The advice to “step in” must be exercised with extreme caution. If a husband and wife appear to be squabbling, one cannot attempt to step in unless at least one partner asks for help. The old adage is, if two brothers are in a fight and a third person attempts to separate them, the brothers will turn on the intruder, beat him (or her) up, and then resume their fight. For widespread social problems, on the other hand, community involvement is important. The fact is that up to 70 percent of some families have no husband or father in the home. The condition has been brought about by congressional laws passed to help needy children. As a result, several children but no father in the home, bring in more money. Society is trapped in a downward spiral. In the case of David and Abigail, they began an effort to bring about a solution to the boorish Nabal. Neither Abigail nor David directly influenced the outcome.
The Bible introduces Abigail as living in tragic circumstances (vv. 14-17). The first person to “step in” was an unnamed servant of Nabal who took it upon himself to present Abigail with some frightening news. He explained how David had sent a messenger to Nabal with a request to provide food for David’s men. David’s request was vital to the survival of his soldiers. In those wars, a necessary element had to do with food and water for soldiers and their horses. As a result, they were forced to kill all farm animals, chickens, and other fowl. The invaders devastated the land. In a contemporary sense, many of us remember the K Rations issued to individual fighters in WWII. They carried their food with them. Even today, our ground forces carry MREs, Meals Ready to Eat. So, the concerned servant of Nabal realized he and all of Nabal’s servants and animals faced loss of life and loss of all animals if David chose to avenge Nabal’s foolish answer to David’s request.
The second feature of our study concerns a bold request (vv. 23-28). Abigail proved to be a woman possessing courage and initiative in a time when women often were treated as little more than property with no feelings. Consider, for example, the reputation of Solomon who boasted a harem consisting of 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3). One can only imagine the misery of so many women, bared from having her own husband, and being in competition with each other for Solomon’s attention.
Abigail showed her courage, as well as influence over Nabal’s servants, as she gathered bread and wine, and then slaughtered sheep as an offering to be presented to David in hopes of assuaging his anger. Sending the offering ahead of her to soften David’s anger, she bowed before him and made her appeal (v. 23). Prostrate at his feet, she asked permission to speak while still calling herself his handmaid. She began by admitting that Nabal was well named, a son of worthlessness. Admitting she had not personally met with the young man David had sent, she pled for him not to shed innocent blood (v. 26). Above all she should not act purely out of vengeance, asking forgiveness for herself (v. 28).
In David’s reaction, the Bible shows a positive outcome (vv. 32-35). A study of David’s exploits reveals his profound allegiance to God. Known as the “sweet singer of Israel,” he was always aware of God’s presence. In crises of all kinds, he could praise and write a poem or hymn, known to us as psalms. To illustrate, following his terrible moral failure with Bathsheba, he wrote out his confession in Psalm 32. Abigail’s plea revealed a weakness in David’s character. The weakness was that he could not handle the insult of ingratitude. He had learned the truth of God’s restraining grace.
In Psalm 19:13 he could acknowledge God’s restraining hand: “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.” God handled the retribution. Nabal soon collapsed and died (v. 38). David then married Abigail (v. 39).
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