Calvary Road Baptist Church

ďTHE WISDOM OF ABIGAILĒ

First Samuel 25

 

This evening we will examine the life of a woman of rare wisdom and insight, a woman who was apparently not only filled with godly wisdom, but also a woman who studied men. Her name was Abigail, and we find her in First Samuel chapter 25. I trust you have already read that chapter, since it is much too long to read at this time.

Before we begin, allow me to provide the setting for our text. In First Samuel chapters 22, 23, and 24, we have seen David, on the run from jealous King Saul after having been anointed by the prophet Samuel to be the next king, conduct himself with mildness and magnanimity, and showing mercy to the man who was hunting him down to kill him. David has resisted both his own temptations, as well as the urgings of his companions, to take matters into his own hands and kill King Saul, to thereby bring to an end his troubles. However, David trusted God to both protect him and provide for his future.

In First Samuel 25, we see another side of David, and we are reminded that no man stands a moment longer than Godís grace upholds him, that the strongest are weak as water as soon as the power of the Spirit is withdrawn, and that even the mature and experienced Christian acts foolishly the moment he is left to himself. None of us has any reserve strength or wisdom in ourselves to draw from. Our source of sufficiency is all treasured up for us in Christ, so that as soon as communion with Him is broken, as soon as we cease looking alone to Him for help, we are helpless. David had been on his guard against anger and revenge when most badly used by Saul, but he did not expect such reproachful language and insolent treatment from Nabal. Therefore, he was caught completely off guard by Nabalís reaction to his suggestion, and in great indignation, he determined to avenge himself.[1]

Though the focus of the chapter is obviously David, Israelís anointed and future king, this evening we will fix our attention on the woman God uses to intervene in his life, to arrest his fit of rage, and to rescue him from a course of action he had embarked on that would have left him with blood on his hands. Her name was Abigail, and her discretion is a marvel of Godís grace.

The detrimental effect of modern feminism is so widespread, and the examples of virtuous women that can be found to hold up to our daughters as examples are so rare (otherwise their price would not be far above rubies, Proverbs 31.10), that many girls these days have no vision for the calling of a woman. First Samuel chapter 25 is a chapter any Christian woman would do well to spend time reading and studying, as she reflects on the situations and challenges Abigail dealt with as the wife of a complete fool and a help to Israelís future king.

As much a running commentary as a sermon, our focus will be on Abigail throughout the chapter:

 

First, However, THE SITUATION THAT AFFECTED ALL ISRAELITES

 

Verse 1: ďAnd Samuel died; and all the Israelites were gathered together, and lamented him, and buried him in his house at Ramah. And David arose, and went down to the wilderness of Paran.Ē

 

While Samuel was alive, it can easily be imagined that King Saulís impulses were at least partially restrained. However, with Samuel passed from the scene, David knew King Saulís hunt for him would be intensified, so he headed far to the south, to the wilderness of Paran.

If you look on one of your Bible maps, notice that Paran is deep into the Sinai peninsula, which then was not so bleak as it is in our day, having more rainfall then than now. David was playing it safe.

 

Next, We Are Given THE BACKGROUND INFORMATION

 

Verse 2. Be mindful that the Carmel mentioned in this verse is not Mount Carmel. Mount Carmel is on the Mediterranean Sea, on the northern extremity of the country. This region of Carmel is south of Hebron and north of the wilderness of Paran, where David sought refuge from Saul.

Verse 3. Nabal is contrasted from his wife, Abigail. While he is described as ďchurlish and evil,Ē which is another way of saying that he was stubborn and bad, she is described in glowing terms. She was ďa woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenanceĒ who happened to be married to a man who was a loser, despite being very wealthy. How does such a thing not reflect on her? Remember that marriages were typically arranged in those days. The rich guy wanted to marry the outstanding example of womanhood, and he got the woman he wanted.

Verses 4-9. Sheep herding is a dangerous vocation, with the sheep and shepherds subject to danger from men and wild animals. David directed his men to protect Nabalís men and flocks. Of course, Nabal had to have known this protection was being provided for him. Therefore, since it was shearing season, he sent his young men to suggest that Nabal reply with a little consideration in return for his protection. That was not an unreasonable request on Davidís part, especially since he is Godís anointed to be Israelís next king, and everyone knows it.

