The story of Abigail is one of courage and strength in a desperate situation. Gina M Poirier digs into who Abigail in the Bible was and what we can learn from her in this post, which is part of our Great Women of the Bible series.
Have you ever looked at your life during a period of hardship and wondered how in the world things ended up that way?
Maybe it wasn’t your fault. You were faithful and checked all of the items on your to-do list. And yet, there you stood, your hopes dashed, with little hope and no exit strategy.
That’s the story of being human sometimes, and that’s what makes great women of the Bible’s stories so relevant. They’re real. They’re painful. They’re unabashedly ugly, without sugar coating.
The story of Abigail in the Bible is one such story.
Who Was Abigail in the Bible?
Abigail in the Bible was a woman whose story is found in 1 Samuel 25. Described as a beautiful and wise woman, Abigail demonstrated the ability to think on her feet and act quickly. Because of her faith, wit, and courage, she helped prevent bloodshed and later married David, the future king of Israel.
The Story of Abigail in the Bible
As a young woman married to a wicked man named Nabal, Abigail in the Bible was not living her happily ever after. Instead, she found herself in a seemingly impossible, terrifying situation.
At the height of the story, Nabal showed contempt to David and his warriors by refusing to give them food during a festive time, after they had protected Nabal’s shepherds in the wilderness. David was enraged and planned to kill Nabal and his household.
Discreetly, Abigail intervened and offered David a generous peace offering. His anger subsided and he decided to abandon the violent wrongdoing. When he later heard about what happened, Nabal died from a stroke.
Somehow, Abigail in the Bible was able to look at a story much larger than hers and find strength in the storm. She made a gutsy move. God honored her courage, and she played a pivotal role in his larger narrative.
If you’ve ever felt hopeless or like the odds were impossibly against you, this story in 1 Samuel 25 is a reminder of how to take courage even in the messiest situations. For just as God had a place in His story for Abigail in the Bible, He has one for you, too.
Guess what! This post is part of a series on Great Women of the Bible.
Be sure to check out all of the other posts about women in scripture in this series here: 15 Great Women of the Bible Every Christian Woman Should Study.
3 Lessons We Can Learn from Abigail in the Bible
1. Remember That God Sees Your Pain
Think your life is a mess? Take a look at Abigail’s disaster.
Abigail in the Bible was a woman in ancient Israel who married a very wealthy man in Carmel, a beautiful place in a mountain ravine known for its abundance. She probably had every creature comfort anyone could ask for—including multiple maidservants, abundant food, and livestock like goats, sheep, and donkeys to solidify their wealth.
The problem was: her husband Nabal was a real jerk. His name literally meant “fool,” and he is also described as “surly” and “mean.” We can speculate how awful he was to his wife based on the way she talked about him. It wasn’t with much fondness—she called him “that wicked man Nabal”!
Being in a loveless, possibly abusive marriage is devastating, especially when your situation looks good on the outside. Abigail’s marriage was probably arranged, as that was the cultural norm of her day, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t have dreams of something better for herself.
As if the hopeless marriage situation wasn’t bad enough, the situation got even messier…
Abigail’s foolish, mean husband insulted Israel’s anointed king-to-be, David, a man who was well-known. In what wasn’t one of his most flattering moments, David was enraged and planned to slaughter every male in Nabal’s household by daybreak after he received Nabal’s message:
And Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants nowadays who are breaking away from their masters. Shall I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers, and give it to men who come from I do not know where?” (1 Samuel 25:10–11, NRSV)
In an instant, everyone’s lives and livelihood on the wealthy estate were in danger, including Abigail’s. And it was through no fault of their own.
Fortunately, the story didn’t end there. God saw Abigail’s pain and had a plan to work through her messy situation, as we’ll see below.
If your life feels like a hopeless mess, remember that God sees you, too. (See Psalm 10 as inspiration.)
2. Sometimes You Just Have to Take Action
Somebody had to do something, fast, if the people of Nabal’s whole household were going to survive.
