We find Abigail in 1 Samuel 25. The Bible doesn't tell us much about the life of Abigail (not to be confused with Abigail the sister of David (1 Chronicles 2:13-16)). Yet, as we read of her actions and dialogue, we gather an appreciation for her strong but humble character and spiritual belief, as well as developing a great respect for her as a person.
Abigail’s name means My Father is Joy (my father is the source of joy). We will see by the end, that her Father in Heaven truly was her source of joy.
1 Samuel 25:3 sets out the character mismatch of her marriage to Nabal,a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings;
Abigail was a solitary rose with a fragrant spiritual aroma but bound to a thorny bush.
Quite a few biblical marriages are difficult for our modern minds to figure out, and yet they existed. This is another one. For whatever reason, there don't seem to be children from this relationship. Possibly Nabal, due to the extent of his riches, may have been much older than Abigail and already had children.
Like most biblical women, her story is interwoven with those of others. For Abigail, the others were Nabal and King David.
1 Samuel 25, tells us the time is just after the prophet Samuel died. Samuel had anointed David as King to replace Saul who was disobedient but wouldn't relinquish the kingship to David. Instead, Saul continually pursued David to kill him. In this scene, David is still on the run from Saul and his army but remained very famous and popular with the people of Israel as a warrior, army general and righteous person.
Our story begins with Nabal, a shepherd from the lineage of Caleb, who had a beautiful wife, many servants, and an immense flock of sheep and goats. He also had critical incidents with King David and God that cost him his life.
When we think of shepherds, we instinctively think of gentleness and bravery, possibly because of David the shepherd boy. Nabal, however, was more like a wild pig, treating everyone he disrespected with contempt.
As the story goes, King David and his six hundred men, while still on the run from King Saul, came across Nabal’s shepherds as they were shearing his many sheep on Mt Carmel. David’s men became a protective wall between them in their necessary operation and any rustlers who might like a large herd for free, or some meat or wool for their families. We can use this illustration as a wall of righteousness around our own hearts if we stay in.
In return, David simply asked for some food and drink to sustain his troops. With the request in hand, the messengers approached Nabal on David’s behalf. As was Nabal’s surly nature, instead of recognising David as the righteous yet-to-be-crowned king and Israel’s Goliath-killer, he dismissed David as simply being King Saul’s disobedient servant on the run. Nabal clearly did not appreciate that if Goliath and the Philistines won the battle, they would have stolen all his livestock and probably killed him.
Nabal’s unrighteous dismissal caused a prompt and fierce reaction in David; a reaction we all know and have felt, and that is the quick rise of ‘righteous’ anger when a wrong is done. We should, however, realise that not all anger rising up within us is righteous.
As every action creates a reaction, David's proposed reaction was to kill Nabal and all the males of his household including his servants. What we need to realise is that in David’s eyes, and probably in the Lord’s eyes, Nabal wasn’t simply dismissing David, he was dismissing the King of Israel.
We might ask why David got his men to look after the flock in the first place? Why didn’t he simply send a messenger to Nabal, asking him whether he needed his large security team to assist, or not? This would have solved the issue before it started, wouldn’t you think?
David, as an experienced shepherd probably thought he would help the owner through this short period. Most of the workers would be on shearing duties which made rustling easier. How many times in our own lives have we seen someone with an urgent need, and without waiting for them to ask, have simply provided our support? Lots of people do it, and David did the same thing on a larger scale.
Abigail, a multi-millionairess due to her marriage, put herself at the forefront of Nabal’s upcoming life-and-death predicament. She quickly took the lead role and switched to damage control mode.
Abigail did not sit there scared and praying (however, I think praying was the first thing she did), but as a woman of prayer plus action organised her house team to swiftly prevent this unholy massacre.
1 Samuel 25:18-19 saysThen Abigail made haste, and took two hundred loaves, and two bottles of wine, and five sheep ready dressed, and five measures of parched corn, and an hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid them on asses. And she said unto her servants, Go on before me; behold, I come after you. But she told not her husband Nabal.
Abigail estimated sufficient food and drink, and would have counted it down to the bread roll to ensure enough suitable supplies reached David as quickly as possible. When we consider the number of supplies, it is a brilliant piece of production and logistics management.
Nevertheless, Abigail knew that delivering the rations would only solve half of the problem. She still needed to appease David's wounded spirit, which she did with humility, dignity and great wisdom and insight.
