Abigail is a remarkable mold-breaking woman of the Bible. We find her story in 1 Samuel 25, where she is introduced as a woman with brains and beauty. Her name means "Father rejoices." In a culture that esteemed sons more than daughters, every time Abigail heard her name she was reminded that she was her father's joy. Knowing that a father's attitude towards his daughter can have a profound impact on her confidence and self-image, one has to wonder if Abigail’s father was instrumental in raising her to become the intelligent and capable woman that she was.
Abigail was married to Nabal, a wealthy landowner with a nasty reputation. David, the soon to be king of Israel, and his band of mighty men treated Nabal’s shepherds kindly, protecting them from harm in the desert. When David requested a gift in return for their services, Nabal refused to compensate them and publicly attacked David’s character. As a result, David sets out with 400 armed men bound and determined to kill every man in Nabal’s household.
When the male servants learned of their impending doom, they immediately went to Abigail for help. As the patriarch, Nabal was the positional leader, but Abigail was the better leader. Unlike the foolish and obstinate Nabal, they knew they could count on Abigail to be wise and level-headed. True leadership is not a position or a title; it's influence leveraged in service to others. The men of Nabal’s household chose to follow Abigail’s direction, not because they had to, but because they wanted to. They gave her permission to lead them through this crisis because she was credible and trustworthy.
Without telling her husband, Abigail sprang into action, gathered food and wine, and set out on a peacemaking mission. When she meets the enraged David, she falls at his feet and assumes the blame for her wicked husband. She delivers a Spirit inspired sermon pointing David to God and reminding him of his divine purpose as the future king of Israel. Moved by her message, David abandons his plan for revenge, thanks her for her wise counsel, and acknowledges that she has been sent to him by God.
The Bible does not say that Abigail submitted to the decision of her husband, or that she waited and prayed for God to change his heart. Lives were at stake, and God needed someone with wisdom and courage to take action. Abigail was God's woman for the job, and the Bible commends her actions as noble and God-honoring. Her example defies the tenets of patriarchy and narrowly defined gender roles giving us a model of servant leadership and demonstrating that, like men, God sometimes calls women to take charge, deliver truth, and protect their families from harm.