Abigail vs Nabal: Lessons in Peacemaking
by Heather Bock
Abigail, whose name means “my father is joy,” is described as intelligent and beautiful. Nabal, her husband, has a contrasting name: “stupid or foolish”. He is described as the son of Caleb, which most likely means “son of a dog”. In other words, he’s “a dog of a guy”.
As we read the story of Abigail and Nabal in I Samuel 25, we find Nabal acting very foolishly indeed. David and his men protected Nabal’s sheep and shepherds in the wilderness, a service that was apparently fairly common at the time. After the service was completed, it was understood that the owner of the sheep was to pay for the service. David waited, like a wise employee, until after the harvest of sheep shearing had taken place. Shearing time was a season when money was plentiful and feasting took place. We know from several places in the story that Nabal had plenty to share, but instead he refused to pay David and pretended he’d never heard of the truly famous man. His insult deeply angered David. David was ready for more than revenge; he was prepared to battle every male in the household. But as it turned out, David wasn’t prepared to go up against a certain female: Abigail.
Abigail turned David’s wrath in many wise ways–ways we would be wise to notice. First, she acted quickly, important for any peacemaking. She soothed David with lavish presents: the payment David and his men should have received in the first place, probably taken right from the feast to which they should have been invited. If we want to be peacemakers, we also need to set everything right when we see something gone awry in a relationship. She completely humbled herself before David even though she wasn’t to blame. Besides bowing to the ground, she apologized as though it was her fault. This, to me, is one of her most inspiring acts. When someone else has done something wrong, I’m quick to defend myself when someone thinks I’m the one at fault. However, for the sake of her household and maybe for David’s sake as well, Abigail wisely ate dust.
Abigail lavishly praised David and showed him honor and respect. When you are trying to make peace, insincere flattery is not wise. Honest praise is. As Abigail praised David and wished him well, she said, “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” (1 Samuel 25:29). In saying these words, she slyly made reference to something for which David is perhaps most famous: slaying the giant Goliath using only a sling and a stone.
The fact that Abigail was able to slip in this little reference is impressive, but her words that seem to have swayed David the most are even more impressive. Abigail’s words reminded David of his good character and the fact that what he was about to do was not in line with this character. Abigail warned David that he would forever have regrets if he continued. His response was to praise God for Abigail, saying, “May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day” (I Samuel 25:33). David was so struck by Abigail’s wisdom and peacemaking that when Nabal later died of shock, David came back to ask her to marry him.
When you see someone doing something wrong, how often do you use this logic to persuade that person to stop the behavior? I’ve heard a counselor use this with a young girl: “You are too beautiful to act that ugly.” If we emphasize people’s God-given dignity and positive traits instead of beating them down by focusing on their faults, those who hear it might rise to the occasion instead of acting on their baser impulses.
Abigail is a minor female character in the Old Testament, one that might be forgotten in the shadows of Esther, Ruth, and Hannah, but if we want to learn how to make peace with each other, we can continue to look to her example.
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Meet Heather Bock:
After growing up in California, attending college in Seattle, Washington, and living ten years in East Tennessee, Heather Bock is a new resident of East Texas. She has three kids that she homeschools, and she loves studying God’s Word, looking for new jewels each time. She’s written a Bible study called Glimpses of Jesus in Genesis filled with some of the riches God has helped her find. You can find more of her posts at www.glimpsesofjesus.com.