and other wives. His strength was not diminished. He simply allowed himself a little relax; he had conquered all what had to conquer, and Rabbah was a stronghold easy to take and his presence was not indispensable. This event should have taken place not later than the middle of his reign, as Shlomo was enough adult as to be the king when David died. So we can guess that David was no older than fifty years old.
at evening, that David arose from off his bed, and walked on the roof of
the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the
woman was very beautiful to look on.
nothing to do, he stood on the roof of his house to have a wonderful
sight of the surrounding area... We do not know how far away was
Batsheva from the king’s house, but men, mainly one like David, are able
to recognize a woman to be beautiful from a distant point – even though
it was evening. It is usually assumed that she was bathing in her
house’s courtyard: this is very unlikely – would David not have noticed
such a charming neighbor before? Would not he know that she was the wife
of his loyal soldier? He certainly would know who she was if she lived
so close to his palace. Therefore, she should have been bathing in a
natural basin which was deep enough for immersion, and had to walk there
from her home for that purpose. She probably had to reach that place
because she was not just “bathing”, which may have done inside her house
without the risk to be seen, but she was cleansing herself from ritual
impurity (v. 4). This is a precept of Torah called mikveh,
which requires that a woman immerses herself completely naked in
mayim hayim, that is, flowing waters, to be purified. If she had not
a suitable pool in her house (needing running water from a spring to be
carried to fill it), she had to find another place. She was not
flaunting, nor was she enticing him, but fulfilling an act of
righteousness and obedience to the Law of God! She was also doing so in
the evening, maybe after sunset, in order to reduce the possibility of
being seen. We are not told that she was alone, maybe she also brought
with her some maiden to keep watch.
and inquired after the woman. One said, Is not this Bat-Sheva, the
daughter of Eli'am, the wife of Uriyah the Hittite? David sent
messengers, and took her; and she came in to him, and he lay with her
(for she was purified from her uncleanness); and she returned to her
So, once he was
informed of her identity, that she was the wife of his loyal soldier, he
had to stop his mind and go somewhere else... She was not enticing him
at all! It was he who had not to stare at a married woman, and to forget
her. Instead, he ordered to bring her to him.
conceived; and she sent and told David, and said, «I am with child».
David sent to Yoav, [saying], «Send me Uriyah the Hittite». Yoav sent
Uriyah to David. When Uriyah was come to him, David asked of him how
Yoav did, and how the people fared, and how the war prospered. David
said to Uriyah, «Go down to your house, and wash your feet». Uriyah
departed out of the king's house, and there followed him a mess [of
food] from the king. But Uriyah slept at the door of the king's house
with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house.
When they had told David, saying, «Uriyah did not go down to his house»,
David said to Uriyah, «Have not you come from a journey? why did you not
go down to your house?» Uriyah said to David, «The ark, and Israel, and
Yehudah, abide in booths; and my lord Yoav, and the servants of my lord,
are encamped in the open field; shall I then go into my house, to eat
and to drink, and to lie with my wife? as you live, and as your soul
lives, I will not do this thing».
When David comes
to know that his love affair with Batsheva would have been discovered,
he devised a plan to keep it unknown. It was for his honor, rather than
hers, as he was the king and Uriyah was one of his best warriors. He
could not lose his face, when it was his duty to be in the battle front,
he was instead amusing himself with his soldier’s wife. So he called
Uriyah and expressly commands him to “go down to his house and wash his
feet” – he was not telling him just to take a rest and refresh himself,
but we have already seen what the term feet is used for as an euphemism:
David commands Uriyah to go and have sex with his wife. Yet, Uriyah, the
Hittite, one who like Rahav and Ruth joined Israel being born among the
heathen, proved his loyalty to his king and to God, and remained with
the servants in the king’s palace. David’s plan failed.
When the wife
of Uriyah heard that Uriyah her husband was dead, she made lamentation
for her husband. When the mourning was past, David sent and took her
home to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son. But the
thing that David had done displeased the Lord.
