The name Abigail, means ‘cause of Joy’. The Biblical Abigail became the wife of David, the King of Israel. Her story is one of love and sympathy, and is told in the Book of Samuel.
Abigail enters the tale as the wife of a very rich man called Nabal, which is the Hebrew word for fool. As a husband, Nabal was not accommodating: “She was a woman of intelligence and beauty, but he was a harsh man, mean and surly.” (Samuel 25:3). The story infers that Abigail was caught in an abusive marriage, her husband too concerned with wealth to sufficiently care for her.
It is said that Nabal was the owner of many thousands of sheep. Yet he was a selfish man. King David’s servants approached him, asking him for some food in return for their loyal guarding of his herds in Carmel. He refused their request outright. The anger and brutality that he displayed at the simple request for food was a reflection of how he treated his wife Abigail.
The first words spoken about Abigail in the Bible confirm her intelligence above all else. As the wife of such a cruel man, she had learned the arts of patience and diplomacy. Her mild temperament and tolerant manner was a result of many years of struggling with her partner.
When Abigail learned of her husband’s dismissal of David and his men, she knew that blood would soon be shed if she did not intervene. Working according to the rules of negotiation, she quickly gathered enough food for all the men and went on her way to meet them before disaster had a chance to strike.
As she met with David she said, “Let me take the blame, my lord. Hear your servant’s plea.” (Samuel 25:24). By receiving all the blame for her husband’s selfishness, Abigail proved her intelligence, succeeding in smothering David’s vengeful flame without any display of argument or physical force.
David was more than satisfied by Abigail’s words of reason: “Blessed be God, God of Israel, who sent you to meet me today. Blessed be your wisdom and bless you for restraining me from bloodshed and revenge.” (Samuel 25:32-33). In this blessing Abigail’s future was written. Unbeknownst to her, she would become David’s wife, as chosen by God, for her good service.
Abigail informed her husband of her actions, once he was sober enough to listen to her. It is said: “his heart died within him and he became like a stone.” (Samuel 25:37). God struck Nabal down for his evil ways ten days later, leaving Abigail alone at last. David soon heard of his death and sent his servants to Abigail to ask for her permission to marry. She accepted without hesitation.
Abigail is symbolic of the power of reason. Her subtlety and wisdom carried her through an awful marriage, saved her household, and led her to David who was won by her beauty. Her seemingly submissive ways were grounded in a certain strength that enabled her to defy the strength of the men around her.
Learning from the ways of the mothers before her, Abigail’s hospitality and open heart serves as an example to all. Her generosity staved off the promised bloodshed and brought peace to her home.
With her calming words Abigail implemented principle of mind over matter, which had supported her in her life with Nabal, the fool. In her humble fashion Abigail managed to turn her situation of despair to success.
Abigail solemnly stood by her belief in better times ahead, for which she was blessed with the future King David’s hand in marriage. Abigail is remembered for her strength of mind, which enabled her to maintain her sanity and continue her family line.