Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Abigail


The Meeting of David and Abigail, by Jacob Willemsz de Wet the Elder

1 Samuel 25:3- 43; 27:2; 30:5-18
2 Samuel 2:2, 3:3
1 Chronicles 3:1

Background:

Right before Abigail's story David and his men had been pursued all over the desert  by Saul and his army.  At one point David and his men found Saul asleep in a cave. David's men rejoiced saying, " Behold the day of which the Lord said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee." David approached Saul and cut off his skirt without awakening him. Yet after cutting off Saul's skirt David realized that he couldn't kill Saul and he ordered his men to leave the cave quietly. Outside the cave David raised his voice and called Saul to come out to hear him. He showed him the skirt and said, 
 "... yea, see the skirt of thy robe in my hand: for in that I cut off the skirt of thy robe, and killed thee not, know thou and see that there  The Lord judge between me and thee, and the Lord avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee." neither evil nor transgression in mine hand, and I have not sinned against thee; yet thou huntest my soul to take it. (1 Sam 24:12-13).
Saul, realizing how close he had just come to death, repented and begged David not to kill him or his decedents when David became king (1 Sam 24:17). David promised and then returned to the wilderness with his men, where they became famished and in desperate need of provisions.

Facts About Her:
  • She was married to a very wealthy man named Nabal, of the house of Caleb, who was "churlish and evil in his doings" (1 Sam. 25:3);
  • The scriptures describe her as "a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance" (1 Sam. 25:3); 
  •  David, who was in Paran with his 400 men, heard that Nabal was shearing his sheep. In the past David and his men had protected Nabal's shepherds while they were watching their sheep. David's men were destitute at the time and David felt like he was entitled to share of Nabal's increase. He sent ten of his men up to Carmel to request a share of Nabal's harvest as recognition of  David's service to his men. Nabal flat out refused David's request and denied any obligation to David saying, "Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants now a days that break away every man from his master. Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be?" (1 Sam. 25: 10-11).
  • When David heard this he was irate and began to march with his men towards Carmel with the intent to kill "any that pisseth against the wall" (1 Sam. 25:22)  One of Nabal's servants who heard what was said to David's men, knowing that his life was in trouble, went to Abigail and said, "Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to salute our master; and he railed on them." He told Abigail about how good David's men were to them in the fields and how they "were a wall unto us both by night and day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep" and then he asked her what she was going to do saying, " Now therefore know and consider what thou wilt do; for evil is determined against our master, and against all his household: for he is such a son of Belial, that a man cannot speak to him." (1 Sam 25:17).
  • When Abigail heard this she wasted no time and, without her husband's permission or knowledge, she took "two hundred loaves, and two bottles of wine, and five sheep ready dressed, and five measures of parched corn, and an hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs"  (1 Sam. 25: 18) and loaded them onto asses and rode out to meet David and his 400 men. 
  •  When she saw David she got down off of her donkey and bowed herself at his feet. She she asked David to spare the life of her husband and "upon me let this iniquity be." She also asked for permission to speak with him and tells him that if she had seen and heard the request of his men she would have given him what he had asked. She implored him to not shed blood and promised him that if he was merciful to Nabal, even though he had been wronged, that the Lord would deal mercifully with him.
  • She brought attention to the fact that David had just spared the life of Saul, a man who had done him much more harm and yet he was now ready to kill a whole household of men simply because his pride at been offended. She reminded him that if he was to hold back and instead allow the Lord to be Nabal's judge then, "...when the Lord shall have done to my lord according to all the good that he hath spoken concerning thee, and shall have appointed thee ruler over Israel; That this shall be no grief unto thee, nor offence of heart unto my lord, either that thou hast shed blood causeless, or that my lord hath avenged himself..."( 1 Sam. 25: 30-31) 
  • She also asks David, "... when the Lord shall have dealt well with my lord, then remember thine handmaid." ( 1 Sam. 25:31) 
  • When David heard her words he exclaimed, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me: And blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand." (1 Sam. 25:32-33)  He then accepted the offering that Abigail brought him and told her, "Go up in peace to thine house; see, I have hearkened to thy voice, and have accepted thy person." (1 Sam. 25:35)
  • David departed and Abigail returned home to find her husband having a feast and that his "heart was merry within him, for he was very drunken"  (1 Sam. 25:36).  She didn't tell him anything of what had happened that night, but waited till the next day.  When she told him what she had done "his heart died within him, and he became as a stone." (1 Sam. 25:37) Ten days later "...the Lord smote Nabal, that he died." (1 Sam. 25:38)
  • When David heard that Nabal was dead he sent messengers to Abigail asking her if she would be his wife. She accepted and she went to go live with him in the desert. She was his second or third wife. His first wife being Michal (the daughter of Saul) whom he married much earlier and his second (or third) wife being Ahinoam of Jezreel  whom he married around the same time he did Abigail.  (1 Sam. 25:39-43)
  •  While dwelling in Zilkag, David and his  men were away and the Amalekites attacked and burned  the city to the ground. They took captive all the women and children of David's camp including Abigail and Ahinoam of Jezreel. When David and his men returned they were devastated at their loss and the men wanted to stone David. The Amalekites had a three day start on them and they didn't think there was any way they could catch up with them. David prayed to the Lord to know what to do and the Lord told David, "Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all." (1 Sam. 30:8). David and 600 of his men pursued after them. They ran so hard that 200 hundred of the men were too faint to continue on, but David and 400 of his men miraculously caught up with the Amaelkites and were able to recover all that had been stolen, including Abigail and Ahinoam. (1 Sam. 30: 1-18)
  • She went with David when he went up to Hebron and was crowned King of Judah (2 Sam. 2:2);
  • She bore David his second son Daniel (1 Chronicles. 3:1),  who was also known as Chileab (2 Sam. 3:3);
Speculations About Her:

