Women in the Bible
The Resourceful Mediator
1 Samuel 25:14-35
Who was Abigail? By all accounts she was a beautiful, intelligent young woman who was in an unhappy marriage with her elderly scrooge like husband Nabal. He was rich but inclined to drink too much – his name means ‘a pouch for holding wine.’ She went to meet David, the designated future king of Israel, a handsome young man who had been declared an ‘outlaw’ by King Saul, just in time to avert a major disaster. David, after he had been refused help and most rudely insulted by her husband Nabal, was in fury riding with four hundred armed men to teach Nabal a lesson he would never forget. As soon as Abigail heard what her husband had done she realized the great danger her husband had put the whole household in, and hurriedly collected some of the stores David’s men had requested of her husband, and rushed to take them to meet David in the hope of appeasing his anger before it was too late.
David needed food for his men. The wealthy landowner Nabal refuses to help him point Blanc and to make things worse he then adds insult to injury to boot.
Nabal’s young wife Abigail in order to save her household from the wrath of David goes quietly behind Nabal’s back to collect food for David and his men.
When the following morning Nabal learns from Abigail how close he and his house came to death by the sword of David, he has a heart attack and he dies ten days later. Once David hears about the old soaks death he proposes to Abigail and Abigail willingly accepts David’s proposal.
The story explains how David acquired land in Judah, and how he acquired a new wife.
Abigail, Nabal and David
Abigail’s story began in about 1060 BC soon after the prophet Samuel died. He had been David’s main protector and counselor at the court of King Saul, and without him David is in real danger. David is a righteous and exceptionally talented young man, chosen by God and ordained and anointed by Samuel, the prophet, to become the future king of Israel and King Saul in all probability is aware of this. This potentially makes for an extremely uncomfortable situation. Ever since David slew Goliath his popularity among the people of Israel had grown. Saul had set David over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of Saul’s servants as well as the people as a courageous soldier and leader of men. Coming from the battles against the Philistines the women sang as they danced:
“Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands!”
(1 Samuel 18:7-9)
That song did it for Saul, as from that moment his heart became filled with jealousy and he wanted to kill David. After a murderous attempt on David’s life; David had no choice but to leave the court. (1Samuel 19:10-12). David had become a national hero and his fame had spread throughout the nation, yet because of King Saul’s hatred he was forced to become a fugitive and an outlaw who was constantly being pursued by the armies of Saul, his father in law, who wanted to kill him.
There is another character introduced at this point: Nabal, a mean minded wealthy land owner who lived up to his name, as he was a scrooge and a drunkard blessed with a beautiful young wife Abigail.
Abigail, David in the Bible: Shepherd with sheep in wild terrain David’s request
It is sheep shearing time, and the mood is similar to a harvest festival: boisterous, joyful and a festival with lots of food and wine. David, having been forced to flee for his life from King Saul’s court, is now living the life of a fugitive being hunted by the armies of Saul. He has become a legendary figure throughout the nation, and become a magnet for every malcontent in the land. Through his courage and exemplary leadership skills, as well as for his famed military prowess, he wins their undying loyalty and some six hundred of them join his banner.
David sends ten of his young men to go up to Nabal at Carmel to greet him in his name and to mention how David and his men have performed a valuable service to his shepherds and protected his large flocks, as none of them are missing all the time they have grazed here in Carmel. He then invites Nabal to check with his own shepherds if this is indeed the case. He then invites Nabal to grant his young men favor in his eyes, for we have come on a feast day. Please give whatever comes to your hand to your servants and to your son David. The young men waited for Nabal’s reply;
“Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants nowadays who break away each 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 25:10-11)
Judging by his reply Nabal showed that he knew very well who David was, as he knew he was the son of Jesse, and he also clearly implies that he was aware that David had been forced to break away from King Saul’s court. His reply in effect was a deliberate insult to David, the Lords anointed and future king of Israel.
One of Nabal’s young men was so concerned about Nabal rude rejection of David’s request that he rushed back to the homestead to speak to Abigail, and he told her how very helpful David and his men had been and how they had been a wall to them both by night and day all the time they were keeping the sheep. He warned Abigail that harm would come to his master and his household. He said I have come to you because it is hopeless to speak to your husband as he is such a scoundrel.
