Abigail and David . . . What the Story Really Means

AbigailThe story of Abigail and David is one that has come to hold great meaning for me.  I thought that I’d summarize it here.

David was living and hiding out in Carmel with his men, on the run to avoid being killed by King Saul.  David found out that Nabal, a very wealthy man from Maon, kept 3000 sheep and 1000 goats in Carmel, and Nabal’s men were there shearing the sheep.  While there, David and his men offered protection to Nabal’s men and sheep, and kept them safe from thieves, bandits and predators.

Because David had been on the run, and they were running short on provisions, he sends ten men to speak to Nabal about the safety he and his flocks were provided while in Carmel, and to ask for provisions in return for the protection David and his men provided.  Nabal, a rude and evil man, refuses the request and refuses to even acknowledge the existence of David and his men.

David, in response, is angered and prepares his 400 men to travel to the home of Nabal and destroy his entire household.   One of Nabal’s servants tells Abigail, Nabal’s wife, about what happened and how good David’s men were to them while in Carmel.  Abigail, being a very wise and discerning woman, recognizes what happened and immediately prepares provisions and takes them to meet David.

She meets David, bows before him and explains that her husband, Nabal is a cruel and worthless man.  She asks David’s forgiveness for the trespass and asks that David accept the gift that she brought in return, asking that the folly be upon her head.

This story is brief and comprised of a single chapter in 1 Samuel 25.  However, this is one of the most profound stories in the scriptures, as it is a story that is symbolic or a “type and shadow” of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Some important points should be noted for more clear understanding of how Abigail symbolically teaches us about what the atonement of Christ really means to those on both sides of sin.

  1. Nabal’s selfish response created significant hardship and burden for David and his men.  Essentially, Nabal’s sin injures David and his men, just as rude or selfish actions usually have a victim who sustains injury from the sinner.
  2. In a clearly understandable way, Abigail’s actions save Nabal and her entire household from destruction.
  3. What we frequently don’t recognize is that Abigail saves David and this is the more important lesson of the story.  Although we recognize that David is justified in redressing his wrong with Nabal, David’s anger and vow to annihilate the entire household of Nabal violates the second of the two great commandments. David in his anger sins against the commandment to love his fellow man.  We commit sin when our hearts are sinful.  The two great commandments are love God and love your fellow man.  If we fail to love, then nothing can save us.
  4. We are told that David’s heart filled with anger, rage and envy once he had been wronged.  What we fail to see about this story is that it is a story of David responding sinfully to the sin of another.
  5. The atonement has been provided for the sinner, however, this story teaches us that the atonement was also provided for the victim of sin.  The effects of sin and wrongdoing often invite those injured to become sinful themselves.  The atonement of the Savior provides escape for others from the effect that sin can have on them.
  6. Abigail falls before David and asks that Nabal’s sin be placed on her head, “I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid.”  Even though she was innocent of any wrong doing.  This is in similitude of what Christ does for us.  Christ was innocent of any wrongdoing, yet took our sins upon himself that we might be clean. However, this story is not about Nabal’s repentance.  And, this is where we often miss the point, it is about David.  Nabal’s sin had caused David to sin with rage and anger and the desire to slaughter an entire family and household.
  7. In asking that David to forgive the trespass, she requests that he accept her offer of supplies to turn away offence or the needless shedding of blood that David’s sin would lead to.  She only asks that he accept the gift and remember her when the Lord has blessed David in the future.

The greatness of this story is that Abigail demonstrates a profound and life altering principle.  The Lord offers to those who have been harmed by others the sustenance they need to be made whole even after they have been injured due to the initial transgression.  Abigail, who is innocent of wrongdoing, takes the sin of Nabal upon her head and provides for David and his men the deficiency of supplies caused by Nabal’s sin.

The Lord stands before us and will provide the help we need after we have been wronged, but there is a condition that must be met before we can recognize the Lord’s hand in all of this:

  1. Abigail (like Christ) took the sin upon her own head.  “Upon me let this iniquity be.” We must be willing to forgive the debt as taken by Abigail (or the Savior).  “Forgive the trespass of thine handmaid.”  Yet, Abigail had done nothing wrong herself. However, she was not asking for forgiveness for Nabal.  She took the sin upon her own head and asked for forgiveness as if it were her own.  (The Savior, Jesus Christ does the same).
  2. The Savior, Jesus Christ, was sinless. He takes upon himself the sin of others and then comes before us, metaphorically on His knees, pleading for forgiveness from us.  The sinless man takes upon Himself all the sins of the world, and then, after providing the sustenance we need to make us whole, He asks the one who was sinned against for forgiveness.  This follows the verse, “I the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.”
  3. We can begin to forgive those who have wronged us through love.  If we refuse to accept the request of the Savior, we are in essence saying, “Your atonement was good enough for everyone else, but it isn’t good enough to heal me and make me whole.”

David immediately recognized the hand of the Lord in this, but did his men?  Were they ready to accept and acknowledge what was happening as well.

I found myself looking at this story as if I were one of David’s men on the road to Carmel. Was I also willing to accept the gift of Abigail?  Did I seen the similitude of Abigail’s offering as that of the Savior, Jesus Christ?

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