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Abigail: David and Abigail

Hamilton Smith

David and Abigail (1 Sam. 25)

Interwoven in the story of David’s chequered life there are many fine characters, of whom Jonathan, the three mighty men that drew water from the well, Mephibosheth, and Ittai, are bright examples. Among these friends of David, there is not one, perhaps, that wears a more beautiful character than Abigail the Carmelitess. Very significantly her name means ‘source’ or ‘cause of delight’; and surely her story proves that she was a source of delight to the heart of David.

At the moment that she comes upon the scene, David, though the anointed of the Lord — the coming king, and the man of God’s heart — is seen as a hunted man, in the place of reproach, hiding in the caves of the earth; a needy wanderer in desert places; surrounded by a band of faithful followers, who had gathered themselves unto him (1 Sam. 22:1, 2). In the course of his wanderings, he, and his followers, went about doing good; for the shepherds of one Nabal have to own that David and his men ‘were very good unto us’ (1 Sam. 25:15). They protected the shepherds and their flocks night and day; so that, as long as David and his men were in their neighbourhood, they lost nothing.

This Nabal, who had received such benefits from David and his men, comes before us as a man of substance and high social position. He was in the eyes of the world, a ‘very great’ man — one who could entertain in royal style (vs. 2, 3, 36). He was, however, in God’s sight a churlish man and ‘evil in his doings’; one that would brook no interference from others (vs. 3, 17). He professes to have no knowledge of David; for he asks, ‘Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse?’ (v. 10). Doubtless he knew of David’s great victory over the giant and how the women had sung his praises; but he probably looked upon David as one whose head had been turned by his great deeds, and the songs of women, and, aspiring to the throne, had become a rebellious servant who had broken away from his master, King Saul. If any rumour of Samuel having anointed David to be the king had reached his ears, he evidently treated it as a matter of complete indifference. He paid no heed to such reports; to Nabal, David was only a runaway servant.

Thus it comes to pass when David appeals to Nabal, in a day of plenty, to make some recompense for benefits received that David’s young men are driven away with insults (vs. 4–12). David, incensed by such treatment, prepares to take vengeance (v. 13).

This brings Abigail to the fore. She is described as a woman of a beautiful countenance, and, moreover, ‘of good understanding’ (v. 3). She had evidently considered the people and events of her day, and the Lord had given her understanding (see 2 Tim. 2:7). She hears from one of the young men of her husband’s folly and immediately acts in faith and, hence, without consulting her husband. Nature could only see in David a runaway servant; faith, not looking at mere outward circumstances, sees in the hunted and needy David the coming king. Thus she takes her place as a subject of the king, and acts with the deference that is becoming in the presence of a king. She prepares her present and, having met David, she falls at his feet, bows herself to the ground, and owns David as her lord. She takes sides with David against both her husband and King Saul. She owns that Nabal, though her husband and a great man in the world, is acting in an impious and foolish way; and that Saul, though the reigning king, is but ‘a man’ that is opposing God’s anointed (v. 29). She sees that David, though hunted and in poverty, is ‘bound in the bundle of the living’ and coming into a glorious inheritance.

Like Jonathan she had a high position in this world as the wife of a ‘very great’ man; in contrast to Jonathan she was not hindered by her social position from identifying herself with David in the day of his poverty and reproach. Very blessedly she looks beyond the day of David’s suffering and sees his coming glory. In view of that glory, and in confidence in the king, she can say, ‘When the Lord shall have dealt well with my lord, then remember thine handmaid’ (v. 31). She looks beyond the present, and acts and speaks in the light of the future; and the future justifies her faith.

David, though in wilderness circumstances, rightly acts with royal dignity, as a king with a subject. He dismisses Abigail with his blessing after having accepted her present, hearkened to her requests, and accepted her person (vs. 32–35).

Returning to her husband, Abigail finds him debasing himself at a drunken feast. When sober he is informed of what has taken place, and at once ‘his heart died within him, and he became as a stone’ (v. 37). About ten days after, the Lord smote him, and, to use Abigail’s figure, he is flung aside in judgment even as a stone is slung from the middle of a sling (vs. 29, 36–38).

Having obtained her freedom by death, Abigail becomes the wife of David. She leaves her high position, and the ease and comfort that was naturally the lot of a woman of substance, to associate herself with David in his sufferings and wanderings. In this new path she will indeed know suffering and privation, even to being taken captive by David’s enemies in the day of Ziklag; but she will also share his throne in the day of his reign at Hebron (1 Sam. 30:5; 2 Sam. 2:2).

Have we not in this touching story a foreshadowing of David’s greater Son? Do we not see in the rejected and hunted David a picture of the one who was despised and rejected of men? Granted there is much in David that betrays the man of like passions with ourselves, yet as a type how strikingly he sets forth the one who, in all His path of rejection, was absolutely perfect. David may, in a rash moment, gird on his sword to take vengeance upon his enemies; Peter, in like spirit, will draw his sword to defend his Master; but, Christ Himself in the presence of His enemies will say, ‘Put up again thy sword into his place’ (Matt. 26:52). In every type there are these contrasts, only serving to show that no type can fully set forth the perfection of Jesus. Others may give us, at times, a very blessed foreshadowing of the coming one, but they are but shadows. Christ is the substance, and He alone is perfect.

If in David we can see a type of Christ, the King of kings, can we not see in Nabal a picture of the world’s attitude towards Christ, whether in the days of His flesh or during His present session at the right hand of God? Nabal-like, the thoughts of the world do not travel beyond the present time. As then, so now, it is a world bent upon present gain, feasting and pleasure. By such a world Christ is a despised and rejected man, one in whom it sees no beauty, one whom it sets at nought — a world that has no sense of its need of Christ.

But was not Abigail a bright example? When the world of her day slammed the door in David’s face, she opened her door and put her bounty at his disposal; and she had her bright reward. She enjoyed sweet communion with David, as his wife, in the day of his reproach; she sat with him on his throne in the day of his glory.

Happy for us if we take warning by Nabal and follow the example of Abigail. Happy indeed if we wholeheartedly separate from the corruptions of the Christian profession in order to gather to Christ in the outside place of His reproach. If, like Abigail, we are overcomers, we shall find the outside place with Christ one of deepest present blessing and highest future glory.

Truth & Testimony 2016