Verses 10-13. When Davidís young men spoke to Nabal, he reacted without thinking, typical of his churlish and evil personality, and spoke disparagingly about David in front of his young warriors, describing him as an ungrateful runaway slave. On one hand, he claims he does not know who this David and his men are, verse 11, yet he knows that David is the son of Jesse, verse 10. My guess is that the man is just a foolish tightwad who sees a chance to get away with being protected by Davidís men without it costing him anything. It was a good thing for him that Davidís men did not kill him on the spot, but kept their mouths shut until they had a chance to tell David. Davidís response was to determine to go kill this guy who had insulted him in front of his men, to seek his revenge upon the man so foolish as to talk about him that way. Did Nabal realize just whom he was dealing with, the man who was known everywhere as the warrior who not only slew Goliath, but also the man who has killed his ten thousands?

 

Third, ABIGAIL LEARNS OF THE CRISIS

 

Keep in mind that all that has transpired to this point has occurred without Abigailís knowledge:

 

14    But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabalís wife, saying, Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to salute our master; and he railed on them.

15    But the men were very good unto us, and we were not hurt, neither missed we any thing, as long as we were conversant with them, when we were in the fields:

16    They were a wall unto us both by night and day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep.

17    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.

 

Why did the young man tell Abigail instead of telling his master? Surely, this was disloyalty. Keep in mind, you who get upset when you find out that people are reluctant to speak to you directly, that the fault is yours. You are difficult to talk to. People are very willing to talk to people who can be talked to. You had better hope the person who listens to the people who feel they cannot talk to you has your interests at heart.

She knows what her husband is like. It would do her no good in the present crisis to say, ďHow dare you speak the truth out loud about my husband, your master?Ē She knows that all their lives are in danger because of her husbandís stubbornness, that David was perfectly justified in asking for some payment for services rendered to Nabal, and her husband was not the kind of guy you could talk to when real understanding and thoughtfulness was needed. The young man came to her and asked her what she was going to do because he trusted her wisdom. He did the right thing, under the circumstances.

 

Fourth, A DECISIVE WOMAN OF ACTION

 

18    Then Abigail made haste, and 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, and laid them on asses.

19    And she said unto her servants, Go on before me; behold, I come after you. But she told not her husband Nabal.

20    And it was so, as she 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.

21    Now David had said, Surely in vain have I kept all that this fellow hath in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that pertained unto him: and he hath requited me evil for good.

22    So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall.

 

Notice that she takes quick action, but does not tell her husband. Of course, he is the head of the household. Of course, he will get mad at her for not asking his permission to do this or that. However, he is a hard head and everyone knows it. She knows her husband well enough to know that if she informs him, and he starts spouting off, or ranting and raving, there will be no way to talk any sense into him until after a number of people are already dead.

Does this woman know men, or does this woman know men? Not only did she fully comprehend the stupidity of her own husband, but she was also enough of a student of men to realize what Davidís likely reaction would be. She knew this leader of mighty men would be offended and outraged by her husbandís insolence, and would seek vengeance against every man he could for the offensive words of her foolish husband.

It is when she is traveling to meet David and his warriors that our narrator informs us of Davidís thoughts. He had behaved with benevolence to protect Nabalís flocks. So, what does he get for his good deed but a kick in the teeth. Filled with rage when Abigail meets him, David was reacting precisely how this very cagey woman thought he would react.

 

Fifth, A WOMAN OF WISDOM, HUMILITY, AND RESPONSIBILITY

 

Verse 23: ďAnd when Abigail saw David, she hasted, and lighted off the ass, and fell before David on her face, and bowed herself to the ground.Ē

 

What Abigail did at this point was no surprise to David. What else could any woman do but fall down before him and beg for her life? She would have been a fool not to display humility at this point, though many a fool refuses to be humble when only humility is between you and complete ruin.

 

Verse 24: ďAnd fell at his feet, and said, Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be: and let thine handmaid, I pray thee, speak in thine audience, and hear the words of thine handmaid.Ē

 

Here is where she shocks David. She assumes responsibility for the entire situation, instead of shifting the blame to her stubborn and foolish husband. Donít you know that got Davidís attention.

 

Verse 25: ďLet not my lord, I pray thee, regard this man of Belial, even Nabal: for as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him: but I thine handmaid saw not the young men of my lord, whom thou didst send.Ē

 

If she is going to save her husbandís life, she knows she cannot argue for his nonexistent virtue. He has no redeeming qualities. He is a fool. What good will an unwise demonstration of loyalty do for either Nabal or Abigail at this point? It would do no one any good at all. She tells David that the whole episode between his young warriors and her husband went bad because she had not spoken to Davidís young warriors herself. Thus, she argues that responsibility for the turn of events and bad feelings should all fall on her. Oh, how very wise this woman is, not only in recognizing the benefit of admitting what kind of man her husband really was, but also in shouldering the blame for what happened. Why was her course of action wise? You can only affect things you assume responsibility for.

