Watercolour and ink portrait of Abigail by Sarah Beth Baca.
Used with permission of the artist. All rights reserved.
Prints of this portrait can be purchased here.
Tradução em português aqui.
This article is available in Spanish here.
Abigail, Nabal, and David
Abigail is an interesting woman who we meet in 1 Samuel chapter 25. Like several women in the Old Testament, she is described as beautiful. Unlike most other women in the Old Testament, Abigail is also described as “intelligent” (NAB, NIV, TEV), or “clever” (NRSV), or “of good understanding” (KJV, ASV), etc. Beautiful and clever Abigail was married to a wealthy man, and she may have enjoyed the benefits of an affluent lifestyle, but her rich husband Nabal was foolish, intemperate, and mean.
Abigail’s namֲe is derived from two Hebrew words, “father” and “happiness”, and means “my father’s happiness”. She may have been the cause of happiness in her father’s house, but Abigail’s marriage cannot have been a happy one. Nabal’s name is a Hebrew word that means “foolish” or “senseless.” As an adjective, nabal is sometimes used in the Bible to describe people who behave in unethical and godless ways. It’s an apt name for Abigail’s husband who typifies such behaviour.
Nabal had not taken due notice of David and his men who had been protecting his shepherds. When his camp started to run out of food, David sent ten messengers to Nabal. The messengers told Nabal about how they had been protecting his shepherds and they asked for provisions, but Nabal refused them and even roared at them (1 Sam. 25:14). Nabal’s actions deeply insulted David, and David responded by preparing for a slaughter (1 Sam. 25:13, 22).
Abigail was the able mistress of an extensive household. A servant told her how Nabal has insulted and dishonoured David, and he informed her of the danger they now faced. Her servants, male and female, quickly helped her to execute a plan to placate David.
Abigail was not just intelligent and beautiful, she was also brave. It would have been no mean feat to confront David and four hundred of his men who had been dishonoured and were intent on revenge with their swords at the ready. Nevertheless, Abigail approached David and, with great diplomacy, humbly offered him a “peace offering.” She gave David and his men plenty of food. Her quick actions saved her household from disaster and kept David and his men from unnecessary bloodshed.
Abigail was also brave considering that her actions would be found out by her husband, and then she would have to face his violent temper. The next day, she told Nabal everything that she had done. Thankfully, God spared her from Nabal’s wrath. Nabal immediately has some kind of heart attack and died ten days later from heart failure.
Abigail’s Prophetic Words
Because of his mean, stubborn, and perverse character, Nabal had failed to have a true appreciation of who David was. But Abigail knew who David was. She knew that he was an outlaw on the run from King Saul, and she spoke eloquently and prophetically about David and his future reign as king of Israel. Her speech is one of the longest speeches of a woman recorded in the Hebrew Bible. Here is an excerpt.
“The Lord your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the Lord’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live. Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the Lord your God has brought my lord success, remember your servant.” 1 Samuel 25:28-31 (NIV)
David did remember Abigail. After Nabal’s death, he seems to have lost no time in asking her to become his wife. It is not clear whether David sought this marriage because of an attraction to Abigail or if it was for political or economic reasons, but he certainly admired her. Abigail became David’s third wife and she bore David’s second son Chileab (2 Sam. 3:3). (Her son is called Daniel in 1 Chronicles 3:1.)
I remember being confused about the story of Abigail when I was younger. I had been taught that wives are to submit to their husbands in everything—after all, that’s what Paul says in Ephesians 5:24. Moreover, women were supposed to revere and respect their husbands as leaders, and certainly not say anything bad about them. But here was a Bible woman who went behind her husband’s back and did something she knew he wouldn’t approve of. And she even announces her husband’s faults to David,
“My lord should not pay attention to this wicked man Nabal. He simply lives up to his name! His name means ‘fool,’ and he is indeed foolish!” 1 Samuel 25:25 (NIV)
Despite defying her husband and saying negative things about him, Abigail is commended for her actions. Furthermore, David recognises that Abigail was sent by God.
