"Abigail: the Jewel in the Shadows,"

By Ronald Ginther

Prefatory Remarks: Please go and read I Samuel 25, all of it, for it gives the story from beginning to end of Abigail, her fool husband, and David, her husband-to-be. It is exciting to read, and must not be missed.

Now are you a married woman with a blockhead of a husband, insensitive, self-centered, who cares about one thing, sex, but doesn't care about your feelings about anything? He completely misses the valuable person you are, doesn't he? He is completely blind to what he has, and takes you for granted! Well, you're not alone: Abigail in the Bible was married to just such a man, by the name of Nabal, and this is her story: how she dealt with it and won out in the end with a brighter future than she had ever imagined for herself.

Somehow a Calebite man living round about Mt. Carmel in Israel, named Nabal, acquired a wonderful gem of a woman named Abigail. We probably would not have heard of this nonentity except for her, and her name, Abigail, will be known for all eternity. We don't know if she was Calebite, or it would have said so. She seemed just like any young Israelite woman, as her response to her circumstances in Nabal's household proved.

She was probably young when she was "acquired" by Nabal. Perhaps the marriage was traditional, it was arranged by parents. But the union may have come about in less happy circumstances--as marriages of young, impecunious beauties often did with older or aged men of means. Nabal, a landowner with an eye for the main chance, may have foreclosed on the parents who died or were already dead. He would take over everything, lock, stock, barrell, and Abigail too.

What to do with Abigail? Since she was attractive and young, Nabal married her whether she liked it or not. It didn't matter then what women felt about the men, they were pretty much possessions in traditional societies. Nabal would have thought that way even more than other Calebites and the Israelites.

He miscalculated, however, with Abigail. He didn't know she was "her own woman," so to speak. She had self-control and wisdom from an early age, and now she needed these qualities far beyond her attractiveness and youth. These qualities would see her through, when her youth and beauty inevitably faded.

She controlled the demons of her gender--self-pity, revenge, resentment, even hatred. She refused to let them take over her life, and kept them at bay no matter what Nabal, who she could tell early on was a fool, did to her.

Despite everything, she determined early to be a wife to this fool Nabal, to do her wifely duty well, not resentfully or dragging her feet but respectfully. She worked to improve herself and developed her role as wife, even though he didn't value her except as a thing or possession. Eventually, seeing her attitude and good works, Nabal would be forced to accord her a measure of respect. He found her truthful, loyal, dependable, and in every way exceeded others in her duties. Therefore, she could be trusted with his household's operations and the servants. He saw he couldn't lose by such as her, she was useful--and a man like this liked that particularly, she was useful.

Now Nabal, though a fool from the get-go, had to suspect at least he was generally hated, feared, and even loathed by others, unless he over-awed them all when he paraded about in the villages in his fine clothes and grand manner, with servants attending him, which were meant to tell everyone this Calebite was a man to be reckoned with in Israel.

What was Nabal all about? The Bible doesn't care in the least, just indicates he was a fool and a grasping spider of a man, with no morals to speak of-- a low sort of person, indeed, not worth writing about.

But it is clear he was self, self, and more greedy self. The world revolved around Nabal, far as he was concerned. He had the ability to extract honey from a lemon, advantage from bitter situations, the misfortunes of others, in other words. He was not above a shady deal or two, by any means. Finally, by hook and crook, and a lot of crook, he got what he aimed at: wealth and lands and flocks and herds and houses.

It didn't matter he had made enemies along the way and had no real friends. Money is almost magnetic and somehow attracts more money, and so even more riches flowed into his pockets. He was tight-fisted and knew how to "trim the fat and the cream" off any sale or business arrangement. If he owed a tradesman or shopkeeper, he never paid the whole amount but got the goods and shorted the person he dealt with. If he had workers and laborers to pay wages to, why pay them the entire amount they were due? He always kept part back for himself, and gave them some little thing or two as recompense despite their protests. So he got a reputation of being unjust, a fraud, but that couldn't matter to a fool. He had bested them, that was the point that mattered to him. Their money was in his pocket, and that too was all that mattered to him. Being a wealthy man, no one dared do anything to him too. He had servants enough for protection, so he was safe enough if they tried anything. Let them give him evil looks whenever he went into the village, but he was used to them, and he put it down as crass envy because he had done so well in life, and that thought pleased him no doubt.

The fool had done well for himself, indeed! He had a fine wife (though everybody with eyes in his or her head could see she deserved far better), much tillable land and property, a big house, flocks on the hills, servants, and plenty gold and silver and every good thing besides a man could possibly desire. Yet he never felt he had enough. He was always grasping for more, and always itching to pull a fast deal with yet another unwary sucker.

This might have gone on for many years, but it didn't. God must have decided that enough is enough! God hears the cries of the oppressed and the poor against their defrauders and oppressors, he goes to the aid of the poor widows and orphans put out in the street by unjust laws and foreclosing lenders and banks. He must have heard those cries from Mt. Carmel's poor and oppressed, from people that Nabal had taken advantage of.

