the pursuit of happy

the when-happy-doesn't-cut-it blog for serious Christians

abigail: the happy prophetess?

Antonio Molinari David y AbigailAbigail is familiar to most Christian women as the woman who saved her household and foolish husband from the wrath of the soon-to-be King David with her wisdom, discernment, and humility. We extol her many virtues and point to her as a model of a Christian woman and virtuous wife. I started studying Abigail because she is one of the happy few that the Scriptures call blessed (1 Samuel 25:33) and therefore a guidepost in our pursuit of happy.

But did you know that the Jews actually consider Abigail a prophetess?

The ancient rabbis grant her this distinction because they believe that she prophesied David’s sin with Bathsheba. I don’t completely follow their logic in that and I’m typically wired to resent the loose labeling of prophets, but as I meditated on the virtues of this blessed woman, there was something I just couldn’t shake.

A Different, Excellent Spirit

To begin, the Scriptures introduce Abigail immediately after the death of Samuel by acknowledging her beauty and discernment in contrast to her husband Nabal’s harsh and badly behaved manner (1 Samuel 25:3). This distinction reminds me of Caleb who the Scriptures describe as a man of a “different spirit” (Numbers 14:24) than the others who spied out the promise land, and of Daniel who was distinguished from other leaders by an “excellent spirit” (Daniel 6:3).

Abigail was certainly a woman of a “different spirit” than her husband, and I think that the blessing declared over her by the coming King is evidence enough of an “excellent spirit,” as well. But is that spirit enough to call her a prophet?

There is something, but let’s keep looking.

purple flowersAbigail’s Values and Virtues

The Scriptures grant us little insight into the circumstantial development of Abigail’s character, but they do proudly display the virtues of a woman whose name, more properly Avigayil, means either “the joy of my Father” or “my Father is joy.” Only the Father knows how appropriately such a name fit this woman who may have had no other recourse in such an unequally yoked marriage but to find her joy in Him alone.

But what are the virtues that distinguish this happy lady?

I didn’t want to re-hash the qualities with which many of us are so familiar, so I noted a few as I read through this chapter that I thought might give us a little more insight by asking questions like, “What does she value?” and “What qualities does she possess that set her apart from others?” It was this exercise that made me re-think dismissing the rabbis’ evaluation.

  1. Abigail was willing to solely bear the guilt of another (1 Samuel 25:24) and stood in the place of intercession to plead for forgiveness in the place of her husband (1 Samuel 25:28).
  2. Abigail recognized Nabal for who he was in the context of God’s purpose (a fool and a potential stumbling block to David), not for who he was to her (a husband and provider – albeit a cruel one) (1 Samuel 25:25).
  3. Abigail understood that it was the Father who was using her to restrain David from sin, not her own cunning (1 Samuel 25:26).
  4. Abigail reflected the Father’s values by pleading with David to keep his hands clean of needless bloodshed (1 Samuel 25:26).
  5. Abigail understood the importance of keeping our hands off of the things of God – especially if it means taking vengeance or salvation into our own hands (1 Samuel 25:26).
  6. Abigail had eyes to see the coming King. This differentiated her from Nabal who asked in insolence or ignorance, “Who is David? Who is the Son of Jesse?” (1 Samuel 25:10).
  7. Abigail constantly appealed to a future yet to be realized. This differentiated her from Nabal who lived a life of instant gratification and self-indulgence and even from David who was beginning to despair over his present circumstances.
  8. Abigail considered herself “a servant to wash the feet of the servants of [her] Lord” (1 Samuel 25:41). Humility is perhaps the most distinguishing virtue of all.

Are you getting a sense yet of that something I detected? As I read through my list and the passage as a whole, I found myself scribbling off to the side of the list, “Are these not all prophetic virtues?”

Blessed are Your Eyes, for They See

To begin with the plainest expression, Abigail had eyes to see what no one else was seeing at the time and she declared those things openly. Beyond recognizing David (who is often expressed as a type of Messiah) as the coming King, Abigail told David that the Father would make for David “a sure house” and even that evil should not be found in him as long as he lived. Marked by a disinterest that is rarely seen outside of the prophets in the Scriptures, Abigail’s lauded discernment is her ability to recognize the coming King, to correctly perceive future realities, and to see her present circumstances from an eternal perspective that trumped her own interests.

In addition to lending credence to the prophetess label, may I submit that such seeing (Matthew 13:16) is crucial to our own discovery of the happiness and joy that is our Father Himself?

Art Katz said wisely of this kind of joy in our sister Avigayil:

The joy of the Lord is not some kind of sanguine personality type or soulish disposition, but the issue of to what degree we are living consistently in absolute reality. Only a joy that comes out of a true union, and is in fact the Lord Himself, can be demonstrated at a time when every condition contradicts it, and makes it for that reason the more impressive and undeniable.

The Testimony of Jesus

For me, Abigail’s keen sight is enough to consider her a seer used of the Father in a crucial moment of history, but the something that really catches me is her resemblance to Jesus. After all, what is prophecy but the testimony of Jesus (Revelation 19:10)? And what is happier than beholding His likeness?

Abigial’s most striking resemblance is the first point on my list and one of the first statements she makes to David, “On me, alone, my Lord, be the guilt.” A woman praised for her righteousness asks for the guilt of her wicked husband’s sin against David to be placed on her. She stands in the place of intercession between God and man as prophets and priests have done throughout history, only a reflection and a testimony of the One who would make that sacrifice complete “for the joy that was set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2).

Abigail lived chiefly for the joy of her Father. She did not plead with David to spare her the loss of her husband or her household, but she plead with him for the Father’s interest in exalting David as a blameless prince over Israel by His own hand. She knew David wanted to kill her husband for his insolence, yet she asked for his guilt to be upon her! Are we as interested in the Father’s desire to exalt His Son over every nation and see His glory cover the earth?