There is an interesting story in the Bible about a wise woman who was married to a fool. She must have had a rough life being married to this guy. I can only imagine how she must have rolled her eyes and shook her head at her husband’s way of thinking. I’m sure that she probably bailed him out of several scrapes. Her servants came to her to tell her of how foolish her husband was being once again. But let’s read it first before further comments.
A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel. His name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband was surly and mean in his dealings—he was a Calebite. 1 Samuel 25:2-3, (New International Version or NIV).
I love how this is written as it describes a wealthy man who is mean-spirited in his business and he is rich. Does that speak to you about how entitled he must have felt about his station in life? There is nothing like being married to a rich and mean person, but notice how Abigail is described. Abigail was known for her beauty and her brains which is important to her survival with such a foolish brute for a husband. I can only imagine how she has learned to out maneuver her husband to keep the neighbors still speaking to her. Let’s see what else we can find out.
While David was in the wilderness, he heard that Nabal was shearing sheep. So he sent ten young men and said to them, “Go up to Nabal at Carmel and greet him in my name. Say to him: ‘Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours! “ ‘Now I hear that it is sheep-shearing time. When your shepherds were with us, we did not mistreat them, and the whole time they were at Carmel nothing of theirs was missing. Ask your own servants and they will tell you. Therefore be favorable toward my men, since we come at a festive time. Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.’ ” When David’s men arrived, they gave Nabal this message in David’s name. Then they waited. Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?” David’s men turned around and went back. When they arrived, they reported every word. David said to his men, “Each of you strap on your sword!” So they did, and David strapped his on as well. About four hundred men went up with David, while two hundred stayed with the supplies. 1 Samuel 25:4-13(NIV).
David isn’t King yet; he is actually probably hiding out in the countryside staying away from King Saul who was always trying to kill him. He has a small army of men with him and some of their families are also hiding out with David so he has a need to keep them in food. He hears of Nabal and thinks that since he and his men have protected the herds belonging to Nabal that the landowner will be thankful enough to spare a few sheep for stew. I find it a point of David’s integrity that he and his men didn’t steal the food that they needed, that’s what most men in hiding would have done I should think. But David sent men to ask for the sheep.
Nabal shows himself a fool in several ways. First of all he isn’t sharing with the poor and hungry which obviously David’s small army is both poor and hungry. Secondly Nabal doesn’t consider that he is out-numbered and could easily be squashed by the small army. Third he isn’t wise in his language; rather he is rude and arrogant to David’s men. I have no doubt that Nabal knew who David was, knew that Saul was after him, knew that he would one day be the King but the man is so short-sighted that he only can see himself and his own interests. This is not a good political move on Nabal’s part. Let’s see what happens.
One of the servants told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “David sent messengers from the wilderness to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them. Yet these men were very good to us. They did not mistreat us, and the whole time we were out in the fields near them nothing was missing. Night and day they were a wall around us the whole time we were herding our sheep near them. Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.” 1 Samuel 25:14-17 ( NIV).
Abigail must have been considered a good mistress to her servants because had she been as mean-spirited and selfish as her husband the servants would not have come to her and told her of the foolishness of her husband toward David. Women married to fools often have to clean up their husband’s political messes; it becomes a part of her life-long responsibilities. If Abigail doesn’t do something quick to make this mess go away she knows that her life will be at risk. She becomes the spin-doctor as her mind begins to work out what she should do to make up for her husband’s lack of good sense.
Abigail acted quickly. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. Then she told her servants, “Go on ahead; I’ll follow you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal. As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her, and she met them. David had just said, “It’s been useless—all my watching over this fellow’s property in the wilderness so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good. May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!” 1 Samuel 25:18-22, (NIV).
Time was of the essence and Abigail sprang into action to appease David and his men. She knew that since the men were hungry her only hope was to show tremendously overflowing hospitality to them. She was wise enough to not tell her husband of her daring plan because she knew what he would do; he would forbid her to show hospitality and generosity. Oh, she knew how to work around her foolish husband as so many wives since her have learned through her example. Being married to a fool makes a wife feel like she is always waiting for the next shoe to drop or the next storm to push through her peace and tranquility. It is a horrible way to live but Abigail, like so many since her, had no choice but to do her best to be a good and faithful wife even if her husband didn’t value and cherish her. So does her plan work? Does she make David see that her life and the lives of her servants and household should be spared and not be destroyed because of her husband?
When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. She fell at his feet and said: “Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. 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. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent. And now, my lord, as surely as the Lord your God lives and as you live, since the Lord has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal. And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my lord, be given to the men who follow you. “Please forgive your servant’s presumption. 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 25:23-31 (NIV).
David listens to Abigail’s plea for mercy and I imagine her bravery as well as her beauty must have made David realize what a treasure she was as a woman. He had compassion on her and the plan to kill the fool and his kin dissolved before Abigail’s eyes. Oh what a wise and passionate and sincere plea Abigail made to David. I’m sure that she meant every word. She was not a fool but was tied to a fool through marriage. I wonder how many times she had to apologize for her husband’s bad behavior. This was not her first I am sure. When you’re married to a fool you spend a lot of time apologizing to others for his conduct and you spend a lot of time making amends for things that weren’t your fault but his. She showed herself as a woman of substance and David’s anger toward her dissolved. So how does the story of Abigail end?
Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, “Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request.” When Abigail went to Nabal, he was in the house holding a banquet like that of a king. He was in high spirits and very drunk. So she told him nothing at all until daybreak. Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and his heart failed him and he became like a stone. About ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died. When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise be to the Lord, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.” Then David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife. His servants went to Carmel and said to Abigail, “David has sent us to you to take you to become his wife.” 1 Samuel 25:35-40, (NIV).
God took care of Nabal and ejected him out of Abigail’s life. God also took care of Abigail after she was widowed. What a reminder that doing what is right even when married to a fool is a good thing. She was placed into the marriage to a fool just as some people are placed in marriages to foolish people today. She was a good wife and a good mistress to her slaves and household and God honored her goodness when her husband didn’t see her worth. I love that ending!