31 Days of Women from Scripture
Lessons from Abigail
“Your adornment must not be merely external – braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” 1 Peter 3:3-4
I am basically built like a linebacker, to my mind anyway. Thankfully, my husband disagrees. I have broad shoulders. I walk with a long, fast stride. I have crazy curly hair that will NOT be tamed. I speak loudly. My mother often said I walked loudly. My brain very quickly works to solve a problem. I am incapable of taking a bath to relax because that means sitting still and doing nothing. I do not laugh out loud much because when I do it is loud, so I tend to chuckle. I preferred to climb trees to read a book and throw a football. I disdain frilly clothes. I do not get my nails done because I mess them up almost immediately. I do not wear makeup because my face sweats just because I walked away from the air conditioning, this is a trait I inherited from my father. So growing into a woman, the “imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit” seemed a quite impossible goal for me. I felt like the deck was stacked against me. I knew what I wanted to be, but what I thought that looked like would mean a brain transplant and copious amounts of plastic surgery. At war with that was the certainty that somehow I had to be able to accomplish it because God made me the way that I am. The question was – HOW?
My mother started me on the path. She spent a lot of time and effort teaching me how to walk like a lady, sit like a lady, and to get into a car like a lady. Learning to walk in heels and with a book on my head to straighten my posture were not unknowns to me. She taught me about the women of the Bible. My father had her teach me the Gospels so I would understand authority (it took 8 years for the light bulb to finally come on, sigh). She showed me an excellent example of a woman with abilities to manage many things while still being submissive to her husband. Our personalities were very different, so I mistakenly thought it just came more easily to her. But I had a foundation.
I do not remember when exactly Abigail came on my radar, but I do remember the profound RELIEF I felt when I understood her story. For a woman like me Abigail offered hope that IT can be done. A meek and quiet spirit was an internal state of quietness with one’s place in the world. You could be assertive, problem solve, converse with a man AND be submissive and ladylike. All of the women we have studied thus far and the ones to come after reinforced this idea for me – but Abigail was the one who planted it deeply. So if I seem to get a bit excited – please bear with me.
Abigail’s story is in 1 Samuel 25. It falls after David has married Michal but is now fleeing away from Saul who is determined to kill him (1 Sam. 23:14).
David and his men have been living in the wilderness of Paran at the south end of Judah. David discovers that Nabal of Maon is having his sheep sheared in Carmel. It so happens that David and his men have been protecting Nabal’s shepherds while they were in the area. David sends word to Nabal letting him know that his shepherds have been taken care of by David and his men. He then asked that Nabal help David and his men by giving them some food seeing as they have come on a day when feasting was taking place. This would mean that food was likely plentiful and therefore no burden to Nabal to share with David and his men. Nabal, however, does not see it that way. He insults David in a grand way, shows himself to be thoroughly inhospitable, and refuses to be of any help. David’s response – 400 men with swords marched back to Nabal (1 Sam. 25:2-13).
As a note – Nabal means “folly” or “fool”. He fits the Biblical description to a “T” (Prov. 10:18; Ps. 92:5-6; Prov. 12:15; Prov. 17:12). By his behavior, today we would call him a jerk.
One of Nabal’s shepherds ran to get Nabal’s wife, Abigail. The young man tells all that David and his men did for the shepherds (1 Sam. 25:14-17). He tells Abigail, “Now therefore, know and consider what you should do, for evil is plotted against our master and against all his household; and he is such a worthless man who no one can speak to him.” What a man to work for! What a man to be married to!
Scripture tells us in 1 Samuel 25:3 that Abigail was “intelligent and beautiful in appearance”. Abigail hurried and gathered some food. The sheer amount of what was readily available to her highlights how mean Nabal was in not sharing with David and his men; there was plenty. Abigail then proceeds to ride out to meet David. When she finds him, she immediately falls at his feet.
Abigail gets David’s attention by protecting those under her care; she asks that she alone be held responsible and asks that David take a moment to listen to her. She asks that David not pay attention to Nabal, “this worthless man”. She says that he lives up to his name which means “folly”. Abigail says that she did not see David’s men. She asks that he forgive her transgression by allowing her to give the gift she has brought to David and his men. But she does not stop there. Abigail recognizes that the Lord has chosen David and that the Lord will protect him against his enemies. When the day comes for David to be ruler over Israel, this incident with Nabal should not cloud the moment because David shed blood for no reason and he would have avenged himself instead of letting God avenge him. When God keeps His promises to David, she asks that David remember her (1 Sam. 25:18-31).
David’s response? “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me, and blessed be your discernment, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodshed and from avenging myself by my own hand” (1 Sam. 25:32-33). He makes it clear that if she had not acted so quickly and come to meet him – by the morning there would have been none of Nabal’s men left alive. He accepted her gift and told her there was no longer a need to be concerned.
Abigail goes home. She finds Nabal holding a feast “like the feast of a king” and Nabal is very drunk (1 Sam. 25:36). So Abigail chooses to wait until the morning to discuss her interaction with David. The next morning when she told Nabal these things, “his heart died within him so that he became like as a stone.” About ten days later, Nabal died (1 Sam. 25:37-38).