Abigail acts to ward of disaster and goes behind Nabal’s back
Abigail, understanding that her whole household is now at risk and she instantly goes to work to gather substantial supplies for David’s men. She knows her husband will refuse David’s request, even if it came from her, and that there is no time to lose in trying to reason with her husband. Thus without letting her husband know what she is doing; she hastily gathers up several donkey-loads of food – wine, bread, dried fruit and grain and sets out to meet David. Since David’s band numbers at least four hundred, the gifts of food are intended to show that she is of a different spirit to her husband. She is trying to avert a bloody confrontation that would be disastrous for both David and Nabal.
David with his four hundred men is on his way with murderous intent to Nabal’s house when he meets Abigail with her laden asses.
When Abigail saw David she dismounts quickly from her donkey, and falls to the ground, bowing low, begging forgiveness and taking full responsibility, as she says: “On me, my Lord, on me let this iniquity be.” She then asks David to take no notice of her husband Nabal, for as his name is, so is he Nabal [a drunkard]. She then explains that she did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent. Abigail then exhorts David, as the LORD lives, and since the LORD has held you back from coming to bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek harm for my lord be as Nabal. Her words contain a subtle rebuke to David, which almost certainly has not escaped his notice, as he later acknowledges it.
Abigail then continues in complete humility to ask David to forgive her for her trespass and offers the food she has brought as a present to the young men who follow him. She then ‘led by the Spirit’ of Yehovah utters the most wonderful prophecy:
“For the LORD will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord fights the battles of the LORD, and evil is not found in you throughout your days. “Yet a man has arisen to pursue you and seek your life, but the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the LORD your God; and the lives of your enemies He shall sling out, as from the pocket of a sling. And it shall come to pass, when the LORD has done for my lord all the good that He has spoken concerning you, and has appointed you ruler over Israel, that this will be no grief to you, nor offence of heart to my lord, either that you have shed blood without cause, or that my lord has avenged himself.”
(1 Samuel 25:28-30)
Once again in the final line of her speech we notice her loving concern for David, the future king of Israel, as she hints that if David was to avenge himself on Nabal’s household by his own hand, it would only result in him experiencing grief and offence of heart. In effect she implies that later on in life he would forever be reproaching himself for his rash action. She is reminding David of the Torah which states emphatically that:
“Vengeance is Mine!”
David is mightily touched by Abigail, and he clearly has got the point, as he says to her:
“Blessed is the LORD God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! “And blessed is your advice and blessed are you, because you have kept me this day from coming to bloodshed and from avenging myself with my own hand. “For indeed, as the LORD God of Israel lives, who has kept me back from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, surely by morning light no males would have been left to Nabal.”
(1 Samuel 25:32-34)
David then receives the food from her and sends her away with the following gracious words:
“Go up in peace to your house. See, I have heeded your voice and respected your person.”
(1 Samuel 25:35b)
When Abigail got home she found the house full of people and Nabal was holding a great feast, like the feast of a king, and he was as drunk as a lord. She realized there was no point in talking to her husband in that condition, so she decided to leave things until he had sobered up a bit the next morning.
Abigail & David - Abigail tells Nabal what she has done
In the morning she goes to him and tells him the consequences of the way he refused the young men David sent, and how he insulted the future ruler and king of Israel. She tells him that if she had not taken authority into her own hands by taking food supplies to David in order to avert a terrible disaster leading to the death of all the males in his household. As Nabal hears this tale he suffers a stroke: ‘his heart died within him and he became as a stone.’ About ten days later he dies.
On hearing of Nabal’s death, David immediately blesses the LORD for dealing with Nabal on his behalf and thanks Him from keeping him from the evil he intended. He then sends a proposal for marriage to the beautiful Abigail. When the servants of David had come to Abigail’s house with David’s proposal, she bowed her face to the earth and said:
“Here is your maidservant, a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.” So Abigail rose in haste and rode on a donkey, attended by five of her maidens; and she followed the messengers of David, and became his wife.”
(1 Samuel 25:41-42)
David was already married to Michel, King Saul’s daughter, but Saul in his hatred for David had taken his daughter back and given her in marriage to another man. In time Abigail gives birth to Chileab, the second of David’s seventeen sons. (See: 2 Samuel 3:2-5 & 2 Samuel 5:14-16).
