I Samuel 25 (THE STORY OF ABIGAIL)
Proverbs 31:1-10 (THE WORDS OF KING LEMUEL)
In the story of Abigail we see the plight of a woman who is married to an abusive man-Nabal. The scripture tells us they are opposites in character. She is beautiful and intelligent. He is uncouth, mean, ungrateful and lacks good manners. Even the meanings of their names give us more understanding of their differences. Abigail means “joy of her father”. Nabal means “fool”.
Just after the death and burial of Samuel, the moral and spiritual leader of Israel, David and several hundred of his men camped out in the wilderness of Paran, near the village of Carmel. While encamped there, they guarded and protected the shepherds and flocks of Nabal.
When David heard that Nabal was shearing sheep and goats and preparing a celebration, he sent messengers to Nabal’s ranch to request provisions for his men. Nabal not only refused David’s request for hospitality, but also did so in a mean-spirited and insulting way. In that day, custom required Nabal to show gratitude for David and the several hundred men who guarded his workers and flocks. Denial of the request was considered a major breach of etiquette. David’s anger boiled to the point of intended destruction of Nabal and his entire household.
In this present day of bad manners and our cavalier attitude of non-gratitude, this does not appear to be a major offense. However, David’s ire was based upon the custom and mores of his time. Accordingly, he set out with four hundred of his six hundred men to kill Nabal.
When a servant of Nabal’s house advised Abigail of all that had transpired, she immediately acted to save her abusive husband and their household. Without consulting Nabal, she prepared provisions for David and his men. She went out to speak with David to plead for the lives of her family and staff. When David heard her wise counsel, he retreated from his murderous plans. Abigail’s choice of words gave great insight into her wisdom.
She advised David not to jeopardize his relationship with God and to be careful for his own soul. She pled with him to accept the gifts (provisions of food). At the end Abigail entreated David to remember her when he received all God had promised him.
David received Abigail’s words of wisdom with an attitude of gratitude. He acknowledged that God was the final judge of Nabal and all things evil. David realized that his relationship with God remained in tact due to the wise counsel of this beautiful woman.
When Abigail returned to Nabal, he was drunk and in the midst of a big celebration. She found herself dealing not only with a fool, but with a drunken fool. She waited until he was sober to tell him what she had done. Upon hearing her words, he became enraged to the point of being paralyzed. God allowed him to remain in that state for ten days. Then he died.
When David heard that Abigail was a widow, he sent for her and asked her to be his wife. She accepted his proposal and became his wife.
In many of our churches across the country, Women’s Day and Mother’s Day services usually include references to Proverbs 31:10 “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies”. (KJV) We almost never start at verse one.
“These are the wise sayings of King Lemuel of Massa, taught to him at his mother’s knee: O, My son whom I have dedicated to the Lord, do not spend your time with women, the royal pathway to destruction. And it is not for kings, O Lemuel, to drink wine and whiskey. For if they drink they may forget their duties and be unable to give justice to those who are oppressed. Hard liquor is for sick men at the brink of death, and wine for those in deep depression. Let them drink to forget their poverty and misery. You should defend those who cannot help themselves. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” Proverbs 31:1-9 (Life Application Bible, LAB)
The first nine verses tell us the kind of a man who deserves to find a truly good (virtuous) woman! Only a Godly man should seek a Godly woman!
Another major theme in our traditional celebration of Women’s Day and Mother’s Day is submission to our husbands. Unfortunately, the teaching on submission has been perverted. In many of our churches, we have asked women to engage in mindless obedience. We have also asked them to forego individuality deferring or totally abandoning their own dreams.
What does the Bible really say about submission? While the most quoted section is the passage in Ephesians 5:22-24; we shall begin at verse 21.
“Honor Christ by submitting to each other. You wives must submit to your husbands’ leadership in the same way you submit to the Lord. For a husband is in charge of his wife in the same way Christ is in charge of his body the Church. (He gave his very life to take care of it and be its Savior!) So you wives must willingly obey your husbands in everything, just as the Church obeys Christ.” (LAB)
The full message of the passage can only be understood by reading all of the responsibilities of both wives and husbands.
