The Message of Abigail Today

I Samuel 25

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
December 2020

Last week, we began a study of I Samuel 25.  It describes a conflict between two men – David and Nabal.  They had was a business dispute.  Nabal was a rich farmer in Carmel.  He was not just rich; he was very rich.  He was loaded.  He owned thousands of sheep and goats.  David and his men watched them as they were grazing.  There was no police.

David and his men protected Nabal’s animals.  They kept them safe from bandits.  They saved Nabal a lot of money.  They did not ask for a lot of money.  They did not ask for some exorbitant fee for their services.  All they asked for was some type of compensation that Nabal thought was fair.  It was a perfectly reasonable request.

Nabal was not grateful for David’s services.  He had no appreciation for what David had done for him.  He not only rejected David’s offer, he mocked him.  He said, “Who is this David?  I don’t know him.”

David was famous.  Everyone knew who David was.  He was the most famous man in the country.  Women sung songs about him.  Not only did he ridicule him, he reviled him.  He vilified him.  He accused David of being disloyal to the king.  He accused him of being a rebel.  Nabal returned evil for good.

No good deed goes unpunished and David was furious.  David was mistreated and he planned on getting back at Nabal.  He and his men decided to take care of Nabal once and for all.  They planned to take him out.  Nobody liked him.  No one would miss him if he was gone.  David got four hundred men ready and planned a massacre.  They planned to kill Nabal and his family.

That brings us to the character of Abigail, one of the greatest women in the Bible, the hero of the chapter.  Abigail heard what her husband had done and she knew exactly what to do.  She took action.  She took immediate action. I Samuel 25:18 says, “Abigail acted quickly” (NIV).  The NLT reads, “Abigail wasted no time.”

She got some food together.  She brought together some good food, not just some leftovers and she brought together a lot of it.  She brought together enough to feed four hundred hungry men.  She brought much more food than they expected.  It was so much food that she needed some servants to help her bring it all.

This was Abigail’s catering service.  It was the first meals on wheels, only there were no wheels.  This food was delivered on donkeys.  The Bible says that she brought all of this food without telling her husband (I Samuel 25:19).

Abigail’s Speech

When she sees David, gives an important speech.  It is found in I Samuel 25:23-31.  It is “the longest speech by a woman in the Old Testament.”[1]  It is the single longest recorded speech by any woman in the Bible.  It is 272 words in English (NIV).

Abigail sees David, gets off of her donkey, and shows respect for David.  She bows to the ground, face in the dirt.  She calls him “my lord” nine times (I Samuel 25:24, 25 [2], 26, 28, 29, 30, 31 [2]).

She completely apologized for how her husband treated them.  She said, “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.” (I Samuel 25:25 NIV).

She brings God into the conversation, not in a routine way but in a genuine way.  How often do we do that?  We often leave God out.  Abigail mentions God seven times in this speech (I Samuel 25:26 [2], 28 [3], 30, 31).  God has blessed David.  He made promises to David and he will keep them.  She makes a prophecy.  This speech is prophetic.

Abigail predicts that one day David will be king.  He will be ruler over Israel (I Samuel 25:30).  He will have a lasting dynasty (I Samuel 25:28), unlike Saul who will have no dynasty.  Abigail was prophetic.  According to the Talmud, Abigail was one of the seven prophetesses of the Old Testament (Megillah 14a).

Abigail did not stop with a great speech.  She did more than give an eloquent speech.  She brought David and his men some food.  She did not just say, “You will be king one day.  I am sure of it.  Be warmed and filled.  God will one day bless you.”

The Bible says, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (I John 3:18 NIV).  She did not just apologize or say she was sorry for what her husband had done.  She made it right.  Sometimes, we need to encourage people with words but sometimes they need more than words.

David had never seen a woman like Abigail.  She stopped him dead in his tracks.  We know the rest of the story.  David and his men had a meal.  They turned around and went back.  Abigail went home to her husband.  She eventually told him what happened.  He dropped dead.  David did not have to take Nabal out.  God did.

David proposed to Abigail and she got married.  Abigail asked David to remember her (I Samuel 25:31) and, after her husband died, he did.  Abigail became his wife but not his first wife.  David was actually married at the time to Ahinoam (I Samuel 25:43).[2]  This would have been wife number two for David.  He had another wife (Milcah) but he was not living with her.  In fact, Saul had given her to another man in marriage (I Samuel 25:44).

