I hope you readers had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I feel like I’m still overflowing from the joy and happiness of spending time with beloved family members, eating so many delicious foods, and enjoying each other! We got to see my brother again, it’s been a few months since we’ve seen him, and it was so good to see how well he’s doing. He’s been growing in his own journey of masculinity for a couple of years now, going through various phases of pro-masculine awareness, and it was just so wonderful to see him doing so well! We all had so much fun together, and there were several times I laughed until I cried 😀
I’m grateful for this involuntarily-imposed break, it’s given me more time to think about the way David, Nabal, and Abigail’s situation played forth. How can a good, intelligent, godly woman do what Abigail did and be honored, even rewarded for it?
Since there seems to be so much to cover, and for time’s sake in writing for me (and reading for you), I’ll break this topic up into a series, with Abigail – The Heart of the Matter, being Post 1.
I’ve seen many conflicting interpretations when researching it this past week; quite a few say that Abigail is the prime example of a wife that was unsubmissive and disrespectful to her husband, therefore giving us the perfect example of cases in which the wife isn’t to submit. Here is an excerpt from a woman’s blog that promotes this idea,
Abigail is not what we would call a leader, but she is hailed precisely because she took the lead in a crisis situation. Had Abigail followed the rules of wifely submission, she would have honored her husband’s commands, and then everyone in her household would have died. I recently watched a video clip where John Piper (a Reformed pastor and Complimentarian) urged women to submit to their husbands unless/until the husbands wanted their wives to sin- even in situations of abuse! But here, Abigail is praised for doing the exact opposite. Her story proves that even in the intensely patriarchal culture of ancient Israel, there is a limit to wifely submission.
I’ve also seen interpretations in the past where Abigail is accused of being disrespectful because of how she talks to David about Nabal. Hopefully I’ll be able to address both of these misconceptions from our point of view (my husband’s and mine) in this one post – although their situation is so complex there may be something you readers would like to also point out – please chime in, this topic is very deep and confusing to many Christians. So if you are reading this and have something to add to the discussion, feel free to do so!
First, let’s just look at the biblical passage starting in 1 Samuel 25:
Samuel died, and all Israel assembled to mourn for him, and they buried him by his home in Ramah. David then went down to the Wilderness of Paran.
A man in Maon had a business in Carmel; e was a very rich man with 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats and was shearing his sheep in Carmel. The man’s name was Nabal, and his wie’s name, Abigail. The woman was intelligent and beautiful, but the man, a Calebite, was harsh and evil in his dealings.
While David was in the wilderness, he heard that Nabal was shearing sheep, so David sent 10 young men instructing them, “Go up to Carmel, and when you come to Nabal, greet him in my name. Then say this:
‘Long life to you, and peace to you, to your family, and to all that is yours. I hear that you are shearing. when your shepherds were with us, we did not harass them and nothing of theirs was missing the whole time they were in Carmel. Ask your men, and they will tell you. So let my young men find favor with you, for we have come on a feast day. Please give whatever you can afford to your servants and to your son David.'”
David’s young men went and said all these things to Nabal on David’s behalf, and they waited. Nabal asked them “Who is David? Who is jesse’s son? Many slaves these days are running away from their masters. Am I supposed to take my bread, my water, and my meat that I butchered for my shearers and give them to men who are from I don’t know where?”
The hearts of these men matter greatly here. David has a beautiful heart, a generous heart, and a good heart – and it is especially revealed in his request to Nabal. His request speaks blessings over Nabal, and blessings over his household. His words and actions displayed the goodness of his character– his men didn’t have to watch over Nabal’s shepherds, they could have even bothered them or stolen from them, but David had integrity and made sure his men did what was right in this particular cultural situation. Nabal’s men described David’s army as being a “wall” around them, protecting them and giving them security as they worked.
David was on the cusp of becoming king, indeed he had just spared Saul’s life in a battle, and even received a blessing from his enemy, as Saul acknowledges that David was more righteous than him, that David repaid him with goodness when Saul only did evil to him. Saul even acknowledges to David as he spares his life, that he knew for sure now, that David would become king, and that the kingdom of Israel would be established in his hand. Saul asked for David to spare his family and descendents, and David graciously promises (and later fulfills that promise) to do so.
Requesting in a gentle, humble way to be added in their feasting, but only given whatever Nabal could spare or afford, was a modest, gracious and humble response.
Nabal, however, shows the depth of the wickedness in his heart in his reply to David.
Nabal insults him in a particularly ugly way – “Who is David? Who is Jesse’s son? Many slaves these days are running away from their masters. Am I supposed to take my bread, my water, and my meat that I butchered for my shearers and give them to men who are from I don’t know where?”
Nabal no doubt knows who David is, and even more than likely understands what and who David will become on some level, but he shows his wickedness in how he chooses to slander David, condemn and disregard his obvious good character, so that he would not be required to give him anything from their prosperous feast. A feast that David and his men in part ensured was protected and made possible! But Nabal knows David still hasn’t become king, and so because of his position and wealth, it appears that Nabal takes advantage of David’s humbling himself, opening himself and his men in their vulnerability in asking to receive food from Nabal, and insinuates that David is no better than a runaway slave.
In reading Nabal’s reply, one can almost taste the evil he speaks to David’s men – this is a man who does not care how his words impact others, and feels free to tarnish the reputation of a good, humble, and eventually powerful man. Even though David has an army of men with him, Nabal doesn’t even seem to comprehend how his words may provoke violent natural consequences.