“And you husbands, show the same kind of love to your wives as Christ showed to the Church when he died for her, to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God’s word; so that he could give her to himself as a glorious Church without a single spot or wrinkle or any other blemish, being holy and without a single fault. That is how husbands should treat their wives, loving them as parts of themselves. For since a man and his wife are now one, a man is really doing himself a favor and loving himself when he loves his wife! No one hates his own body but lovingly cares for it, just as Christ cares for his body the Church, of which we are parts. (That the husband and wife are one body is proved by the Scripture which says, “A man must leave his father and mother when he marries, so that he can be perfectly joined to his wife, and the two shall be one.”) I know this is hard to understand, but it is an illustration of the way we are parts of the body of Christ. So again I say, a man must love his wife as a part of himself; and the wife must see to it that she deeply respects her husband – obeying, praising and honoring him.” (Ephesians 5:25-33 LAB)
This passage tells us that the husband’s actions and attitude create an atmosphere of love and safety. This causes the wife to honor and love the husband. There is an atmosphere of mutual respect and caring. No sane person assaults himself verbally or physically. What right thinking man intentionally puts himself or his family in harm’s way?
Another insight into submission is recorded in I Peter 3:1-7.
“Wives, fit in with your husbands plans; for then if they refuse to listen when you talk to them about the Lord, they will be won by your respectful, pure behavior. Your godly lives will speak to them better than any words. Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty that depends on jewelry, or beautiful clothes, or hair arrangement. Be beautiful inside, in your hearts, with the lasting charm of a gentle and quiet spirit which is so precious to God. That kind of deep beauty was seen in the saintly women of old, who trusted God and fitted in with their husbands’ plans. Sarah, for instance, obeyed her husband Abraham, honoring him as head of the house. And if you do the same, you will be following in her steps like good daughters and doing what is right; then you will not need to fear [offending your husbands]. You husbands must be careful of your wives, being thoughtful of their needs and honoring them as the weaker sex. Remember that you and your wife are partners in receiving God’s blessings, and if you don’t treat her as you should, your prayers will not get ready answers.” (LAB)
In Abigail’s experience, it was necessary for her to disobey her husband (give provisions without consulting him). This disobedience was based upon differentiating right and wrong. (REMEMBER: when Abigail described her husband she used the term “Belial” which means the personification of evil) It was right to feed the men who had protected their servants and property. The continued prosperity of Nabal was in part due to the protection provided by David’s men. The Bible tells us that we should obey God rather than men when faced with a request to do something wrong. (See Acts 4:19 and 5:29)
Abigail was a Godly (virtuous) woman married to a cruel man. Like the Proverbs 31 woman, she managed her household. The servants trusted her to resolve a life-threatening situation. The words and actions of this woman demonstrated her wisdom. Her husband did not respect her as the weaker vessel. He did not love or cherish her. Obviously, he was willing to put her life in danger. Nabal was an abusive husband, not the Godly head of their home. He did not deserve this virtuous woman!
The warrior king David noticed her Godly example. He was grateful for her wise counsel. We are mindful of the following verses of this popular passage on both Women’s and Mother’s Day:
“She is a woman of strength and dignity, and has no fear of old age. When she speaks, her words are wise, and kindness is the rule for everything she says. She watches carefully all that goes on throughout her household, and is never lazy. Her children stand and bless her; so does her husband. He praises her with these words: “There are many fine women in the world, but you are the best of them all!” Charm can be deceptive and beauty doesn’t last, but a woman who fears and reverences God shall be greatly praised. Praise her for the many fine things she does. These good deeds of hers shall bring her honor and recognition from people of importance.”
Proverbs 31:25-31 (LAB)
Our ministry deals with Family Violence. We are distraught by the number of perpetrators and victims with connections (past and present) to the church. What is particularly disturbing is how some of these people have been misled through the distorted teachings in the church relative to submission and its proper perspective.
In our study of family violence, we see that the cycle of violence can be learned behavior, passed from generation to generation. It has its root in the misuse of Power and Control. The actions of the perpetrator are not based on love; although the word is often used to support cruelty. Perpetrators of violence often use the following: coercion and threats; intimidation; verbal assault; economic abuse; children and male privilege.
How do we deal with this? We can start by reading ALL of God’s word and not using selected passages to support positions that can be spiritually, emotionally and physically destructive. A text out of context is a pretext! Nothing in God’s word justifies abuse or family violence.
Healthy relationships are based upon sharing and creating partnerships. There is mutual respect with shared responsibilities. Partners trust and support each other. They determine to be honest with each other and stand accountable for their actions.
WHO DESERVES A VIRTUOUS WOMAN?
Reverend Donata (Don) Edwards, known in the community as “Ms. Don”, is an ordained minister and licensed practicing attorney in the Washington, DC Metropolitan area. She is the senior minister and director for Mt. Pisgah Outreach Ministry and Center for Social Justice. The focus of the ministry is “families in crisis”. (Domestic Violence, Child Abuse and Neglect, Eldercare and Mental Health Issues) Mailing address is PO BOX 1591 Temple Hills, Maryland 20757-1591.
Copyright 2006 Reverend Donata L. Edwards, Esquire All rights
Used by permission BlackandChristian.com