Her character: Generous, quick-witted, and wise, she is one of the Bible's great peacemakers. Her sorrow: To have been mismatched in marriage to her first husband. Her joy: That God used her to save lives, eventually making her the wife of David. Key Scriptures:1 Samuel 25:2-42
Blockhead, numskull, nincompoop—the words strike us as both harsh and humorous. But any woman married to a man worthy of such labels would have little to laugh about.
Abigail must have felt suffocated, having been paired with just such a husband. Her father may have thought the wealthy Nabal was a catch, little realizing the man's domineering attitude might one day endanger his daughter's future. But fools and ruin often keep close company, as Abigail discovered.
For some time Abigail had been hearing of David: his encounter with Goliath, his ruddy good looks, his prowess in battle, his rift with King Saul. Recently, he had become her near neighbor in the Desert of Maon, west of the Dead Sea, where he had taken refuge from Saul. Since David had arrived with his six hundred men, marauders kept clear of her husband's livestock, and Nabal's flocks prospered as a result.
But when David sent ten of his men to ask Nabal for provisions, Nabal, who had grown richer by the day thanks to David, nearly spit in their faces. "Who is this David? 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?" Rich though he was, Nabal had just foolishly insulted the region's most powerful man.
Aware of their danger, one of the servants ran quickly to Abigail, begging her to intervene. As Nabal's wife, she must have suffered his arrogance every day of her life. But this time his folly jeopardized the entire household. Wasting no time, and without a word to her husband, she loaded a caravan of donkeys with gifts for David and his men—freshly baked bread, skins of wine, red meat, and various delicacies—and took them to David's camp. As soon as she saw him, she fell to the ground at his feet, making one of the longest speeches by a woman recorded in the Bible:
"My lord," she pleaded, "let the blame be on me alone. May my lord pay no attention to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name is Fool, and folly goes with him. But as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my master sent. Please forgive your servant's offense, for the Lord will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my master, because he fights the Lord's battles. Let no wrongdoing be found in you as long as you live. Even though someone pursues you, your life will be held securely by the Lord your God. But the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling."
Her well-chosen words, of course, reminded David of his success against Goliath, erasing his anger and enabling his gracious reply: "Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. If you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak." In addition to saving lives, Abigail's wisdom had spared David from sinning, reminding him that vengeance belongs only to God.
After her encounter with David, Abigail went to Carmel, where Nabal had been shearing his sheep and celebrating his good fortune. Once again, she found him playing the fool. Oblivious to danger, he was drunkenly presiding over a festival banquet, like a great king. She waited until morning, when he was sober, to tell him what had happened. As soon as Nabal heard the news, his heart failed. Ten days later he was dead.
Arrogance, greed, and selfishness had conspired to rob Nabal of any good sense he might once have possessed. Thinking himself a great man when he was only a small one, he lost everything. Abigail was Nabal's opposite, a woman whose humility, faith, generosity, intelligence, and honesty made her wise. Rather than putting others at risk by an ungoverned tongue, her gracious words saved lives.
When David heard the news of Nabal's death, he sent word to Abigail, asking her to be his wife. This time it was Abigail's choice whether or not to marry. She accepted, becoming David's third wife and eventually mother to his second son, Kileab.
Unlike Michal, who had been a mere pawn on a chessboard, Abigail was a woman who rose above her circumstances to change the course of events. Though Scripture doesn't offer details regarding her daily life, it is logical to suppose she was a good wife to Nabal. Even her entreaty to David was the act of a good wife. Perhaps her marriage was the catalyst for her character, helping her to cultivate contrasting virtues to Nabal's vices. Regardless, through her quick-witted action, she spared her husband's life and goods. It was God, not Abigail or David, who paid Nabal back for his arrogance and greed.
Abigail was a courageous woman, who made the best out of a difficult situation. She knew the cultural principles at work here: Nabal—out of just plain good hospitality and out of gratitude for the protection David's men had provided—should have given David's men what they asked for. Yet when David sought vengeance, Abigail interceded, realizing that vengeance wasn't something that was up to David—or her—to give.
Years of living with Nabal did not seem to have made Abigail bitter, nor had the years caused her to look for ways to get back at him and seek revenge. The Lord honored Abigail for her consistency, her generosity, and her willingness to continue on the right path, no matter how difficult. In the same way, God continues to honor those who are faithful even when faithfulness brings difficulty and hardship and pain. He doesn't promise to always deliver, as he delivered Abigail, but he does promise to go with us.