David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day . . .” 1 Samuel 25:32-33 (NIV)
In fact, Abigail is an ideal wife. She didn’t submit to her husband’s stupidity; rather she protected her husband and his interests. She took the initiative when he was unable or unwilling to act, and she even apologised for his rude behaviour.
I think much of the church has a faulty idea of submission in marriage. Healthy and godly submission is not about blind obedience or subservience. Healthy submission is characterised by loyalty, humility, and consideration, and it seeks the greater good. Ideally, it should be mutual and reciprocal, rather than one-sided, with both husband and wife helping and serving each other (Eph. 5:21; 1 Pet. 5:5 NKJV).
Abigail was a smart, strong, young woman who helped her husband by going against his wishes, even though he did not live to enjoy the benefits of her actions. She initiated a potentially dangerous meeting with David and spoke with great diplomacy and insight. And God used Abigail to help David and encourage him with her prophetic words. Abigail was a remarkable woman with beauty, brains, and bravery.
 Abigail is described as having “good (tov) understanding/ intelligence (se.khel)” in 1 Samuel 25:3. Solomon is described with the same Hebrew word (se.khel) in 2 Chronicles 2:12, as is Zechariah in 1 Chronicles 26:14, the Levites in 2 Chronicles 30:22, and Sherebiah in Ezra 8:18.
 I wonder why Abigail’s parents arranged such a marriage for their daughter.
 See footnote of 1 Samuel 25 from the NET Bible.
 “Whatever his reasons for initially helping Nabal’s shepherds, David’s assistance constituted an act of unsolicited generosity for which some reciprocal action of goodwill on Nabal’s part was only to be expected in a traditional culture.”
Joy Osgood “1 & 2 Samuel”, The IVP Women’s Commentary, Catherine Clark Kroeger and Mary Beth Evans (eds) (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2002), 167.
 No children are mentioned in 1 Samuel chapter 25. Abigail may have been a young new wife and had not yet conceived.
 According to the Megillah (one of the tractates of the Talmud), the rabbis regard Abigail as one of seven prophetesses who prophesied to Israel. The other six female prophets are Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Huldah, and Esther. (See Megillah 14a and 14b.) The rabbis do not include Noadiah (Neh. 6:14) and Isaiah’s wife (Isa. 8:3) among the seven prophetesses. (I’ve written about all the prophetesses in the Bible here.)
 Abigail is also mentioned in 1 Samuel 30:5. She was among many who were captured by the Amalekites when they raided Ziklag, but then retrieved by David and his men. Abigail did not have an easy life.
 Adele Berlin, “Abigail: Bible”, Encyclopedia, Jewish Women’s Archive
 Like Abigail, Rebekah (wife of Isaac) and Jael (wife of Heber) also went behind their husband’s backs and are praised for it. Rebekah went against her husband’s wishes and even tricked him when she secured the birthright for Jacob instead of Esau, and there is no hint of censure against her in the Bible. Jael’s husband Heber had made a covenant with the Jabin king of Hazor, a Canaanite (Judg. 4:17), but Jael sided with Israel and killed Jabin’s general Sisera.
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Was Abigail Right to Go Behind Nabal’s Back? by Sandra Glahn, here.
Abigail: An Old Testament Type of Christ by Heather Celoria, here.
A Sympathetic Look at Bathsheba
The Witch of Endor, the Dead Prophet, the Doomed King (In this article, I compare Abigail with the witch (or medium).
A Suitable Helper (In Hebrew)
6 Women who Protected Moses
Submission and Respect in 1 Peter 3:1-6
Beauty, Marriage, Motherhood and Ministry
A List of the Beautiful People in the Hebrew Bible
Every Female Prophet in the Bible
All my articles on Christian submission are here.
48 thoughts on “Abigail: A Bible Woman with Beauty and Brains”
I’ve always had a problem with Abigail and her “disobedience” to her husband. This article has been helpful. Thanks.
