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David and Abigail by Antonio Molinari Antonio Molinari David y Abigail.jpg
David and Abigail by Antonio Molinari

Abigail (Hebrew : אֲבִיגַיִל, Modern: ’Avīgayīl, Tiberian: ’Aḇīgayīl) was married to Nabal; she became married to the future King David after Nabal's death (1 Samuel 25 ). [1] Abigail was David's second wife, after Saul and Ahinoam's daughter, Michal, whom Saul later married to Palti, son of Laish when David went into hiding.


She became the mother of one of David's sons, who is listed in the Book of Chronicles under the name Daniel , in the Masoretic Text of the Books of Samuel as Chileab, [2] and in the Septuagint text of 2 Samuel 3:3 as Δαλουια, Dalouia. [3] Her name is spelled Abigal in 2 Samuel 17:25 in the American Standard Version.

Prudent Abigail by Juan Antonio Escalante Escalante-abigail.jpg
Prudent Abigail by Juan Antonio Escalante
David and Abigail, 1860 woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Karolsfeld Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bibel in Bildern 1860 096.png
David and Abigail, 1860 woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Karolsfeld


Derived from the Hebrew word ab, "father", and the Hebrew root g-y-l, "to rejoice," the name Abigail has a variety of possible meanings including "my father's joy" and "source of joy". [4]

Biblical narrative

In 1 Samuel 25, Nabal demonstrates ingratitude towards David, the son of Jesse (from the tribe of Judah), and Abigail attempts to placate David, in order to stop the future King from taking revenge. She gives him food, and speaks to him, urging him not to "have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed" (verse 31, NIV) and reminding him that God will make him a "lasting dynasty" (verse 28). Jon Levenson calls this an "undeniable adumbration" of Nathan's prophecy in 2 Samuel 7. [5] Alice Bach notes that Abigail pronounces a "crucial prophecy," [6] and the Talmud regards her as one of the Tanakh's seven female prophets. [7] Levenson, however, suggests that she "senses the drift of history" from intelligence rather than from special revelation. [5]

After Abigail reveals to Nabal what she has done, "God struck Nabal and he died," (v.38), after which David married her. Abigail is described as intelligent and beautiful. The Talmud amplifies this idea, mentioning her as being one of the "four women of surpassing beauty in the world," (the other three being Rahab, Sarah, and Esther). Being married to the wealthy Nabal, she is also a woman of high socioeconomic status. Whether David married her because he was attracted to her, or as an astute political move, or both is unclear. [8]

Abigail and David's second wife, Ahinoam the Jezreelite, accompany David and his war band as they seek refuge in Philistine territory. While David and his men are encamped near Jezreel, the women are captured by Amalekites who raided the town of Ziklag and carried off the women and children. David led the pursuit, and they were subsequently rescued. Both wives then settle with David in Hebron, where Abigail gives birth to David's second son, Chileab (also called Daniel). [8]

Abigail is also listed as one of the seven Jewish women prophets, the other six being Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Sarah, Huldah, and Esther. [9] In terms of her moral character, Abraham Kuyper argues that Abigail's conduct indicates "a most appealing character and unwavering faith," [10] but Alice Bach regards her as subversive. [11]

Adele Berlin contrasts the story of Abigail with that of Bathsheba. In one, the wife prevents David from murdering her foolish and greedy husband. In the second, David orders the murder of a good man because he desires his wife. "In the Abigail story, David, the potential king, is seen as increasingly strong and virtuous, whereas in the Bathsheba story, the reigning monarch shows his flaws ever more overtly and begins to lose control of his family." [8]

Levenson and Halpern suggest that Abigail may, in fact, also be the same person as Abigail, mother of Amasa. [12] Richard M. Davidson, however, points out that "on the basis of the final form of Old Testament canon, references to Abigail in the biblical accounts indicate two different individuals." [13]

Generic use

Abigail's self-styling as a handmaid [14] led to Abigail being a traditional term for a waiting-woman, for example as the waiting gentlewoman in Beaumont and Fletcher's The Scornful Lady , published in 1616. [15] Jonathan Swift and Henry Fielding use Abigail in this generic sense, as does Charlotte Brontë. Anthony Trollope makes two references to the abigail (all lower case) in The Eustace Diamonds , at the beginning of Chapter 42, whilst Thomas Mann makes the same reference at the start of the second chapter of Part 2 in Buddenbrooks (published in 1901). William Rose Benet notes the notoriety of Abigail Hill, better known as "Mrs Masham", a lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne. [16] George MacDonald Fraser makes mention of "an abigail fussing about the room" in his novel Flashman from The Flashman Papers series.

