Abigail Pleads With David

December 15, 2019 / No. 4015

Dear Radio Friends,

Samuel, the son of Hannah, was the last judge to serve Israel. But he was no longer judge. The people had requested of Samuel to find them a king. To fulfill their wishes, Samuel had anointed Saul to be first king over this nation. But Saul had walked in disobedience to Jehovah, and therefore God would take from him the kingdom and give it to another. While Saul was yet king, Samuel had gone to Bethlehem and anointed the youngest son of Jesse to be the next king. This young boy was a shepherd named David. David became a mighty warrior in Saul’s army. But Saul, having found out David was to be the next king, became extremely jealous of David and sought to kill him. David was constantly fleeing from Saul. During this time David gathered a following of men of valor, soldiers who were completely loyal to him. It was while David endured much suffering by the hand of Saul that the events of the passage we consider today take place. Samuel had just died, and David had taken his men to live in a secluded part of the large Wilderness of Judah just west of the Dead Sea. There they hid for a time in the Wilderness of Paran, or Maon, just outside of a city named Carmel.

A wealthy and influential man named Nabal lived in Carmel, and he kept 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats grazing in the wilderness where David stayed. Nabal was a proud man, and in his behavior toward others was “churlish and evil,” as we are told in I Samuel 25:3. According to his own wife’s description of him, he was a man of Belial. This designation means “worthless.” That was true of Nabal. He was a worthless and base fellow whose name means “folly.” So Nabal was a no-good. Everyone knew it of him, even his own wife. The name of Nabal’s wife was Abigail. Her character stands in contrast to that of her husband’s. We are told she was a woman of good understanding and of a beautiful countenance. She was wise and, as we will find, a humble woman. The character of this man and his wife gave rise to the Word of God we consider today.

I. Requesting Forgiveness

David and his men, while staying in the Wilderness of Paran, met and even conversed with the laborers of Nabal who were busy there shearing Nabal’s sheep. David’s men, seasoned warriors, could have demanded food or necessities of life from these shearers but did not. They did not mistreat them, neither did they take anything from them. They left them in peace, treating them kindly. According to the testimony of the sheepshearers themselves in verse 16, David’s men even guarded them from the bands of Philistines that wandered the wilderness. So David’s young men had dealt honestly and nobly with the servants of Nabal.

But food was scarce to feed his small army of men, so David sent a small delegation of men to Nabal in Carmel asking of Nabal food and provision for his army. Nabal’s answer to these men was churlish and evil. We read in 1 Samuel 25:10-11, “Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants now a days that break away every man from his master. Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be?” Now, it was not as if Nabal did not have enough to provide for the army of David. We read of the wealth of sheep and goats Nabal had. Besides, we cannot overlook what we learn a little later in this chapter. Nabal had thrown a feast for himself and friends, “like the feast of a king.” There was plenty of food to go around, but Nabal, knowing who David was, flatly refused providing food for him. Then, to add insult to injury, he accuses David of being a renegade who was rebelling against Saul, rather than one who was fleeing for his life from Saul. This was the sin of Nabal.

Because of this sin, we find Abigail, Nabal’s wife, quickly hurrying to David to speak with him. We are not going to consider everything Abigail said to David, but we focus our attention on her plea of forgiveness. We read in I Samuel 25:28-31, “I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid: for the Lord will certainly make my lord a sure house; because my lord fighteth the battles of the Lord, and evil hath not been found in thee all thy days. Yet a man is risen to pursue thee, and to seek thy soul: but the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the Lord thy God; and the souls of thine enemies, them shall he sling out, as out of the middle of a sling. And it shall come to pass, when the Lord shall have done to my lord according to all the good that he hath spoken concerning thee, and shall have appointed thee ruler over Israel; That this shall be no grief unto thee, nor offence of heart unto my lord, either that thou hast shed blood causeless, or that my lord hath avenged himself: but when the Lord shall have dealt well with my lord, then remember thine handmaid.” On this Word we concentrate in the rest of our broadcast today.

This request of Abigail was certainly necessary! If she would not have brought this request, David would surely have done something he would have regretted. In anger against this proud and rude man, David was now gathering his army together to kill Nabal and all his men—the sheepshearers included. David’s reaction to Nabal was unwarranted and even sinful. “I have done nothing but good to this man and he returns evil for my good. I will kill everything that pertains to this man!” It is true that Nabal’s attitude toward David and his refusal would indeed anger anyone. But did such anger on David’s part validate his intention to kill everyone that belonged to Nabal, family and servants alike? Was not this a wrong that David should suffer along with all the other wrongs that had been leveled against him by Saul? Here was a little insignificant man turning David away, should David seek vengeance on one so ignoble? We will find that Abigail, in the words of our text, calls this to David’s attention too. It would be nothing more than a slur on David’s good name and character that he would regret later on. This is why Abigail now came to David with the request to forgive.

