Once upon a time, there was a woman whose name was Abigail. Abigail not only was beautiful, but also very wise. Abigail was the apple of her parents’ eyes. They delighted to watch her grow in grace and knowledge, and gain the favor of those who knew her.
Naturally, when it came time to get married, Abigail’s parents tried to find a young man suitable for their daughter. They had heard of a young man in their village named Nabal, a man destined to inherit his father’s land and animals. This young man had seen Abigail; she was lovely and smart, and he quickly and enthusiastically agreed to her hand in marriage. Abigail’s parents were thrilled; their daughter’s future seemed secure with this presentable and seemingly charming young man.
But little did Abigail know. A young man may be handsome and courteous during the time of courtship, but once the marriage vows are spoken, a different person replaces the beaming groom. Nabal—you fooled ’em all.
Such was the case for Abigail. Her husband turned out to be an angry and foolish man. He was wont to indulge in heavy drinking and feasting with the men on his farm, spending lavishly on himself, for his own pleasures. Drunken merry-making was not an uncommon event, Abigail noticed.
Somewhat naïve in the ways of the world, and trusting, Abigail was confused and frightened at first. Her husband had been laboring hard and surely deserved some fun and relaxation. And surely he did not mean the angry words he sometimes spoke to her, nor did he intend to treat her roughly. He was simply exhausted, under a great deal of stress, and needed rest. Perhaps, thought Abigail, she herself could have done a better job of staying out of his way. Perhaps if she tried harder….
As time went on, however, the same scenario repeated itself. Abigail eventually realized the true nature of the man she had married: a self-centered, self-righteous you-know-what. He dealt harshly with her, and the servants of the farm were scared and distrustful of him. She soon understood the problem was not really her—it was him. She learned when to stay out of his way, and how to carry on during his terrible episodes. There were times she had to run the business of the homestead by herself, as her husband was either unreasonable or incapacitated. Over time, she earned the trust and respect of the servants of the household, as Nabal’s reputation of harsh behavior spread among the workers.
One day, the future king of the land, a certain Mr. David and his entourage happened to come into the territory. Nabal was occupied with sheep-shearing, so the future King David and his gang protected Nabal’s thousands of animals from thieves while they were grazing in the fields. They also protected Nabal’s farm workers from treachery.
Now it was also the time of a great feast, when people prepared great quantities of food and were especially generous to one another. Thus, the future King David felt confident to send a few men to approach the master of the house. David asked for no specific payment for the services and protection he rendered on the land but rather whatever it seemed fit to give.
Nabal, however, refused to share any portion of his food with them, claiming he did not know David and his men. In other words, Nabal did not even say thank you nor acknowledge David’s assistance or kindness. He even claimed that David could be a runaway servant of some other person. Whether or not Nabal did indeed know he was scoffing the future king, he responded with selfishness and impudence.
When David heard this response, he and 400 of his men started sharpening their swords.
Immediately, a servant of Nabal’s household headed straight to Abigail to tell her everything about this incident. The servant trusted Abigail. He wasted no time confirming David’s story—that David and his group were good men, protecting Nabal’s household, but Nabal reviled them, and now David and his men were planning to come after Nabal and the entire household. The servant called Nabal “a scoundrel” and said that no one could even speak to him.
Imagine that—a servant of the household apparently trusted Abigail enough to not only share this story but also refer to his master, Abigail’s esteemed husband, as a “scoundrel.” Upon hearing all this, what does Abigail do? Well, let me tell you. She surely doesn’t question the servant’s story, nor does she try to defend Nabal, nor is she offended. This whole exchange suggests that Nabal’s household knew his foolishness and that Abigail had proven to be a trusted confidant in a house with a tyrant. The servants had figured out where to go and who they could trust.
What does Abigail do? She takes major action.
She quickly dispatches orders: “Collect 200 loaves of bread already baked for the feast, take two skins of wine, grab 100 clusters of raisins, pack up 200 cakes of figs, take the five sheep already dressed” and has all of these, including some grain, loaded on some donkeys. She tells her servants to start walking toward David, and that she’ll bring up the rear. She wisely sends the gifts and provisions first.
She did all of this without Nabal’s knowledge. Abby’s got some gumption.
One can imagine the various scenarios that Abigail had to deal with, but this perhaps was the biggest of them all. She’d probably had to come to the rescue before, but this instance was a matter of life and death. She had no time for anything else but to take quick action.
