Forty women: 28. Abigail

The first thing we’re told about Abigail is that she is both intelligent and beautiful. Which is nice, because usually it seems like the first thing we’re told about women in the Old Testament is that they’re infertile, or jealous, or wicked. But sadly for Abigail, the second thing we’re told is that her husband is surly and mean in his dealings. And like so many women in the same situation as Abigail, she has turned her intelligence to handling her mean and abusive husband.

When David sends word to Nabal, asking for a favour, in return for the good treatment David had showed Nabal’s men, it’s no surprise that Nabal refuses. But the servant who heard the message knows it’s worth telling Abigail about it: “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 25:17).

She acts fast. She takes the provisions David had asked for and rides out to meet him. She tells him not to pay attention to her husband, but instead offers her gift generously. For Abigail, it seems, recognises in David the one who fights for the Lord. And she asks that when he is king, he will remember her. Perhaps she even hopes that he might rescue her from her unhappy marriage. At the very least, surely she hopes for some return of the favour she has shown him.

She can’t have known that just ten days later Nabal would get blind drunk. Or that the next day when he’d sobered up, she’d finally pluck up the courage to tell him what she done. Or that when he heard, his heart, weakened from years of drunkenness and indulgence, would just stop. Dead.

And it would have been impossible for Abigail to predict that David, when he heard of Nabal’s death, would send for her and make her his wife.

Unfortunately, it rather seems as though she was plucked out of the frying pan, only to be flung headlong into the fire. For Abigail was not, of course, David’s only wife. There was Michal, but she had been sent off by her father to another man. But there was also Ahinoam. And later there would be others.

Together with Ahinoam, Abigail followed David around in his exile. The women were taken captive by the Amalekites and had to be rescued after a fierce battle. And even when the victory was won and David led his men into Jerusalem in triumph, his household was never a happy place, and his eye never stopped wandering after ever younger, ever more beautiful women.

I daresay Abigail, with all her intelligence, learned how to handle her second husband just as she did with her first. It’s just a shame that with all her intelligence and beauty, she was never able to enjoy the happiness she surely deserved.