2 A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel. 3 His name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband was surly and mean in his dealings—he was a Calebite.
23 When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. 24 She fell at his feet and said: “Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. 25 Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent. 26 And now, my lord, as surely as the Lord your God lives and as you live, since the Lord has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal. 27 And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my lord, be given to the men who follow you.
We are told in 1 Samuel 25:25 that the name Nabal means fool. What caused him to have that name? I remember agonizing over choosing the names of my children before they were born—after all, they were going to have it the rest of their life. My granddaughter had a heart defect the doctors found when she was still in utero. They knew she would need surgery as soon as she was born so my daughter specifically chose a name that meant “strength” as she knew her daughter would need it to survive. In my mind, she was defining the kind of life she wanted for her daughter. Did Nabal’s family give that name to him when he was born or was it changed later in life? Since he was “surly and mean”, did he come from a family that expected him to be that way?
A name like “fool” can certainly shape your life. It seems to me you either accept it and live up to what people expect you to be, or you do the opposite and spend your life trying to prove that you are not what your name implies. By his own wife’s words, we are told he lived up to his name.
On the other hand, the name Abigail means “father’s joy” or “joy of the father”. I can picture Abigail being twirled around in her father’s arms as a child dearly loved. “She was an intelligent and beautiful woman” yet somehow she ended up being married to Nabal. Perhaps her family was poor or had fallen into hard times and her father thought he was doing what was best for his daughter by offering her in marriage to a wealthy man.
28 “Please forgive your servant’s presumption. The Lord your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the Lord’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live. 29 Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. 30 When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel, 31 my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the Lord your God has brought my lord success, remember your servant.”
Abigail knew exactly who David was, that he was running away from Saul, and that he was destined to be ruler over Israel while her husband had no clue. She really was intelligent. Nabal was vain, ungrateful, and couldn’t be bothered when approached by David’s men. Yet Abigail knew exactly how to act. She was well prepared to feed David’s army (who has 200 loaves of bread lying around?) as she directed her household to pull all the food together so quickly. Then, she wisely humbled herself before him. I think this took David by surprise! He had his mind set on destroying Nabal and his household—he was not expecting such graciousness! God saved David from his own “folly” that day by Abigail’s quick actions.
In a way, the story reminds me of the plot of a romance novel. Saul is chasing our hero, David. While David is hiding out, he provides protection to a local ranch owner, Nabal, as he sheers his sheep. When his army runs out of food, David sends his men to politely ask for some provisions from this wealthy ranch owner. The surly, mean husband sends them away—after all, he never asked for David’s help. In an emotional reaction to his refusal for aide, David decides he is going to kill the males of the household. The servants come back to report everything to the intelligent and beautiful wife, our heroine in the story. She quickly assesses the situation and saves her household from destruction—and David from doing something he might later regret. He recognizes her true value. They have a moment but each goes their own way. Upon finding out the entire story, the husband has a stroke, and then dies. Hearing of Nabal’s death, David, who was so impressed by Abigail, offers to marry her. Then she lives happily ever after as the second wife to the King of Israel.
I waited patiently for the Lord;he turned to me and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.3 He put a new song in my mouth,a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.
I know those verses fill me with gratitude as I think of God’s faithfulness in my own life. I know David wrote them. I wonder if he ever read them to Abigail and she could see God’s hand working in her own life. Maybe she realized she was her heavenly “Father’s joy” after all!
Lord, I know names are important to you. I thank you for the greatest name of all, Jesus. He alone is our salvation as his names says. My name means bringer of peace. True peace only comes from knowing Jesus. I pray for the opportunity to bring that peace to others. In Jesus precious name. Amen
From the archives. Originally published September 1, 2017.