 

Verse 26: ďNow therefore, my lord, as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, seeing the LORD hath withholden thee from coming to shed blood, and from avenging thyself with thine own hand, now let thine enemies, and they that seek evil to my lord, be as Nabal.Ē

 

Read this again with me. ďSeeing the LORD hath withholden thee from coming to shed blood, and from avenging thyself with thine own handĒ? Abigail is injecting the LORD into Davidís consideration by specifically telling him that God was withholding him from killing her husband and avenging himself with his own hand. Ironically, that is precisely what David intended to do. Who, pray tell, is God using to withhold David from doing this? Abigail, herself. She continues, ďnow let thine enemies, and they that seek evil to my lord, be as Nabal.Ē She argues here that it should be sufficient for David that his enemies be as stupid as her husband is. She is hereby very effectively arguing for her husbandís life, donít you see? What a woman! However, she is not finished.

 

Verse 27: ďAnd now this blessing which thine handmaid hath brought unto my lord, let it even be given unto the young men that follow my lord.Ē

 

What does she do here? She gives David what he was initially after, food. Of course, now that he has the food he and his men so desperately need, there remains only his anger and desire for vengeance to deal with. Keep in mind that Abigail could not deal with her husbandís stupidity and stubbornness, so she simply bypassed him and did what needed to be done. David, however, was a thinking man, and a woman can deal with a thinking man once she has gotten his attention.

 

Verse 28: ďI pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid: for the LORD will certainly make my lord a sure house; because my lord fighteth the battles of the LORD, and evil hath not been found in thee all thy days.Ē

 

Incredibly, she appeals to David to forgive her. Notice, she makes sure that the blame is all on her, and none of it is on her husband. Why so? David is far more likely to forgive her than Nabal. In doing this, she really does save her husbandís life. Why does she do this? On what basis does she disobey her husband? It was not simply to save his life, and possibly hers. Notice the rest of the verse. Abigail knows three things about David: First, she knows that God will establish his kingdom. Second, she knows that David fights Godís battles, so this matter is really quite beneath him. Third, she knows he is not an evil man, and therefore he should not soil his reputation by seeking vengeance in this way. She had the wisdom to grasp that her husband stood in the way of her serving God, so she went past him. There is no warrant in Godís Word for any woman allowing her husband to prevent her from serving God. For Abigail, it was a relatively simple matter of considering her stubborn and thoughtless husband, and then considering the LORDís anointed successor to King Saul. Take note of First Corinthians 7.15, which reads, ďBut if the unbelieving depart, let him depart.Ē Ask yourself, why would an unsaved husband depart, except for his disapproval of his wifeís commitment to serve God no matter what her husband says or does? A Christian woman simply does not miss church or ministry because her stubborn husband objects to it. Christ has liberated woman from that kind of bondage. One final question before continuing: ďPastor, was not Abigail deceiving David by taking the blame and asking his forgiveness, when she had done nothing wrong?Ē My answer is, was David deceived in any way? No. He perfectly understood her tactic with him, as well as the wisdom of it, and he approved. If there is no intent to deceive, and there is no deception, then what you have is a demonstration of extraordinary wisdom in selecting words to negotiate the barriers of Davidís mind, with David fully knowing what she was doing as she did it.

 

Verse 29: ďYet a man is risen to pursue thee, and to seek thy soul: but the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the LORD thy God; and the souls of thine enemies, them shall he sling out, as out of the middle of a sling.Ē

 

Here she alludes both to King Saul, who is hunting David, and to Goliath, who David slew as a lad, as well as the protection he enjoyed as Godís anointed. Oh, the wisdom of this amazing woman.

 

Verses 30-31: ďAnd it shall come to pass, 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: but when the LORD shall have dealt well with my lord, then remember thine handmaid.Ē

 

She completes her appeal by reminding David what God has planned for him, that he shall rule Israel, that this incident should be no grief to him, since he will not shed blood without cause by avenging himself. She only asks that he remember her when he becomes king. Some have expressed their opinion that Abigail is lowering herself here, by asking for a favor from David. That is not the case at all. She is expressing a desire that can only be fulfilled after David becomes king, thereby demonstrating her faith that God keeps His promises. Such would only serve to encourage David during this bleak period in his life.

 

Sixth, ABIGAILíS WISDOM AND ACTION IS APPRECIATED BY DAVID

 

32    And David said to Abigail, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me:

33    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.

34    For in very deed, as the LORD God of Israel liveth, which hath kept me back from hurting thee, except thou hadst hasted and come to meet me, surely there had not been left unto Nabal by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall.

35    So David received of her hand that which she had brought him, and said unto her, Go up in peace to thine house; see, I have hearkened to thy voice, and have accepted thy person.