My favourite woman in the bible. Hence my email address xxxxx1sam25.3@l. It used to be Abigail1 sam25.3 but for a woman called Rosemary that was just a bit to cryptic.
She was a beautiful and intelligent woman.
I was like Abigail in an unfortunate marriage. God moved him out of my life, not on quite the same way he moved Nabel (which is probably a good thing) and gave me to a David. My own Prince David
The first time I read about Abigail I had hope that God would deliver me in his own way and his own time. My responsibility was to be that beautiful and intelligent woman ie be a woman of strength and character. Keep my heart free from bitterness, being the wife that God called me to be.
I’ve been married 20 years in December to my lovely Prince David.
I am happy for you. 🙂
An unhappy marriage is tremendous burden. A happy marriage is a tremendous blessing.
I am indeed happy that God answered your prayer and sent you someone kind, generous and a gentle man. I am awaiting God to answer and I trust he will. Be blessed in continued bliss with David and God bless your ministry!
Am so happy i have known you. My wife and i had been struggling financially and we just got blessed last week with a first born daughter. We named her Abigail. We trust she’s gonna be brave, strong, intelligent and she is so beautiful. Oh my..praise be to God for granting us this adorable child. Abigail is her name. To add on we been struggling to get a child for a while. A prayer answered.
Wonderful news, John! I pray a blessing over your family, in Jesus’ name.
Rosie, You must really love Abigail!
I always love hearing about happy marriages. God wants us to be happy in marriage. I can’t imagine being married to a “Nabal.” 🙁
My granddaughter will be born today, at 16weeks due to tragic circumstances. My daughter and her husband have named her Abigail because of Abigail in King David’s time, where she was not only beautiful, but showed great courage and strength during a most difficult time. Our Abigail’s ashes along with her name will be placed in a special rosé garden dedicated to infants who didn’t survive. Abigail will always live in our hearts.
Oh Anna, thank you for honoring this page with the story of your precious Abigail.
Grace and Peace
This Bible story happened to be part of our Sunday school lifeway lessons this week. I’m married to a “Nabal”. I teach the 2nd grade Sunday school class at our church with a friend. I happened to be fixing the audiovisual screens and totally missed our lesson, so my friend came up to me with tears in her eyes and said, “You are her.” U are amazing and smart and beautiful, you are a fierce protective mother, constantly playing peacemaker, married to an ogre that is mean and self serving. “You are her! You can do it. God will bless u and give u some one that will show love. Eventually. Read the story asap, I think God wants u to read this story on HIS time”.
I was like, ok, you’re Looney toons. Haha. I forgot all about it, came home, later on mm no mmwas almost asleep, and suddenly sat up, grabbed the Bible, and started at 1 Samuel 25, then I prayed and cried. God is soooo good and blesses me daily. I am encouraged by Abigail’s story. I am also looking for a novel or book that is about Abigail and Nabal and David, so if you know of any, please reply to my post.
Hi Anna, I’m so sorry you are married to a “nabal”. But I’m glad you have found comfort and hope through Abigail’s story. I agree, God is so good in the way he blesses us.
I don’t read Christian fiction, so I can’t recommend any books about Abigail. But maybe some other people reading this can offer suggestions.
Maybe you can write your own story about Abigail.
My Abigail was born in 2013, 16, 11. Her father decided to call her this name because his joy was surely ‘fathers happiness’ after waiting for long time without conceiving her. For sure she brought happiness into our marriage.
Love this. Wanting to do a bible study on women in the bible with my bookclub. Thanks so much!!
I am Abigail. I constantly ask for wisdom and understanding about things. I ask God for his help and allowing me to see both sides. I pray for peace and healing for my family. And that God will allow me the courage to let go of someone that has pushed us all out.
I have been married ten years to a wealthy Nabal. I have everything I could possibly ever want, beautiful children, a great and satisfying career, but no peace, because my husband is simply a boor. I am praying for my David to come, and I believe he will come.
