Anger, Guilt, marriage, Pain and suffering

Are You a Nabal or an Abigail?

There was a man in Maon who did business in Carmel. He was a very important man and owned three thousand sheep and one thousand goats…. The man’s name was Nabal, and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and attractive woman, but her husband was a hard man who did evil things… 1 Samuel 25:2-3 (CEB)

1 Samuel 25 recounts the story of Abigail and Nabal.

Abigail was an attractive, intelligent woman who was married to a cruel man.

The story begins to unfold as we read further in the chapter. David and his men were on the run from King Saul who was trying to kill David. Over the course of their travels, the men encountered Nabal and his servants. David’s men extended a special kindness to Nabal’s servants, protecting them and their flocks, making sure that nothing was ever missing.

As David and his troops moved toward Carmel, they decided to ask Nabal to return the kindness they had shown to his men. They asked for some food and supplies.

But Nabal answered David’s servants… “Why should I take my bread, my water, and the meat I’ve butchered for my shearers and give it to people who came here from who knows where?”  1 Samuel 25:10-11 (CEB)

Nabal had a greedy, me first attitude. He was concerned with one person: himself. He was looking out for his #1 priority.

Nabal’s servants were horrified at his response! They quickly went to Abigail, asking her to intervene. They knew that David and his men were mighty warriors and that all of their lives were in danger. Somehow, they needed to appease David’s anger, to somehow cover Nabal’s self-centeredness.

When Abigail heard what her husband had done, she flew into action! She began baking cakes and bread, gathering sheep and wine. She prepared a feast and loaded it all on donkeys. She set out to meet David and his men. But, she didn’t tell Nabal what she was doing.

Finally, Abigail meets up with David. She jumps off her donkey, and falls at his feet.

“Put the blame on me, my master! …  Here is a gift, which your servant has brought to my master. …Please forgive any offense by your servant. When the Lord has done good things for my master, please remember your servant.” 1 Samuel 25:24-31 (CEB)

Abigail is willing to take the blame for her husband’s sins, for his evil, for his failure to meet the basic needs of another. She takes the blame for actions that she was completely unaware of at first, actions that would have had dire consequences for her and her entire household.

David said to Abigail, “Bless the Lord God of Israel, who sent you to meet me today! And bless you and your good judgment for preventing me from shedding blood and taking vengeance into my own hands today! …  Then David accepted everything she had brought for him. “Return home in peace,” he told her. “Be assured that I’ve heard your request and have agreed to it.” 1 Samuel 25:32-35 CEB

The more I write, the more Abigails and Nabals I encounter.

So many marriages pair up a kind, intelligent individual with a spouse who is difficult and does evil things. The “Abigail” can be the husband or the wife. The “Nabal” can be male or female.

The Abigail is often trusting to a fault, easily taken advantage of. Her kindness is often used to cover for the offending spouse, making sure that the reputation of the family is protected. The Nabal is frequently controlling, dominating, manipulative. He quickly finds fault with Abigail, and often blames every problem on her. He is concerned with self…and very little else.

It is an unhealthy situation. It is a dysfunctional relationship. It is an abusive marriage.

Perhaps the Abigail doesn’t recognize the extreme dysfunction. Perhaps she doesn’t recognize Nabal’s behaviors as abuse because it is not physical abuse. Perhaps she has begun to believe that it’s all her fault, that she is the problem in the marriage. Perhaps Nabal lords it over Abigail by using Ephesians 5:22 to remind her that he is the king and she must submit to him.

Often, the Nabal is an expert at outward appearances. He maintains a stellar reputation in the community. He treats his Abigail well…in public. But, only the Abigail knows what Nabal is like behind closed doors.

God never intended for marriage to be like the Nabals and Abigails of this world. In fact, in Old Testament times, women were a piece of property. They could be purchased and sold. However, Christ came and elevated women to an equal, required that men have a reason for divorce (unfaithfulness), not just because they are dissatisfied with their wives. In Galatians 3, Paul makes women equal with men by declaring there is no longer male nor female. The entire point of these passages is to elevate women to more than second-class citizens.

Unfortunately, the Nabals of this world want to continue to control their Abigails.

What can we learn from the story of Abigail and Nabal?

