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Lessons From the Old Testament: Abigail and Nabal

B.A, B.Ed., MA in Counselling, Theology and Education. Lives in South Africa with an interest in life.


Lessons for Today from the Old Testament: Abigail and Nabal

The story of one of the really amazing people in the Old Testament is found in the 25th chapter of 1 Samuel. Again, this is just a brief account of a woman, but at the same time a really remarkable woman. As David continued to flee from Saul he finds himself and his warriors in their stronghold in the desert of Maon and in need of food. So he approached a very wealthy man Nabal, who lived at Maon, near Mount Carmel, for food.

The description of the man, Nabal is of a “surly and mean” person (! Samuel 25:3 - NIV). His name means foolish, as the Bible explains and his life illustrates. In contrast, his wife Abigail is described as “an intelligent and beautiful woman”. The action of both these characters as David looks for help stands in sharp contrast with each other. David and his men are hungry and so call out to this wealthy man for help and Nabal foolishly rejects their approach with scorn, living up, not only to his name but also to his personality.

Nabal says: “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jessie? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. Why should I take bread and water and the meat that I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?” (1 Samuel 25:10-11). The answer is probably: “yes why should you?”, if considered by today’s thinking. But in the context of the common practice of that time it was expected for a person to be hospitable to anyone who arrived at their door. So we find Abraham inviting strangers into his tent and feeding them as recorded in Genesis 18. Nabal however, lived up to his description as being a mean spirited and selfish person. As we look around us we see many with the same attitude as Nabal, but fortunately also many with the attitude of Abigail.

It was only through the kind actions of his wife Abigail that Nabal was saved from the sword of David. She went out of her way to show hospitality to the strangers. When she then learns that David is to be the new king of Israel she informs her husband about what had happened after he spends the night getting drunk. The Bible writer records that when Nabal heard this, “his heart failed him and he became like a stone” (1 Samuel 26:37). About ten days later he was “struck by the Lord and died”.

David obviously was attracted to this intelligent and beautiful woman and so sent word to her asking her to become his wife. She accepts the invitation and “went with David’s messengers and became his wife”. Later on she is present at the anointing of David as king, as described in 2 Samuel 2:2 and becomes the mother of Kileab.

It is interesting that in the Old Testament hospitality is taught as an important attitude. Yet in today’s world many seem to have the mean attitude of Nabal: “I have worked hard for what I have and so why must I share it with others – their problem is their problem!” This attitude becomes a part of our thinking and so part of society. It has been interesting to see how during the Covid 19 lock-down, many have reached out to those who have been in really difficult places.

Jesus taught in the parable of the Good Samaritan that we, as Christians, need to reach out to those who are in difficulty. As we look at the corruption and greed that is present in South Africa and in so many other countries in the world it becomes obvious that the spirit of Nabal lives on in the hearts and minds of many. It is into this dark picture that the example of Abigail shines like a bright light. It gives hope to a world that is basically only interested in looking after itself. She proclaims a different world where everybody shows a spirit of kindness and compassion.

Hospitality is regarded by Paul as a gift of the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:8, 13). Peter writes: “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:9, 10). The Hebrew writer warns: “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).

Abigail shows us today that even when she was living with a mean and selfish person she acted wisely and stood for what was right. The rewards are not only accumulated by those who receive acts of kindness but also by those administering them.

The next question that every person needs to ask themselves is: “What attitude controls my life, that of Nabal or that of Abigail?” Perhaps only you can answer that!

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Scriptures taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright 1973,1978,1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

The "NIV" and "New International Version" trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.


Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on September 15, 2020:

I wholly agreed.

Johan Smulders (author) from East London, South Africa on September 15, 2020:

Thanks for the comments. Reading the Old Testament often brings a smile to my face and heart. The people are so typical of even our time!

blessedp on September 14, 2020:

Abigail had a kind heart and wasn't selfish like her husband. Interestingly enough, the time we are living in now is different from the time when I was younger. A community had love, and no hand wasn't short in giving to his/her neighbor. There was love and togetherness, there was no me, myself, and I. And people then weren't as educated as now. But they had love and feared God.

Now knowledge has increased, and man's heart has grown cold. No love, earthly riches and pleasure is what they seek. No one wants the Savior of the world, Jesus. He who died to save us from our sin.

The closer it gets to His return, the colder the hearts of men become.

Good article. Thanks for the reminder of that story. I love old testament stories. The knowledge and wisdom that existed then, amazes me whenever I read it.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on September 14, 2020:

Although Abigail, went to meet David and his men, some wise men had advice and warned her of Nabal's action. That she listen to the servants is serious. Thanks.

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