Lessons from Abigail

That brings us to an important question.  This is an interesting story but what does all of this have to do with us?  How does it apply to us?  How is Abigal a role model to believers today?  How does she speak to us today?  There are many lessons for us to look at.  What Abigail did, few women would do today.

1. Be people of character, even when people around us are not

We are to be people of character, people of integrity, even if people in our family or people we work with are not people of character.  Abigail was married to a fool, like women are today but that did not change who she was.  Just because she was married to a fool, did not mean that she became one.  When we are surrounded by complete darkness, we are just to shine the light of Christ even brighter.

That you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:15 NIV)

Abigail was beautiful (I Samuel 25:3).  According to Jewish tradition, she was one of the four most beautiful women who ever lived but Abigail was not just beautiful on the outside.  She was beautiful on the inside.  Today, most women focus on outward beauty.  That is what people look at.  That is what society says is important.  Many spend more time adorning the outward person, rather than the inward person.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (I Peter 3:3-4 NIV).

2. Be peacemakers in the midst of conflict

There are two types of people.  There are peacemakers and there are agitators.  They like to cause conflict and stir things up and disrupt them.  They love a good fight.  Some politicians just seem to stir up conflict between the rich and the poor.  Many social activists love to stir up hatred and conflict between the races, instead of trying to bring them all together.  Which type of person are you?

Abigail was a peacemaker.  She did not stir up conflict with her husband and try to pick a fight with him and she knew how to calm David down when he was angry.

Here were four hundred angry soldiers on their way to a massacre who come in contact with calm, gentile, peaceful woman armed with just a few rotisserie chickens and their hearts melted.  Men are simple creatures.  All you have to do is to make them some food.

Nabal returned EVIL FOR GOOD.  David wanted to return EVIL FOR EVIL.  Abigail OVERCAME EVIL WITH GOOD.

God calls us to be peacemakers.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9 NIV).  Jesus doesn’t just call us to have peace.  We should have peace on the inside.  It is one of the Fruits of the Spirit but Jesus does not just call us to have a peaceful disposition.  He does not just call us to be PEACE LOVERS (like some hippy with a peace sign on their shirt).  He calls us to be PEACE MAKERS.

Peacemakers try to reconcile people who do not get along, people who can’t stand each other, people who are fighting.  That is God’s work.  He is in the business of reconciliation.  He is in the business of reconciling us to himself.  When you are a peacemaker, you are doing God’s work. Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

Peacemakers are not always successful.  What they try does not always work.  It worked with David because he was reasonable.  it would not have worked with Nabal, because he was a complete fool.  Some people just don’t want peace.  Being a peacemaker is not easy.  It is sometimes dangerous.  It can be costly.  To be a peacemaker, you don’t ruin from conflict.  You have to go into conflict.

3. Be wise in your daily decisions and personal relationships

Paul said, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15 NIV).  Abigail is an example of great wisdom in this chapter.  Proverbs says, “The wise woman builds her house” (Proverbs 14:1 NIV).  She knew what to do to take care of her family.  She knew what to do to save lives.  She knew how to respond to a crisis.  It required quick thinking and immediate action.  There was no time to procrastinate.

She showed wisdom in dealing with her husband.  When she left with the food, she did not ask her husband first (I Samuel 25:19).  Why?  One, he would have said “no.”  Two, she did not need to ask him.  It was the right thing to do.  She did not need to get his permission to do the right thing.

She knew when to talk to her husband and when not to talk to him.  When he was inebriated is not a good time to have a serious discussion.  When she talked to David, she knew how to use tact.  She knew exactly what to say and how to say it.

At the very minute that David was one his way to commit a massacre, Abigail reminded him how God has kept him from bloodshed and from avenging himself on his enemies.  That stabbed him right in the heart. She tells him that when he becomes king, he will not want to look back and have a guilty conscience and a lot of regrets.

The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. (Proverbs 12:15 NIV)

A wise person is open to suggestions and criticism. Nabal was not wise.  You could not tell him anything.  Abigail was so wise that she even took suggestions from her servants.  Normally servants are told what to do by their master but, in this case, the master was told what to do by her servants and Abigail listened to them.

