A Cry For Justice

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

He is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him.

Does that title sound harsh and judgemental? Many Christians think it’s wrong to describe a person — for example, a man who abuses his wife — as such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him. But those words are a quote from the Bible.

We have become milksops when we can’t call a spade a spade.

Here is the passage:

Then David rose and went down to the wilderness of Paran. 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. David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep. So David sent ten young men. And David said to the young men, “Go up to Carmel, and go to Nabal and greet him in my name. And thus you shall greet him: ‘Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have. I hear that you have shearers. Now your shepherds have been with us, and we did them no harm, and they missed nothing all the time they were in Carmel. Ask your young men, and they will tell you. Therefore let my young men find favor in your eyes, for we come on a feast day. Please give whatever you have at hand to your servants and to your son David.’”

When David’s young men came, they said all this to Nabal in the name of David, and then they waited. And Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants these days who are breaking away from their masters. Shall I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers and give it to men who come from I do not know where?” So David’s young men turned away and came back and told him all this. And David said to his men, “Every man strap on his sword!” And every man of them strapped on his sword. David also strapped on his sword. And about four hundred men went up after David, while two hundred remained with the baggage.

But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to greet our master, and he railed at them. Yet the men were very good to us, and we suffered no harm, and we did not miss anything when we were in the fields, as long as we went with them. They were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep. Now therefore know this and consider what you should do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his house, and he is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him.”

Most people read this passage and never raise an eyebrow about how the young man describes Nabal to Abigail. The young man describes his master — the ruler of the household —accurately.

And Abigail also describes Nabal that way. When David is told how Nabal rejected his request for provisions, David vows to destroy every male in Nabal’s household. I wonder how much David’s impetuous vengefulness was the flip side of  how he had been restraining himself from taking vengeance on Saul? (the incident when Saul was relieving himself in the cave)  David had been incredibly honourable and long-suffering towards Saul, but maybe some of his frustration leaked out when Nabal insulted him.

When Abigail saw David, she hurried and got down from the donkey and fell before David on her face and bowed to the ground. She fell at his feet and said, “On me alone, my lord, be the guilt. Please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant.Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is heNabal [fool] is his name, and folly is with him.  . . . ”

And David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand! For as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has restrained me from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, truly by morning there had not been left to Nabal so much as one male.” Then David received from her hand what she had brought him. And he said to her, “Go up in peace to your house. See, I have obeyed your voice, and I have granted your petition.”

Notice how David praised Abigail’s discretion and obeyed her voice. He didn’t say “Go home, woman; wash your mouth out with soap and water and submit to your husband!”
By telling us David’s words here, God seems to be assuring us that Abigail described her husband accurately and was not dishonorable in her choice words. And Abigail actually took it one step further than the young man, by calling Nabal not only worthless but a fool. No wonder many preachers seem to skate over this passage; the majority of Christians seem to hold the view that  it’s not okay for a Christian woman to say this about her husband. Many folk are unwittingly prejudiced against victims of abuse; and there is a double standard about how women are allowed to speak, versus how men are allowed to speak.

If a victim of abuse describes her spouse as a worthless fool, she is likely to be rebuked, or it will be implied by subtle hedging, questioning and advice-giving that she is exaggerating. “It can’t be all that bad!”  “Aren’t you being a bit harsh?” “Maybe you’ve just picked the wrong times to talk to him.” “Maybe if you used a different tone of voice; chose your words more carefully, so he knows you really want to submit to his leadership.”

But in the  majority of cases of domestic abuse that we hear about — not just from the victims but from professionals who understand the mindset of abusers — the simple truth is, the abuser is such a worthless fool that one cannot speak to him.

No; let me rephrase that. The abuser is such a worthless fool that you cannot speak to him . . . unless you go along with his lies and distortions; then you can speak to him indefinitely, while he pulls the wool over your eyes and fogs up your perceptions. . . 

31 Comments

  1. Joe Pote

    Nice! Very true, and an excellent exegesis of this passage!

    Abigail’s behavior and speech are, indeed, praiseworthy.

    • Brenda R

      Abigail was real. I don’t understand the whole washing out her mouth with soap and water thing before submitting to Nabal. Submitting to that man???? Sounds like slavery to me.

      • Joe Pote

        Brenda R – I believe Barbara was pointing out that David did NOT tell Abigail to wash her mouth out and submit to her husband, but, RATHER, praised her for discretion and followed her advice.

      • Brenda R

        Thanks Joe, Missing a couple of words means a whole lot. “He didn’t say”. Sorry Barb. Having a day after a lack of sleep night.

