1 Samuel 25:2–3, 18–19, 23–31, 36–39bcomment (0)
May 14, 2009
By Thomas Fuller
Related Scripture: 1 Samuel 25:2–3, 18–19, 23–31, 36–39b
Bible Studies for Life
Director of Ministry Leadership Development, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
ABIGAIL: LIVING WITH A DIFFICULT HUSBAND
1 Samuel 25:2–3, 18–19, 23–31, 36–39b
Marriage is a challenging venture under the best of circumstances. God ordained the institution of marriage for the happiness of His creation, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. Marriage calls for patience, perseverance and wisdom, among other things. Sometimes the people and circumstances of a marriage make it even more difficult to experience marital bliss. This was the case for Abigail, who was married to Nabal. Her actions at a critical time reveal just how essential it is to possess and use godly wisdom, not just for one’s own interests but the interests of one’s family. Husbands and wives who, today, face difficult situations should consider Abigail’s example of prudence and courage.
A Beauty and a Beast (2–3)
Here we are introduced to Nabal and Abigail. Nabal is described as “very great” — meaning he was a wealthy man from a significant family, the “house of Caleb” (Num. 13:30; Josh. 14:6–15). Nabal enjoyed these blessings but apparently did not appreciate what he had. He “was churlish and evil in his doings.” Abigail is described in very different terms. She was “a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance.” In stark contrast to her husband, she is portrayed as a patient and pleasant person. Nabal was a man of strong will and hard words; Abigail was a woman of seasoned wisdom and soft words.
The events of Chapter 25 take place in the Judean wilderness, where David and his men were on the run from Saul. Nabal and his household were in Carmel (not Mount Carmel in the north) shearing sheep, a typical time of festive celebration. David sent 10 men to Nabal with greetings and a request for food and water. In spite of the goodwill David and his men had showed Nabal’s household in days past, Nabal flatly spurned the request. David was incensed by Nabal’s rudeness and ingratitude and resolved to teach him a lesson at the point of a sword. It is a testimony to the high regard with which Abigail was held by her servants that they approached her with the news of these events in hopes that her milder temperament and generous spirit might defuse a mounting crisis.
Wit, Wisdom and Discernment (18–19, 23–31)
Abigail took action. First she sent David a generous provision of food and drink. She then appeared before him in person. Using the gifts with which God had endowed her, Abigail addressed David in a way that even today’s foreign diplomats would envy. She approached David in a humble spirit, repudiated her husband’s rudeness and lack of generosity, flattered David with forecasts of future success and appealed to David for mercy, not just for the sake of her household but for the sake of David’s conscience (a win-win situation). We can admire Abigail’s boldness and diplomacy in dealing with David, as well as her wisdom and compassion. She took responsibility for a situation not of her own making to ensure the welfare of those with whom she was in a covenant relationship. Abigail didn’t excuse her husband’s actions; in fact, she boldly declared that he was living up to his name (Nabal means “fool”). Marriage often calls on us to go the extra mile for the other person. It doesn’t excuse (or make excuses for) the irresponsibility of a spouse, but it does recognize that the 50–50 proposition is an unrealistic expectation for all times and circumstances.
Leave the Future With God (36–39b)
David responded favorably to Abigail’s overture, pledging to spare Nabal and his men. Returning home, Abigail found Nabal oblivious to the ruin he had almost brought upon their family; as usual, he was thinking only of himself, gorging himself on food and wine. Abigail made a wise choice to wait until morning to speak with him about the events that had transpired. The news devastated Nabal and in about 10 days, he was stricken dead. David then took Abigail as his wife. Though Nabal’s demise was a tragedy, we see how God gave grace to Abigail to endure a difficult situation, act with humility and wisdom and experience His faithful provision.