6. Abigail, Quite A Character


By Deanna Daugherty

Wisdom, Folly, A Future King, and a Heart Attack (Or Maybe a Stroke)

“The story of Abigail, David and Nabal has been described as a narrative enactment of the tension between ‘Wisdom’ and the ‘Fool’, which is a standard theme in Biblical literature.” Patrick Henry Reardon, Abigail & The Way of Wisdom

1 Samuel 25 Cast of Characters

Nabal, a wealthy man of the House of Caleb, who lived in Maon and conducted agri-business in Carmel. He had 3000 sheep and 1000 goats and was ‘harsh and evil in his doings.’ (See also Proverbs 20:3)

Abigail, wife of Nabal, beautiful (in the manner of Rachel, Genesis 29:17, and Esther, Esther 2:7) and ‘of good understanding.’ (See also Proverbs 8:12-16; Matthew 5:9)

David, champion of Israel in the fight against Goliath of Gath and the Philistines; on the lam from King Saul; voluntary (sort of) protector of Nabal’s shearers and shepherds. (See also Proverbs 9:8b-9)

‘What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate’ – Cool Hand Luke

‘So, he sent ten young men and said to them, ‘Go up to Nabal at Carmel and greet him in my name. Say to him: ‘Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours! ‘Now I hear that it is sheepshearing time. When your shepherds were with us, we did not mistreat them, and the whole time they were at Carmel nothing of theirs was missing. Ask your own servants and they will tell you. Therefore, be favourable toward my men, since we come at a festive time. Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.’ 1 Samuel 25:5-8

‘David had just said, ‘It’s been useless—all my watching over this fellow’s property in the wilderness so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good.’ 1 Samuel 25:21

Was David’s request of Nabal (v5-8) reasonable or not? (see also v21)

‘Nabal answered David’s servants, ‘Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. 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?’ 1 Samuel 25:10-11

What about Nabal’s response? (v10-11)

(Note: Some commentators have suggested that, notwithstanding David’s contributions as a soldier, Nabal chose to remain allied with King Saul, viewing David as a traitor. Does this possible interpretation change your answer?)

What do you think of David’s reaction to Nabal’s response?

Compare/contrast David’s reaction to this prominent businessman with his reaction to King Saul in 1 Samuel 24:1-7 and 26:1-12.

What, if anything, did David ‘have to lose’ if he exacted vengeance on King Saul or on Nabal?

‘One of the servants told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, ‘David sent messengers from the wilderness to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them. Yet these men were very good to us. They did not mistreat us, and the whole time we were out in the fields near them nothing was missing. Night and day, they were a wall around us the whole time we were herding our sheep near them. Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.’ 1 Samuel 25:14-17

‘His name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband was surly and mean in his dealings—he was a Calebite.’ 1 Samuel 25:3

What does the servant’s report to Abigail (v14-17) reveal about Nabal’s character, in addition to the narrator’s disclosure in verse 3?

‘I come in peace’ – Toy Story (and lots of Sci-Fi movies)

‘Abigail acted quickly. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. Then she told her servants, ‘Go on ahead; I’ll follow you.’ But she did not tell her husband Nabal. As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her, and she met them.’ 1 Samuel 25:18-20

Review Abigail’s response to the servant’s news.

What do her actions reveal about her character and the nature of the household she manages? (v18-20)

‘I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse’ – The Godfather

‘She fell at his feet and said: ‘Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent. And now, my lord, as surely as the LORD your God lives and as you live, since the LORD has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal. And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my lord, be given to the men who follow you. ‘Please forgive your servant’s presumption. The LORD your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the LORD’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live. Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the LORD your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. When the LORD has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel, my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the LORD your God has brought my lord success, remember your servant.’ 1 Samuel 25:24-31

Let’s unpack Abigail’s speech to David (v24-31), which is one of the longest afforded a woman in the Old Testament.

a. What is her physical posture during the verbal exchange?

b. What language does Abigail use that reflects humility?

c. Who does she blame for the situation?

Abigail reminds David of his place before the Lord and either utters a prophecy about his future or else is astute enough to understand the political climate. She also attempts to ‘save him from himself.’

‘David said to Abigail, ‘Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. Otherwise, as surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.’ Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, ‘Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request.’ 1 Samuel 25:32-35

What is David’s response to her offer of physical nourishment and advice? (v32-35)

What does David realize about his plan of action versus Abigail’s plea for restraint? (See James 1:20)

Consider David’s and Nabal’s reactions to their situations in light of the following: Proverbs 3:27-30 / Proverbs 15:1-2 / Proverbs 15:18 / Proverbs 19:11 / Proverbs 29:22 / Proverbs 15:31-32

‘I have no plans to die today.’ – Thor

‘When Abigail went to Nabal, he was in the house holding a banquet like that of a king. He was in high spirits and very drunk. So, she told him nothing at all until daybreak. Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and his heart failed him, and he became like a stone. About ten days later, the LORD struck Nabal and he died.’ 1 Samuel 25:36-38

What are your thoughts about the timing of Abigail’s disclosure to her husband of her actions? (v36-38)

What happens to Nabal when Abigail shares the events of the previous day? (See also Proverbs 10:21)

What New Testament parable does this part of the story remind us of? (Luke 12:16-21)

What, exactly, is Abigail’s role in God’s story?

(She is not a ‘queen mother’ like Bathsheba, although she bears one of David’s children; she is not in the lineage of Christ, like Sarah or Ruth; and she is not instrumental in the salvation of Israel, like Rahab or Esther.)

Consider David, Abigail, and Nabal in light of Proverbs 8:5-21 / Proverbs 8:32-35 / Proverbs 9:1-12.

One clear lesson for us

Wisdom can come from unlikely sources and can be blindly rejected or humbly accepted.



"And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."