In 1 Samuel 25:23–31 Abigail’s encounter with David is one of the most remarkable female-initiated encounters between a man and a woman in the Bible. Their encounter began without words when Abigail “quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground” (1 Samuel 25:23). This self-abasing expression of deep respect was immediately followed by a nonverbal plea for mercy as “she fell at his feet.” Only after these acts did she begin to speak.
In the longest speech by a woman in the Old Testament (153 Hebrew words), Abigail did three remarkable things:
- She successfully interceded in behalf of her foolish husband,
- She prophetically revealed David’s destiny as the founder of a dynasty and vanquisher of enemies,
- She prevented David from bringing judgment down on himself through an egregious violation of the Torah.
Abigail’s intercessory words began with a confession of “sin.” Without excusing her husband’s acts, she nevertheless accepted the blame for David’s mistreatment by a member of her clan. Nabal was known to be “evil,” and he lived up to “his name—“his name is Fool, and folly goes with him.” Abigail implied to David that since she knew these facts about her husband, she should have been more watchful to protect her husband from himself. Unfortunately, in the present instance she “did not see the men” David sent and thus became blameworthy.
However, the Lord interceded in the present situation to avoid a catastrophe for everyone: “the Lord has kept” David “from bloodshed and from avenging” himself (1 Samuel 25:26)
In an effort to remove any reason for David to continue his pursuit of Nabal, Abigail brought David and his men a “blessing” designed to override the insults that had come from her foolish husband. Having softened David with her gracious words and the generous supply of provisions, she then boldly ordered David to “forgive your maidservant for the rebellion” she had instigated against him.
Abigail’s strong words of self-condemnation are curious. She never actually sinned against David—only her husband Nabal did. By taking responsibility for his actions, she effectively became a martyr in behalf of her foolish husband. However, by doing so she hoped to deflect David’s anger before anyone was hurt.
To encourage David to choose the path of peace and forgiveness in this matter, Abigail brought before David a prophetic vision of his destiny. David should forgiving because God has designed a majestic future for him—the Lord would “certainly make a lasting dynasty for” him. However, the Lord reserved this destiny only for one who “fights the Lord’s battles.”
Abigail encouraged David to put the recent events in perspective; David could tarnish or destroy God’s future plans for him if he acted foolishly in the present. Besides, David had no need to defend himself in such matters because the Lord would watch over him: “David’s life will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God” (1 Samuel 25:29).
Not only would the Lord protect David but he also could be trusted to dispose of David’s enemies, hurling them “away as from the pocket of a sling.” Abigail’s brilliant use of the sling metaphor no doubt brought to David’s mind a sling the Lord once used to slay Goliath (1 Samuel 17:47–50).
The Lord would not only make an end to David’s enemies, but he would do for him “every good thing he promised concerning him” (1 Samuel 25:30), including fulfilling the prophetic word spoken by Samuel that David would be “leader over Israel” (1 Samuel 13:14). Since David would surely someday be king, he should not sow future trouble for himself by placing “on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed” (1 Samuel 25:31) or of having “saved” himself.
One of the most noteworthy aspects of Abigail’s speech was her repeated use of the term translated “my lord.” Her fourteen uses of the term are both ironic and prophetic since the word also means “my husband.”