Abigail (fl. 1000 BCE)

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Abigail (fl. 1000 bce)

Biblical woman. Name variations: The Beautiful Peacemaker. Born in Carmel, a town in the hill country of Judah (the ruins of which still remain under the name Kurmul, about ten miles south-southeast of Hebron); flourished around 1000 bce; married Nabal (died); married King David (David appears to have ruled Judah and Israel from approximately 1010 bce to approximately 970 bce, capturing Jerusalem in about 1000 bce); children: Chileab (in Bible called also Daniel).

After the future king David fled from the jealous and insane King Saul, he became an outlaw chieftain, gathering about him a band of debtors and malcontents numbering about 600. Once a year, Abigail's husband Nabal, a wealthy sheepmaster who pastured his 4,000 animals on the southern slopes of Carmel, held a great banquet for his men at the time of sheep shearing. David's men, at one of their encampments, had protected Nabal's shepherds and flocks, then at sheep shearing time, partly requested, partly demanded, a gift of food for themselves. Nabal imperiously refused and, in so doing, placed himself at the mercy of David and his men. Nabal's men perceived the danger but did not dare approach him; so they told Abigail his wife, a woman, it is said, of "good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance."

Bringing offerings of bread, wine, grain, raisins, figs, and dressed sheep, Abigail hastened down to David's encampment with her attendants. There, 400 men, fully armed, were on their way to kill Nabal and his men. But Abigail's diplomacy and bearing softened David's heart, and his small army turned back. When Abigail reached home, her husband Nabal was in the midst of revelry, too drunk to comprehend his proximity to danger. Told the next day how near he had come to death, Nabal suffered a shock so great that he died.

Summoned to David's camp, Abigail became his second wife. David was crowned king after the death of Saul, and Abigail shared the honors of royalty. One son, Chileab, was born to them. Though Abigail was David's companion in all future fortunes, she was also obliged to submit to a division of his affections with other wives: Michal (who was Saul's daughter and David's first wife), Ahinoam of Jezreel, Abishag of Shunem, Bathsheba (widow of Uriah and mother of Solomon), Haggith (mother of Absalom and Adonijah), and several others, unnamed.

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