We don’t get to hear about too many female figures in the Bible, and although we may have heard the name “Abigail” widely used in today’s vernacular, we may not know much about Abigail’s story in the Bible.
Abigail stands out for a number of reasons. We meet her married to a rather horrible man who refuses to provide David food and shelter when David is on the run from Saul (1 Samuel 25). Instead, Nabal, Abigail’s then-husband, hurls insults at David.
Here, Abigail sends loads of food to David and asks him not to do anything rash in regard to Nabal. Nabal dies at the hands of the Lord a few days later, and David marries Abigail.
But wait a minute, hadn’t David already married other women such as Michal and Ahinoam? Does this mean that the Bible allows for polygamy? And what else do we know about Abigail?
We’ll dive into all these questions and more.
Where Is Abigail in the Bible?
Apart from the 1 Samuel passage above, we don’t find much about Abigail except a listing in Chronicles 3:1. In the Chronicles verse, we learn that she has a son named Daniel (not the one taken into captivity by the Babylonians).
We also learn she hails from the land of Carmel, a land otherwise known as “God’s vineyard.” This means she would’ve come from a decent amount of wealth. The banquet Nabal throws himself, and the amount of food Abigail sends David seems to confirm this.
Abigail also tells David not to slay Nabal because God would do the vengeance if only David would wait on the Lord.
This seems to indicate she had some prophetic giftings of some sort. The passage confirms this when she predicts David will be king over Israel.
And this article describes her as a woman of “beauty and brains.” David is, of course, taken by her good looks, but she advises him not to take rash actions, even after he vowed to kill Nabal and Nabal’s family after Nabal insults him.
So, if Abigail abounded with wisdom and beauty, why did David marry more than one woman. Or why did God allow him to do it? Does David mark as the exception to having more than one wife, or does he encounter consequences for doing so?
Does the Bible Allow Polygamy?
We do know that David had lost his wife Michal before this to childbirth. But this doesn’t mean he didn’t marry other women in addition to Abigail. The passage in 1 Samuel 25 makes it clear he also married Ahinoam, and married others along the way.
This commentary describes this as, “David was carried away by the corrupt custom of those times.”
But does David show the exception to polygamy? After all, most people in the Bible who marry more than one wife have great familial troubles as a consequence of this action (take, for instance, Jacob married two wives and all the drama that happens because of that).
Patriarchs also appear to have multiple concubines in addition to their wives. So, does Scripture allow polygamy?
Scripture makes it clear that by the time of Malachi God shows he desires a monogamous union. If two become one, it complicates things when you add additional wives or husbands to that formula.
We also do have to keep in mind that during the Old Testament times, women were seen more as property than humans [cultural views, not God’s] and that marriage would give them security, as we see from this article,
If men were allowed to take multiple wives, they could satisfy various desires without divorce. If men were intent on objectifying and abusing women, God determined to put a few safety measures in place.
Perhaps that is why Abigail raised no objections to the fact that David had eight wives in all
Nevertheless, as stated in the Bible Study Tools article linked above, God “resets the clock” in the New Testament and Jesus’ teachings on marriage clearly show that God desires a marriage union between one man and one woman (Matthew 19).
We can chalk up polygamy in the Bible as men engaging in a corrupt cultural practice that was, essentially, “okay” in their eyes at the time.
After all, their neighbors had multiple wives, why not them?
We should also note that the examples of families with multiple spouses always seem to have massive drama or tragedy.
If we take one look at what happens to David’s sons, we can get a good idea of the dissolving family dynamic the Davidic dynasty had. Even Solomon, who seems to stand out from his brothers who rape and try to usurp David, falls into depravity and has 1000 wives and concubines.
The Significance of Abigail
All to say, we don’t know if Abigail approved of David’s taking on multiple wives. As a woman of limited options and say, she may have gone with it or not realized the cultural tacit ate away at not only her marriage but their family.
But her character shows us that women of God can be humble, wise, and diplomatic.
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Hope Bolinger is an acquisitions editor at End Game Press, and the author 21+ books. More than 1400 of her works have been featured in various publications. Check out her books at hopebolinger.com for clean books in most genres, great for adults and kids.