The Wisdom of Abigail

Chatswood Baptist Church

1 Samuel 25


What were they thinking?

Sometimes parents give their children very unusual names that are so odd that you end up asking yourself ‘what were those parents thinking of?’ Did they lose their minds or something? Don’t they realise how hard they would be making it for their kids?

It often seems to be the case with celebrities. It’s, as if, they want their kids to stand out from the crowd and so they come up with these unusual names to draw attention to them.

Rob Morrow

One actor name Rob Morrow decided it might be a good idea to name his daughter ‘Tu”. Now it has kind of a ring to it when you put her first name with her second but imagine all the jokes when the teacher asks if “Tu Morrow” is actually present today?

Jamie Oliver

Then there is the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver who named his son “Buddy Bear” and his girls, “Petal Blossom”, “Daisy Boo” and “Poppy Honey”. It might be OK when they are babies but imagine turning up to high school with a name like “Buddy Bear”?

In the story in 1 Samuel we meet a man who had one of those names where people must have wonder what was his parents thinking of? Did they have it in for him?

“Nabal” was the Hebrew word for fool

The man’s name was Nabal and in Hebrew his name was the word for “fool”. Now what possessed Nabal’s parents to give him this name we don’t know but in chapter 25 of 1 Samuel we see that his name fitted him to a ‘t’. It fitted him perfectly for the man was so foolish. His wife told David.

1 Samuel 25:25

My lord pay no attention to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name-his name is Fool, and folly goes with him.[1]

But Nabal was not the only one guilty of acting like a fool in the story. In chapter 25 David also behaves foolishly and would have done some terribly wicked things if not for intervention and the wisdom of Nabal’s wife, Abigail. Today I want to look at chapter 25 and examine with you at the foolishness of Nabal and David and the wisdom of Abigail and what we can learn from it.


The foolishness of Nabal

Nabal is introduced with his wife Abigail in verses 2 and 3 and they are examples of the old saying that “opposites attract”. Abigail is described as “intelligent and beautiful”. On the other hand, Nabal was a very wealthy man who was surly (or bad tempered) and he was mean in his dealings. Abigail was wise, while Nabal will live up to his name showing how foolish he really is. His folly is evident in this story.

  • His mouth invited ruin

Firstly, his mouth invited ruin. The book of Proverbs makes it clear that a fool’s mouth is his undoing.

Proverbs 15:2

The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.

Proverbs 18:6-7

 A fool’s lips bring him strife, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his soul.

Proverbs 10:14

14 Wise men store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.

Nabal was a very rich man whose mouth invited ruin. When David sent 10 of his young men to ask Nabal to show him and his men favour at shearing time, Nabal couldn’t resist the opportunity to shoot off his mouth and insult David. He knew very well who David was and everyone knew how David and his men had protected his people and flocks, but Nabal treated David with great contempt and hostility. He not only refused David’s request, but he seemed to go out of his way to insult David even though David had been good to him.

  • He poked the bear

Nabal unwisely “poked the bear”. This is an expression that we sometimes use to describe someone who does something to cause another to become angry. If someone has had a bad day and is already bad mood and you have something that’s going to make it worse but doesn’t really need to be brought up someone might say to you, “Don’t poke the bear”. It comes from the idea that you wouldn’t want to poke and disturb a sleeping bear because you might find that you make them angry and they turn on you.

Well Nabal unwisely poked the sleeping bear. David and his 600 men were fugitives hiding out in the desert near to Nabal. They would have been desperate and hungry. It wouldn’t have been easy to feed 600 men in the desert. Things hadn’t been going well for David. He’d lost everything but done nothing wrong. He was innocent, and Saul had been hunting him down. Nothing must have felt like it had been going his way and now Samuel the prophet had died, and David must have felt like he was all alone. And what does Nabal decide to do? Nabal foolishly decided that he would poke the bear. He effectively called David a nobody and likened him to a runaway servant leading a bunch of nobodies. We are told that he hurled insults at David’s men. Every knew how unwise this was but the man was so a wicked and foolish man that no body could talk to him about it. He gave the bear a big poke and what we find is that the bear didn’t like it.


The foolishness of David

This is not to say that the bear was right to react as he did. David was the Lord’s anointed. He was the king that God had chosen to rule over his people and lead them. But here in this chapter, David doesn’t act like a king at all, but acts like a fool. Instead of overlooking the insult and keeping himself under control he acts like a fool.

Proverbs 29:11

11 A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.

Proverbs 12:16

A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.

  • He decided to give full vent to his anger

When David’s men reported all that happened with Nabal, David immediately shows his annoyance and decided to give full vent to his anger. He put on his own sword and told his men to put on their swords and he takes 400 of them to go and to tell Nabal what he thought of his hospitality. If the acted of strapping on his sword wasn’t enough of a clue of what David was thinking, just before he ran into Abigail, we are told what David was thinking.

