A couple of weeks ago I began a series of posts called Wonder Woman and chose different women throughout the Bible to highlight as wise home builders. It’s been a busy couple of weeks and this is the first moment I’ve had to resume the teaching. Today’s post is on Abigail in 1 Samuel 25.
Abigail has always been one of my favorite women of the Old Testament. It’s hard to understand how a gracious, generous, loving woman could marry a man who’s character matches his name…. fool. Maybe it was an arranged marriage… it seems unlikely that he was ever a catch that would’ve caught her eye!
1 Sam 25:3 says she was married to Nabal (meaning fool). Psalm 14:1 talks about a fool. The Complete Jewish Bible translation says: Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God”, they deal corruptly, their deeds are vile, not one does what is right, an evil doer) This pretty much summed up Nabal. According to the Midrash (collection of explanatory works on the first five books of the Bible), he believed his lineage entitled him and not David to succeed Saul as King. What does 1 Sam 25 tell us about Nabal and his wife Abigail? It says he is very wealthy, he has 3 thousand sheep and 1 thousand goats. He was hard hearted, oppressive, and evil in his deeds. It also tells us he is a Calebite. He and David are from the same tribe of Judah. Of Abigail, it says she is beautiful and a woman of good understanding. She definitely is a polar opposite of her husband!
In 1 Sam 25:4-8 we see David sending his men to appeal to Nabal for generosity towards them. They greet Nabal in David’s name and pronounce a blessing upon him and his household. They call Nabal’s attention to the fact that it is shearing time, reminding him that while his men were in Carmel they protected them and his sheep. They encourage Nabal to ask his servants to verify the truth of these words. They have politely asked Nabal for a gift, waiting patiently and expectantly for his response.
Nabal’s response: “Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants nowadays that break away every man from his master. Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be? “ (1 Sam 25:11).
David’s appeal for food was not an unreasonable request. This was during a sheep shearing feast (1 Sam 25:8) and it was known as a time of abundance, a time of sharing, and public celebration. At such times the Law of Moses instructed the Israelites to be generous with those who were not so fortunate. And since David’s men had contributed to Nabal’s well-being and wealth, David’s request is even more reasonable. But Nabal refused.
At first, it looks like he doesn’t know who David is, asking “who is David?” But obviously, he does as he refers to him as Jesse’s son. It also appears that he knows of the tension between David and Saul. Most likely he also knew of David’s fame as a giant killer and a war hero. But he refers to him as a beggar and a runaway slave. He had just insulted the region’s most powerful man. So the men return to David and report back to him Nabal’s response. David tells his men to grab their swords and he and 400 of his men go after Nabal.
Meanwhile, Abigail (who had been out) hears what her husband did and sets out to repair the situation. She quickly takes a gift of abundance to David (200 loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep already prepared, six quarts of roasted grain, a hundred clusters of raisins and 200 fig cakes.) She then asks him to blame her since she was not at home rather than blaming her husband since his inhospitable nature is part of his poor character.
Abigail was a Proverbs 31 woman…… she extends her hands to those in need, she speaks with wisdom, watches over the affairs of her household and definitely feared the Lord.
- She had good discernment. Verse 3 describes her as beautiful and having good understanding or discernment. In verse 17 the servants make her aware of the situation, confident that she will “know and see” what to do. This probably wasn’t the first time she had to smooth over things caused by her husband’s foolishness. In verse 33 David praises her for her judgment and perception in the situation. It was her good discernment that saved the lives of her household!
- She was courageous. She set off on her donkey to meet with David. She boldly approached David and 400 men with swords who were coming to her home to kill everyone… herself included! She stepped into a potential battle with a man who was known as a warrior! She didn’t think of herself but rather risked her life in order to plead for the lives of her household.
- She spoke well. Her words were full of grace (Colossians 4:6). Just like the Proverbs 31 woman, she spoke with wisdom and the law of grace… the law of chesed (covenant loyalty) was on her tongue. She spoke to David as no other woman ever had. She prophesied blessing and destiny over him. Reminding him of God’s care over his life and that he didn’t need to shed needless bloodshed and vengeance. She spoke well of God and well of David. She spoke the Father’s heart and it pierced David’s heart causing him to change his mind.
- She walked in humility. She humbled herself before David bowing down before him and apologizing for anything she had done to offend David. She took responsibility for her husband’s actions and asked that the blame falls on her.
- She was generous. She didn’t just provide for David’s need…. she abundantly provided food for them. And she did it quickly… she didn’t hesitate.
- She had the heart of a servant. In verse 23 when she saw David, she bowed low before him and fell at his feet. At the end of the story when David’s men at his request came to take her back to him as his wife, she again bowed low to the ground. Calling herself a servant… happy to marry David… willing to be a slave… and willing to wash the feet of the servants of her lord.
Abigail was sensitive to the heartbeat of God…. aligning herself with His plans for David. She saw David not as a runaway rebel (as her husband had) but rather as the anointed King of Israel. She knew it was only a matter of time until God’s promises over David’s life were fulfilled.
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