Abigail’s reputation was separate from her husband. One of the first thoughts I had when I found out about my husband’s divorce was a horror that somehow people might think that I had deceived them along with my husband. I eventually learned that no one blamed me, that my reputation withstood the onslaught of my husband’s poor choices. If you are an Abigail, people see you as separate from Nabal. They recognize your beauty, your heart. They recognize that you are not responsible for Nabal’s choices. Don’t beat yourself up with shame and guilt, believing that others blame you for your spouse’s behaviors.

Abigails become conditioned to take the blame. When Abigail approached David, she immediately took the blame for Nabal. I don’t know if she was trying to protect Nabal. I do know that she took action to protect herself and her entire household. She went into survival mode automatically. Nabals tend to blame all of their problems on someone else, rarely taking personal responsibility for their actions.

I completely understand Abigail’s response. To this day, the failure of my marriage is all my fault according to my ex-husband. I have heard the stories of how I just woke up one morning and decided I no longer loved him. Everything that went wrong in our 17 year marriage was somehow my fault. It wasn’t until I got away from the situation that I gained clarity and began to understand that 1) it wasn’t my fault, and 2) I was often in survival mode, fighting to protect myself and my entire household.

God protected Abigail in spite of her husband. David not only accepted Abigail’s gift, but he blessed her. When she returned home, she waited until the appropriate time to tell Nabal what she did. When she told him about her encounter with David, he collapsed and died of heart failure (1 Samuel 25:37). But, Abigail was not left alone. You see, David swept in and married the beautiful young widow, securing her future as the king’s wife.

How many times have I seen God’s protective hand? How many times have I seen his provision in unbelievable ways? How many times have I seen him step in and be my defender? God has always protected me in spite of what my husband. He has given me rewards greater than I ever dreamed, blessed me far beyond what I could ever ask or imagine

Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another.

Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.

Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage. Ephesians 5:21-28 (The Message)

As I read this passage, I see Abigail all throughout it. However, I don’t find Nabal anywhere. God never intended for one spouse to lord it over another. Marriage should make both spouses better, stronger. Marriage should bring out the best in both people.

Are you living with a Nabal? You do not have to subject yourself to his cruel treatment. You have a right—even a responsibility—to stand up to Nabal. Your words, your actions, can be exactly what sets you free. What will freedom look like? Perhaps God will get a hold of your Nabal and set him free, restore your marriage. No matter what the outcome, one thing is certain: God will protect you, provide for you. He will restore your life. He will give you clarity to see things from his perspective. He will step in and provide blessings you never dreamed possible.

Maybe you were married to a Nabal and you are still taking responsibility for his actions. Recognize that it is not your fault! Your Nabal was responsible for his decisions. Your Nabal was controlling, abusive. Your Nabal beat you into submission by keeping you afraid, isolating you from family and friends. Forgive yourself. Forgive him. Recognize the truth because the truth will set you free! (John 8:32)




16 thoughts on “Are You a Nabal or an Abigail?”

  1. This is so my story. Bout lost it at Women of Faith when Lysa T called Nabal “Dude is Rude”–lucky me I had my own personal one! I know I am not to blame for his actions but practically speaking, his poor choices have ongoing serious financial and legal repercussions for the kids and I that I still have to take responsibility for fixing so we can move forward–because he is not going to! 😦


      1. Yes He is. I’m waiting on pins and needles for a very critical piece of that faithfulness right now! Trying to focus on going the distance for Isaac and not getting sidetracked with an Ishmael moment because I grab something that seems to provide stability and security now but is less than God’s best plan in the long run. It can be excruciatingly difficult when I’ve done all I can do and it’s not enough and we are on a deadline and I’m sitting here going, GOD!! I NEED HELP NOW!! And still not seeing clear answers but I know He can provide even up to the last minute. I just wish this test of faith was over and we could focus on other things!


  2. I was wondering if there is a page on Facebook or a website I could like and get articles from Dena. Really enjoyed the article about “How To Have An Affair.” Thanks!