What a great article – Abigail is one of my favourite women of the Bible and I have studied it many times but your article gave me new insight into her biblical submission, which I had never before considered, thank you
Thank you for this excellent commentary on Abigail. You wrote “No children are mentioned in 1 Samuel chapter 25. Abigail may have been a young, new wife and had not yet conceived.” It could also be possible that she was NOT a young, new wife, but that God in His mercy did not let her bear children with such a foolish man. I am married to a Nabal and am thankful that despite repeated infertility treatments, I had “only” one wonderful daughter. I look back and realize that if I had had more children, I might have had a child who ended up being like its father. God always knows best.
Thanks for sharing abigail’s life here.
Im a young professional here. I was looking for a story about abigail. I am soon leading a small group and i would like to name it with ABIGAIL.this msge has helped me a lot to understand abigail’s life. thank you. pls pray for me as i lead a small group. thaks.
Thanks for this post. We named our daughter Abigail Ruth, after two of my favorite Bible women. She is living up to her name.
Your exposition is one of the best that I have read. Wonder why so many well known Pastors never touch on this topic.
Wives must submit to their husband in the Lord. If husbands do not make wise decisions we as wives should definitely advise them. It is also very important after seeking God’s leading not to put up with a Nabal. I am sure God wants us to be happily married.
Thanks Reny, I have often wondered what precisely that phrase means “wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord”, and how it applies. But I do know that it doesn’t mean to (unnecessarily) put up with abusive, irresponsible or selfish behaviour.
We are also told to submit to governing authorities, but that doesn’t mean we need to be silent and passive when they legislate and enact injustice.
I agree: God does want us to be happy in marriage.
D family of Amoo saumel named the daughter abigeal today, what a wonderful name and wonderful character she emulated.
A number of things strike me as I read this lovely post.
One is that I’m surprised such an out and out heroine doesn’t get mentioned more often. Am I too cynical in wondering if it’s because she had the courage to stand up to an unjust man, especially as he was her husband. Not politically correct.
A second thought is that someone sat down and properly listened to this woman. Maybe a man, or a woman who was sufficiently influential to make sure this was recorded for posterity. I’m a great fan of Dr Luke who recorded the eye witness accounts of women too.
Thirdly, I’m moved by the stories told in the comments. This isn’t just theory, as we so well know. I’m glad you’re using your voice for them.
I’m surprised too. The thing about Abigail’s story that struck me the most is that she speaks prophetically. She seems to know more about David’s future than even he is aware of. She’s a brave, clever and prophetic woman. We should be hearing more about her! And, as you can tell by the stories, many women can relate to her difficult marriage. 🙁
Bless you, Rosie.
Thanks for the exposition. I just stumbled upon this site in my search for a question on Abigail. A woman I will best describe as ‘beauty and brains’.
Please, what do you think about none of her children partaking in David’s dynasty?
After the death of Amnon, her son was supposed to be the heir but Absalom tried to usurp the throne. Why would he do that if Chileab (Daniel), Abigail’s son is alive?
I will appreciate your response to this. Thanks a million times.
It seems God simply chose Solomon to be the next king. He seemed especially fond of Solomon:
“Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba. He went to her and had sex with her. She gave birth to a son and named him Solomon. The Lord loved him and sent word by the prophet Nathan to name him Jedidiah because of the Lord’s grace” 2 Samuel 12:24-25 (CEB).
Jedidiah means “Loved by the LORD”. (For some reason, the name didn’t stick, and Solomon was called Solomon.)
God had promised David that one of his sons would become king, but he doesn’t specify that it would be his first-born son.
“When the time comes for you to die and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your descendant—one of your very own children—to succeed you, and I will establish his kingdom. He will build a temple for my name, and I will establish his royal throne forever. I will be a father to him, and he will be a son to me. . .” 2 Samuel 7:12-14 CEB.
