Bible Stories for Young Adults


Abigail - The Unequal Yoke in Marriage

Abigail, a beautiful and wise young woman, probably had little say-so about

who she would marry.  Perhaps her father considered Nabal to be a good

choice -- a choice he most probably made for Abigail. After all, Nabal was very

wealthy.  Abigail would be well-provided for.  Secondly, Nabal came from a

good family.  He was a Calebite, a descendant of one of the faithful

Israelite spies who fearlessly encouraged Moses to lead the freed slaves on

in to the promised land.

However, Abigail's father, and perhaps Abigail herself, failed to see past

the prestige that possessions and family heritage brought to Nabal.  They

did not properly discern his personal character nor his spiritual

relationship to God.  Though "Abigail" means "my father rejoices," he could

only rejoice in the special character of Abigail herself and not in the

husband he probably chose for her.

Nabal, a mean and selfish man, had many sheep in the wilderness.  In those

days, bandits often robbed sheep-owners of their sheep.  Shepherds often

found it impossible to keep bandits away.  Of course, shepherds had to keep

watch over the flock lest a wild animal attack the sheep.  Nabal, perhaps on

account of his devout wife Abigail, was given special consideration by God

through the grace of David, a former shepherd himself.

David, now a fugitive running from the jealous and murderous King Saul, had

drawn a following of discontent men as he roamed the countryside.  Some of

these men were in debt, or  in other kinds of trouble, and others perhaps

were attracted to David for political reasons because of his bravery and

innocence.  David was training these young men to be men of character as

well as military might.

As the band of David's men camped near Nabal's property, he not only

prohibited his men from stealing any of Nabal's sheep, he also protected

Nabal's sheep and shepherds from other bandits and wild animals.  In this

way, David was teaching his men the important principle of boundaries and in

doing good given in God's commandments.  He showed them how  to rely on God

for sustenance, not stealing.

David assumed that the news of his special favors to Nabal would have

reached Nabal's ears through his hired workers.  He also assumed that Nabal

would treat him and his men hospitably.  However, Nabal did not issue an

invitation to David and his men to the festival he was holding at

sheep-shearing time.

Perhaps David thought that Nabal had simply overlooked this common courtesy.

David then sent his own messengers to Nabal to ask that his men be fed from

the abundance of provisions that would be spread out at the sheep-shearing

festival.  David's messengers greeted Nabal with respect and blessing.  Additionally, they reminded Nabal of the blessing that David's men had been to Nabal's shepherds.  Then they requested that Nabal return some kindness by giving David and his servants "whatever you can find for them."

Sadly, Nabal reacted with extreme rudeness.  He first said, "Who is this

David? Who is this son of Jesse?"  For Nabal not to have known who David was

when his wife Abigail did would be nearly impossible.  Many in Israel knew

of David's heroism in the matter of Goliath.  Many others knew that David

had been determined by God to become Israel's king someday, for Abigail knew

this quite well.  Nabal's rudeness here showed his utter disrespect.  He

determined that David was a nobody and he certainly did not believe Samuel's

prophecy from God that David would become his king one day. 

Nabal spewed out further venom when he said, "Many servants are breaking

away from their masters these days."  To Nabal, David was nothing more than

a rebel, or a runaway slave.  He had to have known better, but a surly

person will ascribe to others the meanest of motives.  Certainly he knew, as

all Israel did, that David was running for his life from an insanely jealous

king whose kingship would soon end.  Of course, Nabal may have also been a coward who was afraid of the murderous Saul, and did not want to feed David as the priest Ahimelech had done and caused Saul to order the slaughter of 85 priests in Nob, along with all the residents of Nob, including infants and children.

Then Nabal refused to offer any food to David and his men.  He called them

"men coming from who knows where."  He disdained every one of David's six

hundred men.  This would have been a great number of men to have fed, but

Nabal's table must have had a reputation for being long and broad, filled

with fruits, breads, meats, and drink enough to feed a small army.

When the messengers came back to David and reported Nabal's  harsh words,

David's normally subdued temper met its bursting point.  David ordered four

hundred of his men to take up the sword and then they headed to Nabal's

dwelling place.  Why would this man after God's own heart, a man who had

spared Saul's life when Saul was seeking to kill him, turn to violence when

Nabal acted so churlishly?  Was it easier for David to forgive his personal

enemy than it was to see the men under his guidance be abusively spoken of?

