“The Good Wife,” Old Testament Edition

If you were to ask someone with even a modest familiarity with the Old Testament who King David’s most famous wife is, they most likely would answer Bathsheba. She is involved in some of David’s most serious sinning. He lusts for her while seeing her bathing and calls for her. He gets her pregnant and then has her husband, Uriah, killed in battle to cover up the sin. Ultimately, he marries her and she gives birth to King Solomon. There is however another one of David’s wives who deserves far more acknowledgment than she receives. Her name is Abigail.

We meet Abigail in 1 Samuel 25 where she is described as “an intelligent and beautiful woman.” Her husband Nabal (whose name means fool) is described as “surly and mean (also churlish and evil) in his dealings.” David sends ten young men to ask Nabal for a favor. Reminding Nabal that his men didn’t mistreat his shepherds or steal anything from them, David, through these young men, asks Nabal for food and other provisions. Some bible commentaries liken David’s ask to an ancient world protection racket: “help us or else.” Others simply see it as David asking Nabal to return the favor. Clearly, Nabal took it as the former and not the latter:

Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?” 1 Samuel 25:10-11 (NIV).

After David’s men tell him what happened, David prepares to respond with force. Abigail hears of all of this and steps into the matter. She sends her servants ahead of her with many gifts for David. Then she approaches him as he was preparing to move against Nabal:

When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. She fell at his feet and said: “Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent. And now, my lord, as surely as the Lord your God lives and as you live, since the Lord has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal. And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my lord, be given to the men who follow you. 1 Samuel 25:23-27 (NIV).

David responds favorably, to say the least. He thanked God for her intervention and the carnage it prevented. And then:

Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, “Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request.” 1 Samuel 25:35 (NIV)

Nabal would suffer heart failure and die ten days later. Abigail would become David’s wife.

What does this mean for us? It appears Nabal assumed the worst from David’s overture. Rather than engage David with generosity and courtesy (which Abigail did), he responds in anger. Have you ever done the same with an email where you assumed the meaning and responded without getting clarity from the sender? Or with a social media post? I have. Nabal is remembered as an angry fool who suffered the consequences of his actions. Abigail is remembered as a wise woman who was blessed by her actions. Who would you rather be? More importantly, who does God want us to be?

— Pastor Jerry Bader

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