 

Has this woman worked David, or what? I can just imagine how profoundly impressed he was with her wisdom, her courage, her faith, and the spiritual genius she displayed in dealing with him from her position as a subordinate to him. And people think you have to be in charge to influence people?

In verse 32, he thanks God for sending her to him that day. In verse 33, he blesses her advice and then blesses her person. In verse 34, he openly acknowledges that, but for her, there would be a lot of blood spilled that day, and that Nabal and his men would have been mere memories.

David then took the gifts she had brought to give him, and expressed to her that he had granted her the forgiveness she asked for. Verse 35: ďSo David received of her hand that which she had brought him, and said unto her, Go up in peace to thine house; see, I have hearkened to thy voice, and have accepted thy person.Ē

 

Seventh, ABIGAILíS HONESTY AND GODíS DELIVERANCE

 

36    And Abigail came to Nabal; and, behold, he held a feast in his house, like the feast of a king; and Nabalís heart was merry within him, for he was very drunken: wherefore she told him nothing, less or more, until the morning light.

37    But it came to pass in the morning, when the wine was gone out of Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became as a stone.

38    And it came to pass about ten days after, that the LORD smote Nabal, that he died.

 

Interesting, is it not? Nabal did not have the sense to reward David and his men with a little food for protecting his flocks and shepherds from harm, but verse 36 reveals that he had no problem spending money to throw a party and to get drunk. What a husband this woman is married to.

She had saved his life, without him knowing it. Therefore, after he woke up from his drunken stupor, she told him what had transpired and he had what appears to have been a stroke.

Though she saved her idiot husbandís life, God chose to take it, and he died. This was Godís marvelous deliverance of Abigail from her churlish and evil husband.

 

Finally, DAVIDíS APPRECIATION IS DEMONSTRATED

 

39    And when David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, Blessed be the LORD, that hath pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal, and hath kept his servant from evil: for the LORD hath returned the wickedness of Nabal upon his own head. And David sent and communed with Abigail, to take her to him to wife.

40    And when the servants of David were come to Abigail to Carmel, they spake unto her, saying, David sent us unto thee, to take thee to him to wife.

41    And she arose, and bowed herself on her face to the earth, and said, Behold, let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.

42    And Abigail hasted, and arose, and rode upon an ass, with five damsels of hers that went after her; and she went after the messengers of David, and became his wife.

43    David also took Ahinoam of Jezreel; and they were also both of them his wives.

44    But Saul had given Michal his daughter, Davidís wife, to Phalti the son of Laish, which was of Gallim.

 

David married the widowed Abigail. She became one of his wives and gave him a son. I would not attempt to express approval of their marriage, except to say that consistency is not typically a characteristic of Godís people, and that polygamy was very common in those days, especially among kings.

However, we should ask why David married her? There were probably two reasons: First, he needed her money. She was now a wealthy widow, and this whole episode was about David getting food for his men. Until he began to rule as king, he would be strapped for money to feed his men. Second, he saw in her a rare kind of woman. She had the wisdom to see the big picture, to take it all in, and to see Godís role in it all. No doubt, he was wise enough to see in her a woman who would give him the wise counsel her first husband was too stupid to take for years to come.

 

The potential for a young woman who places her faith in Jesus Christ is boundless. According to First Corinthians 1.30, Christ Jesus is made unto the Christian wisdom, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

Additionally, as the Christian woman matures spiritually, she gains wisdom through the experiences of life, through her study of Godís Word, and in answer to prayer, James 1.5. Should she further demonstrate her wisdom by seeking mentoring relationships with godly aged women, she might end up being a Proverbs 31 virtuous woman.

However, there are limits even for a woman who is spiritual and blessed with dramatic wisdom, as we see with Abigail. What do we see from her life? What might the young Christian woman apply from First Samuel 25 to her own life?

I can think of several things: First, be very careful whom you marry, because there are some men you just cannot work with. Even Abigail could get nowhere with her very wealthy and extremely stubborn husband, so she ignored him and served God as best she knew how. That is what every Christian woman should do. Second, we see that there are men that a wise woman can influence, even men of great power and force of personality. They have to be thinking men rather than stupid men, not men who are stubborn to their own hurt, as David was. Finally, and this is most important, she held on to what she knew was Godís purpose, the eventual elevation of David to be king over Israel. In other words, while she was loyal to her husband in that she preserved his life from harm by David, she was more loyal to God than to her husband.

Abigail was a remarkable woman, the kind of woman a girl would do well to emulate.



[1] Arthur W. Pink, The Life Of David, Volume I, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing Company, 1958), pages 133-135.



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org