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Abigail (Hebrew: אֲבִיגַיִל / אֲבִיגָיִל, Modern Avigáyil Tiberian ʾĂḇîḡáyil / ʾĂḇîḡāyil ; "her Father's joy" or "fountain of joy", spelled Abigal in 2 Samuel 17:25) was the wife of Nabal; she became a wife of David after Nabal's death (1 Samuel ). 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, and in the Septuagint text of 2 Samuel 3:3 as Δαλουια, Dalouia.
In the passage from 1 Samuel, Nabal demonstrates ingratitude towards David, and Abigail attempts to placate David in order to stop him 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. Alice Bach notes that Abigail pronounces a "crucial prophecy," and the Talmud regards her as one of the Tanakh's seven female prophets. Levenson, however, suggests that she "senses the drift of history" from intelligence rather than from special revelation.
After Abigail reveals to Nabal what she has done, "Yahweh struck Nabal and he died," (v.38), after which David married her.
The text explicitly describes Abigail as "intelligent and beautiful" (1 Samuel 25:3, NIV, also in the JPS Tanakh). The Talmud amplifies this idea, mentioning her as being one of the "four women of surpassing beauty in the world." In terms of her moral character, Abraham Kuyper argues that Abigail's conduct indicates "a most appealing character and unwavering faith," but Alice Bach regards her as subversive.
Levenson and Halpern suggest that Abigail may, in fact, also be the same person as Abigail, mother of Amasa. 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."
Abigail's self-styling as a handmaid led to Abigail being the traditional term for a waiting-woman, for example as the waiting gentlewoman in Beaumont and Fletcher's The Scornful Lady, published in 1616. 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. William Rose Benet notes the notoriety of Abigail Hill, better known as "Mrs Masham", a lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne.
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