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Abigail – my hero August 21, 2007

Posted by abi in blogging, just for fun, life.
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I recently read an old blog written by Carolyn McCulley called  Abigail’s Initiative and thought it was worth sharing on here since its about me!  No, not really – but it is about my namesake – Abigail.  I have always loved the story of found in the Bible, 1 Sam. 25 and hope that I follow her example of being a bold, yet humble woman who is following God so whole-heartedly. 

January 15, 2007

Abigail’s Initiative

Fairy tales often portray femininity as a passive concept: Sleeping Beauty is unconscious until kissed; Cinderella is miserable until a fairy godmother appears; Rapunzel is imprisoned with her flowing locks until she is rescued. But that passivity is not what we see of women in the Bible, and Abigail the Carmelitess is one of my favorite examples. We find the account of her wise initiative in 1 Samuel 25.

Abigail is described in verse three as being “intelligent and beautiful.” That order is important because it’s her intelligence and initiative that are on display in this account. Her beauty is secondary.

Abigail was the wife of a very wealthy man who is called Nabal, which means “fool.” Nabal was very rich, owning 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats. When David and his men were living in the wilderness of Paran after the death of Samuel, they took it upon themselves to protect these herds from attacks by wild animals or raiders. According to the IVP Bible Background Commentary on the Old Testament, sheep shearing was a festival time when a count of the sheep would be taken and rewards would be given to the shepherds. David’s message to Nabal is a claim for a portion of that compensation. But Nabal spurns the request and insults David, instead, saying, “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?” This commentary notes that Carmel, Nabal’s town, was taken from the Amalekites by Saul, and therefore it’s not entirely surprising that a Carmelite resident would be loyal to Saul and question who David was. However, David’s fame was widespread so Nabal’s unwillingness to do what was requested was no doubt motivated by other reasons, perhaps greed or pride.

Stockxpertcom_id183912_size1 Abigail, on the other hand, must have had a reputation for wisdom because one of Nabal’s shepherds comes to her and reports all that has happened, as though he expects her intervention. Her husband had listed bread, water, and meat as the rewards for his shearers, so Abigail loads her donkeys with what must have been some of these prepared rewards–200 loaves of bread, two jugs of wine, five prepared sheep, five measures of roasted grain (about a bushel), 100 clusters of raisins, and 200 cakes of figs. Then she rides out to meet David.

As Abigail encounters him, she gets off of her donkey and bows low before David. Her persuasive speech reminds David of God’s work in his life, God’s standards for shedding blood, and the promises of the Lord for David’s future. Her bold appeal calls David to a higher standard–and he hears her out. In fact, he blesses her for it.

“Now since the LORD has kept you, my master, from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, as surely as the LORD lives and as you live, may your enemies and all who intend to harm my master be like Nabal. And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my master, be given to the men who follow you. Please forgive your servant’s offense, for the LORD will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my master, because he fights the LORD’s battles. Let no wrongdoing be found in you as long as you live. Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my master 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 done for my master every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him leader over Israel, my master will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the LORD has brought my master success, remember your servant.”

David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. Otherwise, as surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.” (1 Samuel 25:26-34 NIV).

Abigail models for us a pattern of initiative that honors God and blesses others. She didn’t appeal to David for some vague sense of personal obligation. She did not trade on her physical charms to distract him. She did not emotionally manipulate him or throw a diva fit herself. What she did was honor him with a symbol of respect (bowing low) and then point him to God’s promises. She appeals to him to avoid doing anything to jeopardize his future or throne or, more importantly, violate God’s standards. Not only does she show us what wise communication looks like (a topic we’ll explore in further posts), she also shows us that godly women are called to know the Lord and His Word, to take action to right wrongs, and to inspire men to be godly themselves. She is direct but humble, clear but gracious, and bold yet feminine.

The immediate result is that David praises the Lord for her and blesses her for her judgment (a word translated as “discernment” in the NAS and “discretion” in the ESV). And the long-term result is that after she is widowed, David marries Abigail. I believe he appreciated what a valuable helpmate she would be.

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