  • Her husband's name "Nabal" literally means " insensitive" and "churlish (ie. vulgar, rude)" and it sounds very similar to the word "fool" in Hebrew. Seeing as this is quite a harsh name it was most likely a nickname or what people called him behind his back (or maybe to his face). It may also have just been one of the many word plays that the Bible authors used to get the point of their story across. One can only imagine how Abigail must have felt being married to such a man. She would have been in a hard situation and she showed real strength of character and spirit by maintaining her spirituality, kindness, and wisdom while being in what must have been an abusive type of marriage.  
  • Abigail's name means "Father of Rejoicing", which is a strange meaning for a female name. Nancy W. Jensen suggested that, "Perhaps the word "Father" refers to "origin" or "Creator," so that her name might mean something like "reasons to rejoice originate with or are created by this person."  Knowing that Abigail is a type of Christ makes this name significant." (source)
  • Ahinoam of Jezrel's name is always listed before Abigail's name when David's wives are listed. This might indicate that she was married to David before Abigail and had higher status in the household as a result. Ahinoam also bore  David his first born son ( 2 Sam. 3:2), which would have given her more status than Abigail. 
  • The fact that Abigail's son Daniel is not mentioned in later scripture suggests that he may have died as a child (source). Being a childless would have greatly reduced Abigail's status and influence in David's household. It seems like she never had things very easy!
"A Lamp Unto my Feet" by Elspeth Young

My Thoughts:

Abigail is such a fun character in the Bible. This woman had spunk! She definitely didn't fit the mold for the average woman of her time.  There is so much to share about Abigail's story but there are few things I'd especially like to focus on:

Her Bravery and Courage

It is significant that when faced with a major crisis Nabal's servant turned to Abigail for advice and guidance. He showed complete faith in her ability to come up with a solution and enact it, without her husband's direction or permission. Abigail quickly came up with a solution and the scriptures say that she prepared  "two hundred loaves, and two bottles of wine, and five sheep ready dressed, and five measures of parched corn, and an hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs"  (1 Sam. 25: 18) as an offering to take to David and his men. This undertaking would have required a colossal amount of work. She didn't have a Costco to run down to and pick up enough food for 400 famished men. It is remarkable that she would be would have been able to, in haste, make all these preparations without her husband's knowledge.

