David and Abigail
This is the second lesson in the section of this book that looks at the life of King David as we examine various kings in the Bible to not only familiarize ourselves with their lives but also to learn something about our own lives from studying theirs.
The story of King David's relationship with Abigail not only teaches us about him but also reveals what is pleasing to God in a man or woman who claims to be a believer.
David and Abigail - I Samuel 25
Abigail's story is neatly laid out in I Samuel 25.
1 Then Samuel died; and the Israelites gathered together and lamented for him, and buried him at his home in Ramah. And David arose and went down to the Wilderness of Paran. 2 Now there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel, and the man was very rich. He had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. And he was shearing his sheep in Carmel. 3 The name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail. And she was a woman of good understanding and beautiful appearance; but the man was harsh and evil in his doings. He was of the house of Caleb.
The first verses situate us as far as time is concerned. David has been anointed king and heir to Saul's throne because God was displeased with Saul's disobedient spirit. During this time, however, Saul continues to reign over the land and maintains an insane jealousy of David and his favor from God and the people. We know that Saul continually seeks to kill David thinking this will preserve his hold on power. As a result, David is forced to stay on the run with his band of volunteers dodging Saul's troops.
David and his men survive in the countryside by providing protection to small villages against foreign raiders and thieves. In return for this protection, he is provided food and supplies as well as a network of informers who protect him from the king and his many efforts at capturing him.
This is the situation as Samuel, the prophet and judge who anointed both Saul and David, dies. David, feeling the loss, heads out into the desert to hide from Saul and plot out his next move. We see David approach this rich business man for a share of the profits made possible because of the protection afforded his employees as they worked with the animals. This was not extortion, there was no threat here. Without David's protection, this man would have lost men and animals to thieves and raiding parties. David simply came to claim a share of the profits and to celebrate with the others a good and profitable day.
9 So when David's young men came, they spoke to Nabal according to all these words in the name of David, and waited. 10 Then Nabal answered David's servants, and said, "Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants nowadays who break away each one from his master. 11 Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers, and give it to men when I do not know where they are from?" 12 So David's young men turned on their heels and went back; and they came and told him all these words. 13 Then David said to his men, "Every man gird on his sword." So every man girded on his sword, and David also girded on his sword. And about four hundred men went with David, and two hundred stayed with the supplies.
Note the insult in Nabal's response to David's request:
- He doesn't plead poverty or inconvenience.
- He knows who David is (son of Jesse) and his position, but he refuses to acknowledge David's anointing by God.
- He says that David is nothing more than a runaway slave, not the future king of Israel.
- Nabal even dismisses David's efforts to help him and refuses to give him any food or reward.
David's men return and tell David of this insult. David straps on his sword and prepares horsemen to go and destroy Nabal and his entire household. Note here that there is cause for David to be angry, but killing everyone in Nabal's house is not justified. Nabal is a fool, but being a fool is not a capital offense.
In doing this thing David's work in helping and protecting the people does turn into extortion. In effect, he is saying, "If you don't pay me, I'll kill you."
14 Now one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal's wife, saying, "Look, David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master; and he reviled them. 15 But the men were very good to us, and we were not hurt, nor did we miss anything as long as we accompanied them, when we were in the fields. 16 They were a wall to us both by night and day, all the time we were with them keeping the sheep. 17 Now therefore, know and consider what you will do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his household. For he is such a scoundrel that one cannot speak to him." 18 Then Abigail made haste and took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep already dressed, five seahs of roasted grain, one hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs, and loaded them on donkeys. 19 And she said to her servants, "Go on before me; see, I am coming after you." But she did not tell her husband Nabal. 20 So it was, as she rode on the donkey, that she went down under cover of the hill; and there were David and his men, coming down toward her, and she met them. 21 Now David had said, "Surely in vain I have protected all that this fellow has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belongs to him. And he has repaid me evil for good. 22 May God do so, and more also, to the enemies of David, if I leave one male of all who belong to him by morning light."
The writer now focuses on Nabal's wife as she finds out what her husband has done and begins the attempt to save him, her household and herself.
The writer explains that David's request was just, and Nabal's response quite rude and ungrateful. So Abigail sends a large provision of food (which Nabal should have done) and prepares to go to David to plead their case in person. Note also how "self-righteous" David feels (verse 22).
23 Now when Abigail saw David, she dismounted quickly from the donkey, fell on her face before David, and bowed down to the ground.
Abigail greets him with great respect, respect reserved for a king.
24 So she fell at his feet and said: "On me, my lord, on me let this iniquity be! And please let your maidservant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your maidservant. 25 Please, let not my lord regard this scoundrel Nabal. For as his name is, so is he: Nabal is his name, and folly is with him! But I, your maidservant, did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent."
