Such a Bone Head

Harsh. Badly behaved. Worthless. Impossible to talk to. These adjectives are used about a character in a well-known narrative, but not about a low class halfwit. They do not describe an independent man but one who received care and kindness from others he didn’t know. They aren’t directed at a man whose wife was cranky and ugly and hard to tell which was worse; his wife was discerning and beautiful.

The man’s name was Nabal. In 1 Samuel 25 David’s men, who had been protecting Nabal’s shepherds, requested provisions from Nabal for a religious feast. Nabal famously and foolishly denied anything to David or his crew, taking the opportunity to express his disapproval of David’s mutiny. “There are many servants these days who are breaking away from their masters.” Unless Abigail had fixed it, David was readying to let the blood out of Nabal’s thick skull.

Nabal is one of those characters where truth is more striking than fiction. How could a man with a profitable business, with health enough to oversee the shepherding and shearing work, and with a devoted wife who was looking out for his best interests, how could that man be such a bone head? Why would anyone in such a blessed earthly position be so stupid? Because folly is the great spoiler. It doesn’t take anything special to be a fool, and fools spoil everything special.

Solomon said that a little folly is like a dead fly in the perfumer’s ointment (Ecclesiastes 10:4). For some it is the main ingredient.