1 Samuel 25:21-22

21 David had just said, “It’s been useless—all my watching over this fellow’s property in the desert so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good. 22 May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!”

  • He wasn’t going to overlook the insult

David wasn’t going to overlook the insult, he was looking for revenge. He decided that if Nabal was going to return evil for all the good that David had shown him, then it was time to dish out some evil back. I don’t think there is any doubt that what David was planning was most certainly evil.  He vowed not only to kill Nabal by morning but, ever male in the household. It was going to be a bloodbath, all because Nabal had refused to feed him and his men and had insulted him.

This is a very different David to the one we saw in the previous chapter where he showed great restraint and refused to take the life of Saul even though Saul was hunting him down to kill him. On that occasion, he said that he wouldn’t return evil for evil. He told Saul….

1 Samuel 24:13

“As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds, so my hand will not touch you.”

But now foolishly, David won’t even overlook an insult, and intended to kill every male in the rich man’s household. The book of Proverbs says that a fool is hot headed and reckless and that what David is in this scene (Prov. 14:16). What saved David from this folly was the wisdom of Abigail which is at the centre of the story. We can learn much from her wisdom.


The wisdom of Abigail

Abigail was introduced briefly in the first few verses of the chapter 15. We were told that she was a “intelligent and beautiful” woman. The word “intelligent” doesn’t mean that she was just that she was really smart with a high IQ or that she had been educated well, but that she was wise. She might have been very intelligent, but the Hebrew word literally meant “good of understanding”. Sometimes the word is translated as “wise” or “discerning.” She was the opposite of what Nabal was like. He was a fool, but she had wisdom and remember wisdom in the Bible comes for rightly fearing the Lord. Her wisdom is the reason one of the servants came to her and told her all that had gone on between her husband and David’s men. He knew enough to know that they were all in trouble and he knew that she would listen and do something about it.

  • She wasted no time

Firstly, her wisdom is seen in that she wasted no time. She prepared the gift that Nabal should have provided David with and sent it on its way ahead of her. The food was probably being prepared for the huge banquet that Nabal was planning. Nabal had more than enough to be generous. It appears that he didn’t even miss it for he still feasted like a king. But she did this without telling Nabal who might have objected to it. It was one of those occasions when she thought it more prudent to ask for forgiveness rather than ask for permission.

  • She humbled herself and before the real king

Second, Abigail’s wisdom, was seen in the fact that she was willing to humble herself before the real king. She knew that David was the Lord’s anointed (his chosen king) and the Lord was with David. She knew that the Lord had appointed David as the leader of Israel and would establish David’s house and that no one who was against the Lord’s anointed would continue to stand.

It is her wisdom that exposes that great folly of her husband who treated the Lord’s anointed with contempt and scorn rather than respect and fear and love. Nabal was a rich man who lacked the wisdom to know when to humble himself. His great wealth tempted him to think of himself more highly than he ought to have. He thought of everything as his.  It may him difficult to get along with. He listened to no one. We are told that later when Abigail returned home that Nabal was in his house holding a banquet like that of a king. He liked to play king. So, when the real king arrived on the scene he was too used to playing king to humble himself and rejected the Lord’s anointed.

In contrast the first thing that Abigail did when she saw David was she humbled herself before him and acknowledge him to be the Lord’s king and asked for forgiveness.

1 Samuel 25:23-25

23 When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. 24 She fell at his feet and said: “My lord, let the blame be on me alone. Please let your servant speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. 25 May my lord pay no attention to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name is Fool, and folly goes with him. But as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my master sent.


Abigail humbled herself. She referred to David as her lord and herself as his servant and she begged for the opportunity to present her case dismissing her husband to be the fool that he was. Abigail asked for the blame to be hers and went on and asked David to accept her gift and forgive the offence reminding David that the Lord would be certain to make a lasting dynasty for him.

  • She reminded David of the sort of king he was meant to be.

Abigail lastly gently reminded David of the sort of king that he was meant to be.

1 Samuel 25:28-31

28 Please forgive your servant’s offence, for the Lord will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my master, because he fights the Lord’s battles. Let no wrongdoing be found in you as long as you live. 29 Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my master 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. 30 When the Lord has done for my master every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him leader over Israel, 31 my master will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the Lord has brought my master success, remember your servant.”

Abigail’s speech was brilliant for in it she reminded David of what he seems to have forgotten.

  • He was to fight the battles of the Lord

He was to be the sort of king that fought the Lord’s battles and not his own. He was not there for own sake, or for his own glory, but to do the will of God. He wasn’t there to avenge himself on those who insulted him. The Lord had appointed him to be the leader of Israel for the Lord’s glory and honour.