The cultural tradition of primogeniture (the right of the first-born son) was frequently ignored by God. In the book of Genesis, for example, “Cain was born first, but Abel received God’s favor. Esau was born first, but God chose Jacob. Reuben was born first, but the line of Christ came through Judah, and Joseph saved the family and assumed authority over them. Manasseh was Joseph’s firstborn, but Jacob placed his right hand on Ephraim’s head to say that he would become greater.” Cynthia Westfall, Paul and Gender, p.84.
More on primogeniture in the Bible here.
Marg, as always I really appreciate your article and how you illuminate women in Scripture. I have always admired Abigail for her courage, intelligence, quick thinking, and resourcefulness. I particularly love the image of her riding on a donkey, by herself (as the servants went ahead), to meet David and 400 men, wearing their swords, all angry and bent on revenge. “As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her, and she met them.” What an image! What courage!
You mention that Nabal did not know who David was. I have wondered about that. I have often thought that it more likely that Nabal and the whole area knew exactly who David was because he was hiding out in the area with 600 armed men. Hard to miss a group of that size. And it is clear that their presence in the area helped people like Nabal prosper because they actually protected the area from mauraders that would have otherwise stolen their sheep etc (! Samuel 25:7) . So I tend to see Nabel’s comments more as a reflection of the fact that he was aware of who David and the comment just exhibited or highlighted his arrogance, foolishness and lacking sense. Abigail herself does not state that Nabal wasn’t aware of who David was but instead states, “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” ( 1 Samuel 25:25). So I wonder if it is more a reflection of his contemptuous, disrespectful, foolish behaviour than a lack of awareness about who David was. . This view contrasts so beautifully with Abigail’s skillful and intelligent response where she exhibits a savvy political knowledge and a prophetic awareness.
I agree that David and his men would have been hard to miss. It’s been a while since I wrote this piece, but I think what I might have meant is that Nabal did not realise David was going to be king, something that Abigail acknowledges. But you’re right, Nabal’s seeming ignorance probably just highlights his arrogance and perversity more than anything. I’ll have a go at rewording that section when I have some free time. Thanks for that!
Marg, I really enjoy reading your articles and how thought-provoking they are. So thanks for encouraging me to think about the passages and the women you write about. Significant learning comes out of our reading, discussion, sharing, and challenging one another to think in new and different ways about the various texts. So appreciate you and you dedication to illuminating the women in Scripture.
I really love this post. Am feeling like naming my future daughter Abigail already. Anyway, God will decide
God bless you writer
This soaring, prophetic speech envisions David at his greatest, not only as a successful soldier but as a compassionate sovereign and 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. These inspiring words lift David’s mood and his thoughts.
Dickerson, Ed . For Such a Time (p. 77). PPPA. Kindle Edition.
Great post, liked the way it is explained!
Powerfully penned. Thank u
Found this article while searching for information on Abigail as we move through 1 Samuel in our church sermon series. It’s familiar, so I must have read it before, but I wanted to say thank you for the article and for sharing your insights. I’m going to pass it on to our home group this week (with full credit and listing your web page) as we discuss last Sunday’s sermon on this passage. Hope that’s OK?
That’s very okay, E.L.
It’s nice to see you here and not just on Twitter.
I so love Abigail for her strength and courage. She’s a role model for every wife. Not just those married to a Nabal but for all woman whose husbands are occasionally “nabalish!”
I noticed today something I hadn’t before in Abigail’s prophesy to David. She assures him with her godly foresight that he will succeed in his endeavors, but it appears to me she also perceives in him the potential to use death as a convenient resolution. She minces no words informing David that an attack on her household would have been unnecessary bloodshed and that her wish was to relieve him of that burden on his conscience. Her insight to this aspect of David’s character was spot on as we learn later of his manipulation and murder of Uriah, along with David’s anguish and God’s judgement and chastisement toward him.
Her prophetic words are quite amazing. 🙂
Hmmm … nice post.
I think it is safe to say that Women should obey their Husbands in the Lord, and not dogmatically. The authority of a husband is of the Lord and should not then result in failure to walk the way of life. May the Lord guide us in specific cases.
