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Abigail (Heb. אֲבִיגַיִל) is the name of two women in the Bible. (1) ABIGAIL wife of Nabal the Carmelite (see Carmel) and later of David. Abigail is described as both beautiful and sagacious (I Sam. 25:2). In return for “protecting” Nabal’s property, David requested a gift of provisions. When Nabal refused, David decided to exact his reward by force. Abigail, apprised of David’s approach with armed men, met David with food supplies and apologized for her husband’s behavior which she described as the churlish act of a worthless man. David, greatly impressed with Abigail, accepted the food and left in peace. When Nabal died ten days later David wed Abigail. She bore him a son Chileab (I Sam. 3:3), called Daniel in I Chron. 3:1.

In the Aggadah

The Midrash is generous in praise of Abigail’s beauty, wisdom, and power of prophecy. She is counted among the four women of surpassing beauty in the world (the others are Sarah, Rahab, and Esther), and it is reported that even the memory of her inspired lust (Meg. 15a). Her wisdom was apparent during her first meeting with David when, despite both her own concern for her husband’s fate and David’s rage, she calmly put a ritual question to him. When David replied that he could not investigate it until the morning, she suggested that the death sentence on her husband be similarly postponed. She met David’s protest that Nabal was a rebel, with the retort: “You are not yet king” (ibid.). This conversation also revealed her powers of prophecy. The Holy Spirit was upon her when she told David “the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life” (Lam. R. 21:1); and she foretold David’s sin with Bath-Sheba when saying (I Sam. 25:31), “That this shall be no grief unto thee (i.e., but another matter will)” (Meg. ibid.). However, her conduct in asking David “to remember thy handmaid” (I Sam. ibid.), is said to be unbecoming to a married woman. In the following verse she was therefore addressed by David as “Abigal” (i.e., without the letter yod), to indicate that she had shown herself unworthy of the letter with which the name of God begins (Sanh. 2:3).

(2) ABIGAIL daughter of nahash, sister of David and Zeruiah, mother of Amasa (II Sam. 17:25; I Chron. 2:16). Her husband was Jether the Ishmaelite (I Chron. 2:17) or Ithra the Jesraelite (II Sam. ibid.). (The medieval commentator David Kimḥi surmised that he was known by different names, depending on the area in which he lived.) Concerning her father’s name, the Septuagint reads Jesse instead of Nahash. A talmudic baraita also states that Nahash is Jesse (TJ, Yev. 8:3, 9c; Shab. 55). Thus, according to these traditions, Abigail would be David’s sister on his father’s side. In the Septuagint Abigail is written Abigaia. There is difficulty in explaining the meaning of the name. It is found on a Hebrew seal of the eighth or the seventh century B.C.E.: “To Abigail wife of Asijahu.”


Noth, Personennamen, index; ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. Kessler, in: CBQ, 62 (2000), 409–23; S. Japhet, I & II Chronicles (1993), 77.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.