  • No wrongdoing was to be found in him

This leadership was more than just being good with a sword, it was a matter of being like the Lord his God. No wrongdoing was to be found in him because God does no wrong. He wasn’t to return evil for evil but to resist evil and continue to good even to those who like Nabal who insulted him and held him in contempt. He was to exercise the same sort of patience and grace that God exercises with his people.

  • He was to trust the Lord

Lastly, Abigail reminded David that he was to trust the Lord. Even though there were those trying to kill David she reminded David that the Lord had bundled him up securely in the bundle of the living. The Lord had David’s life in his hands. She reminded him that the Lord would take care of his enemies. He would judge them and remove them in his own time. It wasn’t up to David to avenge himself on them. God would take care of him and what he needed to do was to trust the Lord and not worry about his own honour and avenge himself. He was to entrust himself into the hands of the Lord.

David was heading down the road of folly that day. Instead of trusting in God to deliver him, and getting on with fighting the Lord’s battles, he was taking things into his own hands and fighting for his own honour and glory. He was falling into the temptation to return evil for evil and he would have been left with the staggering burden of needless bloodshed but for the wisdom of Abigail.


Wisdom for us.

Abigail’s speech was an amazing speech and it stopped David dead in his tracks. David praise God for he recognised that God had sent her with her good judgment (her wisdom) to prevent him from avenging himself with his own hands.

1 Samuel 25:32-34

32 David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. 33 May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. 34 Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.”

If Abigail hadn’t come along with her good judgment, then David would have gone down the road of folly and wickedness and killed every man in Nabal’s household in his personal vendetta. God used Abigail to bring the light of his wisdom to shine into David’s heart and turn him around. But Abigail’s wisdom wasn’t just important for David it has something to teach us. It reminds us who we are meant to be following and what we are meant to be like.

  • We are to look to Jesus as our king

Firstly, we see what the leader of God’s people needed to be like. He was to fight the Lord’s battles and not his own. He was to do no wrong. He was not to avenge himself but to leave God to vindicate him. He was trust in the Lord to keep his promises and leave God to take care of his life. Even though David was one of Israel’s greatest kings he wasn’t even close to fulfilling this job description. The Bible says that only the Son of God coming into this world did. He is the king that God has appointed to lead his people. We are to look to Jesus and humble ourselves before him and follow his example.

1 Peter 2:21-24

21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

The Lord Jesus committed no sin. Even when the hurled insults at him, he didn’t retaliate. Even when they nailed him to that cross he cried, “Father forgive them” as he bore the sin of us all in his body on the tree. Unlike David, Jesus didn’t lose his way and need intervention. He did no wrong. He committed no sin. He kept doing good even to the point of dying on a cross for his enemies so that we might be forgiven and live as God’s people.  He is the king that we are to humble ourselves before and follow. This is the wisdom of God and it’s the example that his people are to follow[2].

  • We aren’t to be overcome with evil

David was almost overcome by evil that day, but the Lord sent Abigail along and taught him that he wasn’t to pay back evil for evil but leave the judgment to the Lord. We aren’t to give up doing what is right even in the face of evil. We are not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good. You are overcome by evil when you stop doing good and strap on your swords and start paying back evil for evil. Evil has overcome you because it now controls you as well. We overcome evil by continuing to do good.

  • We are to trust the Lord to keep his promises

Abigail also reminds us that we are to trust in the Lord. Abigail was confident that the Lord would do everything for David that he has promised concerning him. We too can be confident in the promises that are ours in Christ Jesus. The Lord will do every good thing that he has promised us. One day we stand before him in glory. None of his promise will be forgotten. We don’t have to take things into our own hands here now. We can trust the Lord to deliver his promises.

  • We are to trust the Lord to deliver justice

We are also to trust the Lord to deliver justice. The guilty will not go unpunished. In the case of Nabal when Abigail came home, and Nabal had sobered up from his partying, she told him what David had been intending to do that morning, and his heart failed him. Ten days later we are told that the Lord struck Nabal and he died. It is up to the Lord to avenge and judge. We don’t have to take things into our own hands. We don’t have to strap on our swords. We can rely on the Lord to do what is right.

It was the Lord that brought Abigail to meet David and her wisdom was wisdom from God. She reminded David of the sort of king that he was meant to aspire to, the leader that he should have been like. In our case our king has perfectly embody this wisdom. We see it in the gospel of Jesus and we need to keep reminding ourselves of what he like for he is our wisdom. He is the one who we are to follow.


[1]Except where otherwise indicated all Scripture citations are taken from The Holy Bible: New International Version—Anglicised. (1984). (electronic edition). London: Hodder & Stoughton.

[2]See also Romans 12:17-21