How did Nabal get his comeuppance? Through his own doing! He pulled the noose tight around his own neck! Nobody else had to do it, he did it for himself!

Nabal's second miscalculation led to a real crisis at last. He shortchanged David, a leader of a band of 600 armed men who was in the area and had hired himself and his men out to Nabal and guarded his flocks and kept them safe so that no harm came to them the entire time of his watch. It was a simple business arrangement in those days, and worth the owner's reimbursement. For his service David expected in return some provisions.

When it came time for pay, however, Nabal haughtily refused David's man sent to him with a legitimate request for provisions (pay). He added insult to this injury by an oblique reference to King Saul, whom he knew was searching for David to kill him and would likely appreciate a word from Nabal about David's whereabouts.

"Who is David?" he said sneeringly to David's emissary. "Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants nowadays who are breaking away from their masters. Shall I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers, and give it to men who come from I do not know where?"

That, he must have thought, would take care of David, he would put his tail between his legs and run, and Nabab could laugh at how he had got the better of David and saved himself some money.

This miscalculation promised to cost Nabal his life. When David was told what Nabab said by his man, he was furious, he was livid with rage. He immediately determined he was going to take his armed band and go to Nabal and exact revenge--slay the fool right in his own house!

Fortunately for both Nabal and David, a woman of exceptional foresight and determination was involved who was afterwards told by a household servant what Nabal had done. She wasted no time. Time was of the essence, she knew, with someone like David, who was a man of action. She instructed her servants to load up donkeys with a lot of provisions of bread, wine, and even cakes of raisins, and sent the servants and the donkeys ahead of her as she rushed to David's camp in the hills.

Just as he was on his way, fully armed with his men, determined to wipe Nabal off the face of the earth, Abigail intercepted him on the road.

Now Abigail knew all about anger, what a destructive force it can be, and how necessary it is to control it and not let it master you instead. She had fought this demon and overcome it, or she might have taken a knife herself and slit Nabal's throat one night in bed long before this time. We don't know what went on there, nor should we. But she was childless, apparently, and for good reason. The fool may have been impotent, on top of everything else he was or wasn't. But that doesn't mean she hadn't determined to grit her teeth to be a wife to him in this respect too. Yet his callous use of her must have infuriated her, but she mastered her anger, fear, and frustration, and didn't let them ruin her chances to be a good woman no matter what Nabal was or was not as a husband. If she lacked children, that was an additional pain she had to bear, but she bore it without complaint and didn't let it eat her insides either and make her whine and cry tears and feel sorry for herself. She carried herself with dignity, and esteemed herself, without pride or acting superior like Nabal acted.

Even before they met in this crisis, Abigail had taken David's measure no doubt. She saw a man of noble worth and high courage. He was upright and good and trustworthy, things she admired and valued. She also knew he was not a man to be trifled with. When she heard Nabal had trifled with him, she knew it wouldn't pass with the likes of David: he would do something immediately in response. That meant Nabal was in really big trouble he couldn't possibly handle!

Did she stop to think it over, whether she would help Nabal out of his extreme difficulty or not? She had many good reasons--did she not?-- to let sleeping dogs lie. So why not just let David get rid of her fool of a husband and release her from her burdensome, even loathsome union with him? She could have remained at home and just let the inevitable happen: David would retaliate, right the injustice done him with Nabal's blood, the fool would be removed from her life, and she would be free of him forever. As a respected widow, she would have some living drawn from the estate no doubt, so there was nothing to worry about that way. Still attractive and young enough, she could expect to capture a better man's attention and be married.

This was no doubt a tempting prospect. But Abigail was not that sort of woman! She wasn't going to get another man and a better life for herself, even happiness, at the expense of her own sense of right and wrong. Her sense and experience told her that anger is a destroyer if not controlled. And she didn't have to waste valuable time of preparation in considering her options! She had entertained no grievances and had a ready response of a loyal wife: she went immediately to save her wretched husband's life and David's own future peace of mind.

What if David slew Nabal for his insult and depriving David of provisions he and his men had honestly earned? Everybody round about would have thought it was deserved, that Nabal had it coming. After all, Nabal was a fool and a fraud too. "That old crook of a Calebite just got what he had coming!" people would say as an epitaph.

But Abigail, though she must have yearned now and then for a better life than the one she had, refused to take it the wrong way. She could fulfill her wifely duty to Nabal and do everything she could to spare his life. So she did it! She didn't shirk her duty now when she was called to do it.

She went to David and caught him mounted, about to gallop with his men to give Nabab a long-deserved reckoning with justice. Bowing and humbling herself, she intreated David not to vent his anger on Nabal for the injustice he had done David.