Note also how she takes the blame for the negligence and insult towards David and his people. By taking responsibility, she makes David deal with her now. This was not manipulative on her part, some of the blame did lie with her:
- She could have made the gift in advance, she had the power to do so.
- She either was not informed of David's work or had overlooked the payment.
Either way, she is here now, takes the blame now, makes things right now, and is ready for the consequences now.
26 Now therefore, my lord, as the Lord lives and as your soul lives, since the Lord has held you back from coming to bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hand, now then, let your enemies and those who seek harm for my lord be as Nabal. 27 And now this present which your maidservant has brought to my lord, let it be given to the young men who follow my lord.
Abigail shows both her submissiveness and her intelligence as she puts the issue into perspective for David. She appeals to him, not to take his own revenge. This would be wrong. What her husband did was wrong, she admits it, but taking revenge would make two wrongs. She says, in effect, Nabal is so evil he's not worth it. Allow the gift I have brought to cover the offense.
28 Please forgive the trespass of your maidservant. For the Lord will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord fights the battles of the Lord, and evil is not found in you throughout your days. 29 Yet a man has risen to pursue you and seek your life, but the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the Lord your God; and the lives of your enemies He shall sling out, as from the pocket of a sling.
Unlike her husband, she recognizes his anointing as king and praises his future rule. She also acknowledges her loyalty and belief in him, unlike her husband who followed Saul and his rule.
Note also her use of the imagery of a sling-shot in dealing with his enemies, something David would recognize and appreciate (giant-killer). That's really what this was all about: Nabal didn't believe.
30 And it shall come to pass, when the Lord has done for my lord according to all the good that He has spoken concerning you, and has appointed you ruler over Israel, 31 that this will be no grief to you, nor offense of heart to my lord, either that you have shed blood without cause, or that my lord has avenged himself. But when the Lord has dealt well with my lord, then remember your maidservant."
Here Abigail makes her second appeal, this time based on David's future leadership. She points out that when he does ascend to the throne, it shouldn't be with innocent blood on his hands. She also asks him to remember her when all of this comes about.
32 Then David said to Abigail: "Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! 33 And blessed is your advice and blessed are you, because you have kept me this day from coming to bloodshed and from avenging myself with my own hand. 34 For indeed, as the Lord God of Israel lives, who has kept me back from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, surely by morning light no males would have been left to Nabal!" 35 So David received from her hand what she had brought him, and said to her, "Go up in peace to your house. See, I have heeded your voice and respected your person."
Have you ever dodged a bullet by listening to a friend's advice?
- Don't marry that person.
- Don't invest in that stock.
- Don't by that car.
The relief and joy you feel when the advice turns out to be true. This is how David feels and reacts when he realizes that he could have wrecked his entire future with one rash act provoked by a fool. David acknowledges that she is sent by God. He is amazed, delighted, relieved and merciful.
36 Now Abigail went to Nabal, and there he was, holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. And Nabal's heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk; therefore she told him nothing, little or much, until morning light. 37 So it was, in the morning, when the wine had gone from Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became like a stone. 38 Then it happened, after about ten days, that the Lord struck Nabal, and he died.
As it is written, "Revenge is Mine sayeth the Lord." (Deuteronomy 32:35)
And so it is with Nabal as he dies from a heart attack after a drunken party. It wasn't that he was just a fool, it was that he treated God's servant badly, that's always dangerous, then and now.
39 So when David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, "Blessed be the Lord, who has pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal, and has kept His servant from evil! For the Lord has returned the wickedness of Nabal on his own head." And David sent and proposed to Abigail, to take her as his wife. 40 When the servants of David had come to Abigail at Carmel, they spoke to her saying, "David sent us to you, to ask you to become his wife." 41 Then she arose, bowed her face to the earth, and said, "Here is your maidservant, a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord." 42 So Abigail rose in haste and rode on a donkey, attended by five of her maidens; and she followed the messengers of David, and became his wife.
David rejoices that God has avenged him and that he has been spared making a terrible mistake. His offer of marriage to a rich widow also solves his food and supply problem and guarantees that he won't be put into this position again.
Note how beautifully Abigail answers his proposal, with confidence and submission, true to her nature as a noble woman of her time. She was David's second wife and with her he had one son named Chilean (Daniel).
This is a wonderful story on many levels, but I think it especially develops the character of what a godly woman can aspire to be. When we look at Abigail in this passage, we see several characteristics that are quite appealing in a woman, aside from her great beauty:
1. She was decisive
Once she knew the problem, she made a decision and set her entire household into action.
