November 30, 2007

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Biblical women: David’s second wife, Abigail

John F. Fink(Eighteenth in a series of columns)

“He did what?!” Abigail said to one of the servants.

“David sent messengers to your husband Nabal to ask for some food for him and his men, but Nabal flew at them screaming,” the servant repeated. “He yelled, ‘Who is David? Nowadays there are many servants who run away from their masters. Must I take my bread, my wine, my meat that I have slaughtered for my own shearers, and give them to men who come from I know not where?’ (1 Sm 25:10-11).

“Yet these men had been very good to us while we were shepherding our master’s 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats while we lived among them in the open country,” the servant told Abigail.

This was during the time when David was a fugitive from King Saul.

Perhaps Nabal didn’t know who David was, but Abigail did, and she knew that he was not a man to be trifled with. She quickly had the servants get together 200 loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five measures of roasted grain, 100 bunches of raisins and 200 cakes of figs. She ordered the servants to take them to David while she would follow.

David had indeed planned to punish Nabal for his rudeness and refusal to feed his men. He had taken 400 of his followers and they were on the road to Carmel, where Nabal and Abigail lived. He vowed to kill Nabal and all the males who belonged to him.

As soon as Abigail saw David and his men, she dismounted from the ass on which she was riding and fell prostrate on the ground before David. “My lord, let the blame be mine,” she exclaimed. “Let not my lord pay attention to that worthless man Nabal, for he is just like his name” (1 Sm 25:24-25). (“Nabal” in Hebrew means “a fool.”)

Abigail continued at length, praising David and predicting that God would establish a lasting dynasty for David. She asked him to accept the food she had brought with her and to spare Nabal so that, after God had appointed David as commander over Israel, he would not have it on his conscience that he had shed innocent blood.

David was impressed. He praised her for her good judgment for meeting him because otherwise, he said, “by dawn Nabal would not have a single man or boy left alive.” He told Abigail to go home in peace.

When she got back home, she found Nabal drunk during a drinking party in their home. So she waited until the next day to tell him what had happened. When he realized what he had done, he was stricken physically. He died 10 days later.

When David learned that Nabal had died, he sent a proposal of marriage to Abigail, who immediately got up, mounted an ass and followed David’s messengers along with her five maids. She became David’s second wife after King Saul gave David’s first wife, Michal, to another man. Later, David married more women. †

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