Once upon a time there was a woman named Abigail. She was a woman of good understanding and beautiful appearance. She was married to a man named Nabal who was known for being harsh and evil in his doings. They lived in a place called Maon. Nabal was a very rich man who had his business in Carmel. One day Nabal was shearing his sheep in Carmel…
Sounds like the beginning of an interesting story doesn’t it? I thought so too when I first studied it in order to present it at a ladies’ meeting. I’d read the account many times before but had not really considered Abigail for all her worth. Turns out, she was quite a remarkable woman. Her noted character, attitude and behaviour were at times convicting for me and at other times, encouraging. I’d like to share the main points that I found from studying this unique woman. First of all, some background to the story…
From a request to rage
While the shearing was happening, David and his men were in the Wilderness of Paran. King Saul was still on the hunt to kill David. David sent some young men to Carmel to ask for supplies from Nabal and was careful to include that he and his men had not harmed but protected Nabal’s shearers. Nabal’s response to the request was uncooperative and selfish. He acted as if he didn’t even know who David was and refused to give them the supplies. David was not impressed with Nabal’s foolish answer and he became very angry. He made a choice to destroy Nabal.
Now Abigail enters into the narrative…
Recounting the event
One of the young men who worked for Nabal, approached Abigail and told her about David’s request and Nabal’s response. He told how David’s men had been very good to them—“they were a wall to us both by day and night”. But he said, David has chosen to do harm to our master and then said of Nabal—”for he is such a scoundrel that one cannot speak to him.”
1. Abigail was approachable and a good listener. She had the respect of the young men who worked for her husband. They knew who to speak to!
Rushing to the task
Then Abigail made haste and prepared an abundance of food—far more than just water, bread and grain (that Nabal had complained he could not possibly feed to David’s men) but figs and raisins as well and loaded them on donkeys.
2. Abigail was resourceful, wise and prudent. Her behaviour here reminds me of Proverbs 31:13-15 where the woman is noted for willingly working with her hands, bringing her food from afar and providing food for her household and others.
Riding on a donkey
The servants went ahead, according to Abigail’s instructions. She didn’t tell her husband what she was doing. Before long, she saw David and his men (who were prepared to not leave one male of all who belong to Nabal by morning light!) and she hastened to dismount from the donkey, fell on her face before David and bowed down to the ground.
3. Abigail was a clever planner. Again she is like the woman in Proverbs 31:10,11. She was doing this to save her husband from harm; “so he will have no lack of gain”. She was taking a risk going toward an angry David in this way but was confident and willing to do so. She was also humble and submissive in her attitude.
Abigail respectfully reports
She spoke to David asking him to let this iniquity be on her and to listen to what she had to say. She told him to not regard “this scoundrel Nabal….for I did not see the young men that you sent”. She presented her food to him and his men. She praised David. She recounted all that she knew about him. She referred to the incident with Goliath and the sling and also how Saul had been pursuing him. She believed he would be the future ruler of Israel and that what he chose to do now would make a difference later in his life.
4. Abigail was open, honest and respectful. She was willing to take responsibility and was able to express herself clearly. She must have thought about what she would say before she spoke! “She opened her mouth with wisdom” (Proverbs 31:26a)
5. Abigail was truthful but not hurtful. Proverbs 31:12 says “She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.” Abigail could have done nothing but she chose to work behind the scenes to protect her husband.
6. Abigail was socially aware. She gave God the glory for the events that had happened in the past and was trusting God with what He had said He would do in the future. Abigail acknowledged David’s trust in God and respectfully reminded David to look and think ahead.
David’s reaction and her report to Nabal
David is pleased with Abigail’s words and for the way her speedy actions stopped him from avenging himself with his own hand. He said “Go up in peace to your house. See, I have heeded your voice and respected your person.” Abigail went back home to find a merry and drunk Nabal holding a feast, like the feast of a king. She told him nothing, little or much, until morning light and when she did speak of the events, his heart died within him and he became like stone.
7. Abigail was wise, careful and astute. She was careful about WHEN to talk to her husband.
From rogue to regent
After ten days, Nabal died and David rejoiced that “the LORD had returned the wickedness of Nabal on his own head”. David then sent for Abigail to be his wife. She rose in haste, rode on a donkey and followed the messengers of David. She moved onto a new life where David soon after became King of Judah.
8. Abigail was wise and humble. She was quick to comply. Certainly she reminds me of Proverbs 31:30, 31. She was a woman who feared the Lord and her own works surely praised her in the gates.
Sometimes we find ourselves in situations like Abigail where we have events in our life that can either make us or break us. Even you men! But when these situations arise, how do we respond? Where and who do we go to for advice or assistance? What do others see: a sinful reaction or a biblical response? We have a responsibility to make wise choices because it won’t just affect us but others around us as well. I’m so glad my Bible is full of good examples of how to live. I certainly couldn’t do without it.
Scriptural References for this character study can be found in 1 Samuel 25:1-44 (and later references about Abigail’s life in 1 Samuel 27:3, 1 Samuel 30:5, 2 Samuel 2:2, 2 Samuel 3:3 and 1 Chronicles 3:1)
The MacArthur Study Bible (Word Publishing, 1997) was helpful in providing some background notes.