When I read the Old Testament stories in the Bible I see it like a movie in my head. As was the case last week when I was reading in 1 Samuel 25, the amazing story of Abigail. An intriguing woman.
An unhappy marriage
Little is known from her background, but one thing is sure: her father must have been happy with her, because her name means Father’s Joy. The Bible says she is a wise woman, a woman of great understanding and beauty. Her marriage to Nabal was probably arranged, because the story doesn’t really show a loving, happy marriage. Of Nabal was said: ‘the man was rough and evil in his doings; he was a Calebite. His very name means ‘fool and wicked’ and when we read the chapter we
see he was living up to that.
A foolish man
This is how the story unfolds… It is the time of sheep shearing, a festive time of thanksgiving and generosity. So when David – who is on the run for king Saul – hears that Nabal is at Carmel shearing his sheep, he feels confident to send out ten young men to ask Nabal for food. He tells the men to mention that David and his group had never harmed Nabal’s shepherds nor his flocks; they never missed a lamb, on the contrary, he had always protected them from the Amalekites, without ever asking any payment for it.
Nabal’s response on David’s request is very rude and insulting. He blatantly refuses to give any bread or meat, or even water to David and his men. On top of that he scorns David: ‘Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? Nowadays there are many servants breaking away from their masters. Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat to give it to men when I do not know where they belong?’
He is such a wicked man that one cannot speak to him.’
When the ten men report this to David, he gets very angry and summons his army of 400 to gird their swords and come with him to kill Nabal and his household. In the meantime one of Nabal’s young shepherds hurries to Abigail and explains to her what is happening and how good David and his men had always treated them. He urges her to do something about it ‘for evil is determined against our master and all his house’ he says. Apparently he is not afraid to say to her: ‘for he is such a wicked man that one cannot speak to him.’
A wise woman
Immediately Abigail comes to action by preparing an abundant amount of food, including five sheep, bread, wine, figs, raisins, grain, enough to feed David’s whole army. She doesn’t ask her husband’s permission. She knows exactly what to do to prevent this disaster. She sends her servants ahead with the food, laid on donkeys and she follows them shortly after that. When she sees David she kneels before him and pleads with him to spare the life of this foolish and wicked husband and of his household. Then she continues to say it must be the Lord’s prevention that he did not yet avenge himself and be guilty of bloodshed, because the Lord will certainly make him a sure house.
She knows the Lord will make him ruler over Israel.
She warns him not to pursue vengeance for himself, in order for not having bloodshed on his hands, because she knows the Lord will make him ruler over Israel. And then she adds: ‘When the Lord has dealt well with my lord, then earnestly remember your handmaid.’
David is impressed by her wisdom and grants her petition. He retreats his army and Abigail goes back home to her unhappy marriage. That evening she decides not to tell Nabal what she did, because he is holding a feast and gets very drunk. When she tells him the next morning he has what we would call a stroke and dies ten days later. When David hears that Nabal is dead, he thanks the Lord that He kept His servant from evil through the pleading of Abigail. David sends his servants to Abigail and asks her to be his wife. She consents and becomes his third wife, after Michal and Ahinoam.
The Lord kept His servant from evil through the pleading of Abigail.
Be your Father’s joy
Abigail is hardly ever mentioned again in the Bible, but she certainly is an example to us. She saved the life of her wicked husband and the whole household. Moreover, she prevented that David would avenge himself and as the future king would have blood on his hands. This is what I read in the footnote of 1 Samuel 25 in the Amplified Version:
‘Abigail, the woman whom God has specifically held up as a pattern of right behavior in an unfortunate marriage… Never let the disposition of one mate hinder the devotion and grace of the other. Never let the difficulties of your home lead you to step down. Do not step down to the level of your circumstances, but lift them to your own high calling in Christ.’
As Paul states in Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world [or to your circumstances], but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
And I want to add to this: Abigail really lived up to the name that was given to her: my Father’s joy!
Note: If you are struggling with your marriage, please feel free to contact us.
Read also: How to be a strong woman