Instead of simply pleading for herself and her household, Abigail appeals to David’s highest aspirations.

Now therefore, my lord, as Yahweh lives, and as your soul lives, since Yahweh has withheld you from blood guiltiness, and from avenging yourself with your own hand, now therefore let your enemies, and those who seek evil to my lord, be as Nabal.

In the previous chapter of 1 Samuel, David had refused to kill Saul, even though Saul had tried to kill him, and was the main obstacle to his taking the throne. In that situation, he had acted with such integrity, such dignity. And yet in this episode he is tempted to be vindictive and petty. Abigail’s subtle appeal to his more noble character qualities testifies to her wisdom. It is Yahweh, she suggests, that has prevented David from murder. It’s a fascinating anticipation of David’s repentance after the murder of Uriah the Hittite, where he says, in Psalm 51:14: “Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, the God of my salvation.” In fact, the whole Abigail narrative stands in contrast to the early Bathsheba encounter. More about that later.

She now follows with subtle references to God’s past guidance—“He will sling out your enemies souls”—and to a future as king without the death of any of his subjects besmirching his reputation.

Now this present which your servant has brought to my lord, let it be given to the young men who follow my lord. Please forgive the trespass of your servant. For Yahweh will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord fights Yahweh’s battles. Evil will not be found in you all your days.

Though men may rise up to pursue you, and to seek your soul, yet the soul of my lord will be bound in the bundle of life with Yahweh your God. He will sling out the souls of your enemies, as from the hollow of a sling.

It will come to pass, when Yahweh has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you, and has appointed you prince over Israel, that this shall be no grief to you, nor offense of heart to my lord, either that you have shed blood without cause, or that my lord has avenged himself. When Yahweh has dealt well with my lord, then remember your servant.”

This soaring, prophetic speech envisions David at his greatest, not only as successful soldier, but compassionate sovereign, founder of a great dynasty. It is to this bright future that Abigail appeals, and it is this that elevates Abigail above just another wise woman. She lays out before David a vision of what, through God’s grace, he might become, and appeals to him not to mar that bright future through an act of violence provoked by a fool.  To David’s credit, he recognizes her wisdom.

David said to Abigail, “Blessed is Yahweh, the God of Israel, who sent you today to meet me! Blessed is your discretion, and blessed are you, who have kept me today from blood guiltiness, and from avenging myself with my own hand. For indeed, as Yahweh, the God of Israel, lives, who has withheld me from harming you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, surely there wouldn’t have been left to Nabal by the morning light so much as one who urinates on a wall.”

David explicitly acknowledges that her counsel has prevented him from taking an action he would have regretted, and that her wisdom comes from God. By having him repeat to her verbatim what he threatened to do, the author wants to impress upon the reader that this threat was real, and came very close to being carried out, but for the intervention of Abigail.

Then David assures her that he will take no further action against her husband and sends her home. When she arrives there, Nabal is in the midst of a shearing celebration, oblivious to the mortal danger from which Abigail has spared him. Seeing he is “very drunk,” she says nothing to him; he will not remember it, anyway, and in a drunken rage might make matters worse.

In the morning, when the wine had gone out of Nabal, his wife told him these things, and his heart died within him, and he became as a stone.

About ten days later, Yahweh struck Nabal, so that he died.

The author has portrayed Nabal as almost a comic figure, so foolish and clueless is he. When he sobers up, and discovers how close he had come to death, the fear paralyzes him to the point where he dies ten days later.
Lest we miss the point of all this, the author has David sum up the action:

When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Blessed is Yahweh, who has pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal, and has kept back his servant from evil. Yahweh has returned the evildoing of Nabal on his own head.”

David will be king. Abigail not only reminded him of that, she helped him become more kingly, to act as a magnanimous sovereign, not merely an ambitious warlord. Recognizing her wisdom, David decides he needs such a woman as his queen.

David sent and spoke concerning Abigail, to take her to himself as wife. When David’s servants had come to Abigail to Carmel, they spoke to her, saying, “David has sent us to you, to take you to him as wife.”

Abigail quickly complies. David previously had a wife, Michal, the daughter of King Saul. David acquired Michal as a connection to Saul’s royal house, but her presence continually served to emphasize his distance from Saul, rather than his connection. And as a final insult to David, Saul has given her as wife to someone else. Unlike Abigail, technically of common blood, Michal did not act like true royalty, nor did she bring it out in anyone near her.

David may be a “man after God’s own heart,” but throughout his life he will listen to only a few individuals. Abigail, at this critical juncture, with Samuel gone, supplies wise counsel David will need.

Abigail serves, in this episode, as David’s “strong partner,” providing what he needs to make him more regal, more worthy as King. She tells him the Yahweh had prevented him from petty murder, and He had, but there’s no question that Abigail was the instrument He used. In this sinful world, that is one of the greatest services one “strong partner” can do for another: be the prophetic voice of God to keep their partner from sin.  Had David included her more in his life, he might have avoided some of the serious mistakes that marred his reign.

Sadly for David, Abigail is mentioned only in passing after this episode. Perhaps he had spent too many hours alone with the sheep as a youth, but David never seemed to forge healthy relationships with people. And so he failed to let Abigail fulfill the role such a wise queen might have had. But that is David’s doing, not Abigail’s.

Abigail, trapped in a bad marriage, endangered by her foolish husband, by seizing the opportunity manages to save a future King from folly, set him on a path to becoming a better man and monarch, and become his queen.
Spiritually, Abigail could be a match for either Samuel or Nathan, the two prophets whom David relied on. The rabbis consider her a prophet, and one of the Seven Great Beauties in the Bible.

Some of David’s wives, like Michal and Bathsheba, have serious questions raised about their actions. Of others, Ahinoam, for example, we know almost nothing. Of all the women in David’s life, only of Abigail is nothing evil reported, and what we do know highlights her wisdom, humility, and beauty—both of visage and character.

Read other posts in the “Matriarchs and Prophets” series.