Reflections on 1 Samuel 25
Challenging those in power can be intimidating. Our fear that we lack the knowledge, experience, or authority to intervene can hold us back, but in truth one person using their gifts at the right place and the right time can change the course of history. In the story of Abigail from 1 Samuel 25, we see an example of a clever, diplomatic, and wise woman whose quick thinking not only saved lives within her own household, but also prevented the future king from acting with rash anger that could have had far reaching consequences.
The story begins with the future king David at a vulnerable time–still on the run from King Saul, and with the mourning of the death of the prophet Samuel fresh in everyone’s heart. As he moved into new territory with his men, they came upon the property of a very wealthy man, Nabal, who was known for his foolish and uncivil ways. David requested supplies from Nabal, hoping that his group’s prior protection of Nabal’s servants while they watched over his sheep and shepherds would earn him some reward. Instead, Nabal refused with an insulting demand, “Who is this David?” This enraged David to a rash foolishness of his own, and he responded with a vow to kill every male of the household before morning.
Then Abigail, Nabal’s wife, entered the scene. When the servants of Nabal heard about David’s anger, they came to Abigail rather than their master. She was the one known to possess wisdom and diplomacy, not her husband. What acts of wisdom had they observed in the past to assure them that she was trustworthy? We don’t have that history, but the text indicates that their trust was well-placed and Abigail “acted quickly.” Her ongoing habits of faithfulness positioned her to be ready to take action when it was most critical. Abigail immediately assembled generous offerings of hospitality and goodwill to send ahead to David, and then she followed. When she saw David, she humbled herself completely before him: bowing to the ground, offering profuse apologies, and taking the blame for her husband's wicked behavior.
Abigail’s intercession for her household was clever and strategic, as she drew on David’s faith and her presumption of his good nature to remind him that he did not want innocent blood on his hands. She used wisdom in not only appealing to David’s compassion, but also reminding him how restraint would be in his own self-interest. She spoke like a seasoned diplomat placating him, “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.”
Abigail was a skilled diplomat, advocating not just from her own convictions but using her wits to communicate in a way that was effective and powerful. This story is especially compelling because we don’t know for sure if Abigail was only acting to save the male household members and servants who were explicitly threatened, or if there was also self-interest at play. What we do know is that when the egos of two powerful men brought hundreds of lives under threat, Abigail did not shrink from stepping into the crossfire. She used the tools she had—her wit, her wisdom, and also likely her beauty and charm—to bring peace and save her household.
Written by Sheila Joiner, Grassroots Advocacy Director for We Welcome. This post is part of our Advocacy in Scripture series and accompanies our advocacy guide, The Everyday Guide to Change the World: Engage Democracy Like a Pro. You can download a free copy of the guide here.