By Archie England, NOBTS
Question: Why is Abigail, the wife of the wealthy businessman Nabal, praised for going behind her husband’s back, defying his publicized intentions, and concealing her actions (until it suited her)?
Archie England reponds: Let’s examine 1 Samuel 25 for the answer. Nabal was a wealthy rancher, managing large herds of sheep and goats. Such wealth, however, doesn’t fit the story’s beginning because his name indicates that something is amiss. It means, “foolish.” Nabal was obstinate and foul in business dealings (25:3). His wife, Abigail – whose name means, “my father’s joy” – however, is described as his opposite: She’s stunning and smart.
As the story rapidly unfolds, Nabal roughly addresses David’s emissaries (who arrived on a festive day seeking supplies), berating David’s name and family; and, he gives them nothing! Two different reports occur next. First, David’s emissaries inform David of the insults. Second, a household servant informs Abigail of Nabal’s folly.
Abigail gathered up a large load of festival provisions (25:18) and hurried to meet David. By God’s providence, they met, and she graciously entreated him to forgive the foul Nabal – foolish people do foolish things. Not only did Abigail supply the needs of his army, but she also blessed him (25:26-31). With his anger abated, David complimented Abigail as a woman of discernment (25:33).
Abigail was declared a discerning woman because she corrected a wrong-doing before further wrongs were committed. Discernment like this, David praised; and the Word of God incorporated as an eternal reminder that God blesses those who confront, challenge, change, and/or confess wrong-doing(s). Apparently, God uses men and women as He pleases, even if that doesn’t fit with our cultural constraints. God blesses good ethics!
So often, our culture – even our Christian culture – likes to lock people into or out of certain positions: “It’s a man’s world” or “That’s woman’s work,” etc. But in 1 Samuel 25, Abigail doesn’t seek her husband’s approval or permission; she sees a problem and solves it. How sad it is that so many with discernment today are silenced – because their age, gender, race, position, or socio-economic status doesn’t allow them the same rights as those who are in charge. Is it possible that “we” have become “foolish – obstinate and foul” – in the way we deal with others?
Perhaps one such “Abigail” among us today is Karen Willoughby, retiring Managing Editor of the Baptist Message, who has challenged us to ponder God more thoroughly so that we might better live it. Shouldn’t we welcome such future leaders – male or female, young or old, regardless of race, wealth, or pedigree?
May what the Apostle Paul shared with young Timothy become fact for us all: that the godly faithfulness of grandparents (Lois) and parents (Eunice) will impact every generation, till Jesus comes! (2 Tim 1:5)
Archie England, Ph.D., Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, and Director of the Baptist College Partnership Program, at NOBTS.