Authority to Represent Family:
in Abigail-Nabal Interactions
Authority to represent family requires access to family resources and capability to mobilize the resources as needed. Abigail used such authority to mediate a dispute and forestall potential attack against her family. They faced possible attack from David and his men as retribution for her husband denying their request for assistance. She recognized the men deserved what they requested and her husband was indisposed to help. She mobilized and delivered the supplies and persuaded them against attacking her family.
The biblical account of interactions between David and Abigail provide information about two marital relationships: Abigail was married to Nabal in the first part of the account, was introduced to David in the process of mediating a potential dispute between David and her family, and eventually married David when she became available to remarry after the death of Nabal. The account provides opportunity to learn from a specific event in Abigail-Nabal marriage and from the courtship of Abigail and David that led to their marriage after Nabal’s death. We focus on the lesson from Abigail-Nabal marriage in this study and reserve a follow-on study to examine Abigail-David courtship.
Nabal was a wealthy farmer in Carmel (the same city we encountered Elisha in Interactions Among Shunammite Couple). He had thousands of sheep and goats and several shepherds and servants in his service. The event from his marriage that is of interest in this study occurred during the period that David was a fugitive from Saul, leading an approximately 600 strong fugitive army through wilderness refuges (Please see David and Saul Close Encounters for more information). David requested food from Nabal during sheep shearing and expected Nabal to honor the request because his men assisted Nabal’s shepherds during encounters in the wilderness. However, Nabal rejected the request with contempt, hurling insults at David and his men. A quick-thinking servant sensed an impending retributive attack against Nabal from David and counseled Nabal’s wife Abigail to intervene.
She took the servant’s counsel to heart, mobilized resources, and set out to intercept David and his men that, in fact, were on their way to attack Nabal’s household. Abigail used her understanding and respect for David’s mission in Israel at the time to persuade him that an attack against Nabal would be inconsistent with, and demeaning to, David’s character and Godliness. She was successful. David accepted her gifts, appreciated her intervention, and turned around with his men.
In this study, we focus on Abigail mobilizing family resources in an emergency to protect her family from an impending disaster. Modern day couples live in societies several times more complex than did Abigail and Nabal. However, the principles that enabled her to save her family are applicable today even if the details are more complicated. She had unrestricted access to family resources and was sufficiently knowledgeable to mobilize the resources as needed to address a family emergency. Her husband was indisposed to help as we discuss presently. Therefore, her family’s fate depended on her authority to represent the family. As we discuss herein, the authority to represent family consists of two aspects: access to family resources and capability to mobilize and deploy the resources as needed.