Meanwhile one of Nabal's servants, perceiving the anger that he had

witnessed in the expressions of David's messengers, appealed to Abigail.  He

reported Nabal's ill-mannered conduct  toward David's messengers, the

kindness and protection that David and his men had offered them, and the

danger that the whole household of Nabal were now in.  This servant of

Nabal's knew it was senseless to try to talk to Nabal.  That is why he

appealed to Abigail, asking her to think about what she could do to prevent

impending disaster.

Without telling Nabal, Abigail immediately went into action.  She prepared

food for David and his men, and went out to meet them in the way.  When she

found David, David had just vowed to kill every male in the household of

Nabal.  He was angry that Nabal had repaid him evil for good.

Abigail quickly dismounted from her donkey and bowed respectfully to David.

She  interceded for her foolish husband, asking that the blame for his

misdeeds be upon her.  She was willing to sacrifice her own life for his and

the others in the household.  She called herself David's "servant" and

indeed she was as she had brought him two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred

cakes of raisins, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five bushels of

roasted grain, and two hundred cakes of pressed figs.

Abigail humbly spoke and urged  David to disregard the foolishness of her

husband.  She said that his actions were just like his name, which meant

"Fool."  She acknowledged that her husband was a wicked man and even wished

that all of David's enemies would have the same fate as she felt her own

husband would soon have.

Abigail continued to evidence her belief in God's words as she spoke of the

near future when David would be king of Israel.  With profound wisdom, she

urged David to restrain himself from violence and from shedding innocent

blood.  For, she hastened to tell him, he would one day be king and he would

have no regrets at having avenged himself.  She also assured him that God

Himself would take vengeance on David's enemies.  She then asked that David

would remember her when the Lord had brought him this success.

David then said, "Praise the Lord, the God of Israel. who has sent you today

to meet me."  David acknowledged Abigail's good judgement and intercession

for all the males employed by  Nabal and family members.  He recognized

God's intervention through Abigail.

When Abigail returned home Nabal was having a banquet like that of a king.

He was drunk, so she did not tell him what she had done at that time.  She

waited until the next morning when he was sober.  When she told him all that

had happened with regard to David and his men the day before, he had a heart

attack.  Ten days later he died.

When David heard that Nabal had died, he praised the Lord that the Lord had

avenged him of this enemy, but also that the Lord had kept him from doing

wrong.  He then sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife.

Abigail responded humbly saying she was ready to serve and even to wash the

feet of David's servants.  With her five maidservants, she left her home to

become David's wife.

Abigail bore David a son named Chileab, also called Daniel, whose name was

never mentioned in all the troubles within David's royal family.

The Unequal Yoke

When a farmer plowed with two oxen, he would try to make sure the oxen

were of similar size and strength, for if he yoked a strong ox to a less

strong animal the stronger one would really be the only one carrying the

load or pulling the plough.  This is what happens when a married couple are

unequally yoked together in marriage.  The stronger one, the harder-working

one, the more spiritually mature one, will end up carrying the load

resulting in numerous problems.

Though we often see mismatched couples, hardly is there any to compare with

the mismatch of Abigail with Nabal.  Abigail was not only a woman of faith,

whereas her husband was not, she had the character and wisdom and beauty

that should have attracted the most noble of men.  Instead, she was married

to a rude, selfish, unbelieving, foolish drunkard.  Perhaps he married her

for her servant spirit, for who could match the selflessness of an Abigail,

a woman who was willing to give her own life for that of her wicked husband,

and a woman who was willing to wash the feet of David's servants?  Abigail

was likely one given to Nabal because Nabal paid a suitable bride price for


We can see that Abigail in her marriage to Nabal tried to make the best of a

bad situation.  She evidently relied on the Lord and His goodness to sustain

her emotionally each day.  She had great faith in the Lord.  She was used by

the Lord in this situation to save many lives.  Perhaps many understand her

becoming David's wife as being a reward for her persevering faith.