When David learns of Nabal’s death, he recognizes that the Lord has protected David and avenged him from Nabal’s evildoing. David proceeds to ask Abigail to be his wife. Abigail humbly accepts his proposal (1 Sam. 25:41-42).
Abigail marries David and travels with him and his men until David is established as king over Judah (2 Sam. 2:1-4). We learn that she gave him his second son, Chileab who was also called Daniel (2 Sam. 3:3; 1 Chron. 3:1).
Our timing and choice of words make a HUGE difference! As we saw with Esther, thinking about what you are going to say, being respectful, and being concise goes a long way when talking to a man. Making sure that you have his full attention is helpful too. Michal did not show the same restraint as Abigail when talking to David and it caused a divide that was never mended between she and David.
Abigail also shows how submission works even when one is married to a man who is not being as he should be. She makes no excuses for Nabal. She does not try to make him seem better than he is. She tells the facts. But she also does not lay all the blame on his feet – because David was already doing that. She pulls the attention back to what SHE was responsible for. The providing of food for these men would have been as much her responsibility as Nabal’s. She says that it was her failing to not have seen David’s men. She seeks to correct her part by providing food for them now. She does not apologize for Nabal being horrid towards David – she simply asks that he recognize that a worthless man acted as worthless men will act. She is in a position to correct the REAL wrong that was done, the not providing of food for David and his men who were hungry and had shown friendship by caring for the shepherds while they were in Carmel.
When she goes home, she further shows submission to her husband and wisdom for timing. Notice first that she did not hide what she had done. She shows every intention of telling him what she had given to David. Coming home to find him feasting and drinking to excess, she COULD have gotten angry. Abigail could have yelled at him in front of his friends and servants. She could have made a point right then to tell him what position he had put them all in. She could have railed against him for being so selfish as to not give food to those men while here he sits eating more food and drinking so much that he is “very drunk”. She could have made it clear that he would be dead tomorrow if it had not been for her. But she didn’t. She WAITED until the morning when his head was clear. But she did tell him. She obviously told him in such a way that he was struck by the seriousness of his actions instead of being angry at her for what she did. She did what was hers to do – as her husband he had a right to know what she had given away.
Abigail shows how, when you know you have done the right thing, you can face a furious man or a worthless husband. Having a clear conscience on your part always makes difficult situations easier to get through.
She shows the wisdom of Proverbs 15:18, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger calms a dispute.” She calms David’s anger. She reminds him that God has been on his side so far and will continue to do so. She does not build him up with false flattery. She again states what is truth – God has been with David, God has bigger things planned for David, this moment only matters depending upon how David handles himself.
Abigail shows courage under fire, submission to a hard man, and quick thinking! Notice that the FIRST thing mentioned of her is that she is INTELLIGENT. She does not make excuses for Nabal. She does not wail and cry at David to get him to reconsider. She takes care of what David had a right to expect from any decent human being, and reminds him that he has a greater moment than this one indignation from Nabal coming when he becomes king. David so recognized her exceptional qualities that he thanked God for her and wanted her to be his wife after Nabal died.
There are so many ways we can apply and imitate Abigail’s behavior. She exemplifies the woman in Proverbs 31:10-31. She shows us how a widow like that described in 1 Timothy 5:9-10 must have been as a married woman. Abigail shows how a woman might teach, or even correct, a man and not be usurping his authority (1 Tim.2:12). She shows the power that a woman has when she trusts God enough to work from the position He gave her.
Proverbs 12:4 “An excellent wife if the crown of her husband, but she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.”
Proverbs 18:22 “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.”
Proverbs 19:14 “House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.”
Without question, Abigail shows us how to be that woman in 1 Peter 3:1-6. Her behavior was chaste and respectful, David commended her for it. She was beautiful, but it was her meekness (strength under control) and tranquil spirit that made her stand out. Her submission to her husband showed that these things were not put on in that moment, she wore them every day as a part of her character. God never demands what we cannot do. Each of us is different from the other. But that “gentle and quiet spirit” can be in EACH of us. Esther and Abigail did it. Go forward today being confident that you can too.
PS Would you like to know how I know God has a sense of humor? Because He gave my husband and I girls – FIVE GIRLS! For the tomboy who did not have many girl friends when she was young. For the woman who struggled so with how to become a confident woman – raising five daughters seemed ridiculous. The oldest was blessed with a gift for frills and hair – so she quickly took care of those things for the younger girls as they came along. I CAN braid their hair and roll their hair in curlers – I just have never been overly inclined to do so. You just have to do it all over again! I also only have one of the five girls who is of a similar personality to me. The others are all either much calmer or much more fun-loving. I realized though why I have these girls – BECAUSE I went through all that stuff. I am able to see their concerns and understand them. And having fought those battles, I am equipped with the armor and tools to win the war. I can share it with them. God prepared me for THEM while He was refining me.
PSS On a totally practical note, Carol Tuttle’s Dressing Your Truth helped me to understand how to be even more confident as the woman God created me to be. It was helpful to be given positive words for the things that I only saw as negatives. It was especially helpful in being able to learn how to find the right type of clothing to express my natural energy so that I feel comfortable, no matter what I have on. BTW – I am a Type 3 Dominant. Feel free to come back and share what Energy Type you are!
What are your thoughts about Abigail?
Comment below and let’s talk about how we can learn from her life!
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