4. Be honest in your dealings with people

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. (Ephesians 4:25 NIV)

Abigail was perfectly honest in her dealings with people.  She didn’t have a bunch of secrets.  When she came home, she told her husband exactly what she did.  She did not hide anything.  When she went before David, she was completely open and transparent.  She was open about her husband being a fool.  That was true.  It was public knowledge.  She was not spreading family secrets.  It was also what his name meant.

5. Be brave when you encounter danger

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28 NIV)

Abigail is an incredible example of bravery.  This is an example of feminine courage.  She risked her life to face four hundred armed soldiers on their way to slaughter some people.

She knows if she services that problem, when she comes home, she knows she will be in trouble with her husband.  She knows that he will not be happy.  She will face an angry husband back home.

Many people in that situation would have been too afraid to do anything.  They would have been paralyzed by fear but Abigail trusted God in this situation and God blessed her.  Instead of being married to a wicked man, her next husband was a man after God’s own heart.  Instead of being married to a fool, her next husband was the future king of Israel.

6. Be faithful to your spouse

What Abigail did is not what most people would do today.  Abigail was married to a fool.  It was not a good match.  She could not have been very happy.  She was in a bad marriage, but we never see her leave her husband.  We never see her have an affair with another man.

Those are things that people do today.  Those are some things that some professing Christians do.  Even though she had a bad husband, even though she was in a bad marriage, even though her husband was completely unreasonable, even though she did not even choose her husband, she was still faithful to her husband.

Drink water from your own well— share your love only with your wife. (Proverbs 5:15 NLT).

Was Abigail a Submissive Wife?

This leads us to one final question.  Critics would say that Abigail stayed with her husband but she was not really submissive to him.  Is that true.  Was she submissive?

Feminists love the story of Abigail.  People who believe in egalitarianism love I Samuel 25.  They believe that Abigail is a clear example in the Bible of a woman who was NOT submissive to her husband and the Bible commends her.

There are many people on the internet with this view.  One example of this is Margaret Mowczkom.  She is Christian feminist from Australia who has a blog.

Mowczkom says that she was always taught that “women were supposed to revere and respect their husbands as leaders, and certainly not say anything bad about them.

But here was a Bible woman who went behind her husband’s back and did something she knew he wouldn’t approve of.  And she even announces her husband’s faults to David…

Despite defying her husband and saying negative things about him, Abigail is commended for her actions. Furthermore, David recognises that Abigail was sent by God.”[3]  Is Mowczkom right?  What does the Apostle Paul teach in the NT?

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22 NIV)

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:24 NIV).

Does I Samuel 25 contradict that message?  Is the message of the chapter that women do not need to submit to their husbands, especially if they are fools?  That might be a large percentage of husbands these days.

In some ways, Abgail does not fit the typical stereotype of submission that many people have.  She is not weak.  She is not passive.  She is not quiet and shy.  She is strong.  She is assertive.  She is independent.  She is courageous.  She is fearless.  She thinks for herself.

On the other hand, it is NOT true to say that Abigail is an example of an unsubmissive wife in Scripture.  Even in I Samuel 25, she is not unsubmissive to her husband.  She is an example of someone who is working for her husband, NOT against him.  This is clear from two things in the chapter.

1) Abigail does not disobey her husband in this chapter.

There is not a word in the chapter that they even had a conversation about it.  Abigail does act independently but she does not outright defy her husband’s explicit orders.  He never told her that she could not do what she does in this chapter.

2) Abigail’s actions actually save her husband’s life.

She did not disobey her husband and she was not working against him.  She was working for him.  She was acting as his “helper.”  If Abigail did not do this, he would have been slaughtered by David and his men.  He would have been massacred.

If she hated her husband, she could have said, “I hear you are on your way to kill my husband.  Please kill him.  Nobody likes him.  I have been trying to get rid of him for years.  You will be doing me a favor.”  Instead, she pleads for his life.  She saves his life.  Abigail is a role model for women today.

[1] Robert D. Bergen, I & II Samuel (NAC), 249.

[2] Abigail is always mentioned after Ahinoam (e.g., I Chronicles 3:1).


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