His foolishness is in believing that his wicked actions will never come back to haunt or harm him, and that, as we’ve seen, is one of the hallmarks of the Proverbial fool.
Even wise people can and may act in very foolish ways at times, however, they are open to feeling conviction, open to a wise and well-founded rebuke, and while they may have acted in foolishness, they often feel deep shame for their actions. This shame or guilt is godly and produces in them the fervent desire to do better, indeed, to become a better Christian.
A Proverbial fool requires a lot more in the name of consequences to ever feel even a smidgen of shame for their wickedness. Instead of being open to acknowledging their wrongs against others, and apologizing or changing their disastrous ways, a Proverbial Fool holds fast to their arrogance, and believes their wicked words are either well-deserved, or that they rightly describe another’s character. In the case of Nabal, he may have thought that David deserved the insult, condemnation, and humiliation of being compared to a runaway slave for even asking to share in Nabal’s feasting and wealth. Or he truly may have believed that David in fact was comparable to a runaway slave, and would eventually amount to nothing in his life. A Proverbial fool has a way of overlooking the potential of someone they may despise for no reason. Even though it was clear that an evil spirit was using Saul against David, Nabal may have thought that Saul was still the rightful king, and that David condemned himself and his reputation in falling out of Saul’s graces.
But why did Nabal say those things to David even though it is highly likely he knew exactly who David was, and that David would be offended by his careless words?
Proverbs 18:2 ESV
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
Nabal didn’t care to take into consideration the goodness of David’s words to him or actions in generously watching over his flock and shepherds. He enjoyed airing his insulting and condemning opinions of David to the very men who helped provide Nabal’s prosperity, fully knowing those words would be repeated back to David. Fool’s do not take delight in understanding a person or situation, but they love hearing their own voice or thoughts.
Proverbs 29:11 ESV
A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.
Nabal gave full vent to his thoughts about David – insulting him, mocking him, even provoking him – daring him – to react in kind. We know we are acting foolishly when we give “full vent” to our emotions without care of acting godly with wisdom in how we respond when angry.
Proverbs 18:6 ESV
A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating.
Because of Nabal’s words, he invites great harm on not only himself, but all the male servants in his household who may have better character. Nabal’s folly endangers not only himself, but innocent people as well. His provocation of David and his army invites them to come and destroy him. Fool’s regularly mouth-off at the wrong time, or offend people who have particular power over their life or livelihood, causing themselves to lose their job or even their life depending on the degree they provoke a person.
Proverbs 29:9 ESV
If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.
Nabal mocks and belittles David and his great accomplishments, no doubt if David was to “argue” with Nabal, he would never be able to get through to him how wrong his actions were. David was well-known around the country for his success in battles years before this, however, Nabal still feels arrogant enough to take advantage of David’s humbling himself before him.
Proverbs 18:7 ESV
A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.
Nabal’s words condemn him and his entire household in the anger they provoke in David. Because the Proverbial fool excuses their lack of self-discipline, their lips ensure their demise or departure from acting godly.
Proverbs 10:23 ESV
Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.
Nabal we’ll see later, not only enjoyed mocking David and his army in their time of hunger, need, and humility, but he then went on to enjoy his feasting and drinking wine. He may have remembered how David “begged” for food from his table, and laughed to himself as he enjoyed his bounty as if it was a great joking matter. The Proverbial fool loves to mock, make jokes of those who are righteous or acting godly – mocking their humility or goodness, even calling their righteous words pesky or annoying.
The Proverbial Fool provokes, it’s how they choose to find their enjoyment of life, and both Christians and non-Christians may act in this way. If you watch a Proverbial fool for long, you will undoubtedly see that they actively seek out arguments to get into where they gleefully insult another believer or person, without a care to how their words will impact their future or the other person.
The Proverbial Fool feeds off of questioning another’s character to “get away” with continuing in their wickedness. If Nabal can make David appear to be no better than a runaway slave, someone worthy of death anyway, then he doesn’t feel the guilt of not allowing David and his men to take part in his feast. A wise person recognizes a person acting in righteousness and authenticity, but the fool only deals in insults and ridicule, and provokes to anger even a person committing themselves to doing the right thing, and living with integrity.
David’s response to the Fool was rage, and immediate plans to commit violence.
I don’t think we should overlook this crucial part of the story, as it is actually a common response – a human response – in reacting to a fool. A Proverbial fool will do almost everything they can think of to insult or bait a righteous person into an argument with them. They will lie about them, call them every name in the book, mock them, try to slander their reputation to others, and it’s normal for a person facing this kind of behavior to become extremely angry, try to defend themselves against blatant lies being told about them, or otherwise try to reason or argue with the Fool. Of course, fighting with a fool using any kind of natural response that a wise person would respond well to, doesn’t work, it would only be fulfilling their deep craving for drama and the feeling they get from controlling another’s response with their provocations.
Even though David’s innate response was wrong, it doesn’t mean it’s not understandable. Folly seems like it is contagious. When one person sins against another, insulting or mocking or degrading their character as Nabal did, it can easily incite a person to respond out of character and against their better judgment.
Abigail protects her husband in his foolishness, his household servants from death, and David from reacting rashly, and having innocent blood on his hands due to a mere fool’s careless provocations.
Abigail’s heart and actions will taken apart in the next post.