Here in the U.S., we’ll be celebrating Valentine’s Day this week. With that in mind, I’m sharing my re-telling of this love story from Old Testament times. For all David’s ups and downs, he knew what it was to be mightily loved by God — and he was fortunate enough to have the love of one very wise and very strong woman . . .
Oh, how she had grown to hate him. Ten thousand offenses, both small and large, had accumulated over the years since their arranged marriage.
Practical and traditional, Father had seen a prosperous match: “Abigail, you will marry a descendant of Caleb,” he had exulted. Abigail had found no delight, no dignity in the homeland of this husband whose given name would be forever lost beneath the wreckage of his character: Nabal –“The Fool.”
Playing hostess to his drunken friends and enduring his loutish company, the loneliness was excruciating. Even so, she thanked Yahweh every day that there were, as yet, no children from this unfortunate match. “I am your servant,” she prayed each day at sunrise and found, over time, that the God of Israel had become her comfort in this desert-life.
When hope for love has left a marriage, what remains?
. . . unless the rattling husk becomes a place for something new to grow. Slowly, Abigail began to notice the workings of Nabal’s household. Her quick mind took in the details of the livestock business, the buying and selling, the shearing and marketing of fine wool. She had long ago stopped hoping for love, but one day, she realized that the respect and confidence of the family servants had become her consolation, a gift from Yahweh.
The season of shearing was upon them with its steady hum of activity, but Abigail welcomed the challenge and the stimulation, planning meals for the shearers, managing the bountiful output, and arranging for its transport. During a lull in the chaos, she was catching a breeze in the doorway when Othniel, her faithful steward, appeared, wild-eyed, breathing like a frightened creature.
“What is it, Othniel?” she asked.
“You know that David, the chosen of God, and his men have been protecting our flocks and our shepherds for some time.”
Abigail nodded. “Go on.”
“They have been like a city wall to us and to our herds, and so David sent his messengers to request protection money and provisions, a part in our feasting . . . They were taken to the master.”
Abigail dropped her face into her hands and listened, knowing that what followed could only be bad news.
And it was:
A refusal to provide reasonable compensation for services rendered.
When Othniel’s words confirmed her fears, she asked, “Have they gone?”
Perhaps it was not too late to undo The Fool’s damage.
“The master has sent them away empty-handed. They promise revenge, that everyone in the household will feel their anger. . . I have said nothing to the master.”
“That is well,” she replied, flying into action. “We must move quickly.”
From shearing season’s full larder, Abigail rattled off a hurried and portable menu and directed Othniel to load it onto donkeys and to lead the way to David and his men.
“I will follow close behind,” she assured him.
Hurriedly, she changed out of her work clothes, mounted her own donkey, and followed. But suddenly there they were, rounding a corner with strapped-on swords like a military detachment – headed toward her home. David was in the lead, but he stopped in his tracks when Abigail dismounted and fell on her face at his feet.
Her words tumbled out:
“Do not listen to my husband, The Fool;
As his name is, so is he;
If your men had only come to me,
they would have found a welcome and feasting.”
Abigail lifted her eyes in time to see surprise register on David’s tanned face.
“Therefore, I have brought the feast to you.” She gestured toward the loaded caravan. Was it just her imagination, or did David’s eyes move reluctantly away from hers?
Emboldened by his attention, she continued with words that she scarcely recognized as her own:
“Please do not let your name be associated with revenge and bloodshed, but accept these gifts. Because you have fought Yahweh’s battles, He will wrap up your life with His treasure and will certainly make for you an enduring kingdom. He will cast aside your enemies like a stone hurled from a sling. When Yahweh has brought these words to pass, remember me His servant.
Then, tearing her gaze from his, she turned to leave.
With one hand, David stopped her, for the other hand was raised in blessing – a blessing over Abigail.
She did not recall mounting the donkey. She did not recall the journey home, for her ears and her heart were full of David’s words:
“Blessed is your advice, your good sense.
Blessed are you for keeping me from murder, for looking out for my reputation.
I hear you.
I respect you.”
Not since coming to the House of Nabal had she heard such words, and they carried her into the house. They sustained her through the night as The Fool slept off his evening’s wine.
At first light, Abigail approached Nabal, eyes on the floor, reporting mechanically: “You recall that David’s men were sent away from your presence yesterday . . .”
Describing David’s promise of revenge and her own actions, Abigail was startled to hear choking sounds from Nabal’s throat, but she continued with her report until a thud and sounds of alarm from the servants caused her to her lift her eyes.
There lay The Fool, on the floor.
The ten days between his fall and his death passed quietly, and Abigail wondered how the demise of her own husband could affect her so slightly. She had been aware of the shriveled condition of her heart, but marveled at the cool poise with which she had wrapped up the end of shearing season and notified Nabal’s near kinsmen. They would be arriving soon to take over his property.
And what was to become of his widow? The memory of David’s blessing fanned a small hope that perhaps one day she would find a place of love and respect, but she did not know how that could be. She only knew that she must flee before The Fool’s family arrived and engulfed her as if she, too, were a possession. Gathering a small packet of provisions, she made ready to depart.
Hearing footsteps, she whirled, ready to bolt from the room, but instead she froze.
Othniel stood in the doorway, announcing the servants of David:
“David has sent us to you – to ask you to become his wife.”
Rising, Abigail bowed, and her words to David’s men were also a prayer to Yahweh:
“I am your servant.”
And such is the glory of unexpected love.
Each of us in our turn has been married, in some way, to foolishness —
but then redeemed by an unexpected love so strong and so wild
that all we must do is rise and follow,
placing our hand in His
and trusting for a better future.
“Behold, what manner of love the Father has given unto us . . .” (I John 3:1)
Be sure to check out the context for this Old Testament love story!
Photo credit: Tiago Muraro
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