Abigail is described as "a woman of good understanding and of a beautiful countenance." That is a rare combination. So often beauty of face is marred by a character that does not portray true beauty. Solomon said, "Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised" (Prov. 31:20). Although the proverb poses favor and beauty versus fear of the Lord, this unusual woman was blessed with favor and beauty plus the fear of the Lord. It was not a case of either/or. She had a goodly portion of both virtues.
THE MAKING OF A QUARREL
Abigail, however, with all her good qualities was married to Nabal, and that name means "a fool." Pity the parents who were so destitute for names they had to attach that kind of stigma to their child. Was this actually the name on his birth certificate, or did the lad so demonstrate "churlish and evil doings" that he merited to be identified as a fool? Be that as it may, Nabal certainly played the fool in his dealings with David, the youthful captain of a fugitive army, when that young officer sent ten young men to courteously make a reasonable request. With his band of six hundred warriors, David had formed a wall of protection for Nabal's flocks and herds. He had instructed his men to be kind to the shepherds, and careful not to molest any sheep or lambs. Having been reared as a shepherd boy himself, and with a first-hand knowledge of animal traits, David now exercised due regard for the flocks of another man.
But the kindness of David was not appreciated by Nabal. When the embassy from David encountered that haughty fool at his annual sheep-shearing on Mount Carmel it asked whatever consideration Nabal felt he could give for the protection and other service rendered. But the servants of David were treated contemptuyously and sent away empty. So now what?
In his characteristic rash way, David prepared for a bloody vengeance. But what actual good would that do--to avenge a wrong with another wrong that is even worse? I can envision the carcasses of thousands of sheep scattered over the hills of Carmel. Amon them are the bodies of shepherds who had not had a part in the insult to David, nor with the hateful spirit which caused him so to retaliate. Usually the people who suffer most from armed conflict are not the ones responsible for the controversy. The indiscriminate taking of life, though unspeakably costly, doesn't resole anything. What an insane method of trying to settle a quarrel!
An Advocate of Peace
But there was a level-headed woman on the job. One of the young men had reported Nabal's indiscretion to his good wife Abigail. Now she would act as an advocate of peace between her surly husband and the hostile David, who was coming with four hundred armed men to take vengeance.
Abigail bowed with face to the ground before the rash-spirited David. Innocent of any wrong dealing between Nabal and David, a totally innocent party, she now offered to assume full responsibility for the wickedness of her obdurate husband. "Upon me let this iniquity be..." (I Samuel 25:41). How like Jesus on the cross!
Any other approach than extreme humility could never have gotten through to David in his vindictive state of mind. There is the old saying that "it takes two to make a quarrel." But who can continue a quarrel with a party who will assume every wrong? And now that party was a woman of unusual beauty, along with her humility. This extreme contrast from what he had expected completely disarmed the warrior and turned him from the malicious revenge that had been planned in a fit of hot temper. Moreover, here was a gift from the thoughtful Abigail for David's hungry men. Abigail had quickly "gathered two hundred loaves of bread, two leather bags full of wine, five roasted sheep, two bushels of roasted grain, a hundred bunches of raisins,a nd two hundred cakes of dried figs..." (25: 24, T.E.V.).
Then we see that tactful woman's thrust to awaken a sleeping conscience. In essence she said, "David, you are to be king of Israel. Then, when as a king you review the past dealings with your fellowmen, will it be with joy or with grief that you remember you have shed blood causelessly? Will you take genuine pleasure in reflecting that you took bloody vengeance on this occasion? Far be it from my lord!" In other words, "You are too great a man to resort to that kind of dealing with others." Note the unselfishness in this tremendous appeal, and how she challenged the better side of David's complex character. It would be for his own good that David should not resort to needless bloodshed for the sake of revenge, to take spite on an enemy at such cost of innocent suffering.
David was sharp enough to appreciate the integrity fo this counsel from the lips of a great woman. I can see him hanging his head in thoughtfulness and shame. His whole attitude was so changed that he replied with ecstatic utterance:
"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me, and blessed be they advice, and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand" (vv. 32-33).
We see how the better side of David was released by the wise strategy of this noble woman, that he should respond with such a three-fold poetic benediction. The "Lord God of Israel" had a much better plan than carnal retaliation to settled an open insult. Doubtless it was He who planted that sober advice in the mind of a queenly lady, and David recognized that advice as good counsel from the Lord.
Also blessed was she whom the Lord had chosen as an effective channel to convey His will. With keenest humility Abigail was able to disarm a determined and irate warrior. She had caused him to abandon his hasty plan for evening a score, to leave the matter of a just settlement with One who has said "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay" (Rom. 12: 19). As a bonus, David received the bountiful gift of choicest food from the servants of Abigail.
HOW GOD SETTLED THE SCORE
As was the custom in those days, the annual sheep-shearing was a time for merriment, feasting and drinking. Nabal “held a feast in his house, like a feast of a king; and Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunken.” In such a condition Abigail told him nothing of what had transpired until the next day, after he had done some sobering. Then when informed of all that had taken place “his heart died within him, and he became as a stone.” Apparently the report of his narrow escape was more than Nabal coulod take. He was completely overcome by shock and fear.
We are then told that “about ten days after, the Lord smote Nabal, and he died.” We are not told whether this smiting was a heart failure, a stroke from being so overcome with anxiety and fright, or something apart from the near disaster. But his punishment was directly from God, and was ever so much more just than had David ruthlessly taken things into his own bloody hands, causing the destruction of flocks, herds, shepherds, and likely the total household of Nabal, including even Abigail.
Now suppose that Abigail had been a Jezebel or a Lady Macbeth instead of the gracious character she was. How easily she could have plotted with David’s men to slay Nabal during his drunken stupor, and in the same act could have spared her own life. If she had known how things would turn out, she could even have argued that God would take Nabal’s life regardless. But how about living with her conscience after such a scheme? And how much better it was to let the omniscient God work things out and terminate the life of Nabal without human manipulation.
As things worked out David recognized the worth of this comely woman to such a degree that he took her for his wife. She was that kind of partner that “the heart of her husband doth safely trust in her.” First as a peace-maker, and now as a wife “her price is far above rubies.”