Nabal Is Literally Scared to Death
After placating David with sweet words and stores of food, Abigail returned to her home with Nabal. There she found her boorish husband enjoying a feast fit for a king, utterly clueless to the danger he was in from David's wrath (1 Samuel 25:36-38). Nabal got so drunk that Abigail didn't tell him what she had done until the next morning when he sobered up. A boor he might be, but Nabal was no fool; he realized that his wife's intervention saved him and their family from slaughter. Nonetheless, scripture says that at this point, "his courage failed him, and he became like a stone. About ten days later, the LORD struck Nabal and he died" (1 Samuel 25: 37-38). His wife Abigail inherited Nabal's fortune.
As soon as David heard that Nabal had died, he shouted praises to God and immediately sent a proposal of marriage to wise, beautiful and rich Abigail. The implication of scripture is that David recognized what an asset Abigail would be to him as a wife, since she was clearly someone who managed well, protected her husband's interests, and could recognize dangers in time to avert disaster.
Was Abigail a Model Wife or a Betrayer?
Abigail is often held up as a model spouse among King David's wives, the epitome of the virtuous woman described in Proverbs 31. However, Jewish studies scholar Sandra S. Williams has proposed another possible motivation for Abigail's actions.
In her paper published online, "David and Abigail: A Non-Traditional View," Williams argues that Abigail actually betrayed her husband Nabal by siding with the outlaw David. Since scripture describes both David and Abigail as good-looking people in their sexual prime, it's entirely possible that some undercurrent of sexual attraction pulled Abigail toward David. After all, as Waylon Jennings wrote in his classic country song, "Ladies Love Outlaws."
Given their respective physical beauty and characters described in scripture, Williams theorizes that David found in Abigail the kind of comrade he needed to achieve the kingship of a unified Israel. Williams cites David and Abigail's common characteristics: both were intelligent, attractive people, charismatic leaders with good diplomatic and communicating skills, masters of diplomacy who knew how to play situations to their advantage, yet deceptive creatures who could feign victimhood while betraying the trust of others.
In short, Williams says that David and Abigail recognized in one another their mutual strengths and weaknesses, a realization that probably made their union, although ethically ambiguous, inevitable and successful.
Abigail and David References:
- The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2004)
- "David and Abigail: A Non-Traditional View," Sandra W. Williams http://www.sandrawilliams.org/David/david.html
- "Abigail 2" Women in Scripture, Carol Meyers, General Editor (Houghton Mifflin, 2000).
- Discovering Eve: Ancient Israelite Women in Context, Carol Meyers (Oxford University Press, 1988).