  2. Cindy

    Amen

  3. Brenda R

    It is harsh, Barb, but also truth. Nabal may have had wealth, but still a miserable, abuser and worthless fool who would have let people die of hunger rather than be hospitable. A few days ago X called me worthless and not worth his time to be controlled and go to counseling. His time left was too short and would just move on rather than let me have any controll over him. Yet if I would have coffee with him and talk about it that would be fine. Said the spider to the fly. My daughter corrected that thought quickly by saying that he just wanted me in the pit with him. I am a beloved daughter of God. I could replace Nabal’s name with X and still be quite accurate although never having called him directly those names. I have said his behavior is: abusive, manipulative, intimidating, etc. I refrained from actually calling him those names directly. I’m probably splitting hairs here, but remember all of the times I was told that Christians do not call people names because that was not what Jesus would do. I am sitting here trying to dispute that theology. Oh yes, he said to Peter, “Get thee behind me Satan” I’m thinking that is about as harsh as it gets. We are to call sin what is is SIN.

    There is a double standard. I have seen the faces bend low when I have said even the littlest thing against the X while we were still together. They did not want to know and certainly you are not to speak ill of your husband, but always uplift him. What a crock. Was I to lie and say he is the most wonderful husband ever. I think not. It wasn’t even prejudice against the victim. They didn’t want to know there was a victim to be prejudice against.

    I have been blessed with others who are supportive. Praise God. I think the biggest insult of him is that I took my maiden name back this week. That hasn’t seemed to set well. Nabal really came out when he found out I was going through with it. I’m over it!!

  4. Mary

    I have heard preaches teach AGAINST Abigail for speaking against her husband. Thank you for bringing this to the proper light.

    • Brenda R

      I have never heard a preacher do this from the pulpit. I am thinking he wouldn’t see me in the pew the following Sunday.

  5. MeganC

    Love this!!

  6. psalm 37

    As a follow-up to yesterday’s “Gaslighters in the Bible” post (which was GREAT), today’s equally great post perfectly says what I whole-heartedly believe–people who condemn you for wanting out of an abusive relationship or who throw the “If you stay, you can change him.” nonsense at you DO NOT HAVE A KNOWLEDGE OF THE SCRIPTURES. My family and I are reading through I Kings right now, and there are plenty of Old Testament characters who were so wicked that God killed them directly or had their deaths come from some pretty creative means. There are dozens of wicked people of whom there is never a single redeeming quality mentioned about them. Why? Because they were worthless!

    My very religious brother and parents are quick to point out the adultery/”it’s wrong you got divorced” verses or my mother’s favorite cliché, “He (the abusive ex) will have to answer to God someday.” It amazes and annoys me there isn’t more outrage and disgust from my own family that they don’t overtly and verbally consider my ex worthless.

    My self-employed plumber ex doesn’t pay taxes (owes $90,000 to IRS), owes his first wife around $40,000 in alimony, owes me over $18,000 in child support, recently lied on an application for free health care claiming he only makes about $10,000 a year, and the list goes on. I guess his behavior makes him a WORTHLESS deadbeat. His contact name in my cell is Ananias.

    • Brenda R

      I don’t see how him being judged by God gets him off without consequence here. I really don’t understand your own family sitting in judgment of you. Your family should want to protect you. I am so sorry that is happening to you.

  7. fiftyandfree

    “…. you cannot speak to him….” So true. No matter what I said I was labeled as either lying, crazy, delusional, belligerent, or psychotic if I didn’t agree wholeheartedly with him. There was simply no reasoning with him. He was right. I was crazy. And I better agree, or else. Period.

    I remember when I used to feel condemned and guilty if I told the truth about him. It was the truth, but I was admonished to “not gossip” about him and to respect him, forgive him, and say nothing negative, ever. That kind of forced silence only perpetuates the abuse as it empowers the abuser.

  8. As I See It Only

    What a breath of fresh honest air! Surely the Spirit is moving here, bringing out truth that needs to be spoken out loud. If only this holiday season, fellow Christians would take I Cor 5:11-13 seriously (expel the wicked man from among you), imagine the healing, the restoration, the reconciliation that would be taking place this year!

  9. Thanks to all for your comments in this thread — very encouraging. I’m actually up early today (6.39 am here) and it’s nice to be part of the discussion before most of it is over. 🙂

  10. “He’s such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him.”

    Hey! I know that guy!

    • hahahhahaha – me too!! 🙂

    • Brenda R

      Bit. I think we all know that guy!!!