Abigail came, riding on a donkey, approaching the formidable sight of David and his men, their swords girded and ready for action, angry and ready to fight. They weren’t amused. You see, David had told his men that Nabal had paid him evil for good and they would not leave a single male alive in Nabal’s house when they attacked that very evening. That same evening. Abigail didn’t spend time pondering what she should do. Lives were at stake. She acted, and she acted quickly.
Fear gripped Abigail’s heart as she saw the grim faces ahead of her, and she lifted up many prayers as she approached David.
When she neared him, she dismounted quickly and fell on her face, bowed before the future king and humbly begged for forgiveness for Nabal’s foolishness, calling him a scoundrel too. She told David she did not know of any of the happenings between David’s men and her household. She asked David to accept her gifts as she knows about him, about his ways, about his battles from the past and that the Lord is with him, and she knows he is to be the future king. She acknowledges who he is. She tells him that not attacking these men has kept his conscience clear, that he won’t be guilty of bloodshed.
The last thing David expected to see were donkeys laden with gifts and then a beautiful woman coming and bowing at his feet asking for forgiveness. How did he respond to this expression of humility, strength, and gentleness?
The future King David concedes. “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! And blessed is your advice and blessed are you, because you have kept me this day from coming to bloodshed and avenging myself with my own hand.”
David thanks God, giving credit where it is due. He confessed to Abigail that he would have killed each male in her house, but instead he tells her to go in peace and will accept her gifts.
Abigail’s words reach into David’s heart, assuage his anger, and turn his focus to the living God. She, as Nabal’s wife, and as a woman of strength and wisdom, possessed the ingredients necessary to reach into David’s mind and heart. David was a man who could be reasoned with, as we observe in this exchange. No one could convince Nabal to share from the abundance of his food, but David was able to be convinced not to murder an entire household!
Perhaps David was also impressed with Abigail—even taken with her. Perhaps he had compassion on her, knowing she lived with an abusive tyrant. In any case, the future King David succumbs to her words and finds alignment with God’s heart.
When Abigail returns, she finds Nabal drunk, hosting a feast fit for a king. She doesn’t tell him anything that night.
Obviously, Abigail knows what drunkenness looks like; she knew it was not the wisest time to bring this matter up in conversation. How often had Abigail found herself in the position of smoothing things over between Nabal and a servant? How often had the servants come to her in fear or in tears over Nabal’s treatment? Abigail protected and helped them, and they knew they had a voice with Abigail. She listened. She offered wise counsel and leadership to soften the strained relations between Nabal and his staff. She earned their trust and respect.
Abigail could have taken the role of the master’s wife, blinding herself to the injustice and going along with her husband’s foolishness. She could have cowered in fear. Yet Abigail chose a different path. When Nabal acted foolishly before, Abigail had been there to pick up the pieces and choose a path of wisdom.
But this—this was the biggest rescue yet. Abigail walked to the privacy of her own home and bowed her head in prayer. She thanked God for his mercy in sparing innocent lives in her house that evening. Relieved, she broke down in tears and wept.
How often, I wonder, had Abigail prayed for deliverance for herself? She was protecting everyone else and relied solely on God to protect her. She must have asked often for help, for guidance, and even for deliverance. Who was there to love Abigail, to see the value and beauty of her heart? Who was her confidant? Apparently, Nabal was not a man easily reasoned with. No one could talk any sense into him. He was proud, arrogant, selfish, and referred to as a “scoundrel” by his servants and his wife. His character was known, but so was Abigail’s.
Thus Abigail waited until morning when Nabal was sober and told him everything that transpired between David and his men. Nabal was so shocked and dumbstruck he had a stroke or heart attack and became like a stone, unable to speak. After 10 days, God struck him, and he died.
As fast as news could travel in those days, David heard the news that Nabal had died. Now David acted quickly. He sent a proposal to Abigail, asking her to marry him, and Abigail said yes.
Putting aside the fact that this guy already had three wives (come on, David, are you kidding me?), I think she knocked the sandals right off his feet! She was smart, courageous, righteous, quick, and Scripture says she was beautiful. She did what she needed to save innocent lives in the household of a man known for his evil ways and David knew a good thing when he saw it. What a stunning story!
Abigail, despite her difficult circumstances, chose a less likely path for a woman of her day. She spoke up in defense of her household, for those who did not have the position or power to speak and issue commands and directives. She was a wise and courageous leader. She spoke up for truth and righteousness. When she was needed, she spoke up and defended the defenseless.
In any time period or circumstance, we will see evil. But where there is evil, there will also be the opportunity to choose a wiser path, a more compassionate path, a path that aligns with the heart of God.