Abigail was a person of strength, courage, intelligence, integrity and wisdom. On a particular day, due to circumstances outside of her control, she demonstrated these by creating a plan, for the protection of her household. Like Abigail, we all need tools to keep us safe: staying connected with our community, knowing what our resources are and where to find them.
Abigail was married to a mean spirited man and she had grown accustomed to not making waves. Abigail paid attention, she knew who he was and was practical about how she should respond to him. It was during this time that David, who would one day become the king of Israel, and his band of six hundred men took refuge in the wilderness of Paran near Carmel near where her husband’s flocks of sheep and goats were herding. They protected them from the bands of Ishmaelites who roamed the wilderness to steal and cause harm in exchange for portions of the produce and livestock. It was their livelihood.
During shearing time David sent ten men to Nabal, requesting the pay he had been promised. Nabal refused his request, mocked, and insulted David, calling him a “runaway slave” (1 Sam. 25:10), not the future king of Israel. When news got back to David he was enraged. David instructed his men to strap on their swords and they set out to slaughter all the men in his household. A servant heard what was happening and went to Abigail for help and this is where her story begins.
Connection and Community
No one knows how someone as wise and as intelligent as Abigail became the wife of a man like Nabal. Maybe in his youth he wasn’t this way and got mean with age, or maybe she only married him because her father made her. Either way, Abigail was the source of reason and wisdom in their household and it was obviously known or the servants wouldn’t have gone to her, instead of him for help. In fact, the servant said Nabal was “such a wicked man that no one can talk to him” (1 Sam. 25:17). Her connection and community with those in her household is what gave her access to the information she needed to be helpful. Without this, she would have never known what was about to happen.
Many single parents can relate with this dilemma. There are aspects of death, separation or divorce that come quickly and we don’t have a lot of time to respond. When desperate circumstances arise, wisdom is the ability to size up the situation, create a plan of action, follow through with it and do so as respectfully as possible.
Right away she worked to rectify the situation, even though it might cause consequences for her with her husband. She was reasonable, wise and prudent in words and actions. While her husband was throwing a lavish banquet, Abigail gathered supplies to take to David as a peace offering. She knew exactly what she had and where to get it, which means she was organized. She loaded the donkeys with supplies, mind you that these supplies were not her own because a woman could not own anything apart from her husband which means he would be very upset with her for taking his things, in hopes of pacifying David’s anger. She was justified.
This is another important aspect of who Abigail was, as it applies to us today. Following her example, individuals —married or single— should be aware of the resources at their disposal. When an emergency or need arises, we can’t respond if we are paralyzed by not knowing what to do or where to go. We must arm ourselves not only with community and connection, but also with resources.
This is where the acorn comes into the picture. “For every Mighty Oak there was a nut that stood it’s ground.” The acorn is a symbol for the “Abigail’s” of this world, who quite possibly are seen as misguided, lost, and displaced from the tree. But, the acorn contains a single seed that could grow into a Mighty Oak should it get the chance to plant. The seed is surrounded with a tough leathery shell to keep it safe until it dries and cracks, allowing the seed to drop on fertile soil. It is our precept that unless we can fall, dry and crack we will never get to be the Mighty Oak we want to become. Abigail understood that the lives of every man in her household were at stake. It would have been easy for fear to overcome, for Abigail to pack her things and run – and who would have blamed her? She is the “nut” that goes against norms and stands her ground.
When she approached David, she honored him. She acknowledges David’s reputation as a righteous leader, future king and one who honors God in everything he does. She gave sincere praise to the legendary man known throughout Israel. Her submission and courage empowered David to a level of thinking higher than his pride.
The kind of submission to a spouse that the Bible talks about is one of the most misunderstood teachings today. So much so that we emotionally cringe at the sound of it, even though intellectually many of us understand it. In addition to this, many given the chance, would argue that Abigail’s words and actions were disrespectful to her husband, and unloving. However, when we look closer we can see that Abigail was simply stating the facts, as everyone knew them. Telling the truth is not disrespectful or unloving and is often necessary for safety. It was by her words that she showed submission to God’s authority. He was her master, not her spouse, and in an attempt to bring David to his senses she reached out and told the truth. Silence is not synonymous with submission and in order to find solutions, we often must reach out to others for help. Networking is critical for survival.
Abigail did not do what she did because it was what she wanted. No one would want to face an army, fearing that they might kill her. Not only this, but she had nothing to do with what was wronged. She couldn’t have stopped Nabal if she wanted to. Despite this, she took the blame and assumed responsibility for her husband’s actions, not because she thinks she did it, but because the point was to pacify David. She stepped up and did the work. She took responsibility where she could. She said, “My lord, let the blame be on me alone. Please let your servant speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. May my lord pay no attention to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name is Fool, and folly goes with him…” (1 Sam. 25:24-25). By saying this, David must now deal with her, not Nabal. She left her fate in God’s hands that day, and left Nabal’s future and judgment to God.
The Mighty Oak
Returning home, she waited to tell Nabal what she did once he had sobered up from celebrating. Who knows what he might have done, had she told him right away? Again, she paid attention and waited. The Bible says that once she told him, his heart failed him and became like a stone. He hung on for ten days and then died, a vivid reminder of God’s righteous judgment. When word reached David about Nabal’s death, he sent for Abigail and married her. We don’t know the time frame between Nabal’s passing and when David sent for her, but we know there would have been a period of darkness, and possibly mourning, for Abigail. She wouldn’t have known where she would end up and this was at a time when it was dangerous for women to be unwed. There her shell lay, dried and cracked, while her seed falls on fertile soil. Abigail was rewarded for her character and integrity, wisdom and strength, and married the King of Israel. She was the nut that stood her ground and grew into a Mighty Oak. True Story!
Following God doesn’t always work out like we hope it will, a fairy tale ending resolving the way we want. Sometimes it leaves us as a widow, divorcee, separated and displaced, but like Abigail we are mighty, strong and capable of wisdom. Sometimes our story has a version of “King David” in store for us: a career, new mission, financial stability, safety, new relationships, new possibilities, self-worth, and love. The possibilities are endless.
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Matthew, Henry. Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary. September 16, 2016. http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?b=9&c=25&com=mhc.
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Vernon, McGee. Through the Bible with J. Vernon McGee. . Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983.