  3. Thank you for this article. I came across this by accident; read your article, How to have an Affair, on Crosswalk.
    I’m in the midst of a divorce due to continued multiple affairs. My husband now wants to be a Mormon under the bidding of his latest flavour of the month. He’s a lost soul, under the influence of addictions, adultery, witchcraft, mind control, generational bondage and various strongholds. He told me in October 2013 that he had sold his soul to the devil; I didn’t understand it then…I thought it was one of his alcoholic ramblings.I’m still praying for his salvation and redemption.
    I don’t have a lawyer to represent me. However I trust God and yes, as difficult as the last few years have been, I praise God for taking me out of the toxic environment. I now understand that 1) it wasn’t my fault, and 2) I was often in survival mode, fighting to protect myself.
    And you are right: no one blames me, my reputation withstands the onslaught of my husband’s poor choices.
    This journey is not over yet but it’s only through the grace of God and the fortress of prayer He has placed around me that I’m still standing. I sense that I’m on the brink of something that I can’t describe.


    1. Philomena, I am so sorry that you are having to walk this difficult path, but I absolutely LOVE your spirit and your faith! It is that sense of surrender that God will see and honor, that will carry you through this dark journey to the amazing future God has planned for you! I can’t wait to see the amazing work God does in you so I can see the amazing work he does THROUGH you! God bless you!!!


  4. I love this story! I am not sure I really ever paid attention to it until I was a married woman, but it has given me strength on many occasions…seeing how God protected Abigail and provided for her. It also has allowed me to stand up to scripture being used to manipulate me. When the “obey your husband” scripture has been used (in ways I would consider, not how they were intended to be), this story allowed me to show an instance where God blessed a women who went against her husband – because it was the right thing to do – and she was blessed because of it. When she approached David, she did so in a submissive stance, so we know that it was not because she was not a submissive women, but she had the discernment of when to submit and when to take action. It is so interesting to me that her response did right by both men involved in the story (Nabel and David). She saved Nabels life that day (even though he died soon after) and she saved David from acting on his rage and murdering all of those men.

    I also love that she strove to do good, even in difficult circumstances (and if you have been in them, you know how difficult that can be sometimes). Her servants went to her for help (reading between the lines here – but they saw her as the voice of reason in the household), and her thoughts were not just for herself but her whole household. She was courageous and determined. She acted quickly and boldly, moving forward courageously to save the life of her husband and the servants. It encourages me to want to be a woman of courage, and action (when needed), under all circumstances.

    Ok, I wrote a book – but just love this one! There are fewer stories of women in the bible as it is, so to have this one to read and take heart from is a blessing. I am so glad you wrote on it to remind me of this great woman of the faith – and the example it can be fore the rest of us!


    1. Oh, how right you are! I love your insights! Yes, only a true Abigail can understand what it’s like to live with a Nabal. I know how God has blessed me in the years since I left. I am now trying to teach my kids the art of standing courageously in the face of a Nabal. It’s not easy, but it is the path to freedom, blessing, and so much more.


  5. Hello, I was married for twenty miserable years and finally got a divorce when my husband, in his drunkeness, assaulted me and I took a knife to him. I realized at that moment, that not only did he inhumanized me and our children, but he was making me become someone that I hated. I divorced him after that incident. I did not stab him or anything; it was just the heat of the moment wanting to hurt him as badly as he has hurt us. This article has been a God send for me and from reading the posts for others also. God bless you Dena


    1. Wow. I am so sorry. It’s so easy to get lost in abusive situation. We become so accustomed to it, so convinced that it’s our fault. We think it’s normal. What an eye-opening experience you had. I am so glad that God rescued you, that he spared you any further pain. Thank you for sharing your story. I pray God blesses you as he blessed Abigail!


  6. Abigail has long been one of my favorite ladies in the bible since I realized my husband was being deceived through flattery and pride into making some devastating business choices..I began to build a separate life and have told him that reconciliation is God’s best choice for our family. The door is open anytime he wants to do the hard work. I really believe that the enemy is in his last days and therefore pulling out all the stops to destroy the basis of our world. The family..much prayer needed from all of us Abigails to be wise and discerning in all our actions and to keep our hearts soft


    1. Yes, the times are evil. It breaks my heart to see how the enemy has taken hold of so many, of how their minds are twisted and deceived. I pray for you, that he will be willing to do the hard work, that your marriage will one day be restored. Regardless, just as Abigail, I know he will honor your heart!


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