A Peace Offering
by James L. Ferrell
An excerpt from The Peacegiver, published by Deseret Book.
The scene shifted again and Rick found himself on an outcropping of rock, his grandfather by his side. A well-traveled path, fifteen feet or so in width, climbed up the side of a long hill to their left. The path passed before them no more than twenty yards away. It continued down to their right for some three hundred yards before it began to climb again and finally curved out of sight behind the hillside they were standing on. The slopes around them were covered with sagebrush and sprinkled here and there with wildflowers. An occasional scraggly tree forced its way toward the sky.
The warm air was still, and the afternoon sun was casting their shadows over the ledge on which they stood. There was nothing to see but the gentle road before them. Rick threw a questioning look toward his grandfather, who just nodded and smiled. Within a minute or so, Rick heard a clop clop clop coming from the top of the hill to their left, and he saw first one donkey, and then another, and another, until fourteen donkeys were descending the path, each laden with goods and being led by menservants. A little way behind them came another donkey, this one carrying a rider. As the procession approached, Rick could see that the rider was a woman dressed in beautiful robes, a veil covering the lower half of her face. She looked to be someone of importance.
“Who is this, Grandpa?” Rick asked.
“A most extraordinary woman,” was his reply. “Her name is Abigail. She is Nabal’s wife. One of the servants who overheard Nabal’s harsh treatment of David’s men reported to her what Nabal had done. She quickly set out to gather everything that David’s men had asked for and more-foodstuffs and essentials that she could take to David before he acted against Nabal and his house, as Abigail worried he might. Among other things, she gathered bread, wine, dressed sheep, corn, raisins, and hundreds of fig cakes, packed them on donkeys, and set out upon this road to intercept David.”8
Rick looked back at the woman. How mistreated you must be too, he thought to himself, imagining her life of trial with Nabal. With his own difficult marriage souring his soul, he felt an immediate kinship with her.
Just as she was passing before him, the procession stopped. The servants stared down the path to Rick’s right, reporting their observations back to Abigail. Craning for a better look, Rick could make out an army approaching around the bend. It was David and his men.
Abigail dismounted and strode quickly past the donkeys and to the front of her servants, where she bowed herself to the ground facing the approaching army.9
David in his dusty splendor continued his approach, his men marching behind him. Their swords flashed in the sunlight as a cloud of dust trailed off behind them. Rick strained for a sight of himself in the crowd but couldn’t find him. The army climbed the road until they were no more than fifteen yards from the bowing woman. David raised his right arm and halted his troops. He then strode forward and stopped before her.
Without looking up she crawled to David’s feet.
“Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be,”10 she begged him.
“Upon you be what iniquity, woman?” David’s tone was belligerent.
“Please my lord, I saw not the young men you sent to Nabal, my husband. But see, I have provided. Please accept of my offering, that this shall be no grief unto thee.”11
David surveyed the donkeys and their loads before turning back to Abigail. “You take the fool’s sins on your own head?” inquired David. “You know the injustice and see us coming to right it, and now you beg for mercy upon thine house?”
“I beg for my house, yes, but for thee also, my lord, that this shall not be an offence of heart unto thee, either that thou hast shed blood causeless, or that my lord hath avenged himself. For the Lord will certainly make thee a sure house because my lord fighteth the battles of the Lord, and evil hath not been found in thee all thy days. So it ever may be so, my lord, I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid.”12
David stood motionless, as if pondering a far-off thought that could be accessed only through still reflection. He looked deliberately at the provisions, thinking, and then down once more at Abigail. Slowly he released the hilt of his sword and dropped his hand to his side. She had yet to raise her eyes to his, but he looked tenderly upon her, his countenance soft. “Woman, what is your name?” His tone now was kind.
“Abigail, my lord.”
“Rise, dear Abigail.”
She arose to her knees, looking up at David.
“Who am I to withhold forgiveness from one such as you?” he said. “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me and which has kept me from striking you. And blessed be thine advice, and blessed be thou, dear Abigail, who hast kept me this day from sinning against the Lord. For as the Lord God of Israel liveth, if not for your intercession, by the morning I would have destroyed every male in thy household.”13
“I accept of your offering,” he continued. And then, to the men behind him he shouted, “Elihu, Sidar, Gadriel, Joseph, come, gather the offering of the handmaiden of the Lord.”
Four men hastened past David and began to transfer the goods from the donkeys.
Abigail fell again at David’s feet. “Thank you, my lord. Blessed be thou and thy house.”
David reached to her and pulled her to her feet. “Go up in peace to thine house, dear woman.
See, I have hearkened to thy voice, and have accepted thy person. You have saved me from evil this day, which I will not forget.”14
Abigail bowed her head slightly before him and then turned to leave. As she did so, her gaze met Rick’s-startling him, as until then no one had seemed to notice his presence. Her gentle brown eyes shone brightly from above the veil that swept across her mouth. Her eyes reached to him more than any arms could have done-beckoning, inviting, and drawing him in. So kindly, they seemed windows into a deep pool of knowing, and when she looked upon him, Rick felt as much within her eyes as without.
He instantly felt as if they had had a conversation, or an interview, or, for that matter, a reunion. He perceived that she knew him-not just what could be understood by observing his person, but rather the whole of him-his past, his present, his future, his thoughts, his feelings, his fears. What’s more, he felt that she treasured him, despite everything she knew. By the look in her eyes, Rick could tell she was smiling at him. After a few timeless seconds, she gently nodded, turned, and then continued up the path.
Rick, with David, stood transfixed, watching her disappear over the hill.
2004 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.