A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Thinking of Abigail

I am thinking about Abigail. How often have abused women been instructed to look at Abigail and to rely on God to kill her terrible husband. Surely some have even questioned our faith, our devotion, our veracity when we tell others what goes on behind closed doors and for some reason God hasn’t seen fit to turn the abusers to a stone following a great feast and so on. Is that all there is to hope for? That he dies? Of course not. He could change if we would just get about the business of winning him without a word more effectively. Surely this is more evidence of our failures…

But that’s not what this post is really about. I am thinking about how the story is introduced in 1 Samuel 25:2-3 (ESV)

And there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel. The man was very rich; he had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. He was shearing his sheep in Carmel. Now the name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail. The woman was discerning and beautiful, but the man was harsh and badly behaved; he was a Calebite…

So Abigail was the very respected wife of a super rich guy. He was super mean and super rich. At the end of the story (vv. 36-42) we see

And Abigail came to Nabal, and behold, he was holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. And Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk. So she told him nothing at all until the morning light.  In the morning, when the wine had gone out of Nabal, his wife told him these things, and his heart died within him, and he became as a stone.  And about ten days later the Lord struck Nabal, and he died.

When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Blessed be the Lord who has avenged the insult I received at the hand of Nabal, and has kept back his servant from wrongdoing. The Lord has returned the evil of Nabal on his own head.” Then David sent and spoke to Abigail, to take her as his wife. When the servants of David came to Abigail at Carmel, they said to her, “David has sent us to you to take you to him as his wife.” And she rose and bowed with her face to the ground and said, “Behold, your handmaid is a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.” And Abigail hurried and rose and mounted a donkey, and her five young women attended her. She followed the messengers of David and became his wife.

Oh yay! This is a Cinderella story right? Abigail is rescued and goes off to live with King David. Right? But wait he’s not King yet. He’s on the run from the evil King who wants to kill him. And he’s the leader of a merry band of men described as

. . . everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men . . . (1 Samuel 22:2)

So she went from being married to the richest mean guy in town and, I assume, the lifestyle of Mrs. Richest Guy in Town, to being married to Israel’s Most Wanted and, I assume, the lifestyle of Mrs. Israel’s Most Wanted. I don’t know about Abigail, but in my experience, going from living in the same zip code of very powerful people to living in the zip code of the people who mow their lawns, this life is better. My pastor reminded me that I couldn’t afford my old lifestyle. The cost to my dignity, the cost to my sanity, was too high. I agree.

26 Comments

  1. I love this!!!

  2. Brenda R

    I wanted to be like Abigail and read her story over and over again. I wanted to have her strength, endurance, wisdom and the ability to stick with her husband no matter how mean he was. She managed to find ways around Nabal’s stupidity. Is that truly respect though. What she did saved lives, but she called her husband a fool when speaking to David. Not that he wasn’t, but she was in a chess match in order for his foolishness not to crash down on everyone in the house. I have to wonder how long she was married to this vile man.

    It comes down to, I’m not Abigail and God doesn’t always make the problem go away. Sometimes he takes us away from the problem.

    With God’s help and that of a good counselor, I found strength in the weeks, months, years before leaving my husband, but was still afraid I couldn’t do it on my own and there was no David waiting for me. After a 2 day rant of being falsely accused of many things I calmly said to myself: enough. No matter where I had to live it wasn’t good enough to live in a house just because my name was on the deed. It was never really mine even though I worked and helped pay for it. It was a roof over my head and nothing more. It was not a home. Everything else was under his control.

    I didn’t live in the worst zip code or the best, but God has supplied all of my needs. I am wanting for nothing. The things I left behind I don’t even miss like I thought I would. Praise God for his mercy and grace .

  3. Jeff Crippen

    Ellie – The cost IS too high. Of course we realize that “just leaving” an abuser isn’t all that simple. It isn’t “just,” – it is “just, and this, and then that…”. But as far as the costs to us personally, staying in abuse has far too high of a price tag. Over the years as a pastor, I have had to deal with many abusers. I didn’t know that’s what they were called for most of those years, and I didn’t know fully what damage they were doing to me and others. But I did know that when it comes to protecting the flock, the shepherd has to sometimes tell wolves to “go!” That has a cost, believe me. But the cost of continuing under the domination and abuse is much higher. And what a huge difference it makes when we know that there are others willing to stand with us, validate us, and say “don’t worry, we’ve got your back.”