Today's young Christians, though, are warned to not be unequally yoked to

unbelievers.  Righteousness has no fellowship with wickedness.  A believer

who is married to an unbeliever is "toting the load" spiritually when it

comes to bringing up children in the Lord and for His glory.  The unbeliever

may even have a negative influence over all the efforts that the believing

spouse may put forth.

Sometimes married couples are unequally yoked because one of them became a

Christian after marriage.  God directs these believers to remain with their

spouse, as long as the spouse is willing to remain with the believer.  Too,

God assures his children that the offspring from that marriage are

considered "holy."  Not only that, the unbelieving spouse is considered

"holy," or "set apart," from the average heathen in that they have a greater

chance to be saved.

The Lord directs women who have unsaved husbands to live the Christian life

before them, sometimes without even a word about it, and by this faithful

life, the husband may come to repentance and faith in Christ.

Those who are unequally yoked because they married an unbeliever knowingly

were married in disobedience to begin with.  Such is the way of the young,

but even those must cry out to God, "Remember not the sins of my youth."

Psalm 25:7

Others are unequally yoked because they honestly thought they were marrying

a believer, but as time marched on, the faithlessness of that person, or the

pretense of that person, became evident.  Sinful  men often want to marry a

"good Christian girl" that will remain faithful to him;  they are quite

capable of deceiving and/or seducing the unsuspecting young woman.  Even

then, the marriage vows are to be honored "till death do us part, for better

or worse." 

Too many times when we speak of unequally yoked marriages, we envision the

wife being the saint and the husband the sinner, but this is not an accurate

assumption.  In the Bible, we can see that Lot was unequally yoked to his

worldly wife who loved her life in this world more than obedience to God.

We also see Job's wife telling that longsuffering and righteous man to

"curse God and die" after he lost all his possessions.  Hosea was a prophet

who was unequally yoked to the unfaithful wife Gomer.

Scripture says to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.  Can a couple be

unequally yoked in other ways?  Though romantics may not wish to echo Daisy

Buchanan  in The Great Gatsby who said, "Rich women don't marry poor men,"

marriage counselors can attest to the fact that money differences and

disagreements about how it is managed can pose real threats to marriage


Other differences could also cause an "unequal yoke" of some sort, but the

most important one to consider is the unequal yoke of having Christ versus

being without Christ, and walking in the light versus stumbling around in

the darkness of sin.

The "unequal yoke" could possibly be extended to certain types of other

yokes, such as being partners in a business with someone.  In fact, we

should make sure that we have fellowship with Christ and those of the

household of faith  rather than with worldly persons whose works are are not

bearing fruit for Jesus Christ.  "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful

works of darkness, but rather reprove them."  (Ephesians 5:11) In today's

world such "fellowship" could be the entanglement many have with worldly and

even decadent entertainment that comes through the TV screen and movies.

There is an "unequal yoke" that we are to accept though.  Christ says, "Come

to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take

my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and

you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is

light."  (Matthew 11: 28-30)  When we are yoked to Christ, it is an unequal

yoke, but he is "toting the load" for us.  That is the "unequal yoke" we are

to take on. 

Discussion questions:

1.  How do you think Abigail came to be Nabal's wife?

2.  Contrast the person of Abigail with the person of Nabal.

3.  Why were David and his men wandering in the wilderness?

4.  Why did David think that Nabal would welcome him and his men to his

sheep-shearing festival?

5.  How did Nabal act rudely towards David's messengers?

6.  How did Abigail become involved in this matter?

7.  Why do you think David lost his temper over Nabal, but previously had

spared the life of King Saul who wanted to kill him?

8.  How did Abigail appease David's wrath?

9.  How do we know that Abigail believed in the Lord?

10.  How do we know that David recognized Abigail as having been sent by


11.  What happened to Nabal after Abigail told him what all had happened?

12.  How did David react to Nabal's death?

13.  What is meant by an "unequal yoke"?

14.  What is the main kind of "unequal yoke" we should avoid?

15.  What are some of scripture's teachings for those who are unequally

yoked, that is, Christians married to unbelievers?

16.  What other unequal yokes may we want to avoid, other than willingly

marrying an unbeliever?

18.  Name some other Bible characters who were unequally yoked.

17.  What unequal yoke are we admonished to take on ?

  1. 18. Why should special private prayers be made for unequally yoked couples?

