Most everyone who studies Old Testament history knows the account of Nabal in 1 Sam. 25. It is a true account of a man whose wife likely had to cover for him repeatedly to keep someone from killing him. Even though we know that parents arranged the marriages, sometimes causing a good woman to marry a foolish man, we might wonder how such a one as Abigail could be faithful to her vows year after year in spite of her husband’s abuse. We often study how a man could marry several women or even commit treachery against his wife by putting her away for any reason (Deut. 24:1-4, Mal. 2:14-16), but there does not appear to be the same privilege for a woman under the Law of Moses. No matter what situation the Lord granted her, we know that she could not be pleasing under the Mosaic Law if she left her husband. Had this troubled couple been living today, we might apply Matthew 19:8-9 or 1 Corinthians 7:12-14 to their problems; however, even under New Testament law she could not divorce him scripturally and marry another man unless he had committed fornication. Was Nabal abusive to Abigail like he was to the other people around him? Probably he was. Did Abigail still have an obligation to remain faithful to him? Absolutely!
Let me remind you of some of the things the Holy Spirit records about the man Nabal. He was a wealthy businessman who lived in prosperity (1 Sam. 25:2, 6). He was able to hold a feast in his house like the feast of a king (vs. 36). In spite of all God had blessed him with, he was said to be churlish and evil in his doings (vs. 3). He was a railer (vs. 14). He was not a heathen as we might suspect because he was of the “house of Caleb” (vs. 3). When he was asked to give food to David and his men, he refused because he apparently did not know (or pretended not to know) them (vs. 11). Instead of searching out who the son of Jesse was, Nabal assumed the worst about the ones asking for food and water. Even his hired servants knew he was being unfair in his judgment and offensive in his answers (vs. 17). They dared to say, “…for he is such a son of Belial, that a man cannot speak to him” (vs. 17). His own wife knew what kind of man he was and explained to David that he was “…a man of Belial, even Nabal: for as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him” (vs. 25). Apparently there was no hope that Nabal would change his ways, and the scriptures say that the Lord returned his wickedness upon his own head (vs. 39). Obviously he had a stroke and died ten days later. We know that the goodness of the Lord is meant to lead a sinner to repentance, and apparently Nabal’s life follows the same pattern we see in Romans 2:4; Psalms 73:3-12; Job 21:7-13.
By contrast, Abigail is said to be a woman of good understanding and of a beautiful countenance (vs. 3). Abigail had neither married an idolater nor a stranger from another nation (Num. 36:3; Deut. 7:1-3; Josh. 23:11-13; Neh. 13:23, 27; 2 Cor. 6:14). We read that she had married well because she was given to a man from the house of Caleb, one of God’s most righteous leaders in the early days of Israel’s wilderness wanderings (vs. 3). She was said to have wisdom and wise counsel. When the servants heard that David intended to kill their master and his entire household because of the way Nabal treated them, they knew they could turn to Abigail for help to defer David’s anger. They trusted her to do something to save them all (vs. 17). She humbled herself before David and begged for his favor (vs. 23) and wisely prepared more food for him and his men than he had originally asked for (vs. 11, 18). She very wisely acknowledged that her husband should suffer because he had returned evil for the good David had done for him (vs. 21; Psa. 38:20; Psa. 109:5; Prov. 17:13), but she asked that he take vengeance on her rather than Nabal or his workers. However, she also requested that David would simply hear her words before he killed her (vs. 24). It was these wise words that would save David from shedding blood and avenging himself by his own hand (vs. 26; vs. 33; Lev. 19:18; Rom. 12:17; Deut. 32:35). Later, in Psalms 94:1-3, we read that David never forgot the lesson God taught him through Abigail (Jas. 1:17).
Not only was Abigail diplomatic, but she also had faith that Nabal would be killed by God himself (vs. 26). She very humbly acknowledged that the Lord had used her to do His work with David. She then gave David a blessing which could have been revealed to her by God (vs. 26-31). She begged for forgiveness and testified that she knew that David was God’s anointed and would rule over all Israel. Judging rightly that she would be forgiven for the incident concerning her husband, she asked that David remember her when he came into his kingdom (vs. 31). At this news, David praised the God of heaven who had sent such a woman to save him from doing what he had intended to do (vs. 32-33). As soon as the news came to David that Nabal was dead, he “remembered” her and called for her to be his wife (vs. 39). Abigail still showed her humility in her acceptance speech (vs. 41). She was willing to go to the house of David to wash the feet of the king’s servants. What a beautiful heart she possessed so that she could be used by God to save a man from folly and still be willing to serve in other ways!
By this example, we have seen the contrast between two people (one righteous and one evil), and we have seen a striking example of how God blessed a woman who endured grief—suffering wrongfully (1 Pet. 2:17-24). She was willing to give honor and devoted service even to a froward husband. There is no indication that she tried to be loosed from him. She did not run away from him like the woman in Judges 19:1-2. No doubt she also gave loving devoted service to David after he called her to be his wife, and his heart could safely trust in her (Prov. 31:11-12).
We have no promise that God will avenge us of our enemies in this life or that our blessings will come to us in this life, but we can be assured that we will be rewarded in eternity if we endure to the end (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:7). May our Father in Heaven bless us all to be more like Abigail.