Tellingly, a panicked servant went straight to Abigail, who was described as “an intelligent and beautiful woman” and clearly had a good understanding of the weight of the situation. She acted quickly and ordered that extravagant gifts like loves of bread, seahs of grain, and cakes of raisins loaded on donkeys be presented before David and about 400 of his men.
Abigail in the Bible put her life at risk by begging for mercy. She threw herself prostrate before him, offering praise and reminding David of his role as the anointed king.
Then Abigail hurried and took two hundred loaves, two skins of wine, five sheep ready dressed, five measures of parched grain, one hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs. She loaded them on donkeys and said to her young men, “Go on ahead of me; I am coming after you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal. (1 Samuel 25:18–19, NRSV)
The plan worked. Then David recognized his pride and relented, thanking Nabal’s wife for keeping him from bloodshed and vengeance.
Meanwhile, Nabal knew nothing of this. He was getting drunk while having a feast and hoarding all of his resources. When Abigail told him what had happened the next day, he collapsed and died several days later.
Okay, I have so many questions about this story. Abigail essentially threw her husband under the proverbial bus, going behind his back and over his head. Her actions shocked him so much that he died.
What are we to make of this? Was she wrong? Was she right? How much should we imitate her?
Neither the author nor God makes a comment about whether Abigail in the Bible was 100% in the right by her methods.
What we can see, however, is that she didn’t hide her head in the sand when someone needed to act. She took action on her good judgment—an action that took a lot of guts. Perhaps it was on faith, that if she did something to stand up for what was right, the God of Israel would do His part.
I am blown away by this kind of courage. It is so easy to get paralyzed by following all the rules that you can miss the greater calling. David saw that God was working through Abigail in the Bible because she chose to stand up.
There may be times in your own trials when it’s best to wait.
But then there are opportunities when it’s clear that something has to happen—particularly when people are in danger. Whatever your storm is like, I encourage you to be bold when it’s clear to act, even when you’re not sure exactly what you should do.
Do something, like Abigail in the Bible did, and watch God do His part.
3. Trust in the Bigger Story
Abigail’s situation drastically turned overnight. Soon after her wicked husband’s death, David married her.
But perhaps the more astounding outcome is the role Abigail had in David’s life. As the man anointed by the prophet Samuel as Israel’s king (and predecessor to the Messiah), he played a pivotal role in the biblical narrative. What if he had given in to his rage? Would he have murdered innocent people and turned his back on God? Would God have eventually replaced him with someone else, just as He had done with King Saul?
Abigail may have been thinking about David’s role as the future king when she pleaded with him for the lives of people in her household:
“When the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you, and has appointed you prince over Israel, my lord shall have no cause of grief, or pangs of conscience, for having shed blood without cause or for having saved himself. And when the Lord has dealt well with my lord, then remember your servant” (1 Samuel 25:30-31, NRSV)
But the story of Abigail is in the Bible for a reason. Perhaps it’s because God wants us to see how her story was an important part of His.
It’s worth noting that even after she married David, Abigail in the Bible still didn’t live a personal happily ever after. At one point she was kidnapped along with the rest of David’s men’s families.
She did eventually bear him a son, but he was not chosen as the heir to the throne. What’s more, she was just one of David’s wives, which I’m sure doesn’t lead to the happiest of marriages.
Perhaps she watched with sorrow as one of David’s sons tried to usurp the throne and the royal family tore itself apart. It didn’t look like a great start to a lasting dynasty.
The Bible isn’t a collection of fairy tales when it comes to individual stories. But it does have a “happily ever after” in the larger story—God’s grand plan to rescue His entire creation through his messy, sinful people, who are only made faultless through Christ. It is in THIS story that we can put our trust.
I like to think that, to the best of her knowledge during her time, Abigail knew this: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (1 Corinthians 4:17). And that is how Christians today can find strength too, no matter what they’re going through.
What do you think about the story of Abigail in the Bible and the role she played in God’s plan? What can you learn from her in your own situation?