Lesser-Known Women: Abigail

Picture of David and Abigail
“Prudent Abigail” by Juan Antonio de Frías y Escalante

Where do we find her in the Bible?

Who was she?

  • David’s second wife, after Michal, the daughter of King Saul
  • First, though, she was the wife of Nabal, a wealthy Calebite.
    • Nabal’s name means “fool” in Hebrew. Throughout this story, he acts the role of the Biblical fool (cf. Ps 14:1-3, Ps 53:1, Prov 7:21, Prov 30:22, Is 32:5-8, Jer 17:11). Even though he is drawn as a stereotypical character, he plays an important role in this story.
    • Nabal’s and Abigail’s personalities are contrasted in 1Sam 25:3, where she is described as clever and beautiful.
  • Abigail intervenes with David
    • David’s request of food for his men is not unreasonable. Middle Eastern hospitality aside, it’s reasonable compensation for his protection of Nabal’s shepherds and flocks.
    • Abigail’s intervention prevents the execution of her husband, herself, and their whole family.
    • Abigail also prevents David’s engaging in a rash act of vengeful violence. She insures that his coming kingship won’t be tainted by bloodguilt.
  • Abigail’s speech in vv. 26-31 includes prophetic references to David’s becoming king and his ensuing dynasty, before any other prophet (namely Nathan in 2 Sam 7) has given voice to such a message from God.

What lessons do we learn from her story?

  • The balance of personalities, traits, and skills between partners in marriage helps to strengthen the relationship when they are used to complement each other. Big differences can negatively affect the relationship when one partner or both cannot or will not accept the other’s strengths as necessary or important.
  • How do we react to the sharp contrast of the personality traits of Abigail and Nabal (1Sam 25:3)? How do you think they managed to make their marriage last for any length of time?
  • Shrewdness and dealing wisely with others is not only praised, but we are reminded that it can be a life-saver.
  • Abigail’s shrewdness, though, could also be interpreted as being almost conniving: Her first husband was “surly and mean.” When she encountered the “ruddy and handsome” David (1Sam 16:12), do you think that she decided to find a way to get into his good graces, so that she might/would become his wife?

Most thoughts throughout this study guide inspired by the section on 1 Samuel 25 in The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 2, accessed 6/30/14