  2. 19.Looking back at Nabal’s words to David’s messengers, why is it always out of the character for the followers of Jesus Christ to act in a rude or disdainful manner toward any other people?

Dig Deeper

1.  Read, or at least scan over, I Samuel, chapters 18-24, to be able to

tell why David was in the wilderness with a band of men.

2.  Read I Samuel 22:1-2.  What kind of men were with David?  How many at

this time?  In 23:13 how many men were there?

3.  Read I Samuel, chapter 24, to get an idea of how tender David's

conscience was.  What bothered his conscience?

4.  Read I Samuel, chapter 25 and note the following:

    How does the story show the inward character of Nabal, David, and


    How did Abigail show the traits of decisiveness, diligence,

selflessness, humilty, faith?

    How did Abigail describe her husband?

    (Do you think this was sinful in light of Matthew  5:22?)

    What dangers may there be in a woman describing her husband in a

negative way to another man?  To anyone?

    Why might it be difficult for an unequally yoked person to refrain from

negative descriptions of a spouse?

    Some consider Abigail to have been an unsubmissive or disobedient wife

to have fed David's men when her husband had already refused them.  Why did

she not check with her husband before taking the food to David?

      What does Acts 4:19 say and could it be applied in this situation?

      Read I Samuel 25:26-31 and see how many times Abigail referred to the Lord.

      What did Abigail know about David?

      According to David's words in verses 32-34, might Abigail have been

killed that day also?

    Did David take the food Abigail brought?

    What happened to Nabal?

      When Abigail became David's wife, how many wives had he had before?

      Why was Saul's daughter Michal no longer David's wife?

5.  Read 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1.  This last verse is actually to be joined

with the others.  Looking at it, why could the "unequal yoke" be applied to

our becoming attached to certain celebrities on television or in movies, or

to certain kinds of programs?

6.  Paul gave advice to unequally yoked husbands or wives in I Corinthians

7: 10-16.  What did he say they should do?  How are children of such unions


7.  What command did God give to the Christian woman in I Corinthians


8.  What commands did God give to wives so that they may win an unbelieving

husband In I Peter 3:1-6?

9.  Read the first two chapters of Job and tell why Job may have been

unequally yoked in marriage.

10.  From what we have already studied of Lot in Genesis 19, and  2 Peter

2:6-8, tell why he was unequally yoked in marriage.


The story of Abigail demonstrates the problems in marrying someone who is not a person of true godly faith.  Many call themselves “Christian” today who are not transformed in their hearts by Christ.  We are told to not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.  Abigail’s husband was a man whose name would have been on the church rolls, but he loved money and despised others, treating them with disrespect.  Abigail’s acting wisely ended up saving many lives and God Himself dealt with her foolish husband. 

The story of Abigail is in First Samuel 25.

The story of the slaughter of many innocent people at Nob is in I Samuel 22: 11-19.

Abigail was both beautiful and wise, and she dared to take action that was contrary to that of her husband Nabal.

At sheep-shearing time, David’s men were not invited to Nabal’s festival. 

Nabal, whose name means “fool,” acts with extreme rudeness and disdain toward David’s messengers.

David asks the young widow Abigail to marry him.

One of Nabal’s servants, alarmed at Nabal’s rudeness, let Abigail know about it.

Abigail met David with food as David was on his way with intentions of killing every male employed by Nabal as well as his family.

Nabal has a heart attack and dies 10 days later.

Being unequally yoked in marriage can bring on more difficulties than expected.

If you are a Christian in an unequally yoked marriage, get some help from Christian literature or counseling on this subject.  Click on this Christian literature hyperlink.

The only “unequal yoke” we are to accept is that of being yoked to Christ, who not only carries our burdens (if we are willing to give them to Him) but who bears each child of God up in His everlasting arms as well. 

You may go to any of the highlighted Bible references quickly by clicking on them.  This will link you directly to the Bible passage as it appears in the New King James Version on the Bible Gateway website. 

Unkind, rude, or disdainful behavior (like Nabal’s) is totally out of character for Christ’s followers. 

Apparently the righteous Job was unequally yoked in marriage.