Then in 1 Sam. 25:20 it says that  Abigail "...  rode on the ass, that she came down by the covert of the hill, and, behold, David and his men came down against her; and she met them." David was one of the most dangerous and feared men of his day. Riding out to meet him and 400 men as they "came down against" you was something I doubt very many men of the time would have done. Yet she showed enormous courage and "met them." She knew that she was doing what was right and was able to stand up to a man, feared though he was, who was making a wrong and violent choice and implore him to reconsider. What a woman!

It also says something about David that he listened to her and treated her, in every way, like an equal. Not only did he accept her peace offering but he followed her advice and praised her wisdom. I'd like to think that perhaps one of the reasons David later asked Abigail to be his wife was because he recognized in her a true equal-- in courage, in wisdom, and in faith.

Her Role as a Peacemaker and a Type of Christ

One of the most powerful aspect of Abigail's story is what it teaches us about forgiveness, mercy, and justice.  Abigail is a type of Christ, willingly to satisfy the demands of justice by taking upon herself the sins of another (in this case Nabal's) and offering to the wronged party (Daivd) mercy and forgiveness. Abigail had no obligation to take responsibility for Nabal's actions, yet she did it because she knew that his life and the life of many others was at stake. Furthermore she knew that if David continued on the course that he had determined, to kill "all that pisseth against the wall" he would be doing a great wrong and might lose his standing and privileges in the eyes of the Lord. Just like Christ she was motivated out of love and deep respect for all human life, no matter how wicked it happened to be.

 The reality of the story is that Nabal did deserve to be punished. He had acted cruelly and dishonestly and David may have been perfectly justified in seeking to punish him like he planned. Yet Abigail teaches us a beautiful lesson about trusting the Lord. She implored David to be merciful, asking him to trust that the Lord would deal justly with Nabal and that, eventually, he would get what he deserved. She reminded him that David had just dealt merciful with Saul, trusting that the Lord would sort things out, and that he should do the same with Nabal-- churlish and vile as he was. I can't help but feel that Abigail was speaking from experience here. I can only imagine how many times she may have been wished to be freed from her marriage to such an awful man. Yet as far as we know she never took any means to punish him, hurt him, or run away from him. Instead she did all she could to save his life, trusting that if she showed forth mercy and love that the Lord would hear her cries and deal justly with her and Nabal. It is significant to me though that before Abigail finishes speaking with David she asks him, "... when the Lord shall have dealt well with my lord, then remember thine handmaid." ( 1 Sam. 25:31) Simply asking him, that when he became King, not to forget an unhappy woman trapped in an awful marriage. When the Lord "smites" Nabal ten days later it is evidence that the Lord dealt justly with both David and Abigail-- hearing both of their supplications. What a blessing it must have been for Abigail, after being married to a man who was most likely abusive and cruel, to be married to David; a man she could look up to and who treated  her as an equal.

I think that so often in life when we are mistreated by others we tend to be "Davids", jumping at the chance to punish people and rain down justice upon them. Just yesterday I saw this sort of tendency in myself. Someone had knowingly said something hurtful to me and my first reaction was to withhold my friendship until they said they were sorry or until they took steps to make it better.

Sometimes it is really hard for me to fathom but God is a PERFECT judge. He is all knowing and all seeing. He sees all the works His children do on this earth and understands perfectly their experiences and the intents of their hearts. With this perfect understanding He is able to mete out the perfect balance of justice and mercy.  So perfect that the scriptures promise us that, when each soul stands before God to be judged "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess" (Romans 14:11)  that He is perfectly merciful and perfectly just.

 Just think what power there would be if each of us were a little bit more like Abigail-- free with our mercy and our forgiveness-- and a little less like David-- revengeful and proud. The really hard part is letting go of our anger and our desire to punish and placing our hurt and grievances firmly in the Lord's hands-- and trust Him to deal justly and mercifully with it.

