What can we learn from Abigail? Across the expanse of time, and a different culture, we can still see the inspirational qualities of Abigail in the Bible. Her story has the power to speak truth into our lives today. She took a risk to diffuse a volatile situation and used everything she had to divert danger. Abigail was willing to use her voice for the benefit of others. She revealed herself to be a courageous, and prudent, woman of faith.
Where is the story of Abigail in the Bible?
Abigail’s story is found in the book of 1 Samuel, chapter 25, during the time that Saul was King of Israel. David had fled court life as Saul had threatened, on more than one occasion, to kill him. Samuel, the prophet, had anointed David, as chosen by God, to be the next king of Israel. Saul now regarded David as a threat to his own rule and reign.
The story sits in-between two incidences where David did the right thing and, when an opportunity presented itself, refused to promote himself by taking action against king Saul. David honoured and respected the king and trusted in God to protect and provide for him.
But the story of Abigail and Nabal highlights the danger of letting insult and anger cause us to act rashly, and to do something which we will later regret. Sometimes ‘doing the right thing’ can cause us to feel a little smug….
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!1 Corinthians 10:12
Who was Abigail?
Abigail was the intelligent and beautiful wife of a rich, but surly, and mean-spirited man called Nabal. They lived near Carmel, the place where king Saul had set up a monument in his honour. Her story emerges in the time after Samuel, the prophet, had died. Israel mourned the loss of his leadership and his influence.
Nabal and Abigail were both well informed of national events, of who David was and the possibility of who he would become, as the next king of Israel.
What was Abigail known for?
Nabal’s wealth was in his livestock, he owned three thousand sheep. In the springtime, before the heat of summer, the sheep would be sheared, for their comfort and also for the value of the fleeces. It was the season for sheep shearing, and by hand, this would be a huge task, involving as many men as possible. But the occasion of everyone gathering and working together would also be a festive time, a celebration.
David who was living in the wilderness, the Desert of Paran, heard that Nabal had started shearing his sheep. In the preceding months, Nabal’s shepherds had been herding their sheep in the locality of David and his men. During that time they had been protected and kept safe by the presence of David’s men. In this festive time, David thought he could seek Nabal’s favour and receive a blessing of hospitality. He sent ten of his young men to Nabal, with a respectful greeting, and a request for some consideration during this time of celebration.
Nabal responded to David’s message with abuse, and an outright refusal to bless or to share out of the abundance that he had. When David’s men returned with Nabal’s message, he responded in anger. He gathered together four hundred of his followers and told them to prepare for a fight – to strap on their swords!
Three Inspirational Qualities of Abigail in the Bible
A Woman of Wisdom
Meanwhile, one of Nabal’s servants who had seen and heard what had happened went to speak to Abigail and reported the whole incident. The servant realised the extent of Nabal’s insult and appealed to Abigail:
Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.1 Samuel 25:17
Abigail realised that action was required – and does not attempt to talk to Nabal. She takes the responsibility to act and to try to save the household herself. She loaded up donkeys with supplies to take as a gift for David and sends them ahead with the servants. Then Abigail follows behind.
Would you like to meet a very important person? Take a generous gift. It will do wonders to gain entrance into his presence.Proverbs 18:16 TPT
A Woman of Discernment
As she rides her donkey into a ravine she meets up with David, and his men. He had, in anger, just cursed Nabal and threatened to put to death all the males in his household, because he had insulted him. Of course, Abigail does not know this, but from the stories of David’s fighting exploits, she discerns his personality and character traits.
Abigail takes the initiative and getting off her donkey, bows down in front of David with her face to the ground. She speaks out, respectful and apologetic, asking David to listen to what she has to say. Abigail acknowledges Nabal’s offence, and his foolishness, in treating David in the way that he did. She had not met David’s men herself, and the implication is that she would have treated them differently. Now she has brought a gift for his followers.
A Woman of Fearless Faith
Abigail speaks what she prayerfully believes will be the result of her actions. In this act of faith, she speaks to David as if God has already answered her prayer.
And now, my lord, as surely as the LORD your God lives and as you live, since the LORD has kept you from bloodshed and avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal.1 Samuel 25:26
In these words, she acknowledges God’s perfect timing, that He has placed her directly in David’s path, and that now no further action will be taken.
Abigail shows humility as she asks David for forgiveness for her presumption in stopping him and in speaking to him in this way. She is aware of who David is and the Lord’s hand on his life, with his victories over the Philistines, and his destiny to become king after Saul. This may have become common knowledge among the people, in which case Nabal’s offence is even greater!
Abigail speaks prophetic words over David, that God will make a lasting dynasty for him. She shows concern for his integrity in the light of who he will become. That as king and ruler of Israel, he will not have needless bloodshed on his conscience and will not have avenged himself.
This is far from what she sees in front of her now – David, a fugitive, living in the wilderness, and seeking assistance from the wealthy. In these words Abigail displays her faith in God to accomplish and fulfill His word.
David’s Wisdom and Nabal’s Folly
David recognises God’s providence in this encounter with Abigail and praises God for sending her to meet him. David’s wisdom is in recognising his folly and being humble enough, even in front of four hundred of his fighting men, to change his course of action. He accepts Abigail’s gift and sends her home in peace.
Wisdom is recognising our folly, and being prepared to do something about it.Tweet
When Abigail returns home her husband is celebrating the end of shearing by holding a banquet. He is in high spirits and very drunk – folly on folly. Abigail wisely waits until the next morning to speak to him, to make him aware of the consequences of his actions and what she has done to divert disaster. When she tells him what has happened ‘his heart failed him.’ Scripture states that he became ‘like a stone,’ which implies that he had a massive stroke. He never recovers and ten days later he dies.
When David hears that Nabal is dead, he praises God who prevented him from doing wrong but has upheld his cause. Then David sends his servants to Abigail with a marriage proposal!
God’s Blessing on Abigail and David
God honours our integrity. When we commit our way to Him and trust in Him, even in those times when we don’t know or understand how things are going to turn out, He goes before us!
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.Psalm 37:6 – a psalm of David
Abigail had recognised David as the Lord’s anointed and honoured him. When faced with a disaster, not of her making, she used discernment, acted wisely, and spoke out with words of faith for her household. Now as one season of her life ends, God brings her a new beginning as a wife and mother, she comes to share in David’s kingdom….
Further Reading: How this man spoke out and by his actions saved the life of another.