  11. Otter

    Thank you, Barbara, for this! If only we had more people in the church and in counseling who could clearly see and call out the “spades.” I’m so incredibly thankful that the last counselor I sought called out my “spade” just a week before the wedding. It shocks me now how the counselor before him (that my ex-fiance paid) could listen to my stories of his bizarre rages and not see obvious, disturbing abuse. I just pray that other abuse victims in my shoes will have someone stand up for what is right and good like my counselor did. Abuse is abuse. God is love, and I understand now that He never wills for someone to live with evil.

    • Brenda R

      Otter. If you feel the need to become engaged again. Go back to that counselor and get the union thoroughly looked at. You already know this person has got the feel for these things. I would go to mine in a heartbeat. My oldest daughter says she will be fine tooth combing the situation as well. Since I keep my self or surrounded by Godly women, it’s not likely to happen anyways. I was told yesterday by a woman that she wouldn’t be surprised if I came in and said that I had found someone very soon. I told her to bite her tongue.

  12. Laurie

    Right on in this post…and there comes a time in the life of the victim where you see it is pointless to even try to speak to the abuser because everything is so twisted. Like I heard in a movie once, “The man is so crooked he could eat nails and poop corkscrews!”

    • LOL! never heard that saying before. Gee whiz; it’s clever.

  13. As I See It Only

    Praying that more and more abuse victims and their ‘friends’ and ‘churches’ recover from the brain freeze the abuser employs so that they too can call a spade a spade!

    • Brenda R

      A BIG AMEN to that. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I am thankful for not being alone today after all. I am having Thanksgiving Dinner with my 79 year young friend who recently had brain surgery at Cracker Barrel. I am very thankful for all of you who prayed for me. I am thankful for the whole grain toast with rhubarb jam made by the Amish that I had for breakfast. I am most Thankful for the Heavenly Father who sent Jesus to by the supreme sacrifice for our sins and for salvation that only comes through Him. My list of Thankful for’s is going to be quite long today.

  14. Healing

    Been reading this post for awhile now and countering it with New Life Live and other Christian readings. While I see my ex-husband very much like Nabal and other Ex’s mentioned on this site, still grieving the loss of a relationship that wasn’t and couldn’t continue. That does not mean letting him reenter my life or have any control over me, but attempting to understand (which I never will) how someone can give away such precious things for the pursuit of filling his passports with stamps, his body with trash stamps, and money he chooses to spend on women, wine and God only knows what else.

    I have come to realize just how juvenile he is despite the bachelors in nuclear engineering, law degree, MBA, and masters in explosive engineering. All that he acquired except for his BS while I was raising our 2 children. And when he exhausted his educational pursuits, he had to move literally to the other side of the world for more adventures and thrills. And those thrills were in direct contradiction to our marriage vows; financially abandoning us for months, rooming with women on pleasure trips to “save money” and repeatedly missing Skype calls. Yet he still insisted I needed to move with the kids to be with him to “heal our marriage”. To a country where Shariah law rules and women can be deported leaving their children behind. I begged and pleaded he get counseling, go to a men’s weekend to work on his Porn addiction, and be accountable to me financially and in other ways. Despite 25 years of marriage and always keeping finances together in the states, somehow the moment he left the country he chose to keep our money separate. Leaving me with debt, mortgage and 2 children to raise. He chose a “trip of a lifetime to India” instead of going on the counseling weekend to deal with Porn. While he never did share his finances with me, the short time he shared his email and facebook passwords only revealed his flirtatious ways with women and lack of respect for me.

    After all this and a lot of support, I finally divorced. Yet, in classic gas lighting fashion, I am the one who abandoned him. I don’t know if it was my naivety, or his intellect that masked his obvious craziness for me, it took a long long time to realize what was really happening. I had one counselor couple who told us my sharing our marriage difficulties with my sister and best friend were sinful to level the playing field with his infidelity. But, without them I don’t think I would have ever seen the truth.

    Now that I am out of the daily crazy making, I am slowly healing, although still hurting. Saturday we will be divorced a year, and while I have gotten my act together financially and the kids are flourishing while continuing counseling, I still feel very emotionally damaged. Praying that I can continue to heal. Thanks for this site in helping me continue to face the truth!

    • Hi Healing.

      I had one counselor couple who told us my sharing our marriage difficulties with my sister and best friend were sinful to level the playing field with his infidelity.

      Oh yeah. I can see how those are morally equivalent. Not. Camel, meet gnat.

      Except that’s not even a gnat as it’s perfectly legitimate to share your burdens with others.