From the scriptures:

"When Abigail saw David, she made haste, and alighted from her donkey, and fell before David on her face, and bowed to the ground. She fell at his feet and said, 'Upon me alone, my lord, be the guilt; pray let your handmaid speak in hyour ears, and hear the words of your handmaid. Let not my lord regard this ill-natured fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him; but I your handmaid did not see the young men of my lord, whom you sent. Now then, my lord, as the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, seeing the Lord has restrained you from bloodguilt, and from taking vengeance with your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who see to do evil to my lord be as Nabal. And now let this present which your servant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who follow my lord. Pray forgive the trespass of your handmaid; for the Lord will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the Lord; and evil shall not be found in you so long as you live...and when the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning hyou, and has appointed you prince over Israel, my lord shall have no cause of grief, or pangs of conscience, for having shed blood without cause or for my lord taking vengeance himself. And when the Lord has dealt well with my lord, then remember your handmaid."--I Samuel 25: 23-31.

Abigail had brought more than compensation and provisions too, and David could see this, seeing the heavily laden donkeys. He then noticed Abigail as a woman, if he hadn't before. She had done this for a fool of a husband, though it was clear from her prompt actions and her words she was no fool! This woman had much intelligence and energy and integrity besides her own faithfulness to Nabal. Clearly, this was no ordinary woman who might have cowered at home and done nothing to save this wretch of hers.

David calmed down in the presense of this remarkable, fine, and attractive woman of God.

Murder is not the way to achieve a good thing, David realized that full well. After all, a number of times he could have assassinated Saul who was hunting everywhere for him to kill him for no reason, but he held back from slaying the Lord's Anointed. So he controlled his anger, even if it was righteous.

He must have seen the jewel, the jewel that Abigail was. He could have taken her by slaying the husband, but he couldn't do it, not when she pleaded for his life in this way. He respected Abigail too much already to do something contrary to her wishes. So he relented and called his men back.

David said to her: "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from avenging myself with my own hand! For as surely as the Lord the God of Israel lives, who has restrained me from hurting you, unless you had made haste and come to meet me, truly by morning there had not been left to Nabal so much as one male." Then David received from her hand what she had brought him; and he said to her, "Go up in peace to your house, see, I have hearkened to your voice, and I have granted your petition."--I Samuel 25: 32-35.

Having achieved peace, saving two men from coming to mortal blows, Abigail returned home.

What were Abigail's thoughts in returning, while on the homeward journey? She might have thought of what she had given up for saving Nabal's life. And was David attracted to her? No doubt she could tell he was. So that was a great amount of happiness perhaps she had missed in doing what she did to save Nabal from getting his just desserts. But she knew it wouldn't be true happiness she gained thereby, not if the man who took her to wife had Nabal's blood on his hands as he took her in his arms. She would always be thinking of that, even if he didn't. Raised God-fearing Israelite, not a pagan or heathen Canaanite, she couldn't abide the thought of a household founded on shed blood. Rather, Nabal lived than than such a fate for her!

The rest of the story? Let Scripture tell it, as it does better than any paraphrase could do:

And Abigail came to Nabal, and, lo, he was holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king [feasting like a royal personage when the banquet would have soon turned to bloodshed and turmoil the moment David pounced on him with his 600 armed men!]. And Nabal's heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk; so she told him nothing at all until the morning light.

And in the morning, when the wine had gone out of Nabal, his wife told him these things [that had happened with David], and his heart died within him, and he became like a stone. And about ten days later the Lord smote Nabal and he died.

When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, "Blessed be the Lord who has avenged the insult I received at the hand of Nabal, and has kept back his servant from evil; the Lord has returned the evil-doing of Nabal upon his own head." Then David sent and wooed Abigail, to make her his wife. And when the servants of David came to Abigail at Carmel, they said to her, "David has sent us to you to take you to him as his wife."

And she rose and bowed with her face to the ground, and said, "Behold, your handmaid is a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord."

And Abigail made haste and rose and mounted on a donkey, and her five maidens with her; she went after the messengers of David, and became his wife."--I Samuel 25: 36-42.

The hidden jewel in the shadows was at last rewarded for all she had faithfully done, and the Lord himself brought her forth a resplendent jewel for David the coming king to later install in his palace as his wife.

But what can we learn from this? The obvious conclusion to Abigail's story is that women who act like Abigail and don't follow their own inclinations, however justified they seem to be in their marriage relations and households, will be advanced beyond their dreams by the Lord, if they are willing to humble themselves and wait upon Him and do what he has given them to do in the meantime. It may well take years, and the blockhead husband may go on like he is forever it may seem, but the Lord though he seems late will be right on time when he comes. Then watch out! Something good is going to happen! It will transform everything too and make all the prayers, sacrifices, and the long waiting worth it all to experience at last.

In other words, follow Abigail's winning example, and you cannot lose!

The Emmaus Walk Home Page

Abigail, an Advocate of Peace," by Marcus Lind (1 Samuel 25), The Sword and the Trumpet Magazine, March, 1979Ab

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