In between the two instances in which David exercises mercy and spares the life of the one that is attempting to kill him (Saul), we come upon an interesting incident of a person who stands in the role of deliverer within Israel. The name of this particular deliverer is Abigail. Abigail, of course, will eventually become one of David’s wives, but when we meet her, she is married to a man named Nabal. He is said to have been “very wealthy,” while also being “harsh.” Additionally, we are informed that “his deeds were evil” (1 Samuel 25:2,3). That use of “evil” should be a clue that God’s judgment is eventually going to fall upon him.
Apparently, David had taken it upon himself, without being asked it seems, to serve as protection for Nabal’s shepherds and his flocks when they were out in the field. David instructs his men to go and inform Nabal that “When your shepherds were with us, we neither insulted then nor harmed them the whole time they were in Carmel” (25:7b). On the surface, this hardly seems noble, but for this, David appears to have expected some type of reward. When Nabal heard this, his response to what he obviously perceived as extortion was “Should I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have slaughtered for my shearers and give them to these men? I don’t even know where they came from!” (25:11) David’s predictable response, upon being rebuffed by Nabal, was to give his men instructions to “strap on your sword” (25:13a). He intended to bring pain and shame and cursing and exile to Nabal and his household. This is the point at which Abigail actually enters into the story. One of her servants told her that “These men were very good to us. They did not insult us” (25:15a), which hardly seems worthy of reward, but nevertheless, the servant went on to tell Abigail, “nor did we sustain any loss during the entire time we were together in the field. Both night and day they were a protective wall for us the entire time we were with them, while we were tending our flocks” (25:15b-16). In regards to Nabal, the servant rightly feared that “disaster has been planned for our lord and his entire household” (25:17b), and urged Abigail to intercede.
In response, Abigail “quickly took two hundred loaves of bread, two containers of wine, five prepared sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred bunches of raisins, and two hundred lumps of pressed figs” (25:18a), intending to take them to David and his men, so as to appease David’s wrath and spare her husband from the exile of death that was coming to him. Eventually, Abigail greets David, falls at his feet, and says “My lord, I accept all the guilt!” (25:24b) In accepting the guilt, she stands in her husband’s place, asking David for mercy, and for the sparing of the one who has become another enemy to him. She asks to take the punishment upon herself. At the same time, she offers the presents that she has ordered to be brought to David and says “Please forgive the sin of your servant” (25:28a). With her gift of fruits and grains and animals, Abigail is not only functioning in the role of deliverer, rescuing her husband from David’s sword that will subjugate him to death, but she also becomes a vibrant reminder of God’s promised blessings upon His people.
In Deuteronomy, we read about blessings upon baskets and mixing bowls (28:5), upon the produce of the soil, and upon the livestock, which is represented by what Abigail is offering to David. She does not stop there, but goes on to tell David that “When someone sets out to chase you and to take your life, the life of my lord will be wrapped securely in the bag of the living by the Lord your God. But He will sling away the lives of your enemies from the sling’s pocket! The Lord… will make you leader over Israel” (25:29-30a,c). Now Abigail has reminded David of God’s promises to him, in regards to his rule, doing so by the use of words that sound suspiciously like that which are also to be found in Deuteronomy, when Moses speaks to the people of God’s promise to cause His people’s enemies to flee (28:7), while also making them “the head and not the tail” (28:13), and making sure that they always end up at the top and not at the bottom (28:13).
David had been about to take it upon himself to stand in the role of one whom God uses to bring the curse upon His people, rather than being the king and deliverer for which purpose his ordination had come. Not only does Abigial deliver Nabal from David’s sword, but she is also used to deliver David from, as he would say in quoting the words of Abigail, “taking matters into my own hands” (25:33b).