Her name means “source of joy”. Abigael, true to her name, comes into a scene reeking of bloodshed and revenge, and becomes a source of joy. King David, a fugitive in the wilderness with his bunch of dissidents, hearing that Nabal is having a shearing party, sends envoys to ask for a share in the feast: “Please give whatever comes to your hand to your servants and to your son David.” (1 Sam 25:8) This request is valid since David and his men have been ensuring that Nabal’s flocks and men are not harmed. However, Nabal answers arrogantly, “Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants nowadays who break away each one from his master. Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers, and give it to men when I do not know where they are from?” (V10, 11). David is so incensed that he swears: “May God do so, and more also, to the enemies of David, if I leave one male of all who belong to him by morning light.” (v22) It is Abigail Nabal’s wife, who through her discretion averts the massacre by her knowledge, intuitiveness that is displayed in her action and speech, her humility and fear of God.
As the saying goes, Knowledge is power. If there is one thing that Abigael needed the most it was that, knowledge. Riddled with a husband who lacked discretion and whom she herself called “ a fool”, she needed to have her ear close to the ground to know what was happening since Her husband was like a fool apt to get into a quarrel. She needed her workers to inform her what was happening so she could take care of it, “Now one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, saying, “Look, David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master; and he reviled them…(now) evil is plotted against our master and against his whole household; and he is such a worthless man that none can speak to him.” ( v 15, 17). If Abigail had been as rude and obnoxious as her husband, many lives would have perished, but because she was intelligent and discerning, a disaster was averted. Abigail made herself approachable, she listened to her people and she acted judiciously for the saving of many lives. It must be noted however, that Abigail was not like one of those busy bodies or gossips who merely go around looking around for something to talk about. On the contrary, she was just being discerning and discreet because she had had the bad luck to marry a foolish man. In submission to him, she developed discretion that did her husband good that he did not deserve and saved many lives.
Knowledge alone could not have saved the day, Abigail had to act on it by choosing the best line of action. Her intuition came into interplay as she discerned that trying to consult her husband would be an exercise in futility, “no man could speak to him” , and second of all: that you don’t go at hungry men with a club; hungry men have always been angry men. She brought the best weapons for the hunger-anger syndrome: food and sweet words. Therefore when David came arms blazing hungry for revenge, he met a gentle beautiful soul clothed with wisdom, that not only won hearts that day but many hearts in generations to come. According to the Talmud, a book on Jewish tradition, Abigael is mentioned as one of four women of “surpassing in beauty in the world”, beside Sarah, Rahab and Esther. This “beauty” obviously went beyond a pretty face,for the proverbs stipulate that:,”A beautiful woman without discretion is like a golden ring at the end of a pig’s snout.” Abigail’s surpassing beauty was her discretion.
Abigail’s surpassing beauty also accrued from her humility. It is impossible to have discretion (good judgement) without being humble: show me a humble woman and I will show you a woman of discretion. It is through the lense of humility that Abigail’s discretion shone brightly as Catherine of Siena puts it: “discretion is as a branch engraved in the tree of charity in the soil of humility.” This humility is portrayed by her demeanour and her words: she got off her camel and fell on her knees before uttering a single word. It is written, “She fell at his feet and said, “On me alone, my Lord be the blame. And let your maidservant speak to you, and listen to the words of your servant.” Only a tyrant would have crossed the boundary of peace Abigael built with her humility. It is reminiscent of Christ whose prayers and petitions were heard because of His humble submission. And it is a close call for our generation to humble ourselves so that we may be lifted up.
Indeed the fear of the Lord is the beginning of discretion. As Solomon puts it in the book of proverbs, a fool has no need for understanding and for that matter discretion. Fools are interested in expressing themselves, as Nabal did: who is David? Abigael showed not only the fear of the Lord, but also understanding of the ways of God. It is because of this that her words resonated with David. While on her knees she pleaded:
Please forgive the trespass of your maidservant. For the Lord will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord fights the battles of the Lord, and evil is not found in you throughout your day. (v28) .
Fighting Nabal could have besmirched David’s character and caused him “grief or a troubled heart…both by having shed blood without cause and by having avenged himself.” ( v31). Therefore Abigail’s speech, though gentle, packed a punch, that brought David to his senses. Her fear of the Lord, begat like fear which made David bless the Lord and also grant Abigail her boon.
“Then David said to Abigail: “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! And blessed is your advice and blessed are you, because you have kept me this day from coming to bloodshed and from avenging myself with my own hand. For indeed, as the Lord God of Israel lives, who has kept me back from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, surely by morning light no males would have been left to Nabal!” So David received from her hand what she had brought him, and said to her, “Go up in peace to your house. See, I have heeded your voice and respected your person.” (v32-35)
Abigail, this woman of surpassing beauty, remains a shining beacon for millions of women today especially since “using your own discretion” has become the counsel of abortion clinics, dirty politics and liberal Christianity. As women enjoy the freedom of acting at their “own discretion”, they must ensure, like Abigail, they have the: right knowledge; know the best line of action and the right words to use; but above all that they must act in humility which is tethered by the fear of God. From beginning till end, discretion must have its source and end in the glory of God and the edification of others. Do you wish to be considered a “woman of surpassing beauty”? Then, dare to be an Abigail, for
“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” (Proverbs 31:31)