Abigail (Hebrew: אֲבִיגַיִל / אֲבִיגָיִל, Modern Avigáyil Tiberian ʾĂḇîḡáyil / ʾĂḇîḡāyil ; "her Father's joy" or "fountain of joy") is a female name occurring in Biblical narratives in the Books of Samuel and in the Books of Chronicles. Abigal occurs once and is thought by the vast majority of scholars to be an alternate spelling of Abigail.
There appear to be two individuals named Abigail:
- The mother of Amasa. In the Book of Chronicles and Septuagint version of the Books of Samuel, Abigail's father is Jesse, and she is therefore sister of David, but in the masoretic text of the Books of Samuel her father is Nahash; scholars think that Nahash is a typographic error, based on the appearance of the name two verses later. In the Book of Chronicles, Amasa's father is Jether the Ishmaelite, but in the books of Samuel, Amasa's father is Ithra the Israelite; scholars think that the latter case is more likely.
- The wife of the wicked Nabal, who became a wife of David after Nabal's death. She had attempted to stop David from taking revenge against Nabal for his ingratitude towards David, warning him that vengeance was sinful and God would take care of the issue. Her accuracy in understanding God's will suggests that she was a true follower of God. She was the mother of one of David's sons, who is named in the Book of Chronicles as Daniel, in the masoretic text of the Books of Samuel as Chileab, and in the Septuagint text of the Books of Samuel as Daluyah.
It is possible that both women named Abigail are the same woman, as textual scholars regard the account in the Books of Chronicles as deriving from the Books of Samuel, and the references there to Abigail as a sister of David occur only in the passages that textual scholars attribute to the court history of David, a document that does not mention Abigail as one of David's wives.
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. William Rose Benet notes the notoriety of Abigail Hill, better known as "Mrs Masham", a lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne.
- This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.