Welcome to Day 8 of 20 Women in Scripture You Need to Know! I am excited about this series and hope it is an encouragement to both women and men to spend time studying the women in the Bible. We can learn much from them about how to live for the glory of God.
Abigail: Navigating Difficult People with Grace
Do you have difficult people in your life? What a ridiculous question, right? Of course you do. We all do. And the issue we actually need to deal with most of the time is HOW will we deal with those hard-to-handle people.
For this, we turn to another woman’s story in 1 Samuel. In our previous post, we looked at Hannah and read about the birth of her son Samuel. Samuel became the priest in Israel and ultimately anointed both Saul and David as kings. Today’s story begins as the nation is mourning for their beloved priest.
Samuel died, and all Israel assembled to mourn for him, and they buried him by his home in Ramah. David then went down to the Wilderness of Paran.1 Samuel 25:1 CSB
David has been anointed king but Saul still sits on the throne. This account occurs during the time when David was in the wilderness hiding from Saul.
An Ungrateful Man
During this time, David and his men had been in the same area as shepherd’s guarded the flocks of a man named Nabal. They had treated these men well and offered them protection. Later when David was near Nabal’s property, he requested assistance from the wealthy man as compensation for what he had done for Nabal’s men.
Nabal refused. He broke the custom of his day and made an enemy.
Nabal asked them, “Who is David? Who is Jesse’s son? Many slaves these days are running away from their masters. Am I supposed to take my bread, my water, and my meat that I butchered for my shearers and give them to these men? I don’t know where they are from.”1 Samuel 25:10-11 CSB
An Angry Man
David’s response was immediate and hostile.
David’s young men retraced their steps. When they returned to him, they reported all these words. He said to his men, “All of you, put on your swords!” So each man put on his sword, and David also put on his sword. About four hundred men followed David while two hundred stayed with the supplies.1 Samuel 25:12-13 CSB
David wasn’t playing games. He was ready for a fight and had the manpower to do what he wanted with Nabal and all that Nabal had.
A Brave Servant
In the meantime, a servant, who had witnessed Nabal’s reaction to David’s reasonable request, took action.
One of Nabal’s young men informed Abigail, Nabal’s wife: “Look, David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master, but he screamed at them. The men treated us very well. When we were in the field, we weren’t harassed and nothing of ours was missing the whole time we were living among them. They were a wall around us, both day and night, the entire time we were with them herding the sheep. Now consider carefully what you should do, because there is certain to be trouble for our master and his entire family. He is such a worthless fool nobody can talk to him!”1 Samuel 25:14-17 CSB
Do you see what the servant said about his master? “He is such a worthless fool nobody can talk to him!” Clearly, Nabal’s response to David wasn’t out of character. Nabal wasn’t a good guy. And now his hostility had put everyone in his household at risk.
A Wise Woman
Abigail immediately took action. She gathered up “two hundred loaves of bread, two clay jars of wine, five butchered sheep, a bushel of roasted grain, one hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys” (v. 18). She knew something had to be done and she also realized it was up to her.
She met David’s men right after David makes a declaration of war against Nabal. When she has the opportunity to speak with David, she approaches him with humility and acknowledges the inappropriate reaction of her husband.
She knelt at his feet and said, “The guilt is mine, my lord, but please let your servant speak to you directly. Listen to the words of your servant.. My lord should pay no attention to this worthless fool Nabal, for he lives up to his name. His name means ‘stupid,’ and stupidity is all he knows. I, your servant, didn’t see my lord’s young men whom you sent.1 Samuel 25:24-25 CSB
Clearly, she knew how her husband could behave. But she also felt an obligation to protect his best interests, even if he didn’t. David relented in his attack and Abigail ended up telling Nabal what had happened.
In the morning when Nabal sobered up, his wife told him about these events. His heart died and he became a stone. About ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal dead.1 Samuel 25:37-38 CSB
When David heard about Nabal’s death, he sent his servants to ask Abigail to become his wife. She became one of David’s wives and this is essentially where her story in Scripture ends.
What can we learn from Abigail and how she handled a difficult situation between two angry men? I see three things Abigail did to help mitigate the consequences of Nabal’s actions:.
- She had discernment about the people around her. She didn’t argue with her servant, taking his word about what had happened with her husband. She knew the character, behaviors, and personalities of the people around her. She knew who she could trust.
- She took swift action to resolve the conflict. Her quick resolve to provide David and his men with far more than what they had originally asked for reveals her ability to see a solution to a problem and willingness to take action when necessary to diffuse a contentious situation.
- She acted in the best interest of everyone involved. She knew David was to be king of Israel and her actions helped him avoid unnecessary bloodshed and conflict before he took the throne (verses 30-31). But she also protected Nabal and his whole household. Was Nabal worthy of her action? Likely not, but her wisdom and immediate response saved his life and everything he had.
A Lesson for Us
We will deal with difficult people. And there will likely be times we are stuck in a situation that isn’t of our making but has the potential to explode in a negative way in our lives. How will we respond?
Hopefully we, like Abigail, we focus on providing a solution that allows protects the people around us and allows for a peaceful resolution in the best interest of all involved.
A Prayer for Us
Lord, we know we’ll have to navigate difficult people and situations. May we be like Abigail and operate with great discernment and wisdom. Give us the ability to seek peaceful solutions and to treat others with graciousness and respect. May we be faithful to act in the best interest of others, even when they fail to act in their own best interest. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
This post is part of the 20 Women in Scripture You Need to Know series. You can find every post indexed here.