Abigail was a woman “…of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance: but the man [her husband Nabal] was churlish and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb” (1 Samuel 25:3). So begins the biblical story of Abigail, the attractive wife of Nabal. Her name in Hebrew means “my father is joy.” Abigail quietly saved her husband from certain death, then married the king who was about to murder him. Modern writers have portrayed her as beautiful, eloquent, and mismatched in her marriage to the boorish and self-centered Nabal.
Abigail and Nabal lived in Maon, which was located in the hills of southern Judea. Nabal owned 3,000 sheep, which he sheared in Carmel. David supported Nabal by supplying security to keep marauding tribes from stealing sheep. As a result, Nabal was prospering. One day, David (who was not yet king) was in the wilderness near Carmel with his men. He heard that Nabal was shearing his sheep nearby. David and his men needed food and water, and he remembered his friendship with Nabal. Nabal, however, either had a lapse of memory or did not wish to honor his friendship with the king, and would not offer him food and water.
When the men returned to David with Nabal's answer, David took 400 soldiers armed with swords and marched straight toward Nabal's house to slice off some heads. A servant who had overheard the plan told Abigail, Nabal's wife. Not only was Abigail beautiful, she was also resourceful, capable, diplomatic, and wise: Abigail quickly considered the options, put together a plan, and implemented a course of action. She pulled together an unbelievable quantity of wine and food for a feast for David and his men, and loaded it on a caravan of donkeys. Then she climbed upon a donkey and headed out through the hills to meet David. She didn't consult Nabal about her plan, nor did she request his permission.
When Abigail saw David, she threw herself at his feet in a sign of deep humility and respect. She offered him food and drink and pleaded with him to forgive Nabal. She asked David to put the blame for the iniquity upon her, arguing that killing her foolish husband wouldn't be prudent. David was won over by her logic, and granted her request. Thus, Abigail saved her husband from the wrath of David and his sword. But the story doesn't end there.
Abigail went to Nabal to talk with him, but he was holding a feast in his house and was quite drunk. She waited until morning to speak to him of what she had done. When Abigail told Nabal what had transpired, “…his heart died within him, and he became as a stone. And it came to pass about ten days after, that the Lord smote Nabal, that he died” (1 Samuel 25:37–38).
David must have noticed that Abigail was not only smart, but also quite beautiful. After Nabal died, David sent his servants to Abigail and asked her to become his wife. Abigail accepted his offer, and took five of her attendants to David's house and married him. In time, Abigail gave birth to his son Chileab (2 Samuel 3:3), who was also called Daniel (1 Chronicles 3:1). David, in Hebron, replaced Saul as king. But that did not end Abigail's story.
When the Amalekites (whom King Saul had failed to annihilate when instructed to do so by God) launched raids on the towns of Negev and Ziklag, they took custody of the women there, young and old. They carried off the women, but did not murder them. The Amalekites then burned the city, so that when David and his men arrived, they were devastated. The men with David wept loudly for their wives and daughters. David's two wives, Ahinoam of the Jezreelites and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite, were among those missing. David and 400 men pursued the Amalekites, coming upon an Egyptian servant of one of the them. The man had fallen ill and had been left for dead. After they fed him and gave him something to drink, the man told them where to find the Amalekites.