In art

Abigail is a featured figure on Judy Chicago's installation piece The Dinner Party , being represented in one of the 999 tiles of the Heritage Floor. [17] [18]

Related Research Articles

David King of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah

David is described in the Hebrew Bible as king of the United Monarchy of Israel and Judah. In the Books of Samuel, David is a young shepherd who gains fame first as a musician and later by killing the giant Goliath, champion of the Philistines. He becomes a favorite of King Saul and a close friend of Saul's son Jonathan. Worried that David is trying to take his throne, Saul turns on David and tries to kill him, leading the latter to go on the run and operate as a fugitive for several years. After Saul and Jonathan are killed in battle against the Philistines, a 30-year old David is anointed king over all Israel and then conquers Jerusalem, establishing the city as his capital, and taking the Ark of the Covenant into the city to be the center of worship in the Israelite religion.

Ahinoam is a Hebrew name literally meaning brother of pleasantness, or my brother is pleasant, thus meaning pleasant.

Rahab Biblical figure

Rahab was, according to the Book of Joshua, a woman who lived in Jericho in the Promised Land and assisted the Israelites in capturing the city by hiding two men who had been sent to scout the city prior to their attack. In the New Testament, she is lauded both as an example of a saint who lived by faith, and as someone "considered righteous" for her works.

Bathsheba Biblical figure

Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah the Hittite and later of David, according to the Hebrew Bible. She is most known for the biblical narrative in which she was summoned by King David, who had seen her bathing and lusted after her. She was the mother of Solomon, who succeeded David as king, making her the Queen mother.

Uriah the Hittite

Uriah the Hittite is a minor character in the Hebrew Bible, mentioned in the Books of Samuel, an elite soldier in the army of David, king of Israel and Judah, and the husband of Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam. While Uriah is serving in David's army abroad, David himself, from the roof of his palace, looks down on his city and spies Bathsheba bathing in the privacy of her courtyard. Moved by lust at the sight of her, David calls for her to be brought to him and sleeps with her, impregnating her. In an effort to hide his misdeeds, David calls Uriah home from war, hoping that he and Bathsheba will have relations and that he will be able to pass the child off as belonging to Uriah. But Uriah, being a disciplined soldier, refuses to visit his wife. So, David murders him by proxy, ordering all of Uriah's comrades to abandon him in the midst of battle, so that he is killed by an opposing army. Following Uriah's death, David takes Bathsheba as his eighth wife.


According to the 1st Book of Samuel Chapter 25, Nabal, was a rich Calebite, described as harsh and surly. He is featured in a story in which he is threatened by David over an insult, and ultimately killed by God.

Naomi (biblical figure)

Naomi is Ruth's mother-in-law in the Hebrew Bible in the Book of Ruth. The etymology of her name is not certain, but it is possible that it means "good, pleasant, lovely, winsome."

<i>King David</i> (film) 1985 film by Bruce Bersford

King David is a 1985 American Biblical epic film about the life of David, the second King of the Kingdom of Israel, as recounted in the Hebrew Bible. The film is directed by Bruce Beresford, written by Andrew Birkin and James Costigan, and stars Richard Gere in the title role. The ensemble cast includes Edward Woodward, Alice Krige, Denis Quilley, Cherie Lunghi, Hurd Hatfield, John Castle, Jean-Marc Barr, Christopher Malcolm, and Gina Bellman.

David and Jonathan

Davidand Jonathan were, according to the Hebrew Bible's Books of Samuel, heroic figures of the Kingdom of Israel, who formed a covenant, taking a mutual oath.


Michal was, according to the first Book of Samuel, a princess of the United Kingdom of Israel; the younger daughter of King Saul, she was the first wife of David, who later became king, first of Judah, then of Israel.

Nathan was the third of four sons born to King David and Bathsheba in Jerusalem. He was a younger brother of Shammuah, Shobab, and Solomon. Although Nathan is the third son raised by David and Bathsheba, he is the fourth born to Bathsheba. The first son died before he could be named.

Chileab, also known as Daniel, was the second son of David, King of Israel, according to the Bible. He was David's son with his third wife Abigail, widow of Nabal the Carmelite, and is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 3:1, and 2 Samuel 3:3. Unlike the other of David's three elder sons, Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah who were important characters in 2 Samuel, Chileab is only named in the list of David's sons and no further mention is made of him. Though being the second son, Chileab was not a contender for the throne of Israel, even after the death of the first-born Amnon, the third-born Absalom and fourth-born Adonijah. He may have died before his father. Later rabbinic traditions name him as one of four ancient Israelites who died without sin, the other three being Benjamin, Jesse and Amram. The throne eventually passed to his younger half brother, Solomon.

