Abigail – a woman of substance and sense

by Denise Cryer

 1 Samuel 25:3 – 42; Prov 3:13 – 24

Well they say that opposites attract don’t they? And Abigail was certainly the opposite of  her husband Nabal! She’s introduced as “intelligent and beautiful”, and she’s the only  woman in the Hebrew Bible who’s described in this way! The soon-to-be-king David  praised God for her good judgement and as we can see as we look into this passage, she  possessed great character. Nabal, on the other hand is described as “surly and mean in  his dealings”.

So lets have a look at what was happening. David had protected Nabal’s flocks and  shepherds when they were vulnerable. But at harvest time, when David sent some of his  messengers to ask Nabal for some food items for the harvest celebrations, some  consideration for their protection of Nabal’s flocks and shepherds, Nabal refused to share  his harvest, asking, “who’s David?” and “Why should I take my bread and water, and the  meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows  where?”. When he heard what Nabal had said, David’s immediate response was –  spontaneous anger! He didn’t take Nabal’s rejection well and he swore to destroy Nabal’s  household and set out to fulfil his threat! I wonder, how do we react when we’re faced with  rejection? When we feel that somethings totally unfair? Do we get angry, as David did? Or  do we feel hurt and discouraged?

So we see a Nabal – a wealthy and high ranking official, yet was rude and arrogant. In  V25 we learn that his name actually means “fool” but Nabal, was wealthy, influential and  had a beautiful wife – not attributes that you’d particularly associate with foolishness so in  what sense was Nabal a fool? He was a fool in God’s eyes! His foolishness concerns his  relationship to God. The way he dealt with David was foolish at ground level – it’s not wise  to insult someone, and deny someone, who has the power to bring you great harm!

But he was foolish at a much deeper level too – offending God through rejecting his  servant in a such a contemptuous and uncaring way. David had been kind to Nabal and he  was right to expect some courtesy but whilst Nabal had appreciated the protection of his  herds and flocks, that appreciation was short lived and soon forgotten when David asked a  favour in return. I think this very much reflects society today – people are willing to accept  help but then soon forget when they are asked to help others. What Nabal was really  saying was, “why should I help someone I don’t know? From somewhere I don’t  know?” (I’ve heard this said by several people over recent years) Nabal failed to meet the  needs of a fellow human being which is in stark contrast to Jesus’ teaching on being a  “good Samaritan”, of giving without counting the cost; of feeding the hungry and  “welcoming strangers”; about “being merciful, just as our Father is merciful”

We also see an “intelligent and beautiful woman who’s described elsewhere as a “tactful  and gracious woman” This story reveals her to be quick-thinking, assertive and willing to  take responsibility. This was a woman who behaved so contrary to the expectations of her  culture!

We discover a woman who’s approachable. One of the things that struck me was the way  David’s young messengers approached Abigail with the situation, rather than Nabal. And I  can’t help but think that she was known as a person with integrity, someone who people  could trust to be level headed and reasonable. The total opposite of her husband. It’s  interesting isn’t it, that children/grandchildren always know exactly who to go to when they  want something? I think these men knew exactly who to go to with the problem at hand.  They knew the kind of person Abigail was; what kind of reputation she had. I wonder if we are  the kind of person who’s approachable? What kind of reputation do we have? And it  obviously went deeper than her just being approachable. And I think they must have known  she was a peace-maker too – scripture tells us that “blessed are the peacemakers”. despite  knowing what her husband was like, she didn’t want his household to perish! Despite how he was as a person, she was faithful to him. Do we act as peacemaker in a conversation or  situation? Or are we the kind of person who “adds fuel to the fire” as it were?

Abigail is no procrastinator! She takes action quickly – we’re told she “quickly” got off her  donkey and bowed before David; David said to her “if you had not come quickly…”; and,  after Nabal died at the end of our passage, we’re told she “quickly” go on a donkey and rode  off to become David’s wife. I’m sure, at times, we’ve taken quick action over something  before we’ve actually put our brains into gear haven’t we?

