What would it take for you to rush unarmed towards a mob of angry men who only mean you harm? The situation sounds absurd, but this is the plight Abigail finds herself in in 1 Samuel 25. Minding her own business and going about the usual tasks of her day, she is informed by a frantic servant that her bull-headed husband, Nabal, has slighted a very powerful man who is now bent on revenge. Between panicked breaths, Abigail’s servant reports this to her: “David sent messengers from the wilderness to give our master his greetings, but [Nabal] hurled insults at them. Yet these men were very good to us. They did not mistreat us, and the whole time we were out in the fields near them nothing was missing. Night and day they were a wall around us the whole time we were herding our sheep near them. Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him” (25:14-17). Abigail’s household is under threat, because of a spat between these two men, and she hasn’t done a thing to deserve it.
But Abigail “act[s] quickly” (25:18). Thoughtfully and deftly, she moves with urgency like she’s been prepared for this situation all her life. Without running her plans by hot-headed Nabal, she loads up some donkeys with gifts, mounts a donkey of her own, and rushes to David’s oncoming battalion to make amends, to make peace. She offers David bread, wine, sheep, grain, raisins, and figs. She denounces her husband as a fool who isn’t worth this violence. She says God would want to keep David’s hand from spilling any blood today. Facing down David and his men, swords strapped to their sides, Abigail doesn’t bat an eye.
Abigail’s household is under threat, because of a spat between these two men, and she hasn’t done a thing to deserve it.
David relents. And he says to her, “Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands” (25:32-33). Thanks to Abigail, the crisis is averted. Peace is made.
In the face of conflict, Abigail rushes in with a confidence that non-confrontational introverts like me would have nightmares about. She cleans up a mess that she didn’t make and brings about a sensible solution, in which—how wonderful!—nobody has to die. I haven’t ever had an army of men with swords attack my home, yet in a sense—donkeys and figs aside—Abigail’s situation isn’t unfamiliar, is it? Our world isn’t lacking “wicked people” like Nabal, or at least people capable of doing wicked things. Our world isn’t short of angry Davids, who might wield their power for violence. Whether it’s a condescending word at the office or a tyrannical law of a government, the world is rife with currents of violence. We see this manifest in our culture, in our nation, and even in our homes, our workplaces, and our churches. With words, actions, and systems, people harm each other all the time. And we are all affected, whether or not we are responsible.
Confronting this reality can be overwhelming. I admit that I often find myself walking away from conflict. I often see people make bad decisions and let their negative consequences play out if I’m not the one to blame. It’s easy for me to say this isn’t about me or it’s not my fault so that I don’t have to act. But, here, Abigail challenges me.
Abigail’s story so clearly says: If you can do something to make peace, do it.
Abigail doesn’t have the time to dish out blame or to focus on who is responsible for what. The stakes are high and immediate. She is ready to act, knowing there is a better way than the way Nabal and David have taken. Putting herself at risk, she loads up some donkeys and makes things right. She is thoughtful and prudent. She musters up courage, boldness, and wit to make sure the enemies’ swords stay in their sheaths. Abigail acts urgently for peace.
We live in a world of Nabals and Davids. Sometimes, if we’re honest, we take up their roles ourselves. People harm people, on personal levels, on organizational levels, on societal levels. It isn’t hard to find situations that ache for peacemaking. (A quick scroll through the web’s headlines and comment sections can tell anyone that.) When there is wickedness, what does acting urgently and wisely for the sake of peace look like? Abigail’s servant says this to her: “Think it over and see what you can do.” What a guiding light those simple words are.
Abigail’s servant says this to her: “Think it over and see what you can do.” What a guiding light those simple words are.
Think it over. Take stock of what you have. What offerings do we have for times like this? What metaphorical figs or raisins do we have to give? What talents and experiences? What words and ideas? What financial and occupational resources? What audiences do we have influence over? What networks and connections?
See what you can do. Taking stock of what you have, consider how these things can bring peace in the places you live, and work, and be. How can we speak wisely against wicked things? How can we advocate against decisions that harm people? How do we use our personal, intellectual, emotion, financial, and economic resources to disarm the wicked and the violent?
Not every occasion will throw us into harm’s way or demand epic confrontations like Abigail’s, but every occasion will call for someone to act. Abigail’s story is a stirring reminder that when we are faced with wrongdoing, we ought to think it over and see what we can do. When we do, we will likely find that we are more able than we think. Although the task of peacemaking can be frightening, risky, and dangerous—and might not always consider what is fair—imagine what a difference it might make to follow Abigail’s lead, acting wisely and urgently for peace.
This article was originally published in She Is…: Biblical Reflections on Vocation, which you can download for free here.
Jerome Blanco is a communications writer for FULLER studio. Previously, he was editorial coordinator of the De Pree Center.