That can be scary and hard, and sometimes it feels like utter madness and chaos, but Abigail's story teaches us that if we turn it over to the  Lord-- He will never let us down.


Questions to Think About:

  • What does Abigial's story teach us about women who are in difficult marriages? Is it ever okay for a woman to make major decisions without her husband's knowledge or consent? 
  • How often do we try to take matters into our own hands and try to punish people who have wronged us? Is there a "Nabal" in your life whose judgment you need to turn over to the Lord and leave it in His hands?  
  • How do you think she felt about being a polygamous wife? Why would a woman willingly enter into a marriage like that? Maybe anything would have been better than Nabal? 
  • How is Abigail's situation and story similar to that of Bathsheba (one of David's later wives)? What do their stories teach us about the way we react to difficult situations?  
  • What do the young women and young men in your life have to learn from Abigail's story?

10 comments:

  1. I have always loved the story of Abigail. She is such an example of courage and faith. Thank you for a very insightful post, you've given me a lot to think about this morning.

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  2. have you read The Peacegiver? She is discussed in length. Great stuff!

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    1. I haven't read the Peacegiver yet! But when I was doing some internet research on her I saw it pop up a lot. I will be excited to read it.

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  3. I truly came to love Abigail when I read the Peacegiver which has already been mentioned. Wonderful account.

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  4. Thank you for another wonderful post. It brought to my mind how I need to forgive my children more quickly. When they do something wrong, I instruct them (and feel annoyed inside), then they want a hug but I don't feel like hugging them quite yet.

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  5. I am going to save this to someday share with my Abigail! Wonderful!!

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  6. Thank you so much for your blog! I am the Girls' Camp director for our ward and we are focusing on women in the scriptures. Your blog has made these women come alive for me as they never have before and I'm so excited to share their stories with my young women!

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  7. I love this post! Thank you so much for writing it.

    One thing that stood out to me was Abigail's timing in telling her husband of the things she had done. As you noted, when Abigail saw he was in a drunken state she knew this was NOT the time nor place to discuss such issues. Rather, she waited to tell him "until the morning light" (1 Sam. 25: 36). I can only imagine how severe Nabal’s reaction might have been had he been told while drunk. Or maybe she knew Nabal was in no condition to fully understand what she had to say. No matter the reason, this illustrates Abigail’s wisdom and grace as she demonstrates the ability to wait for the appropriate moment. Sometimes arguments erupt because a discussion is started when it could have waited for a better moment. Could we improve our relationships by following her example?

    Also, I am curious about Nabal’s reaction. As you pointed out, when Abigail tells him of the things she had done, we read "his heart died within him, and he became as a stone." (1 Sam. 25:37) Ten days later "...the Lord smote Nabal, that he died." (1 Sam. 25:38) I wonder what this means? Nothing is written about Nabal speaking before “his heart died within him.” So I curious to know if he immediately experienced a heart attack or something of that sort causing him to turn to “stone” and did this eventually lead to his death 10 days later? Or is it meant to be taken figuratively? I also wonder if his reaction and death was the Lord’s way of protecting Abigail from what could have been a pretty horrific moment. I hope I am not speculating too much…just some random thoughts I’ve been pondering.

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    1. Oh, I love your thoughts. Especially about Abigail's timing. That is very true-- just another evidence of her wisdom. I've thought alot about Nabal's "heart dying" and I'm not really sure what it means. I am inclined to think that it is literal, that he had some physical reaction (maybe more of a result of his partying life style). Or that maybe he was touched with a bit of remorse and couldn't handle it? I'm not sure either. But keep thinking and pondering about it-- it isn't speculating too much--- just shows an inquisitive mind!

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  8. I was given the Peacegiver as a gift. I have yet to read it but now I am very excited to do so.
    My oldest daughter (8- just got baptized yesterday) is named Abigail.
    I think I will find a lot of information that will be meaningful. I can't wait to share this post with her.

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