It seems Abigail’s ability to take action quickly was part of her character and whilst it doesn’t  say that God spoke to her, perhaps He did – sometimes we dither about and make excuses  until its too late don’t we? and the moment’s gone – but the solution was obvious to her and  taking action quickly, was how she operated.

No matter how difficult a situation may seem, God’s power within us is greater than we could  possibly imagine! God is capable of using any one of us, even those who feel insignificant and  powerless, for His greater good and purpose. Without wasting time Abigail took control of the  whole situation that was potentially dangerous for both parties – she didn’t know how David was  going to respond but she was courageous enough to do the right thing regardless of the danger  that surrounded her. She could have just sat back and put the whole blame on her husband,  or remain stuck in fear, but she didn’t and God was with her and the outcome was an absolute  blessing to all concerned.

Of course, some things need to be thought through don’t they? There are certain situations that  call for prayer and contemplation. But in situations where the answer’s clear, we really shouldn’t  delay, we should step out in faith, under the Spirit’s prompting, like Abigail, because the timing of  our actions may mean the difference between missed opportunities, and success, even between  life and death.

Abigail was humble. She doesn’t accept responsibility for her husband’s shocking behaviour but  she presents herself to David from a position of humility. Without a word she fell at his feet, bowed  down with her face to the ground and delivered the most humble, heart-felt plea for David to spare  her husband’s household! I suspect she was a competent wife who might have had to rectify  some of her husband’s foolishness before! men like that rarely appreciate how much they owe to  the faithfulness of their wives! Abigail might easily have said to her husband, “well thanks! I’ve got  to go and sort your mess out again!” – but she didn’t. She humbled herself before David, and  pleaded her case. Sometimes, we find ourselves cleaning up someone else’s mess and, often, not  for the first time – but do we do it with humility and grace? Do we do it for the greater good?

In one of my favourite Black Adder sketches he goes in search of the “Wise woman” and comes  across an old crone – the conversation goes like this:-

Crone: “Oh, there are two things you need to know about the wise woman”  Black Adder: “yes?”

Crone: “The first thing…she is…a…woman!”

Black Adder: “and the second thing?”

Crone: “she is…”

Black Adder: “…wise?!!!” and the old crone says,

“oh….you’ve already met her then?!!”

In meeting Abigail today – we really have met – the “wise woman”. She was a wise woman in  an extremely male dominated world. She actively demonstrated wisdom through acting with  integrity; inviting forgiveness; peace; reconciliation and life. Everything that her foolish husband  brought upon himself, she was able to reverse by her wise actions and words. She knew what  she needed to do and she knew how she needed to do it!. Abigail knew that David would soon  be king and she knew that the bloodshed he’d promised on her husband’s family wouldn’t stand  him in good stead when he became king – she was thinking ahead and what his actions would  mean for his future. She knew that if David carried out the blood bath he’d vowed to, he’d make  the biggest mistake of his life.

Proverbs 3:13, 21 & 22 say:-

“Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding…do not let wisdom and  understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgement and discretion, they will be life for  you…”

Abigail exorcised wisdom; understanding; sound judgement and discretion and they were life,  not only for her but for her husband and his family, and David too.

Something that’s really struck me about this account was when Abigail went to David, asking  forgiveness for her husband’s shocking behaviour – who does that remind you of? Who stood  in our place and interceded on our behalf? Asking forgiveness for our actions? Who pleaded  for our life so we wouldn’t receive the punishment we deserve?

Wouldn’t it be a much better world if we were more like Abigail? – petitioning and pleading on  behalf of those who don’t necessarily deserve it? dealing with difficult people and  circumstances? Demonstrating words and actions that calm heated situations and angry  people, that bring peace in tense moments? Having a reputation that means people feel  comfortable approaching us – trusting us with their problems?

Although Abigail had no idea where her journey was taking her, she trusted God, stepped out in  faith and took action! – are we, as God’s people in the Rivers Team, prepared to do the same?