Abigail is perhaps one of the less well-known heroines of the Bible. The story of how her quick-thinking saved the day is found in the first book of Samuel. She was married to a wealthy farmer called Nabal, who despite his riches was a harsh man who lacked common sense. By contrast, Scripture tells us that Abigail was “a woman of intelligence and beauty.” (1 Samuel 25:3)
It came about that Nabal – true to his nature – both insulted and refused to help David, who at the time was leading a guerrilla war against King Saul. This enraged David, who then set out with a band of his men to get his revenge – by killing Nabal and his household.
However, Abigail got wind of what was happening – and decided to intervene. Without telling her husband, she mounted a donkey and travelled to meet David, carrying with her plenty of food for his men. Meeting him in a mountain ravine, she got off her donkey and spoke to David directly. She apologised on behalf of her rude husband, offered the food to his men and tactfully pointed out that taking bloody revenge was not a good way for him to begin his kingship.
Abigail was also the first person to tell David that his royal house would be a lasting dynasty (1 Samuel 25:28). Was this due to her famed intelligence, or was this an insight that God gave to her? Whichever way, her wisdom impressed David and taking her advice, he decided not to take revenge on Nabal after all.
As it happened, Nabal died shortly afterwards, apparently of some kind of heart condition. When David found out, he proposed to Abigail and they then got married. She later went on to bear him a son, named Daniel (1 Chronicles 3:1).
As a peacemaker who interceded to save others, Abigail was understood to anticipate the later role of the Virgin Mary. This view is reflected in the design of this stained glass window, which is found within the Lady Chapel of St Mary’s, Clapham, alongside images of other leading ladies from the Old Testament.
The window was designed by the Gothic Revivalist John Francis Bentley and painted in 1888 by Ion Pace. Since she was the wife of a wealthy man, Abigail is represented wearing expensive clothes. As a symbol of her role as a peacemaker, she is also pictured holding an olive branch in her right hand.
See the full image:
Where to find this work of art
St Mary’s, Clapham
Read the relevant passage
1 Samuel 25:1-42
On a similar theme
- From the Old Testament: Wise Abigail finds a parallel in the curious Queen of Sheba, who travelled a great distance to benefit from the wisdom of Solomon.
- From the New Testament: In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, wise women are also celebrated.