It was not Batsheva’s intention to become a queen. It was David’s fault that led him to desire her so much as to forsake the Lord’s Law, his anointment, his victories and all the things with which he was blessed for having been the man after God’s own heart. David utterly repented from his misdeed, he recognized himself to be guilty before the Lord, and we find the poetic expression of his repentance in the words of Psalm 51, of which we read here some excerpts:
Have mercy on
me, God, according to Your loving kindness.
In spite of the unrighteousness by which Batsheva became the king’s wife, she was rewarded during her life: she had a faithful husband whom she lost, but then she became the queen of Israel, and the mother of King Shlomoh, the heir of David’s throne.
King David had a beautiful daughter, whose name was Tamar. She was also a victim of abuse as her ancestor Tamar was, and also in her case incest was involved – though in a quite different way. Tamar’s humiliation was not an isolate incident, but a direct consequence of David’s misbehavior towards Batsheva and her husband.
after this, that Avshalom the son of David had a beautiful sister, whose
name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her. Amnon was so vexed
that he fell sick because of his sister Tamar; for she was a virgin; and
it seemed hard to Amnon to do anything to her.
As we know, King
David had more than one wife. Amnon was his first-born, from Achinoam
the Yizreelite (2Samuel 3:2; 1Chronicles 3:1), and legally the heir to
the throne. Avshalom and Tamar were his children from an Aramean
princess, very likely given to David as “pledge” of loyalty by her
father, in exchange for keeping the rule over his kingdom – as usually
kings used to do for sealing an alliance, the stronger king took a
daughter from his vassal to assure this one’s perpetual loyalty.
But Amnon had
a friend, whose name was Yehonadav, the son of Shim’a, David's brother;
and Yehonadav was a very subtle man. He said to him, «Why, son of the
king, are you thus lean from day to day? Will not you tell me?» Amnon
said to him, «I love Tamar, my brother Avshalom's sister».
Amnon appears to be a spoiled boy, acting like a teenager, and feeling like a teenager. His definition of love is that of an immature person. There is a great difference between loving with a genuine love, which comes from the spirit, and falling in love, which comes from passion and lust. He cannot admit that Tamar is his sister, but she is just “Avshalom’s sister” – even though Avshalom is his brother. In Amnon’s mind, Avshalom is the son of his father, but Tamar is the daughter of Avshalom’s mother.
So Amnon lay
down, and feigned himself sick: and when the king was come to see him,
Amnon said to the king, «Please let my sister Tamar come, and make me a
couple of cakes in my sight, that I may eat from her hand». Then David
sent home to Tamar, saying, «Go now to your brother Amnon's house, and
dress him food». So Tamar went to her brother Amnon's house; and he was
laid down. She took dough, and kneaded it, and made cakes in his sight,
and did bake the cakes. She took the pan, and poured them out before
him; but he refused to eat. Amnon said, «Have out all men from me». They
went out every man from him. Amnon said to Tamar, «Bring the food into
the chamber, that I may eat from your hand». Tamar took the cakes which
she had made, and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother.
When she had brought them near to him to eat, he took hold of her, and
said to her, «Come, lie with me, my sister». She answered him, «No, my
brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel.
Do not you do this folly. I, where shall I carry my shame? and as for
you, you will be as one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, please
speak to the king; for he will not withhold me from you».
Amnon carried on
his plan, as it was suggested to him by his crafty cousin (the same
person who would later announce Amnon’s death to the King – v. 32-33).
However, Amnon managed in involving David, at least in obtaining his
approval for Tamar coming to him. It has been assumed that David should
have understood Amnon’s intentions, or at least his feelings towards his
sister, because of the words used in the text for the expression “let
[she] make me a couple of cakes”: the Hebrew terms used here for
“make” and “cakes” are both related by the root with the word “heart” (lev),
meaning as follows: the verb lavav properly means “to be
enclosed”, by implication “to unheart”, that is, “transport with love”,
and means also “make cakes”; then the term lavyivot, plural of
lavyivah, in its original sense is fatness, then “fried cake”.
