We have a tendency to study the narratives of Old Testament women for their encouragement and inspiration. We want to follow the examples of the “good girls” while avoiding the failures of the “bad.” There’s a place for this. After all, Old Testament events were written down for the instruction of the church (1 Cor. 10:11). It’s wise to consider the pattern of earlier saints as examples and warnings. And yet the Bible isn’t primarily a collection of ethical principles but the epic drama of redemption. We should therefore catch glimpses of the gospel within the tales of its men—and women.
So, let’s study the narratives of women not only as inspiration for faithful living but also to see God’s work of salvation. Consider the story of Abigail told in 1 Samuel. How does her narrative fit into the biggest story ever told? How can it inspire us, warn us, and point us to Jesus?
Humiliation Instead of Hospitality
Abigail was the wife of a wealthy man named Nabal. Her husband was rich in livestock but poor in character. He’s described in 1 Samuel 25:3 as “harsh and badly behaved,” and his careless manner left his wife to face the wrath of 400 warriors.
Let’s study the narratives of women not only as inspiration for faithful living but also to see God’s work of salvation.
Nabal’s shepherds were in the wilderness of Paran at the same time as a fugitive David who was evading a jealous and murderous King Saul. David’s men assumed the duty of protecting Nabal’s shepherds while in Paran (1 Sam. 25:4–7, 14–16), and David hoped to receive hospitality in recognition for his service.
Instead, Nabal handed David humiliation. He repaid the good deed with evil by emphasizing David’s lowered position and refusing to share provisions. So David rallied his warriors and vowed to murder Nabal and his household (1 Sam. 25:22).
Anger Turned to Worship
Here, Abigail stepped into the narrative like a busy triage nurse, assessing damage and treating wounds. It’s clear that the safety of Nabal’s household rested on Abigail’s wisdom. A servant came to inform her of the impending disaster and looked to her for protection (1 Sam. 25:14–17). Abigail made haste and gathered large portions of food and drink—displaying generosity where Nabal had shown greediness. She laid these provisions on donkeys and set out to meet David (1 Sam. 25:18–20)—one unarmed woman heading toward 400 swordsmen.
Abigail saw David and prostrated before him. She was willing to bear Nabal’s guilt for the preservation of her household, but she encouraged David to look to God’s vengeance instead. She gives us the picture of a wise mediator, full of truth. This woman met the force of David’s anger with soft answers that turned away wrath (Prov. 15:1). Her words became a means of salvation for her household and a means of grace to David.
David’s heart went from rage to worship, and he pronounced a benediction: “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand!” (1 Sam. 25:32–33). Abigail’s mediation kept David from reacting harshly like Nabal did. David turned back to the wilderness and left justice to God.
More than a Model of Wisdom
Abigail’s narrative warns against disbelief and ingratitude while commending the faithful and discreet person. We could leave the lesson at that, if not for this point: Jesus saw himself as the interpretive center of the Hebrew Scriptures. He met two disheartened disciples in Luke 24 who had failed to perceive his coming suffering and glory in the Old Testament Scriptures. So “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). According to Jesus, the words of Old Testament Scripture are not merely the tales of the godly and godless, but a pre-announcement of his work of salvation.
In Abigail we find something more stunning: a glimpse of the wise Mediator who charged forward to face wrath on behalf of foolish sinners—Jesus.
Abigail is often presented as a model of wisdom, and this we can’t deny. Moreover, she was a masterful communicator. Her persuasive ability to reach the heart of a vengeful David was brilliant. But in Abigail we find something more stunning: a glimpse of the wise Mediator who charged forward to face wrath on behalf of foolish sinners—Jesus.
This Mediator offered not just wisdom but his own life: “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—but . . . while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. . . . We have now been justified by his blood, [therefore] much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Rom. 5:7–9). To miss the shadow of the gospel in Abigail’s narrative is to miss the Mediator who turned away God’s wrath to reconcile us to the Father in the biggest story ever told.