- a woman who treated people with respect, even in bad circumstances
- a wife whose clear thinking and quick actions saved many lives
- a woman who earned a good reputation as a peacemaker
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. —Proverbs 25:11
The name Abigail means “cause of joy.” The Scriptures don’t say why Abigail—a beautiful, joyful woman—would marry a foolish brute like Nabal. Theirs was an unequal match—perhaps an arranged marriage in which Abigail had little to say. Commentators suggest such might be the case because Nabal was very rich (1 Samuel 25:2). Abigail dealt with her unhappy marriage by conducting herself with respect, avoiding confrontation with her husband, and speaking persuasively.
It was customary at sheep-shearing time for the master to host a celebration for his household and servants. Nabal had made festive preparations for his household and his shearers (verse 11). David and his band of 600 men lived in the hills, hiding from Saul. King Saul feared David would take the kingdom away from him, so he tried repeatedly to kill David. While living in the hills, David’s men unofficially protected Nabal’s herdsmen and flocks from thieves and wild animals. David requested a share of food during the shearing celebration for protecting Nabal’s herds and servants— a courtesy that a generous man would have gladly given.
STORY AND STUDY
(This story is found in 1 Samuel 25.)
Nabal was very rich. He had a beautiful wife, thousands of sheep and goats, extensive property and many servants. But he was not a happy man. His name means “foolish,” and that’s how Nabal lived his life: foolishly. He had a bad reputation for being harsh and drunken. His servants and his wife, Abigail, knew he was a real scoundrel of a fellow, very difficult to live and work with.
She acted in the best interests of her husband and his business, even when it was not agreeable to do so.
Abigail must have endured a terrible marriage, but she stayed with her husband until he died. Understanding her supportive role in life, she acted in the best interests of her husband and his business, even when it was not agreeable to do so.
Abigail was wise, and the servants talked with her when they were afraid to talk to Nabal. A servant’s life in his household was never pleasant, but it suddenly turned catastrophic when Nabal insulted David, the future King of Israel. With the lives of Nabal and his servants hanging in the balance, Abigail’s quick action and respectful words averted disaster.
David and his fugitive band of men were hiding from King Saul in the hills near Nabal’s grazing lands. David’s men kept an eye on Nabal’s herds and shepherds. With little else to do than avoid Saul, David’s men protected Nabal’s flocks from bandits and wild animals. This was greatly appreciated by the herdsmen as they explained to Abigail: “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. They were a wall to us both by night and day, all the time we were with them keeping the sheep” (1 Samuel 25:15-16).
When it was time to shear the sheep, Nabal prepared enough food to feed his shearers in a celebration, as was the custom at that time. David, knowing the tradition and having watched over Nabal’s flocks during the season, sent a reasonable request to Nabal: “Now I have heard that you have shearers. Your shepherds were with us, and we did not hurt them, nor was there anything missing from them all the while they were in Carmel. Ask your young men, and they will tell you. Therefore let my young men find favor in your eyes, for we come on a feast day. Please give whatever comes to your hand to your servants and to your son David” (1 Samuel 25:7-8).
Nabal answered the request with an insult: “Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse?” (verse 10). He accused David of being a run-away slave, someone of no importance, and certainly not a man with whom he would share his food. He likely knew King Saul was after David and his men. Nabal probably sided with King Saul and that influenced his rough answer to David.
David was angry at Nabal’s rudeness. He and his men strapped on their swords, mounted up and headed out, with the intention of leaving none of Nabal’s men alive. “Surely,” said David, “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” (verse 21).
Abigail saves the day
Nabal’s shepherds hurried to Abigail, warning of David’s approach with armed men. Abigail quickly put together an impressive gift of food, loaded it on donkeys and headed out toward the oncoming troops. At the sight of David, Abigail “dismounted quickly from the donkey, fell on her face before David, and bowed down to the ground” (verse 23). In this humble, respectful manner, she appealed to David’s honor not to let a villain like Nabal cause David to take vengeance on the entire household. Carefully choosing her words, Abigail presented the generous gift to David’s men. She respectfully told David that his reputation as future ruler of Israel shouldn’t be blemished by shedding innocent blood in the affair with Nabal.
Abigail calmed David’s anger. He thanked her for preventing him from taking revenge on Nabal. David said that Abigail’s clear thinking and courage was a blessing to him and to all Israel: “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 from avenging myself with my own hand” (verses 32-33).
In a surprising turn of events, Nabal died of a heart attack 10 days later, and David made Abigail his wife. God rewarded Abigail’s gracious conduct by releasing her from Nabal and blessing her with a happier future.
Knowing God’s word, Abigail made good decisions for her husband, for David, for the servants and ultimately for herself.
There are many lessons we can learn from the story of Abigail, Nabal and David. One important lesson involves the way Abigail dealt with difficult people and difficult situations. She did not become angry and lose her temper. She didn’t fight with her husband. She tried to make things better. Knowing God’s word, Abigail made good decisions for her husband, for David, for the servants and ultimately for herself. God rewarded Abigail for working respectfully with other people.
If you saw David and his men riding toward Nabal’s place, what would they be wearing (because they are fighting men)?
What would have happened to Nabal and his men if Abigail hadn’t acted so quickly and wisely?
Which of the 10 Commandments talks about being respectful to parents? What word does God use that is similar to the word respect? (See Exodus 20:12.)
1. Have a discussion about words, actions, and reactions that cause anger. Demonstrate a tone of voice, a facial expression, a body stance that might arouse anger. Demonstrate words and body language that might calm down an angry situation. Sometimes your right words and actions will calm an angry person. However, even when you try the best you can, you won’t always be a peacemaker like Abigail. But if you are careful, you won’t make a bad situation worse.
2. Do you think Abigail sent enough food for 600 men? (Reference 1 Samuel 25:18.) How many men would share each loaf of bread? How would they have cooked the sheep? Why were raisins and figs good energy food for David’s troops?
3. You have choices to make now and as you grow up. What kind of person do you want to be? Is it important to have a good reputation? Nabal had a bad reputation because he didn’t think carefully about what he said and how he treated people. Abigail had a good reputation. She was kind and the type of person everyone wants to be with. How did Abigail show kindness? How did Nabal treat people rudely?
ACTIVITY: DESCRIPTIVE WORDS
How would you like people to think about you? Choose two words you would like people to use when describing you. Write each word on a note card, then tape the note cards on your mirror, or place them where you are sure to see them each day. Think about the words on your cards and ask yourself, Are my words and actions in keeping with the words I would like people to use when describing me?
For example: If you would like others to think of you as a peacemaker ask yourself, Do my words and actions calm anger and bring peace to tense situations? If not, consider the changes you need to make for others to think of you as a peacemaker. Then pray for God’s help as you go about making these changes.
You can also choose two words you would not like people to use when describing you. Then follow the same steps as you did before.
Further Your Study
The examples of individuals recorded in the pages of the Bible can teach us valuable lessons about life. God often worked with ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. Learn how our biographical studies are organized and get tips on how Read More >