Therefore, it seems to be implicit that Amnon requested specifically
some kind of “love cakes” as medicine for his sickness. David seems not
to be so concerned with his children’s feelings, otherwise he should
have noticed that Amnon’s wish for Tamar was something more than just
brotherhood. He was too busy with the affairs of the Kingdom and his
many wives to take care also of his many children. And David sent his
daughter to Amnon’s house, to cook for him as he requested.
would not listen to her voice; but being stronger than she, he forced
her, and lay with her. Then Amnon hated her with exceeding great hatred;
for the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with
which he had loved her. Amnon said to her, «Arise, be gone». She said to
him, «Not so, because this great wrong in putting me forth is [worse]
than the other that you did to me». But he would not listen to her. Then
he called his servant who ministered to him, and said, «Put now this
woman out from me, and bolt the door after her».
obsessed, and raped her. It is evident which kind of “love” he felt for
her, that he hated her after having sexually humiliated her. That was
not love at all, but pure lust. We are not concerned here about the
psychological aspects of Amnon’s behavior, why did he hate her more than
he desired her, as we are interested in Tamar; so we will not discuss
here the possible reasons of his reaction.
She had a
garment of various colors on her; for with such robes were the king's
daughters who were virgins dressed. Then his servant brought her out,
and bolted the door after her. Tamar put ashes on her head, and tore her
garment of various colors that was on her; and she laid her hand on her
head, and went her way, crying aloud as she went. Avshalom her brother
said to her, «Has Amnon your brother been with you? but now hold your
shalom, my sister: he is your brother; do not take this thing to heart».
So Tamar remained desolate in her brother Avshalom's house. But when
king David heard of all these things, he was very angry.
Tamar had a male
counterpart in history, who was an innocent victim as she was: Yosef.
It seems that
the only person who had really understood everything since the beginning
was Avshalom, as when he saw his sister, he asked “has Amnon been with
you?”. We know the outcome of this event, that Avshalom behaved as a
true man and avenged his sister, killing the vile Amnon. When David knew
all what happened, he “was very angry”, but we are not said that he did
anything to punish Amnon. Probably because he left this matter in the
Lord’s hands, as none better than he knew that the Lord would not leave
anybody unpunished. But Avshalom considered David’s lack of action as
lack of justice, indeed, this was what he blamed his father for when he
rebelled against him:
This is another
woman whose name is not mentioned, even though she was an important
person in her town. She lived in a hard time for Israel, which was ruled
by wicked monarchs who had departed away from God’s Law – the Kingdom of
Israel was separated from Jerusalem and the Temple, and God’s authority
was represented by His Prophet.
It fell on a
day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she
constrained him to eat bread. So it was, that as often as he passed by,
he turned in there to eat bread. She said to her husband, «See now, I
perceive that this is a holy man of God, that passes by us continually.
Let us make, Please, a little chamber on the wall; and let us set for
him there a bed, and a table, and a seat, and a lamp stand: and it shall
be, when he comes to us, that he shall turn in there». It fell on a day,
that he came there, and he turned into the chamber and lay there. He
said to Gehazi his servant, «Call this Shunammite». When he had called
her, she stood before him. He said to him, «Say now to her, Behold, you
have been careful for us with all this care; what is to be done for you?
would you be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the army?» She
answered, «I dwell among my own people».
This woman is
called “great”, meaning that she was important, of the nobility of the
land. It seems that Prophet Elisha did not identify himself when
travelling, and was not so noticeable as Prophet Eliyahu, who was
suddenly recognized by his extravagant look. This woman had a spiritual
knowledge – that kind of knowledge which is exclusive of women – by
which she understood that Elisha was a holy man. She was a believer in
the true God in a Kingdom which had no longer worshipped Him since their
separation from Judah, and considered it to be a blessing for her house
to give hospitality to this itinerant man of God and his servant.
