Imitate Their Faith
She Acted With Discretion
ABIGAIL saw the panic in the young man’s eyes. He was terrified—and for good reason. Grave danger loomed. Right at that moment, some 400 warriors were on the way, determined to kill off every male in the household of Nabal, Abigail’s husband. Why?
It had all started with Nabal. He had acted cruelly and insolently, as usual. This time, though, he had insulted the wrong man—the beloved commander of a loyal and well-trained band of warriors. Now, one of Nabal’s young workmen, perhaps a shepherd, came to Abigail, trusting that she would come up with a plan to save them. But what could one woman do against an army?
First, let us learn a little more about this remarkable woman. Who was Abigail? How had this crisis arisen? And what can we learn from her example of faith?
“Good in Discretion and Beautiful in Form”
Abigail and Nabal were not a good match. Nabal could hardly have chosen a better spouse, whereas Abigail found herself married to one who could hardly have been worse. Granted, the man had money. He thus saw himself as very important, but how did others view him? It would be difficult to find a Bible character who is spoken of in more contemptuous terms. His very name means “Senseless,” or “Stupid.” Did his parents give him such a name at birth, or was it an epithet that stuck to him later? In either case, he lived up to his name. Nabal was “harsh and bad in his practices.” A bully and a drunkard, he was widely feared and disliked.—1 Samuel 25:2, 3, 17, 21, 25.
Abigail was altogether different. Her name means “My Father Has Made Himself Joyful.” Many a father is proud to have a beautiful daughter, but a wise father is far happier to discern inner beauty in his child. All too often, a person blessed with outward beauty fails to see the need to develop such qualities as discretion, wisdom, courage, or faith. Not so with Abigail. The Bible says that she “was good in discretion and beautiful in form.”—1 Samuel 25:3.
Some today might wonder why such an intelligent young woman married such a good-for-nothing man. Remember, many marriages in Bible times were arranged. If not, parental consent was still of great importance. Did Abigail’s parents favor this marriage, even arrange it, because they were impressed with Nabal’s wealth and prominence? Did they feel pressured by poverty? At any rate, Nabal’s money did not make him a fit husband.
Wise parents carefully teach their children a dignified view of marriage. They neither urge their children to marry for money nor pressure them to begin dating when still too young to take on adult roles and responsibilities. (1 Corinthians 7:36) However, it was too late for Abigail to think about such things. For whatever reason, she was married to Nabal, and she was determined to make the best of a hard situation.
“He Screamed Rebukes at Them”
Nabal had just made Abigail’s situation harder than ever. The man he insulted was none other than David. This was the faithful servant of Jehovah whom Samuel the prophet had anointed, revealing David as God’s choice to succeed Saul as king. (1 Samuel 16:1, 2, 11-13) On the run from the jealous and murderous King Saul, David was dwelling in the wilderness with his 600 loyal warriors.
Nabal lived in Maon but worked and likely owned land in nearby Carmel.* Those towns gave access to grassy uplands suitable for raising sheep, of which Nabal owned 3,000. All around, though, was wild country. To the south lay the vast wilderness of Paran. To the east, the approach to the Salt Sea led through desolate wastelands riddled with ravines and caves. In these regions David and his men struggled to survive, no doubt hunting for their food and enduring many hardships. They often encountered the young men who worked as shepherds for the wealthy Nabal.
How did those hardworking soldiers treat the shepherds? It would have been easy to help themselves to a sheep now and then, but they did nothing of the kind. On the contrary, they were like a protective wall around Nabal’s flocks and servants. (1 Samuel 25:15, 16) Sheep and shepherds faced plenty of dangers. Predators abounded back then. And Israel’s southern border was close, so bands of foreign marauders and thieves frequently attacked.*
It must have been quite an undertaking to keep all those men fed in the wilderness. So one day David sent ten messengers to Nabal to ask for help. David chose the moment wisely. It was the festive time of sheepshearing, when generosity and feasting were customary. David also chose his words with care, using polite terms and forms of address. He even referred to himself as “your son David,” perhaps a respectful acknowledgment of Nabal’s greater age. How did Nabal respond?—1 Samuel 25:5-8.
He was outraged! “He screamed rebukes at them” is how the young man mentioned at the outset described the scene to Abigail. Miserly Nabal complained loudly about his precious bread, water, and slaughtered meat. He ridiculed David as inconsequential and compared him to a runaway servant. Nabal’s view may have been similar to that of Saul, who hated David. Neither man had Jehovah’s view. God loved David and saw him, not as a rebellious slave, but as the future king of Israel.—1 Samuel 25:10, 11, 14.
When David’s emissaries reported back to him, he became furious. “Gird on every one his sword!” he commanded. Arming himself, David led 400 of his men to attack. He vowed to wipe out every male in Nabal’s household. (1 Samuel 25:12, 13, 21, 22) David’s ire was understandable, but his way of expressing it was wrong. The Bible says: “Man’s wrath does not work out God’s righteousness.” (James 1:20) How, though, could Abigail save her household?
“Blessed Be Your Sensibleness”
In a sense, we have already seen Abigail take the first step toward righting this terrible wrong. Unlike her husband, Nabal, she proved willing to listen. The young servant said of Nabal: “He is too much of a good-for-nothing fellow to speak to him.”* (1 Samuel 25:17) Tragically, Nabal’s sense of his own importance rendered him unwilling to listen. Such arrogance is all too common to this day. But the young man knew Abigail to be different, which is no doubt why he approached her with this problem.