Upon meeting with David and his fast-paced band of warriors, Abigail made a statement so brave it was identical to that of Rebekah’s in her deception of Isaac with the Jacob-Esau saga. Genesis 27:13 records Rebekah’s statement,“Upon me be thy curse, my son: only obey my voice, and go fetch me them.”
Abigail’s, in 1 Samuel 25:24, reads”…Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be: and let thine handmaid, I pray thee, speak in thine audience, and hear the words of thine handmaid.
As a woman of righteousness, Abigail understood what taking iniquity upon her meant. Ecclesiastes 11:3 tell us of a consequence widely known throughout Israel, that where a tree falls, there it lies. This implied that if she died without repentance her iniquity would be on her own head.
Here is a heavy emphasis on Abigail's understanding of the unfolding drama. Even though David was in a field with his band of 'outlaws', Abigail treated the scene as if she were coming before the throne of the King of Israel, giving David the full respect he deserved.
David found her manner and the soundness of her apology too hard to resist and accepted it. A woman after his own heart, he possibly thought.
David, in return, thanked her for saving him from taking the vengeance of the Lord into his own hands. Verses 32-33 speaks of the depth of David's appreciation now he had calmed down. And David said to Abigail, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me: And blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand.
I believe Abigail faith in David's righteousness was so strong she believed he would accept her offerings. That same faith is in believers today when they come before the living God with their faithful petitions and offerings of prayer and thanksgiving.
At the same time that Abigail was saving his life, Nabal was customarily getting drunk with his servants to celebrate the completion of the shearing. Abigail thought it better not to inform him of his close call with death until he was sober. Abigail was wise, and one wonders how Nabal could ever have obtained such a well-rounded woman in the first place, capable of so much efficiency, strategy, foresight and persuasiveness, and who favoured righteousness. Maybe an arranged marriage?
In the morning, Abigail approached Nabal who was hungover, and informed him of how close he and his people came to being wiped out due to his stupidity. Nabal went into an immediate state of shock and died ten days later still in that state. His prosperity now worthless to him, he bypassed the judgment of the King of Israel only to be judged directly by God.
From widow to Queen
Upon hearing of Nabal’s death, David didn't waste any time. He sent an envoy to Abigail for her hand in marriage. He had seen her external beauty and had already been blessed by her internal beauty and wisdom, and didn't want to let this genuine gold nugget of a woman slip into someone else’s arms. Abigail wasted no time either, and said, yes, to become David's third wife!
Death for Nabal meant life for Abigail, who was finally free from this son of Belial. Now, the marriage vow to which she had stayed true was severed, allowing God's precious daughter to move on.
Nabal paid a high price for having a heart that wouldn’t soften under the right conditions, despite having this virtuous gem by his side daily. He could have learnt from her but thought he didn't need God. In place of repentance and meekness, he developed determined resistance, a condition many unsaved husbands find themselves with today.
Abigail, on the other hand, went from a deprived housewife to a rich widow to a Queen, all appointed by God.
Abigail, through her wisdom and understanding of God and people, saved many lives, and even that of her uncivilised husband. She also saved David and his troops from committing the murder of innocent people, as well as saving David personally from having a royal stain that would probably haunt him forever.
Here we have another Biblical woman who could quite easily have gone to the grave without our knowledge, except for her courage and faith.
Verses 24-31 shows us so much about Abigail faith, hopes and dreams. In this recitation from the heart, we find where her heart is. We read of her very personal unfeigned understanding of David’s life and troubles with Saul so far. She spoke of Saul’s pursuing of David, of David’s righteousness, of the uselessness of David’s enemies rising to fight him, and of her personal choice to try and keep his heart clean from needless killing.
By joining David in marriage, Abigail turned her back on her rich and luxurious life. Now, with Nabal gone, her life on the property may have been quite rewarding, with a few suitors no doubt coming to ask her hand in marriage. Yet, she despised all that to join David on the run, living in caves and camping out on the open with little but the clothes on her back and a few personal items. After living under Nabal's satanic regime, she now preferred righteousness, regardless of the lack of opulence.
It is these personal testimonies like Abigail's that give us hope and strengthen our own faith, and allow us to see what a righteous life looks like.
A side note: all the food items that Abigail brought out to David numbered 512, which is divisible by 8 the number of resurrection. 8 x 8 x 8 = 512. We see the trinity in these numbers as well resurrected favour with her Lord and master.