The servants of Nabal who heard the harsh reply of Nabal to the young soldiers of David went directly to Abigail. They explained what Nabal had done and informed her of what David now thought to do to Nabal and his house. Abigail acted swiftly, gathering but a small token of food and drink together and going to meet David, who had readied his army. Seeing David, she jumped down from her donkey and fell before David, bowing herself to the ground. Notice the first thing she said to David in verse 24: “Upon me let this iniquity be!” Let the sin of my husband be on me! I will take the blame for it! She knew her husband well: he was worthless. He was as his own name indicated, a fool! He had no wisdom or discretion. Nabal had spoken out of the folly of his own proud heart without even considering the consequences, so caught up in himself he was. Nabal must have been a beast in his own home and family for his wife to say this of him. But notice: “Upon me let this iniquity be.” So the request at the beginning of our text is: “I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid.”

Two virtues stand out in this request of Abigail. First of all, her faithfulness to her husband. He was churlish and evil in his behavior toward everyone. Certainly that must have included her and her household to. Whether she had a choice in marrying this man or not, she was his wife. Her vows were upon her, “for better, for worse, till death do us part.” It was not that Abigail lived in constant fear of her husband. If this were true, she would not have chided him later, telling him what David was about to do to him. But she was one flesh with Nabal. What he did as her head reflected on her. She too would suffer the consequences of Nabal’s behavior. She owned up to Nabal’s behavior and took upon herself his guilt and acted in a responsible way. What a good wife! Good wives are that way: they make up for the weaknesses and even wrongs of their own husbands. Ah, the blessing of a good wife!

But the second virtue that Abigail reveals is this: genuine humility. Her discourse with David confirms the truth that a soft answer turns away wrath! Abigail reveals such great humility in her discourse with David. This is revealed first of all in the responsibility she takes for her husband’s actions. She did not come to David in an attempt to make excuses for her husband or to try to defend her husband. She knew Nabal had committed a great trespass against David. There were no excuses. Instead, she admits Nabal’s—no, her—wrong and confesses it to David. She assumed full responsibility for the wrong done David and his men. She did not even react in anger against Nabal. This would have been an easy way of ridding herself of an intolerable man! But she revealed her humility toward David too. She did not chide David for reacting to Nabal’s evil in a sinful way. She did not say to David, “What is the matter with you? Isn’t this a little below your dignity to kill a bunch of unarmed and innocent men because you are angry with my husband?” She did not scold David for preparing to return evil for evil rather than overcoming evil with good. She dealt with David humbly as a servant would to one who is a king. In fact, that is what she saw in David—the future king of Israel. Fourteen times in her entire discourse with David she refers to him as “my lord,” a title of deepest respect and honor. This honor and respect is evident in the rest of her discourse with David too.

II. Acknowledging God’s Blessing

Abigail recognized that God’s blessing rested upon David. She acknowledges to David, “Jehovah will certainly make my lord a sure house.” The promise that God had given to David was well known in Judah. It was known that, according to the Word of God, David was to be the next king. Abigail acknowledges this in verse 30 when she states that God would appoint David ruler over Israel. David was appointed by God through the mouth of Samuel the prophet to be the next ruler in Israel. Abigail was a believer. She acknowledged in faith that David was to be the next king over Israel. She had observed for herself that David was a man after God’s own heart. That he fought the battles of Jehovah. We read of her assessment of David in verse 28, “my lord fighteth the battles of Jehovah, and evil hath not been found in thee all thy days.” David had waxed valiant in fight, defeating the armies of the Philistines, the avowed enemy of Israel. These battles David won for the cause of Jehovah and the sake of God’s chosen people Israel. David fought God’s battles. Further, Abigail states, “evil hath not been found in thee all thy days.” David had walked in integrity and truth in his dealings with his king and with God’s people. That included his dealing with Nabal’s servants.

Neither was Abigail simply saying these things because she was attempting to flatter David to make him feel good about himself. There can be no doubt that Abigail chose her words wisely and was using wise and humble argumentation with David. But Abigail believed this concerning David. Her own honesty was evident in these words. She truly believed in the promise God had given to David and his house. God’s blessing would rest upon Judah and all Israel through the house of David.

