Abigail: Lessons in Peacemaking

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Abigail vs. Nabal. Abigail, whose name means “my father is joy,” is described as intelligent and beautiful. Nabal, her husband, has a name that contrasts who she is: “stupid or foolish”. He is described as the son of Caleb, which most likely means “son of a dog”. In other words, he’s “a dog of a guy”.

As we read the story of Abigail and Nabal in I Samuel 25, we find Nabal acting very foolishly indeed. David and his men protect Nabal’s sheep and shepherds in the wilderness, a service that was apparently fairly common at the time. After the service was completed, it was understood that the owner of the sheep was to pay for the service. David waits, like a wise employee, until after the harvest of sheep shearing has taken place and money is plentiful and feasting takes place. We know from several places in the story that Nabal has plenty to share, but instead he refuses to pay him and pretends he’s never heard of the truly famous David. His insult deeply angers David; he’s ready for more than revenge. He’s prepared to go up against every male in the household, but as it turns out, he isn’t prepared to go up against a certain female—Abigail.

Abigail turns David’s wrath in many wise ways, ways we would be wise to notice. First, she acts quickly, important for any peacemaking. She soothes David with lavish presents: the payment David and his men should have received in the first place, probably taken right from the feast to which they should have been invited. If we want to be peacemakers, we also need to set everything right when we see something gone awry in a relationship. She completely humbles herself before David, even though she isn’t to blame. Besides bowing to the ground, she apologizes as though it is her fault. This, to me, is one of her most inspiring acts. When someone else has done something wrong, I’m quick to defend myself when someone thinks I’m the one at fault. However, for the sake of her household and maybe for David’s sake as well, Abigail wisely eats dust.

Abigail lavishly praises David and shows him honor and respect. When you are trying to make peace, insincere flattery is not wise, but honest praise is. As she praises David and wishes him well, she says, “the life of my lord 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” (I Sam. 25:29). In saying these words, she slyly makes reference to something for which David is perhaps most famous: his giant-slaying using only a sling and a stone.

The fact that she is able to slip in this little reference is impressive, but even more so are her words that seem to sway David the most, words that remind him of his good character and the fact that what he is about to do is not in line with this character, that he will forever have regret if he continues. His response is to praise God for her, saying, “May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day” (I Sam. 25:33). David is so struck by her wisdom and peacemaking that when Nabal later dies of shock, he comes back to ask her to marry him.

When you see someone doing something wrong, how often do you use this logic to persuade that person to stop the behavior? I’ve heard a counselor use this with a young girl: “You are too beautiful to act that ugly.” If we emphasize the God-given dignity and positive traits of people during times like this instead of beating them down by focusing on their faults, those who hear it might rise to the occasion instead of acting on their baser impulses.

Abigail is a minor female character in the Old Testament, one that might be forgotten in the shadows of Esther, Ruth, and Hannah, but if we want to learn how to make peace with each other, we can continue to look to her example.

I’m thankful to Leigh Powers, who also posted this post on her blog in her series on Women of the Bible, which can be found here.

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2 thoughts on “Abigail: Lessons in Peacemaking

  1. Great story that I had forgotten about and never realized it’s significance in terms of skillful peacemaking. Thanks for drawing it out and painting the picture for me.

    Like

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