  4. annette621

    Wow! I’ve read this so many times, I’ve had one of my friends who left her abuser husband he beat her up all the time. She would say “I feel like Abigail ” .thanks for your thoughts.

  5. Barnabasintraining

    So she went from being married to the richest mean guy in town and, I assume, the lifestyle of Mrs. Richest Guy in Town, to being married to Israel’s Most Wanted and, I assume, the lifestyle of Mrs. Israel’s Most Wanted. I don’t know about Abigail, but in my experience, going from living in the same zip code of very powerful people to living in the zip code of the people who mow their lawns, this life is better. My pastor reminded me that I couldn’t afford my old lifestyle. The cost to my dignity, the cost to my sanity, was too high. I agree.

    I never thought about it like this! Very cool.

  6. I find Abigail’s outcome ironic too, but for slightly different reasons. Through her wisdom God freed her from her evil husband Nabal, and David claimed her to be his own wife. This may have been more of a reward for her loyalty than a declaration of true love. The real blessing for Abigail in this deal was that David was God’s anointed, which is an enormous blessing. But David, while being a foreshadowing of the Messiah Jesus (yet to be born) because of his anointing from Samuel, was not the ideal human husband. Abigail was part of a harem! It was early days, but being wife number 2 or 3 of a whole hoard of future wives leaves little room for a “one man-one woman” creation-designed relationship. Remember that Bathsheba is still out there in the future (after David murders her husband Uriah) and she is by no means the end of the line. David’s first wife Micah became bitter against him, likely because she was used like an expendable pawn by her dad King Saul, who married her to another guy out of spite against David. After she was restored to her first husband David, Micah wrongly transferred her anger to David and ultimately she hated God. The most important thing in marriage is the relationship. Marriage is one man and one woman united and held together through faithfulness and love by God. Abigail’s outcome is that she becomes part of a Biblical proverb about how even kings should not have multiple wives. One thing we must realize as wives of abusive husbands is that God did not promise anyone Heaven now. In fact, Jesus promised all of his disciples that we would suffer in this life. The reason we are able to leave our Nabals is because Jesus provided a way out. Suffering for Jesus is not the same thing as being abused and pretending everything is alright for Jesus.

    • Forrest

      “Suffering for Jesus is not the same thing as being abused and pretending everything is alright for Jesus.”

      That is it exactly! Abusers are not abusing you because of your faith. They are abusing you because that is what they do.

      • Barnabasintraining

        What I can’t figure out is the switcheroo they do with this. First, marriage is supposed to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and His bride. OK. All well and good so long as it actually looks like that, like it’s supposed to. But then enter abuse, which is NOTHING like that, and now, without warning the picture suddenly changes to enduring persecution and suffering doled out by the world to the church, for Christ’s sake within the context of the Christ and His bride picture.

        O_o

        Wazupwitdat?

      • Anonymous

        BIT – I think the reason/excuse they use, is that the Bride of Christ faces persecution here on earth, sometimes severe persecution. BUT, it is never from Christ that the Church suffers such persecution, and this is where they have their theory wrong. In an abusive marriage, the bride/Church, suffers at the hands of the groom/Christ, and if they want to do the comparison of Christ/Husband and Bride/Wife, then they must remain consistent in the face of dealing with the aspect of the persecution area as well, and it just won’t hold up, bibically speaking. Just my thoughts.

      • Brenda R

        Your thought makes total sense.

      • Barnabasintraining

        In an abusive marriage, the bride/Church, suffers at the hands of the groom/Christ, and if they want to do the comparison of Christ/Husband and Bride/Wife, then they must remain consistent in the face of dealing with the aspect of the persecution area as well, and it just won’t hold up, bibically speaking.

        Anonymous, that is exactly the point, and very well stated too.

      • Brenda R

        I love your quote. “Suffering for Jesus is not the same thing as being abused and pretending everything is alright for Jesus.” That is a powerful truth. I am going to make a bookmark with those words and keep it in whatever I am reading to remind me. Thank you.