Abigail thought and acted quickly. “At once Abigail hastened,” we read. Four times in this one account we find the same verb, “to hasten,” used regarding this woman. She prepared a generous gift for David and his men. It included bread, wine, sheep, roasted grain, cakes of raisins, and cakes of figs. Clearly, Abigail knew well what she had and was thoroughly in charge of her household duties, much like the capable wife later described in the book of Proverbs. (Proverbs 31:10-31) She sent the provisions ahead with some of her servants, then followed alone. “But,” we read, “to her husband Nabal she told nothing.”—1 Samuel 25:18, 19.
Does this mean that Abigail was rebelling against her husband’s rightful headship? Not at all. Nabal had acted wickedly against an anointed servant of Jehovah, an action that was likely to result in death for many innocent members of Nabal’s household. If Abigail failed to act, might she become a sharer in her husband’s guilt? In any event, she had to put her submission to her God ahead of submission to her husband.
Before long, Abigail met up with David and his men. Again she hastened, this time to descend from her donkey and humble herself before David. (1 Samuel 25:20, 23) Then she poured out her heart at length, making a powerful plea for mercy in behalf of her husband and her household. What made her words effective?
She took responsibility for the problem and asked David to forgive her personally. She realistically acknowledged that her husband was as senseless as his name implied, perhaps suggesting that it would be beneath David’s dignity to chastise such a man. She expressed her trust in David as Jehovah’s representative, recognizing that he was fighting “the wars of Jehovah.” She also indicated that she knew of Jehovah’s promise regarding David and the kingship, for she said: “Jehovah . . . certainly will commission you as leader over Israel.” Further, she urged David not to take any action that might bring bloodguilt upon him or that might later become “a cause for staggering”—evidently referring to a troubled conscience. (1 Samuel 25:24-31) Kind, moving words!
And how did David respond? He accepted what Abigail had brought and said: “Blessed be Jehovah the God of Israel, who has sent you this day to meet me! And blessed be your sensibleness, and blessed be you who have restrained me this day from entering into bloodguilt.” David praised her for bravely hastening to meet him, and he acknowledged that she had restrained him from incurring bloodguilt. “Go up in peace to your house,” he told her, and he humbly added: “I have listened to your voice.”—1 Samuel 25:32-35.
“Here Is Your Slave Girl”
After they parted, Abigail could not help thinking about that meeting; nor could she have failed to notice the contrast between faithful, kind David and the brute to whom she was married. But she did not dwell on such thoughts. We read: “Later Abigail came in to Nabal.” Yes, she returned to her husband as determined as ever to carry out her role as his wife to the best of her ability. She had to tell him of the gift she had given to David and his men. He had a right to know. She also had to tell him—before he learned of it elsewhere, to his even greater shame—about the danger that had been averted. She could not tell him now though. He was feasting like a king and was as drunk as could be.—1 Samuel 25:36.
Again showing both courage and discretion, she waited until the next morning when the influence of the wine had ebbed. He would be sober enough to understand her, yet more dangerous in his temper as well. Still, she approached and told him the whole story. No doubt she expected him to explode in fury, perhaps violence. Instead, he just sat there, not moving.—1 Samuel 25:37.
What was wrong with the man? “His heart came to be dead inside him, and he himself became as a stone.” Perhaps he had suffered some form of stroke. However, his end came ten days later—and not for strictly medical reasons. “Jehovah struck Nabal, so that he died.” (1 Samuel 25:38) With that righteous execution, Abigail’s long nightmare of a marriage was over. While Jehovah does not step in with miraculous executions today, this account is a fitting reminder that no case of domestic tyranny or abuse escapes his notice. In his own time, he will always bring about justice.
Besides the release from a bad marriage, Abigail had another blessing in store. When he learned of the death of Nabal, David sent messengers to propose marriage. “Here is your slave girl,” she responded, “as a maidservant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.” Clearly, she was not changed by the prospect of becoming David’s wife; she even offered to be a servant to his servants! Then we read again of her hastening, this time to ready herself to go to David.—1 Samuel 25:39-42.
This was no fairy-tale ending; Abigail’s life with David would not always be easy. David was already married to Ahinoam, and polygamy surely presented special challenges to faithful women back then.* And David was not yet king; there would be obstacles and hardships to surmount before he served Jehovah in that way. But as Abigail helped and supported David along life’s road, eventually bearing him a son, she learned that she had a husband who valued her and protected her. On one occasion he even rescued her from kidnappers! (1 Samuel 30:1-19) David thus imitated Jehovah God, who loves and values such discreet, courageous, and faithful women.
This was, not the famous Mount Carmel far to the north, but a town at the edge of the southern wilderness.
David likely felt that protecting the local landowners and their flocks was a service to Jehovah God. In those days, it was Jehovah’s purpose for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to dwell in that land. Protecting it from foreign invaders and marauding bands was thus a form of sacred service.
The phrase the young man used literally means “a son of belial (worthlessness).” Other Bible renderings of this sentence include a description of Nabal as a man “who won’t listen to anyone” and the conclusion, “it is no good talking to him.”
See the article “Does God Approve of Polygamy?” on page 30.
[Picture on page 19]
Unlike her husband, Abigail was a good listener
[Picture on page 20]
Abigail showed humility, courage, and sensibleness in speaking to David