1 SAMUEL, 25:3 – “Abigail . . . was intelligent and beautiful, but [her husband] was harsh and evil in his dealings.”
The story of Abigail is found primarily in 1 Samuel 25. We learn that she was “intelligent and beautiful” (vs3) and married to “a very rich man” (v2). They lived in Maon, and he commuted to work- he was in the sheep and goat business-in Carmel. If that’s all we knew, we’d conclude Abigail was beyond blessed. To be attractive and smart and well-to-do? Living in the suburbs? Who wouldn’t want all that?
But, alas, things are not always what they seem on the surface. There’s a lot more to Abigail’s story, and much of it wasn’t pretty.
Her wealthy husband’s name was Nabal, which means “fool.” Since it’s hard to imagine a parent giving their newborn such a horrible name, some feel Nabal was simply was simply a nickname. After all, the Bible does go on to describe him as one who “was harsh and evil in his dealings” (1 Sam 25:3).
With that kind of reputation, it’s not hard to imagine that clients and neighbors pinned this moniker on him. Whatever the source of the name, there’s this question: If Nabal was less than kind in his business affairs, why should we imagine he was any different at home? And you have to wonder something else: What’s a sharp girl like Abigail doing with a man like this?
We wouldn’t even know about this couple if it weren’t for a fateful encounter with David, Israel’s most famous warrior and king-in-waiting. It unfolded like this: Nabal happened to be shearing some sheep close to where David and his men were camped. When David heard Nabal was in the neighborhood, he sent his men to ask a favor. His request went something like this: “Food is kind of scarce out here in the wilderness. Do you think in exchange for the way we’ve always treated you with respect (and even protected you), you might be willing to give my hungry band a meal?”
Nabal not only yelled at David’s men, scoffing at their request, but also heaped insult on them as they departed. In just a few foolish moments, Nabal violated every written and unwritten rule of Middle Eastern hospitiality.
When David’s men reported this humiliating exchange, David was livid. “He said to his men ‘All of you, put on your swords!” (1 Sam 25:13).
Things could have and would have gotten ugly, but thankfully one of Nabal’s workers slipped away and brought Abigail into the loop. Then he blurted out the ugly truth about Nabal (the truth Abigail knew all too well from years of painful experience): “He is such a worthless fool nobody can talk to him!” (1 Sam 25:17).
The intelligent, beautiful, and now extremely frightened Abigail swung into action. She quickly threw together a huge and lovely picnic lunch: mutton, bread, and wine, with raisins and figs for dessert. Sending this feast ahead via some of her male servants, Abigail then got ready herself and went to see if she could avert a bloodbath.
She intercepted David just in time. Falling humbly at his feet, Abigail acknowledged her husband’s foolish arrogance. Then, almost in the same breath, she pleaded for David to forgive and show mercy. It was a very reasoned appeal, a moving petition. In effect, she entreated David not to descend to the level of her “worthless” husband.
David’s heart was pierced by Abigail’s was warning. He called off his attack.
Meanwhile, Abigail returned home to find her obnoxious husbands stuffing his face and drunk out of his mind. He was blissfully oblivious to how close he’d come that very day to meeting his Maker. “In the morning when Nabal sobered up, his wife told him about these events” (1 Sam 25:37). He had a stroke and died ten days later.
After hearing about Nabal’s death, David wasted no time sending one of his men to Abigail to broach the subject of marriage. Would this gracious, quick-thinking woman, who had demonstrated she was just as attractive inside as she was gorgeous on the outside, be interested in becoming David’s wife? Abigail, not exactly grief-stricken, said yes without hesitation.