Women in the Bible Women mentioned in the Bible

Women in the Bible are victors and victims, women who change the course of historical events, and women who are powerless to affect even their own destinies. The majority of these women are unnamed, with named women making up only 5.5 to 8 percent of all named characters in the Bible. Women are not generally in the forefront of public life in the Bible, and women who are named are usually prominent for reasons outside the ordinary. For example, they are often involved in the overturning of human power structures in a common biblical literary device called "reversal." Abigail and Esther, and Jael, who drove a tent peg into the enemy commander's temple while he slept, are a few examples of women who turned the tables on men with power. The founding matriarchs are mentioned by name, as are some prophetesses, judges, heroines, and queens, while the common woman is largely, though not completely, unseen. The slave Hagar's story is told, and the prostitute Rahab's story is also told, among a few others.

Abigail (name) Name list

Abigail is a female given name. The name comes from the Hebrew name אֲבִיגַיִל / אֲבִיגָיִל Avigail, meaning "my father's joy". It is also a surname.

Jonathan (1 Samuel)

Jonathan is a heroic figure in 1 Samuel in the Hebrew Bible. A prince of the United Kingdom of Israel, he was the eldest son of King Saul as well as a close friend of David, who eventually succeeded Saul as king.

Tamar (daughter of David) Princess of Israel

Tamar is a figure described in 2 Samuel in the Hebrew Bible. In the biblical narrative, she is the daughter of King David, and sister of Absalom. In 2 Samuel 13, she is raped by her half-brother Amnon.

Abigail is a character in the Hebrew Bible. She was the mother of Amasa, the commander-in-chief of Absalom's army.

Sons of David

The sons of King David are mentioned both as a group and individually several times in the biblical accounts of the reigns both of David and his successor Solomon.

1 Chronicles 3

1 Chronicles 3 is the third chapter of the Books of Chronicles in the Hebrew Bible or the First Book of Chronicles in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. The book is compiled from older sources by an unknown person or group, designated by modern scholars as "the Chronicler", and had the final shape established in late fifth or 4th century BCE. This chapter contains the genealogy of unbroken Davidic line from the time of David to the post-exilic period, providing a possibility of the reinstatement of the Davidic monarchy in Jerusalem with its rightful heir, should circumstances allow. It is divided into three parts: (1) the sons of David ; (2) the kings in Jerusalem ; (3) the descendants during and after the exile period, verses 17–24. Together with chapters 2 and 4, it focuses on the descendants of Judah: chapter 2 deals with the tribes of Judah in general, chapter 3 lists the sons of David in particular and chapter 4 concerns the remaining families in the tribe Judah and the tribe of Simeon. These chapters belong to the section focusing on the list of genealogies from Adam to the lists of the people returning from exile in Babylon.


  1. Hoiberg, Dale H., ed. (2010). "Abigail" . Encyclopædia Britannica. I: A-ak Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago, IL: Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. pp.  32. ISBN   978-1-59339-837-8.
  2. 2 Samuel 3:3
  3. 2 Samuel 3, LXX
  4. "my father's joy", "my father rejoices", "my father is joy" (or similar); from either the verbal root g-y-l "to rejoice" directly, or from the root noun gil "rejoicing, joy". See: Adele Berlin in: Carol L. Meyers, Toni Craven, Ross Shepard Kraemer (eds.), Women in Scripture: A Dictionary of Named and Unnamed Women in the Hebrew Bible, the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, and the New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000, p. 43
  5. 1 2 Jon D. Levenson, "1 Samuel 25 as Literature and History," CBQ 40 [1978] 20.
  6. Alice Bach, "The Pleasure of Her Text Archived 2011-06-29 at the Wayback Machine ," Union Seminary Quarterly Review 43 [1989] 44.
  7. Megillah 14a Archived 2010-11-24 at the Wayback Machine
  8. 1 2 3 Berlin, Adele. "Abigail: Bible". jwa.org. Jewish Women's Archive.
  9. Megillah 15a Archived 2010-11-24 at the Wayback Machine
  10. Abraham Kuyper, Women of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1941), 106.
  11. Alice Bach, "The Pleasure of Her Text Archived 2011-06-29 at the Wayback Machine ," Union Seminary Quarterly Review 43 [1989] 41.
  12. Jon D. Levenson and Baruch Halpern, "The Political Import of David's Marriages," JBL 99 [1980] 511–512.
  13. Davidson, Richard M. (2007). Flame of Yahweh: A Theology of Sexuality in the Old Testament. Hendrickson. p. 444.
  14. 1 Samuel 25:25 and following
  15. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Abigail"  . Encyclopædia Britannica . 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 62.
  16. The Reader's Encyclopedia, 1948, s.v. "Abigail".
  17. "Abigail". Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Abigail. Brooklyn Museum. 2007. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  18. Chicago, 69.