They Did Jehovah’s Will
A Discreet Woman Averts Disaster
A SENSIBLE woman married to a good-for-nothing man—that was the situation of Abigail and Nabal. Abigail was “good in discretion and beautiful in form.” In contrast, Nabal was “harsh and bad in his practices.” (1 Samuel 25:3) The drama that unfolded involving this ill-matched couple left their names indelibly etched in Bible history. Let us see how.
A Favor Taken for Granted
It was the 11th century B.C.E. David had been anointed as Israel’s future king, but instead of ruling he was running. The reigning king, Saul, was determined to put him to death. As a result, David was forced to live as a fugitive. He and some 600 comrades eventually found refuge in the wilderness of Paran, south of Judah and toward the wilderness of Sinai.—1 Samuel 23:13; 25:1.
While there, they encountered shepherds employed by a man named Nabal. This wealthy descendant of Caleb owned 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats, and he sheared his sheep in Carmel, a city south of Hebron and perhaps only some 25 miles [40 km] from Paran.* David and his men helped Nabal’s shepherds guard their flocks against thieves who roamed through the wilderness.—1 Samuel 25:14-16.
Meanwhile, sheepshearing had begun in Carmel. This was a festive occasion, similar to harvesttime for the farmer. It was also a time of openhanded generosity, when sheep owners would reward those who had worked for them. So David was not being presumptuous when he sent ten men to the city of Carmel to ask Nabal for food in repayment for the service that they had performed in behalf of his flocks.—1 Samuel 25:4-9.
Nabal’s response was anything but generous. “Who is David?” he sneered. Then, implying that David and his men were no more than runaway servants, he asked: “Do I have to take my bread and my water and my slaughtered meat that I have butchered for my shearers and give it to men of whom I do not even know from where they are?” When David heard of this, he said to his men: “Gird on every one his sword!” About 400 men prepared themselves for battle.—1 Samuel 25:10-13.
Nabal’s abusive words came to the attention of his wife, Abigail. Perhaps this was not the first time she had had to intercede and act as peacemaker for Nabal. In any case, Abigail acted immediately. Without telling Nabal, she gathered provisions—including five sheep and an abundance of food—and went out to meet David in the wilderness.—1 Samuel 25:18-20.
When Abigail caught sight of David, she at once prostrated herself before him. “Do not let my lord set his heart upon this good-for-nothing man Nabal,” she pleaded with him. “As regards this gift blessing that your maidservant has brought to my lord, it must be given to the young men that are walking about in the steps of my lord.” She added: “Let this [situation regarding Nabal] not become to you a cause for staggering or a stumbling block to the heart of my lord.” The Hebrew word here translated “staggering” implies qualms of conscience. So Abigail warned David against taking hasty action that he would later regret.—1 Samuel 25:23-31.
David listened to Abigail. “Blessed be your sensibleness, and blessed be you who have restrained me this day from entering into bloodguilt,” he said to her. “If you had not hastened that you might come to meet me, there would certainly not have remained to Nabal until the morning light anyone urinating against a wall.”*—1 Samuel 25:32-34.
Lessons for Us
This Bible account shows that it is by no means wrong for a godly woman to take appropriate initiative if it is needed. Abigail acted against the wishes of her husband, Nabal, but the Bible does not censure her for this. On the contrary, it praises her as a woman of discretion and sensibleness. By taking the initiative in this crisis situation, Abigail saved many lives.
Although in general a wife should display a spirit of godly subjection, she may properly disagree with her husband when right principles are at stake. Of course, she should strive to maintain a “quiet and mild spirit” and should not act independently merely out of spite, pride, or rebelliousness. (1 Peter 3:4) However, a godly wife should not feel pressured to do anything that she knows is highly unwise or in violation of Bible principles. Truly, the account of Abigail offers a solid argument against those who insist that the Bible depicts women as mere slaves.
This account also teaches us about self-control. At times, David displayed this quality to the full. For example, he refused to put vengeful King Saul to death, even though he had ample opportunity to do so and Saul’s death would have brought David peace. (1 Samuel 24:2-7) In contrast, when Nabal insultingly spurned him, David was caught off guard and swore revenge. This is a clear warning to Christians, who strive to “return evil for evil to no one.” In all circumstances, they should follow Paul’s admonition: “If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men. Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath.”—Romans 12:17-19.
The wilderness of Paran is understood to extend as far north as Beer-sheba. This portion of land included considerable pasture ground.
The phrase “anyone urinating against a wall” was a Hebrew idiom for males, evidently an expression of contempt.—Compare 1 Kings 14:10.
[Picture on page 15]
Abigail brings gifts to David