2. She was brave
- She didn't know what to expect when she met David. He could have just killed her on the road.
- One woman vs. 400 armed men.
- Bravery is facing your fear, instead of running away from it.
3. She was wise
- Without being dishonest or manipulative, she showed that she could respond to a foolish husband or a young king.
4. She was diplomatic
- Her approach and attitude toward David was respectful without being cloy or syrupy.
- She talked to a king with confidence and even with a little aggressiveness.
5. She was pure
- Abigail didn't depend on sex-appeal or beauty to win David over.
- She remained faithful to her husband, even if he was insufferable.
6. She was insightful
- Notice how she put her finger on the real danger.
- The disaster awaiting was David's potential sin in taking his own revenge. She made him see this, despite his hurt pride and anger.
7. She was honest
- She was honest with both David and her husband.
- She acknowledged her husband's fault and her responsibility with David.
- She also told her husband the truth about what she had done. Both these situations involved great risk for her.
8. She was humble
- Her attitude was filled with meekness and submissiveness with both men, David and Nabal.
- Note how none of her other qualities are diminished in any way by her humility. As a matter of fact, her other virtues are heightened when seen alongside her submissiveness.
9. She was patient
- Let's face it, she was married to an evil boor of a man.
- She had no children.
- She could have cried, she could have left, she could have conspired to have him killed. After all, David was on his way to do just that.
- She could have pleaded for her own life (kill him, let me live), but she didn't, she saved her husband and household's lives.
- She didn't excuse him, she worked with what she had, patiently waiting upon the Lord.
10. She was truly spiritual
- Her appeal to David was based on scripture, Deuteronomy 32:35, Revenge is mine...
- Her encouragement to David was an acknowledgment of God's choice of David as king, something her husband could not see.
- She knew the Word, the Lord, the Lord's anointed and was a willing servant of all three.
I want you to note that Abigail's beauty was not listed as one of her qualities in my observation of her. So many women today focus so much of their time, effort and attention on beauty rather than the things that Abigail possessed which surpassed her beauty and made it a non-issue. You see, Abigail's beauty did not factor into what:
- Saved her life and the life of her household.
- Drew her to David. In praising her, David never mentioned her beauty.
- It wasn't beauty that made her a useful and pleasing servant of God.
Lessons from Abigail
There are some important lessons we can learn from Abigail, not just lessons for women, but lessons for everyone.
1. God can use you no matter who you are married to
Abigail had an unhappy marriage, but her goal was not how to have a good marriage or how do I get out of her marriage. Her goal was, "How do I serve the Lord despite the marriage I am in?" Many people think only about the marriage and how to solve the "problem." They go for counseling to learn:
- How do I change my mate?
- How do I get out without feeling guilty?
- How do I find a new partner?
If people concentrated more on how they could personally be more focused and devoted to the Lord in love and service:
- This would help their existing marriages.
- This would help single people get their priorities straight.
- This would prepare unmarried people to succeed in subsequent marriages.
I mean, what good is finding a new partner for a few years if you lose your spiritual focus and even your soul?
The lesson Abigail teaches us is that it is possible to be focused on God, fruitful in His service and growing spiritually while being in a terrible marriage.
Another lesson Abigail teaches us...
2. God's woman can function in any situation
In those times women were not formally educated, had no legal rights and no real social position. Despite these obstacles, look at what Abigail was and what she did. Her devotion to God and knowledge of His Word enabled her to deal with a complex negotiation and become an inspiration to generations after her.
- What man wouldn't want to have this kind of wife today?
- What corporation wouldn't want to hire this person today?
- What home wouldn't benefit from such a one as mother?
Modern society puts down home-makers and religious women as marginal, without impact or influence. But God's woman has:
- The spirit of God to strengthen her.
- The Word of God to guide her.
- The promise of God to encourage her.
- The family of God to surround her.
God's woman can function dynamically in every situation, whether it be in the home or in the outside world - she is always God's woman.
Final lesson from Abigail...
3. Abigail's beauty was a bonus
Yes, Abigail was beautiful but:
- This is not what saved the day.
- This is not what impressed David.
- This is not why her story is in the Bible.
We are always first impressed by beauty, we easily focus on beauty, but in the long-run we find out that beauty doesn't accomplish anything, doesn't really produce anything.
Abigail saved her family, her soul, the future king's integrity because she was wise, insightful, humble, etc., not because she was beautiful. You see, we remember beauty but we don't admire it. It doesn't inspire us. Abigail shows women how to deal successfully with men without relying exclusively on outward beauty.
In the end, David married a beautiful woman, but he didn't marry her because she was beautiful.