Abigail: A Virtuous Woman

shepherd-and-sheepMy church offers various home Bible study groups, and as soon as I moved to this area, I began attending the women’s Bible study. It has been such a blessing to me, not only to get to know some of the women in my new church home, but also to dig into God’s Word and find out for myself how He wants to speak to me through the accounts recorded of the women in the Bible. Our group is meeting tonight to study the life of Abigail, and so I’ve been preparing for tonight’s discussion. This gave me the idea of sharing these gleanings with you. Our group only meet once a month, but each Tuesday I will look at a different woman from the Bible until the topic is exhausted. I hope it will be an encouragement to you, and that you will join me in going through this study together.

I Samuel 25:1-42; 27:3; 30:5; II Samuel 2:2; 3:3; 17:25; I Chronicles 3:1

Abigail’s name means “the father’s joy.” I’m sure she was her father’s joy, for everything we know about her suggests she was a virtuous woman. In fact, when we are introduced to her in 1 Samuel 25:3, she is described as “a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance.”

In her culture, marriages were arranged, which was unfortunate for Abigail. Nabal, her husband, was the antithesis of her graces in every way, as the Bible calls him “churlish and evil in his doings.” Perhaps you didn’t come across the word churlish while reading the morning paper. This word indicates that he was rude, surly, austere, sullen, rough in temper, unfeeling, uncivil, selfish, narrow-minded, and avaricious. Do those words paint a clearer picture? Nabal was not nice.

Enter David, a young man who had been anointed King of Israel, but had not yet assumed the throne because his predecessor Saul was still keeping it warm. David lived in the mountains, patiently waiting for God to remove Saul, and a band of 600 men were there with him.

Nabal was a wealthy man, with a large flock of sheep tended by hired shepherds. At the time of the shearing of the sheep, David and his men protected the shepherds from marauders so that they could get their job done without fear of being attacked. Then David sent a message of peace to Nabal asking him to give them some food as a reward for their protective services to the shepherds. Nabal cursed and refused to give them a crumb, which made David very angry. He prepared his men to fight, and they made plans to wipe out all of Nabal’s household.

One of the servants heard what David was planning to do, and he ran to tell Abigail about it. Prudently, she scurried into action. Unknown to her husband, Abigail gathered much food and rushed to meet David and his men. They were still quite angry when she approached, so she knew that she must speak just the right words to soften David’s heart. She knelt down before him in an attitude of humility and pleaded with him. Here is my paraphrase of what she said:

“My lord, let this iniquity be upon me; and let me, I beg you, speak. This man Nabal is not worthy of your regard, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name, and folly is with him. I did not see the young men whom you sent, but I have brought a gift for you and your men. Please accept it and forgive my trespass. The Lord will certainly establish you and your house because you fight His battles and evil has not been found in you all your days. When you are established on the throne as king, I don’t want you to look back on this time and have any regrets for having taken matters into your own hands. The Lord will fight this battle for you.”

There are a few things I noticed about Abigail in this speech. She did not make excuses for her husband, but she took his blame on herself and then begged David’s forgiveness. How many of us would be willing to do that? She appeased David’s wrath and kept him from doing something he would surely come to regret. He had always trusted God to defend him in the past, and this certainly was not a good time to break from that trust.

No doubt Abigail returned home a very happy woman. When she got there, her husband was feasting and drunk. So she waited until the morning, when he was sober, to tell him all that happened the day before. When Nabal heard it, he became so fearful that the Bible says, “His heart died within him, and he became as a stone.” He died ten days later. Abigail sent news of Nabal’s death to David, and David praised God that she had influenced him to leave the matter in God’s hands. In fact, he was so impressed by Abigail’s virtue that he married her right away.

Nabal and Abigail had no children, but that does not give us any clues as to how long they had been married. She had certainly known him long enough to understand his character. And I commend her for remaining with him. Women still marry foolish men today. Most of the time we don’t see the foolishness until after the vows have been exchanged. It would be so very easy to say, “I made a mistake, but I’m ending it now. I want my life back.” Divorce is a quick fix, but it is almost never the right fix. God sees our situations as husbands and wives. Even though most of us choose our own spouses nowadays, the marriage is still formed with God as our witness. No matter how we came into the marriage, and no matter how good or bad it may be, God is able to work good in every situation and in every marriage. Please note that I am not saying you should stay in an abusive relationship. Your safety and the safety of your children are vitally important. But if you can stay with a foolish man, do so, and God will give daily sufficient grace. We all have flaws, and the hard times are part of God’s plan for perfecting us.

Abigail had one son born to David, and he is mentioned by two different names: Chileab (2 Sam 3:3) and Daniel (1 Chr 3:1). Chileab means “the perfection or image of the father,” while Daniel means “judgment of God.” Some commentators suggest that the child died in his youth, as no other mention is made of him. As for the two names, I wonder if the first one came for joy that she had a son and folks said that he looked just like his father David. The name Daniel could be a reference to the judgment God pronounced upon Nabal.

Note: There is another Abigail mentioned in I Chronicles 2:16-17. This is David’s sister, not his wife.

Next week: Deborah


Photo credited to Pixabay

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