    • It is always a good idea not to elevate OT people as examples to emulate. I weary of hearing David used as an example for men from the pulpit. It was a totally different situation with a different covenant. I have always had a lot of sympathy for Micah and Leah. Abigail was prudent and saved lives. So did Rahab, Deborah and Jael. It is not like these women all had choices and freedom.

      • Brenda R

        I’m not sure how Abigail was being rewarded by marrying David. He had many other wives and seemed to be more in slavery than the roll of wife. I know that David followed the Lord with all his heart, but as a husband…not so great.

      • Ellie

        My point is that even though her life still wasn’t perfect, it was better than living with Nabol.

        And I think she was rewarded. She is recorded in Scripture and praised for her wisdom and beauty. That is a great reward.

      • Brenda R

        Agreed.

      • Katy

        Brenda – I’ve had the very same thoughts. He may have been a “man after God’s own heart” but he wasn’t any woman’s fantasy of a great husband. Just the opposite in fact. that’s always stuck in my craw. 😦

  7. BTW: We cannot forget that God was angry the Israelites begged for a king like the pagans had. He was their king.

  8. lydiasellerofpurple

    “I know that David followed the Lord with all his heart, but as a husband…not so great.”.

    the end of his life….not so great, either. Creepy.

    Again, God worked through and around people. We do a disservice to elevate them as those to emulate. We have Jesus Christ for that

  9. it is sad that the story of Abigail would be used as a tool by anyone in the church to keep women in abusive relationships. We have no idea how Abigail got entangled with Nabal, how long she was subjected to him or how much his abuse was directed toward her. God did provide her a way out and He does do the same for us. What this story tells us, though, is that God honors independent thought and action when the goal is righteousness. No way should any woman see Abigail’s example of how to persevere but how to act.

    • Thanks for your comment, Meggie. Welcome to the blog 🙂

    • What this story tells us, though, is that God honors independent thought and action when the goal is righteousness. No way should any woman see Abigail’s example of how to persevere but how to act.

      This is a great point, Meggie!

  10. Innoscent

    Well written Ellie! Thanks. And there are many gems in the posts 🙂 I’m thankful to Barbara who guided me to the discussions about Abigail, such a godly woman!

    There IS a killing that needs to happen with abusers, which the apostle Paul talks about: Mr Old Man (Rom 6.6; Eph 4.22-25) or in modern language Mr Hyde. But they won’t consent to that and instead they turn on to their wives to commit slow murder… argh!
    Well I’d rather be on the run with David than one hour with a Nabal. She rescued David and he rescued her. Good deal!
    I shudder at the thought of what would have happened if David had raided the house of Nabal. He would have done no better than king Saul (avenging himself and for the wrong reason) and that would have been it of his kingship. 😮

  11. Finding Answers

    While I understand Abigail’s story on an intellectual, contextual level, understand the points made in the comments….

    I have a tough time making the heart connection, feeling the story becomes another move of a pawn on the chessboard.

    I wonder if it’s because my abusive anti-x was the one who started the divorce process? I had reached a stage where – on a non-physical level – I no longer had it in me to work. I could barely manage to keep up with everything else. While I knew I needed to divorce, I also believed I needed to be able to support myself. I did not recognise the relationship as abusive, as there was no area of / relationship in my life that was not abusive. I would not have known there were resources for people such as I.

    I cannot claim to be an Abigail. Perhaps the only claim I can make is taking a route through the legal system that was unexpected by my anti-x and his lawyer. As a result, I ended up with more than my anti-x intended and much, much faster than he planned. (I am airbrushing the details, as they could be too identifying.)

    My only comfort / blessing is not having to share living quarters. Unfortunately, I am back to no longer having it in me to work. I am desperately trying to regain my equilibrium, to pay my way and earn my keep. I like to work and have never done the same thing twice.

    I am not Abigail…

    • What you said here, Finding Answers, illustrates how each victim’s experience is unique in some ways. So while we can identify with each other where there are areas of similarity, we always need to be mindful that ‘my’ experience is not going to be identical to another victim’s experience. Hence, I can never tell another victim-survivor what to do.

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  1. Abigail | Confessions of a Christian Feminist

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