«What then is to be done for her?» Gehazi answered, «Most certainly she
has no son, and her husband is old». He said, «Call her». When he had
called her, she stood in the door. He said, «At this season, when the
time comes round, you shall embrace a son». She said, «No, my lord, you
man of God, do not lie to your handmaid». The woman conceived, and bore
a son at that season, when the time came round, as Elisha had said to
We cannot blame her for this unbelief; also her foremother Sarah laughed when God Himself announced her the birth of Yitzhak. Not to have children in ancient Israel was a very serious problem, and for a barren woman it was unbelievable to become mother, even though it was told them by a Prophet of God. She was probably still young, but apparently she married a man much older than her, as the servant pointed out her husband’s age.
child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the
reapers. He said to his father, «My head, my head!» He said to his
servant, «Carry him to his mother». When he had taken him, and brought
him to his mother, he sat on her knees until noon, and then died. She
went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut [the door]
on him, and went out. She called to her husband, and said, «Please send
me one of the servants, and one of the donkeys, that I may run to the
man of God, and come again». He said, «Why will you go to him today? it
is neither new moon nor Shabbat». She said, «It shall be well». Then she
saddled a donkey, and said to her servant, «Drive, and go forward; do
not slacken me the riding, except I bid you». So she went, and came to
the man of God to Mount Karmel. It happened, when the man of God saw her
afar off, that he said to Gehazi his servant, «Behold, yonder is the
Shunammite: please run now to meet her, and ask her, Is it well with
you? is it well with your husband? is it well with the child?» She
answered, «It is well». When she came to the man of God to the hill, she
caught hold of his feet. Gehazi came near to thrust her away; but the
man of God said, «Let her alone: for her soul is vexed within her; and
the Lord has hid it from me, and has not told me». Then she said, «Did I
desire a son of my lord? Did not I say, Do not deceive me?» Then he said
to Gehazi, «Gird up your waist, and take my staff in your hand, and go
your way: if you meet any man, Do not greet him; and if anyone greets
you, do not answer him again: and lay my staff on the face of the
child». The mother of the child said, «As the Lord lives, and as your
soul lives, I will not leave you». He arose, and followed her.
apparently took a sunstroke and died. The son she had longed for but
whom she did not request as a reward for her hospitality: «Did I
desire a son of my lord? Did not I say, Do not deceive me?». It may
seem a reproach, but indeed it was a request this time, as if she had
said: “You granted me to have a son, now you have to manage that this
your miracle does not become vain”; it was a declaration of faith rather
than a reproach. Indeed, when her son died, she did not get ready for a
funeral, but for a resurrection. She knew perfectly what she was doing:
this woman had surely heard about Prophet Eliyahu, whom Elisha
succeeded, and his miracle when he lodged by the widow of Tzarefat:
had spoken to the woman, whose son he had restored to life, saying,
«Arise, and go you and your household, and sojourn wherever you can
sojourn: for the Lord has called for a famine; and it shall also come on
the land seven years». The woman arose, and did according to the word of
the man of God; and she went with her household, and sojourned in the
land of the Pelishtim seven years. It happened at the seven years' end,
that the woman returned out of the land of the Pelishtim: and she went
forth to cry to the king for her house and for her land. Now the king
was talking with Gehazi the servant of the man of God, saying, «Please
tell me all the great things that Elisha has done». It happened, as he
was telling the king how he had restored to life him who was dead, that
behold, the woman, whose son he had restored to life, cried to the king
for her house and for her land. Gehazi said, «My lord, O king, this is
the woman, and this is her son, whom Elisha restored to life». When the
king asked the woman, she told him. So the king appointed to her a
certain officer, saying, «Restore all that was hers, and all the fruits
of the field since the day that she left the land, even until now».
This noblewoman of Shunem acquired a privileged consideration by the Prophet, who warned her to take refuge in another land because famine was imminent. And as she believed the Prophet and did as he said, she did not lose anything: on the contrary, even a wicked king as Yehoram was, gave her back not only her possessions, but also what they produced during the seven years in which she was abroad.