Allen S. Maller

Amazing Jewish women: Abigail

Islamic tradition is very generous in speaking about the large number of people; 315 messengers and 124,000 prophets according to Ibn Hanbal, (Musnad, 5, 169); who God has sent to all the different tribes, nations and empires of the world, in fulfillment of the Qur’an’s words: “There never was a people without a Warner having lived among them” (35:24) and “We would never visit our wrath (on any community) until We had sent a Messenger to give a warning’ (17:15).

However, Muslim tradition does not represent any of these prophets as being female; and from this almost every Muslim scholar believes all the prophets were men, and none were women.

Although there is a tradition that Mary, the mother of Prophet Muhammad, and Pharaoh’s wife, who the Qur’an relates influenced her husband to adopt Moses, both believed in the One God in utmost sincerity, and this could mean they were prophets.

The Torah, on the other hand, specifically states that Miriam, the elder sister of Moses and Aaron, was a prophet (Exodus 15:20 and Micah 6:4).

Other books in the Bible refer to Deborah (Judges 4:4) and Huldah (2 Kings 22:14-20) as prophets.

The Talmud (Megillah 14a) states that there were seven female prophets of Israel: one of them being Abigail, a widow who married King David.

Although the Bible did not expressly call her a prophet as it did Miriam, Deborah and Huldah; the Rabbis thought that Abigail’s entreaty to David (I Samuel. 25:24–31), which forecasts David’s military victory over his enemies and his future as a king over Israel, could be perceived as prophecy (Seder Eliyahu Rabbah 21).

Since Abigail was blessed with divine inspiration, the Rabbis also included the words Abigail pronounced to David (1 Samuel 25:29): “the life of my lord will be bound up in the bundle of life,” into the funeral service that is still used today by both Orthodox and Reform Rabbis.

The Rabbis also derived from her words that God bundles up the souls of the righteous with pleasure and honor (Sifrei Zuta on Numbers, 27:12).

In addition the Rabbis said that Abigail wrote the Biblical book of Ruth; and together with her husband, King David, wrote several psalms.

All this honor and praise is amazing because the Rabbis also included Abigail among the four most beautiful women who ever lived, and they stated that the mere thought of her, even without seeing her, inspired lust ( Megillah 15a).

Yet Abigail’s beauty and sexual attraction did not prevent the Rabbis from acknowledging and honoring her great spiritual authority.

Abigail is also listed among the twenty-three truly upright and righteous women who came forth from Israel (Midrash Tadshe, Ozar ha-Midrashim [Eisenstein], p. 474).

It is a terrible tragedy that over the last five to six centuries, Orthodox Rabbis have blinded themselves to the great spiritual gifts that Jewish woman have to offer because they are afraid of their beauty and sexuality.

In truth, the combination of female sexual attractiveness, intense spirituality and Jewish leadership is a great blessing for all of Israel.

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 850 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.