Reflections on Abigail and Nabal

A wise wife with a foolish husband

I’ve just finished reading the story of Nabal and Abigail in 1 Samuel 25.  A foolish and dishonest husband married to a wise and upright wife.  How did it happen that this beautiful woman ended up in the marriage bed with such a rogue?  Sorry, the Bible isn’t written for the purpose of satisfying your or my curiosity.  Let’s just have a quick look at the facts.

Abigail had been faithful to her husband despite his meanness, dishonesty and ill-temper.  (All these are descriptive words taken straight out of the text of 1 Samuel 25.)  It must have been so distressing for such a sensible and beautiful woman to keep sane in the face of all her husband’s shenanigans.  Yet she did not take her situation into her own hands and knock her husband off his high perch.  Which of course only proves the depth of her own character.

Yet at the same time, Abigail wasn’t passive.  When she discovered that her husband had reacted in a very high-handed fashion towards David’s men, refusing David’s request for food supplies for his men even though they had already done him and his family good, she took the initiative.  She knew that trying to reason with her unreasonable husband would be  totally unproductive.  She was also aware of the urgency of the moment, realising that she and her household were faced with potentially disastrous consequences from her husband’s foolish and unkind ways.

Her sensible action saved the day for her entire household.  And God intervened in His own way, showing Who is really in control of what could be interpreted by some a stroke of good luck.  Later when she told her husband, Nabal, what had happened, he suffered a stroke and died ten days later.

Sometimes wise and godly husbands and wives find themselves married to a person who turns out to be not quite like their dream mate!  Perhaps first impressions in their early courtship days were impressive.  But then later the person’s real heart comes to light, leaving them to share life with someone who can make their days very difficult and stressful.

Or it could be that after journeying some way down the marriage track, our mate turns a corner taking him or her down a wrong path.  We suddenly find ourselves thrust into dark and difficult circumstances.  And as time goes on, our heart is often heavy with sorrow even though we remain committed to the marriage.

Or it could also be that we made what has become increasingly clear as an unwise choice of a life’s partner.  We can’t retreat.  But there are moments when we regret that decision and yet we know that God’s way is not to dream of a marriage that “could have been” but rather to walk in faithfulness and in faith in His great power and love.

What I see this morning illustrated in Abigail’s life and actions is that as the sensible and God-fearing partner in their marriage, even though she knew her husband’s character, she was clear-cut in her own position concerning what was right and what was wrong.  Just because she was his wife, she did not blindly fall in line with her husband’s wrong and foolish attitudes and ways.  In fact, when it was appropriate, she spoke up and called a spade a spade!

Then when she saw that her husband’s actions had grave potential for their entire household’s well-being, she didn’t wait around to get his permission to take preventative action.  She recognised that she needed to obey a higher law.  Undoubtedly in her culture, Abigail would have been a wife who obeyed her husband.  However, the higher law of the sanctity and preciousness of life itself motivated her to take action, lest many in her household, possibly even she herself, would suffer severe loss at the hands of David and his men.

Perhaps you don’t find yourself today faced with such a life and death situation.  However, you may be in a marriage where you are facing a spiritual or emotional life and death situation.  To take a passive stance would be irresponsible, considering the potential for tragic, long term consequences.

Listen to what God’s Spirit may be saying to you, or for you to say to a close friend.  Act wisely and sensibly.  And remember Abigail’s example who did not take the law into her own hands, or manipulated circumstances to avenge her husband’s foolish and evil ways.  Rather she acted in a way that was God-honouring and that allowed God to work out His just and holy purposes in His own way, and in His own time.

Graham M. Roberts

Equip & Encourage International

April 16, 2008

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