The life of Abigail is given in 1 Samuel 25. In our introduction to her, we are told that she is intelligent and beautiful, a description that should not be taken lightly. Growing up I heard about Abigail maybe once or twice, but we never really discussed her in detail nor the implications of her behavior on the expectations of being a woman of God.
Beauty and Brains
Each translation has a slightly different word choice in the description of Abigail, but using the context of the passage I believe she was being described as wise and clever. When it comes to Abigail's beauty, I think it's interesting that the author creates a juxtaposition between intelligence with beauty and being mean and surly. It almost implies that one cannot be intelligent and mean or mean and beautiful. This implication hold with other passages in the Bible that tell us man looks outward while God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7) and that beauty is fleeting (Proverbs 31:30). Since it is the Holy Spirit that is inspiring this passage, I often wonder if the word beauty is describing her heart or her physicality, or possibly both. Another interesting point about her description is that her intelligence is mentioned first. Usually the first thing listed is the most pronounced or the more important matter.
Saving the Day
We only get one chapter about Abigail but it's pretty powerful. When her husband, Nabal, is rude to David, Abigail sets things right by doing going behind her husband's back to do the right thing. She provides the hospitality that David desereved, intercedes on her husband's behalf—complete with an apology where she takes the blame for her husbands rude behavior and an insult to her husband's character—and tops it off with a little chastising of David, as well. Abigail's actions are bold and very different from what the church typically teaches about the Godly woman's behavior.
So, one thing the church pushes on women that Abigail does display is hospitality. The amount of food Abigail just has lying around to be given away is astonishing. Even with a grocery store 5 minutes from my house, I don't know that I could acquire that much food in the time Abigail did. Of course it is important to point out here that Abigail had servants to help her with this task. She did not prepare all this on her own! It is this preparedness, however, that allows her to make amends. If I were in Abigails shoes, everyone would have died, because even if I'd thought to do what she did, I would not have had the means. It is important for us as believer to anticipate what is needed. A simple example is leaving the house early because you anticipate traffic to cut down on road rage and crazy driving.
Behind Her Husband's Back
Where things get interesting is that Abagail did not submit to her husband's decision. The way the church harps on submission, you would think the "appropriate" action would have been to stay out of it, or to ask for permission to to give David the food. Abigail does neither and is praised for being intelligent. Also, her actions save the lives of many people, since David's reaction was to kill Nabal's household. Personally, I believe this goes back to something I said at the beginning of this series: we're only required to submit to a Godly husband. In Ephesians 5, where women are told to submit, the whole relationship is compared to that of Christ and the Church. Christ is the perfect husband, He would never lead you to harm, nor ask you to do what is wrong. Christ loves His bride. Nabal did not exhibit the fruit of the Spirit and thus wasn't Christ-like, and we see Abigail praised for choosing Christ-like behavior over submission to her husband. That says something.
Not only does Abigail go behind her husband's back, she corrects David. David's revenge scheme wasn't Godly either. Abigail reminds him that vengeance is for the Lord. She says it in a polite manner, but she is in fact correcting a man, the future king of Israel no less. She was not silent by any means. Upon being corrected, David—the man after God's own heart—thanks her for her correction. He recognizes his wrongness and acknowledges that she is correct. Think about that.
Happily Ever After?
After Abigail saves her household, she tells her husband what she has done—no secrets!—and upon hearing this news, he has a stroke or heart attack. Within a few days Nabal is dead. Remember, during this time, women weren't afforded many rights, so with her husband dead and seemingly no son to take care of her, Abigail was possibly placed in a difficult predicament when Nabal died. It's possible that she had family who would have seen to her needs but likely she would have been destitute. Fortunately, David was impressed by Abigail (or felt obligated, the Bible doesn't say exactly). When he hears that Nabal is dead, he sends for Abigail and makes her one of his wives. The Bible names another woman as also being taken as a wife for David so I'm not sure if Abigail was his second or third wife, but at this point in David's life, Saul had taken David's first wife, Michal, from him. Therefore it is possible that for a time Abigail served as the first wife (meaning she would have had the most influence and power). That being said, we know David had many many wives, so I'm not sure this was a love marriage.