The story of David and Nabal is found in 1 Samuel 25. Nabal is described in 1 Samuel 25:2 as a property owner who “was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel.” He was a harsh man (“surly and mean” in verse 3), married to a kind woman named Abigail.
During the time that David and his troops were on the run from King Saul, they found themselves near Nabal’s flock during shearing season. As they were low on supplies, David sent men to Nabal to request some food. Nabal sent David’s servants back with insults for David, and David commanded his troops, “Each of you strap on your sword!” (1 Samuel 25:13). Four hundred men prepared to attack Nabal’s home.
The story of David and Nabal continues when one of Nabal’s servants told Abigail about the situation. “Abigail acted quickly. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. Then she told her servants, ‘Go on ahead; I’ll follow you’” (1 Samuel 25:18–19). Abigail gave the provisions to David’s men, and her prudent action caused David and his men to bless her and return to their camp. Nabal, his family, and servants were saved through her actions, although Nabal was unaware of what his wife had done.
Nabal got drunk that night, and Abigail still did not mention her activities to him. “Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and his heart failed him and he became like a stone. About ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died” (1 Samuel 25:37–38).
When David heard of these events, he offered Abigail a marriage proposal: “David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife. His servants went to Carmel and said to Abigail, ‘David has sent us to you to take you to become his wife.’ She bowed down with her face to the ground and said, ‘I am your servant and am ready to serve you and wash the feet of my lord’s servants.’ Abigail quickly got on a donkey and, attended by her five female servants, went with David’s messengers and became his wife” (1 Samuel 25:39–42).
On a negative note, the chapter concludes with the information that David’s first wife, Michal, had been taken from him and given to someone else. Also, David had a wife named Ahinoam, likely making Abigail his third wife. Abigail is later recorded as the mother of David’s second son, Daniel (1 Chronicles 3:1), also called Chileab in 2 Samuel 3:3.
Though considered a man after God’s own heart, David’s relationships with women were his weakness. In 1 Samuel 25, it is Abigail who is highlighted as the kind servant, while David is presented as a warrior with an expanding group of wives. This stark contrast in the story of Abigail provides some insight into the life of a woman living in difficult times. Abigail’s kindness and decisive action saved the lives of many and changed her life completely.