David had eight wives. 1) Ahinoam of Jezreel, 2) Abigail of Carmel, 3) Maacah the daughter of Talmai, King of Geshur, 4) Haggith, 5) Abital, 6) Eglah, 7) Michal, and 8) Bathsheba— besides his many concubines (1 Chronicles 3:1-9).
What’s interesting is that the Bible features the stories of only three of these eight women. We know of Michal because she is the daughter of Saul whose pride leaves her childless and dishonored (1 Samuel 18:17-30; 1 Samuel 19; 2 Samuel 6). We know of Bathsheba because hers is the account of David’s infamous adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11-12; 1 Kings 1-2). And we know Abigail—it would seem simply for her wisdom. Her story, told in 1 Samuel 25, is an incredible contrast between folly and wisdom!
1 Samuel 25 finds young David on the run from Saul. He is hiding in the wilderness of Paran with a band of 600 men (1 Samuel 22:1-2; 25:13). While in Paran, David and his men take on the duty of protecting the shepherds of Nabal, Abigail’s wealthy yet foolish husband. It is said that day and night, they serve as a “wall” around Nabal’s servants, shielding them from potential danger (1 Samuel 25:4-7; 25:14-16).
David holds this position until the day of shearing—a festive day of rejoicing over the abundance of sheared wool. The Mosaic Law called for hospitality and generosity at harvest and feast times (Deuteronomy 24:19-22). Knowing this, David sends messengers to greet Nabal and receive whatever he is willing to give him in recognition of his service and to meet the needs of his 600 men and their families (1 Samuel 30:1-6).
Unfortunately, rather than hospitality and gratitude, David is met with utter humiliation. It states in 1 Samuel 25:10-11 that Nabal “rails” at the messengers. With cutting sarcasm, Nabal, demeans David with the following: “Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants these days who are breaking away from their masters. Shall I take my…meat that I have killed for my shearers and give it to men who come from I do not know where?”
The obvious implication is that Nabal doesn’t know this David. This, however, was unlikely. David was the great warrior who killed Goliath (1 Samuel 17:50-51). He was renowned in King Saul’s court and was also the King’s son-in-law (1 Samuel 18:17-27). All of Israel sang songs of David’s victories (1 Samuel 18:6-7). So it’s not that Nabal doesn’t know David, rather he chooses to highlight David’s current status as a disfavored fugitive servant of Saul. Nabal diminishes God’s blessings to him through David’s service by narrowly focusing on his lowered position.
This is a clear sign of Nabal’s disregard of the LORD Himself. For while David was certainly a wanderer at present, the LORD had nevertheless anointed him as king in 1 Samuel 16:11-13. Abigail knew this (1 Samuel 25:30), so how could Nabal not know? Especially since David, being Judean, had been anointed in Judah, the very area of the country where Nabal, a Calebite, was from (1 Samuel 25:3; Joshua 15:13). So this was not a matter of Nabal’s ignorance but rather his indifference towards God’s promises.
Indeed, this man was as careless with God’s word as he was with his tongue. His boastful and untamed tongue fans the flames of David’s anger and the fire threatens to consume Nabal and his family (1 Samuel 25:34; James 3:5-6). David avenges to kill Nabal’s household and the proverb was proved true: “For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them” (Proverbs 1:32).
But whoever is wise and understanding among you, by her good conduct let her show her works in the meekness of wisdom (James 3:13). Hearing of Nabal’s discourteous response to David—and David’s subsequent resolve to avenge himself—Abigail wastes no time (1 Samuel 25:18-19). She gathers large portions of food and drink and rides to meet David and his men (1 Samuel 25:23-31). Once before him, Abigail prostrates to the ground as gracious words pour from her lips—soft answers that turn away the wrath of a determined warrior (Proverbs 15:1).
Abigail’s speech to David ought to impress us. For rather than defending her innocence before him, she bears Nabal’s guilt and takes the blame for her unworthy husband (1 Samuel 24). She then appeals to David on the basis of who God is and what He has spoken concerning him. She reminds David that vengeance is of the LORD (1 Samuel 25:26; Deuteronomy 32:35); and reassures him of God’s faithfulness. She says this: “For the LORD will certainly make my lord [David] a sure house” (1 Samuel 25:28-30).
This is a woman whose wisdom is from above, her words are not conceited but are “pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). And the LORD remembers Abigail. Her foolish husband, Nabal is struck dead by the LORD ten days after this incident and David is free to request the hand of this beautiful and discerning woman (1 Samuel 25:38-42).
Oh that you and I might seek this kind of wisdom (James 1:5)! Wise women who build our homes, and not foolish ones, tearing them down with our own hands (Proverbs 14:1). Women made alive in Christ; and so we boast—not of ourselves but—of Him who has become our wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). It was He who stood between us and God’s just wrath and bore the guilt of our sinful folly. Christ is our wisdom from above, He sowed perfect obedience and reaped for us a harvest of righteousness and peace with God (James 3:18). Let’s pray for grace to fear, trust and obey Him, for this is wisdom!
*Thanks for reading! This post is part of my Mothers in the Bible Series; we are looking for glimpses of the gospel in the lives of biblical women--from Eve to Mary, the mother of Christ. Click here to see other writings. And please let me know your thoughts!