    • Healing, it sounds to me like you are making really good progress. Only a year post separation and you have a lot on track in the right direction already! See the glass half full rather than half empty if you can. And don’t be hard on yourself for the fact that you are grieving and still feel emotionally battered. That is natural, normal, and healthy. Because it’s real. Grief and emotional damage are par for the course in this stuff, and it usually doesn’t heal quickly — but you are dealing with it well, by the sounds of it. Remember that you have probably been focused largely on managing your kids and your finances and all the practical stuff post separation, which means that your emotions took a back seat to the practical stuff. My experience was that when I’d sorted the practical stuff out, there was room in my head to deal with the emotional stuff that I’d been unable to face when running the gauntlet. And it hurt, facing it, feeling it, but I got through.
      Tears and other heavy-duty emotions are part of recovery. Bless you, and Hugs.

  15. One of our readers submitted a comment to this thread but let us know she’d had second thoughts about it. Personally I thought the comment was worth printing, so I’m pasting it (disidentified) here so that readers can see it anyway, and the author is protected. Some of you may identify with it, and I don’t think it is going to be harsh or triggering to anyone. We all understand how each of us is at different places with how we talk about our abusers. And that’s okay. 🙂
    The comment was:

    “I have a really hard time with this. Not because it isn’t true. It’s in the Bible. It’s there for an example, but I cannot follow it today. I can’t call X names. Perhaps I’m a milksop (whatever that is). But that’s where I am today. I think that I might feel that calling him anything other than X lowers me to his level. I still feel that he’s blinded to sin, that he’s all bound up in his pride and deceit. He’s rejected God’s rescue plan. I know that. So I also know I’m not physically or emotionally safe around him, but I can’t despise him.

    “This comment isn’t meant to be argumentative or even condemning for folks who can so easily identify with this post. It’s meant to tell the fellow milksops that it’s ok to be here sopping the milk for a while. I’m not angry with X. I don’t hate him. I don’t think I have to be angry or hate-filled (and I’m not at all accusing anyone of being hate-filled). I can recognise who he is and stay away and that is enough.”

    • Brenda R

      There is nothing at all wrong with being just as you are. You have a good heart. You are still calling sin, sin without name calling. You don’t have to call names in order to recognize truth. You are keeping yourself safe by staying away. By what you’ve said you are in a good place. You shouldn’t feel like any comment you have is wrong or should not be shared. You need to do what is right for you.

  16. Remedy

    Thank you for this post. Fifteen yrs ago, after 11 yrs of attempting to deal with, reason with, be in real relationship with my ‘professing’ Christian spouse….I realized I must learn to ‘keep my mouth shut’ in order to keep peace and the marriage together and purchased beads with the letters KMMS on a bracelet worn round my wrist 24 hrs a day to train me. This was the only way to have ‘peace.’ There were times, however, when something HAD to be said or dealt with. Because he cannot be reasoned with, I had to make some decisions on my own…..and paid a terrible price in punishment for not being obedient to him.

    Two years ago, I finally went to church leadership and received over time the worthless help from pastors I now understand are completely naïve about the true heart/nature of abusers and how to counsel these cases. Those two years have caused further and possibly irreparable harm to the ‘marriage’, but have given me also incredible insight to the insidious depths of the troubles that have plagued us for 25 years. This was the 4th round of counselors….all Christian.

    I still wear my beads for the situations I now realize are better for me to ‘keep my mouth shut’ because of the depth of ignorance I try to see now, but I have also applied a different reminder set of words to my KMMS….’Keep My Mind Sane’…..and remind myself of whichever one is needed in each particular circumstance.

    Many ‘Nabals’ alive and functioning in our churches attached to Christian wives.

    • KMMS Keep My Mind Sane — yes indeed!

      Sometimes we keep our minds sane by keeping our mouths judiciously shut, but thinking sane thoughts in private inside our heads. And sometimes we keep our minds sane by opening our mouths and speaking the truth, holding our heads high, and our making our skins *thick* temporarily, to deflect the arrows that the abusers and their foolish allies will no doubt send in our direction.

      bless you, Remedy. Your little story here is — wait for it, CCEF and all wanna be Biblical Counselors! —- a story of redemption! ….. and renewing of the mind.

      • fiftyandfree

        Remedy, I understand completely. Similar to your KMMS bracelet, I wrote up a “survival plan” for myself to help endure the abuser until I could hopefully be free one day. I still remember it vividly. Two of my survival tactics were: 1. As him for nothing, ever! 2. Complain about nothing, ever! It never turned out well for me to ask him for anything nor to complain about anything he ever did or said. I was always crazy, needy, psycho, dysfunctional, or unstable if I needed anything from him. I learned to say nothing and only hope that one day I could be free.

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