Nowhere in the Bible are husbands told that they are to be, or that they must be, the authorities or leaders of their wives. Nowhere.
And nowhere are wives directly told to “obey” their husbands in the Hebrew or Greek texts of the Bible. (The King James Bible uses the word “obey” in Titus 2:5, but the apostle Paul did not use the Greek word for “obey” here.)
The rule of husbands over wives is a consequence of the fall. Patriarchy is a consequence of the fall. God announces this to the woman in Genesis 3:16 when sin entered the world: “thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”
However, Jesus came to deal with sin and its consequences, and he inaugurated a new covenant where male and female followers of Jesus are equal. Jesus taught that new covenant people humbly serve and submit to one another; they don’t exercise authority over their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
Make a choice Inioluwa: continue the worldly pattern of patriarchy (the fruit of sin) or practise mutuality in Christ (the fruit of redemption and the Spirit).
I’ve written about Christian mutuality and service in a few articles. Here are two of them.
Jesus’ Teaching on Leadership and Community in Matthew’s Gospel
Galatians 3:28: Our Identity in Christ and in the Church
And I’ve written about Paul’s household codes here: https://margmowczko.com/tag/the-household-codes/
I’ve also written about Peter’s instructions to husbands and wives: https://margmowczko.com/category/equality-and-gender-issues/1-peter-31-7/
Good article. But what struck me, is why do the NIV and so many translations word vs.28 to create a contradiction with David’s future wickedness? There are other ways to understand and translate what she said, so why create a problem?
The CSB’s translation of the last phrase of 1 Samuel 25:28 (“Throughout your life, may evil not be found in you”) makes better sense of what we know about David. Though, Abigail may have been speaking diplomatically, “evil shall not be found in you so long as you live” (ESV).
I am challenged as to why there is focus on Abigail’s beauty. It’s further enforcing the idea that women must be physically pleasing to a man to have value and worth. This story of a strong, intelligent woman is ruined by the focus on her physical beauty as adding value. We don’t hear about the physical attractiveness of men in the Bible. If the Bible is a perfect, divinely inspired book, why would misogyny be so ingrained? This story is ruined by the focus on her physical characteristics and not her strength as a person with powerful Godly characteristics. I am trying so hard to read the word, but the misogyny that runs through this book just stops me over and over again.
The narrative in 1 Samuel 25 has much to say about Abigail. One word (“beautiful”) in one verse is hardly a focus, especially as “intelligent” is used in the same sentence.
David is described as “beautiful, handsome” in preceding chapters. Does this detract from his story?
In fact, David, Saul, Absalom, and six other men are described as “beautiful” in the OT. I have a list of these nine men, as well as the “beautiful” women, here: https://margmowczko.com/beautiful-people-bible/
I’ve written about women being primarily described as beautiful here: https://margmowczko.com/beauty-marriage-motherhood-and-ministry/
This is a record of history. The emphasis on beauty struck me this time too. But I feel it’s probably just included to explain why David instantly marries her. People are like that, men and women. Scientists theorize it’s partially because beauty is a sign of health. I would prefer to marry a handsome man, even though I do care more about spiritual maturity and compatibility because I’m not an idiot. The amazing thing is that the story is included at all since it makes David look bad. Abigail’s wisdom and decisiveness and boldness with 2 very dangerous men is emphasized, she leads David to repent. Seems pretty fabulous except the part where she becomes 5th wife or whatever. But she may have needed or wanted to marry him anyway.
In the Hebrew Bible, beauty was a desirable quality in men and in women. I sometimes wonder if the references to beauty weren’t as superficial as it sounds to us today, especially as, in the ancient world, looks were thought to be indicative of character.
My name is Abigail, my birthday is in two days so I decided to know more about the woman in the Bible in which I bear her name. I just don’t want to live with the name but walk according to how she lived. Intelligent, wise, full of understanding amen.
Happy Birthday, Abigail. May God bless you in the coming year, in Jesus’ name!