After this we hear no more about Abigail. Nevertheless, even though we are only given a little snippet of her life’s story; we see enough of her character shine through in the inspirational account recorded for all time in the Book of Samuel.
What can we learn from Abigail’s story?
Abigail was married probably at a very young age to a husband chosen by her family. In Abigail’s case they chose Nabal, a wealthy land owner, who was probably much older than her, whereas she was sweet natured, young and very beautiful. She cannot be blamed for her parents’ choice. Nevertheless, Abigail by all accounts was a dutiful and loyal wife to Nabal, this despite the fact that he was mean minded and a drunkard.
Who was Abigail in the Bible?
Answer: Abigail was one of David’s wives. Her story is found in 1 Samuel 25. At the beginning of the story, Abigail is the wife of a wealthy man named Nabal who lived in a town called Maon in the wilderness of Paran, an area near the Sinai Peninsula. Abigail was “an intelligent and beautiful woman” (1 Samuel 25:3) who saved her husband and his household, prevented David, the future king of Israel from doing something rash, and secured an unexpected future for herself.
The story of Abigail in the Bible is an interesting one for many reasons. For one, Nabal is an obnoxious and rather bizarre character. For no apparent reason except his miserly nature, Nabal refuses David’s request for food and shelter. Despite knowing of David’s previous benevolence to his shepherds, Nabal churlishly refuses to aid David and his men as they tried to keep one step ahead of King Saul. David’s request was not unreasonable, but Nabal, who is described as “surly and mean” (1 Samuel 25:3), essentially spits in the faces of David’s servants, saying, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?” (verses 10–11)
David did not take this rejection well. He swore to kill every male associated with Nabal’s household (1 Samuel 25:22). He had strapped on his sword and was on his way with four hundred armed men (verse 13), when Abigail met him on the road. She offered David gifts of wine, grain, prepared meat, and cakes of figs. Then she fell down in front of David, pleading with him to show mercy to her husband, Nabal (verse 23). In her plea, Abigail shows that she understands Nabal’s character: “Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him” (verse 25).
In taking up Nabal’s cause and asking David to spare his life, Abigail proves herself to be a righteous, caring woman. At great risk to herself, she approaches David, an angry man bent on revenge, and intercedes for her husband, despite his bad behavior. Her request can be seen as a picture of Christ, who offered Himself as a sacrifice to save foolish sinners from the consequences of their own actions and who continues to intercede for us (Hebrews 7:25).
Abigail’s propitiation saves the day. David thanks to Abigail for staying his hand and repents of his own foolish and rash decision to slaughter Nabal’s household (1 Samuel 25:32–34). In fact, David sees Abigail’s coming to him as a blessing from God, and he sends her home in peace (verse 35).
Meanwhile, Nabal, insensitive to his wrongdoing and the danger that he had been in, holds a kingly feast for himself and gets drunk (1 Samuel 25:36). Abigail waits until the next morning for her husband to sober up, and then she tells Nabal everything—how David had been on his way to destroy him and how she herself had saved Nabal. Upon hearing this news, Nabal falls ill: “His heart failed him and he became like a stone. About ten days later, the LORD struck Nabal and he died” (verses 37–38). David then sends a message to Abigail asking her to become his wife, and Abigail responds affirmatively (verses 40–42).
Scripture says that we should not seek vengeance for ourselves. Rather, we should “leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19; cf. Deuteronomy 32:35). This is exactly what happened in Abigail’s story. David was prevented from taking revenge, and the Lord Himself took care of the matter in due time.
David and Nabal can be seen as representative of the two responses men have to Christ. Nabal does not repent or acknowledge his sin; neither does he thank Abigail for her willingness to risk her own life on his behalf. On the other hand, David’s heart is tender and repentant, and he calls Abigail blessed for her actions. David is spared the consequences of the sin he had planned, but Nabal dies in his sin.
In the end, Nabal’s wealth, his wife, and his very life are taken from him. Abigail—a savior full of beauty, wisdom, and discretion—enters a loving relationship with David. In Abigail, we have a small picture of the ultimate Savior, the Source of beauty and wisdom, who desires a loving relationship with us forever.
Compilation and comments © by Dr. David G. Sloss, PhD 2018 – Edited by Stephen J. Spykerman