Abigail in this regard acknowledged too that Saul’s campaign against David was unjust and harsh. Notice what she says about Saul in verse 29: “Yet a man is risen to pursue thee, and to seek thy soul.” She does not even acknowledge Saul as king. She calls him “a man.” But Abigail continues in verse 29: “but the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the Lord thy God; and the souls of thine enemies, them shall he sling out, as out of the middle of a sling.” She uses two figures in these words. First, “the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with Jehovah thy God.” Bound in the bundle of life. When we go on a hike today, we take along a backpack. Nomads of that day, or men such as the shearers who lived on the range for a time, did not have backpacks. They would place their provisions neatly in their blanket and roll them up there to keep them safe. This is the figure Abigail applies to David.

“Your soul, your life, is bound together in the blanket that is God.” For that reason, this bundle is that of life. God will preserve and protect your life from all harm. The one who pursues you to kill you will not touch you. You are under God’s divine protection. The second figure she uses is that of a slingshot. Whether it is our modern-day concept of a slingshot or that used then, a long leather strap with a pocket in the middle, the meaning is the same. The souls, or lives, of your enemies shall like a stone in a sling be flung away from the presence of God. They will not harm you, but God will fling them away from you and from Him as far as a stone departs from a sling. Abigail believed that God would destroy the enemies of David in order to fulfill His word to David to make him king. As I said, not flattery, but faith.

These words of Abigail were prophetic! God would establish the house of David in Israel. Abigail spoke these words believing they would come true. They did! God fulfilled exactly this word He had spoken of David. David ascended the throne of Israel, and God made that house of David sure. God had spoken the promise of His covenant to David that the Messiah would be born out of His line. God then preserved the royal line of David until Shiloh, that is, Christ, was born. All the promises of the covenant were wrapped up in the coming of Christ. God would be faithful to His covenant with His people and would make the house and lineage of David sure. David reigned, and later God’s Son, Jesus Christ, would reign on the throne of God’s kingdom.

But this word of Abigail of God’s blessing on David’s house was not simply prophetic. It pictured Christ Himself. David was a type of Christ. He was a type of Christ as our good Shepherd, but also a type of Christ as conquering king. The words of Abigail to David are words that are true of Jesus Christ Himself (v. 28). Christ fought the battles of Jehovah when He destroyed the power of sin and Satan at the cross. There was no evil found in Jesus Christ all His days (v. 29). Though the enemies of God’s people and of Jesus Christ Himself would seek to destroy Him, Christ’s soul was bound in the bundle of life with Jehovah. Christ, through His work, would sling the souls of our enemies far from Him. Through this work, God appointed Jesus to stand as ruler over all of Israel. Even now He sits at God’s right hand and rules in the heavens over the kingdom of God. All that was true of David is true of the son of David, who now reigns on the throne of His father. The words of Abigail, spoken in faith and hope in the promises of God, proved prophetic in this way too. Once again, we cannot deny that Abigail was a woman who feared God and lived in faith.

III. Prayer for Remembrance

The last point in her reasoning with David is made for us in verse 31. She reasoned with David: when God finally establishes you on the throne of Israel, as He will, you will not look back and say, I shed innocent blood without a cause. I took vengeance when vengeance was not mine to meet out. If you kill my husband and all his innocent servants, you will never get over the guilt of it, and it will be an offence to your godly heart. What wise advice! David was a man of God. He fought the battles of God. But killing Nabal and his servants would not be one such battle. It would be an unjustified killing. In fact, Abigail also looked upon the fact that she was able to catch David before he went to battle as an act of God. The Lord has withholden thee from coming to shed blood, she had said. She did not want David to look back and remember sin.

Her prayer was that he would look back and remember his handmaid Abigail. He then could recall his patience with her. He would recall how God had kept him back from sin. He would recall how God had preserved him from a great fall. And he would remember Abigail instead of Nabal.

Ah yes, the end of the story: When later Abigail related to Nabal her husband what David was about to do to him, Nabal in fear had a heart attack. Ten days later he died. David then took Abigail to be his wife. Whether this was a noble deed of David is a question, since she was not David’s first wife. God is the judge. But Abigail herself was richly blessed with the same promises that were given to David. She leaves us an example of integrity, faith, humility, and faithfulness. May we follow in her footsteps.