A couple of years ago, God led me to this passage in quite an amazing way – he focussed my attention on it in a way I’d never expected. I was reading through 1 Samuel in my daily devotional time, and I’d been getting more and more frustrated with the commentary I was using – I just found I wasn’t benefiting from it at all! One day it got to the point where I had a spare few minutes and I just decided to read that morning’s passage from the Bible, to see if I could do any better than the commentary. The passage I read then was 1 Samuel 25 – the story of David, Abigail and Nabal.
The story begins:
A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel. His name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband was surly and mean in his dealings – he was a Calebite.
So, we have Nabal, a wealthy man but “surly and mean” – not good husband material! And we have Abigail who is “intelligent and beautiful”. I won’t go through the whole story (although it’s worth reading), but briefly: David’s men come to Nabal and ask to stay there. (David and his men had previously been good to Nabal). Nabal is true to character and says no to these men. They go back and say to David what he has said – and David orders them to get ready for battle, intending to kill Nabal and his men.
Abigail – again, true to her character – goes directly to David, apologises on behalf of Nabal and intercedes for him. David listens to Abigail and relents. The story ends with Nabal dying and David marrying Abigail.
What do we make of this rather strange episode? What I found interesting about this at the time – and still do today – is how it relates to our situation today.
I’ve written elsewhere about the problem we face as a society – that relationships between men and women are breaking down. Now obviously this affects both men and women. However, I think women suffer from this trend disproportionately. Consider the following:
- If a relationship breaks down, who is almost always left with any children? The mother (according to this page, 90% of single parents are mothers).
- Mark Regnerus’ book Cheap Sex (link in the resources section) highlights the fact that many women would actually prefer to be married, but find it hard to ask due to the way things are at the moment. Cohabiting is actually bad for women (even The Guardian sees this! as well as more conservative publications) – cohabiting favours the partner who is least committed, which tends to be the man.
- As we saw in the #MeToo movement – sexual harassment and abuse are now commonplace – and this is almost entirely in the male -> female direction.
This is the society we live in, and women in particular are suffering.
That’s why I think this passage is good news. Abigail, the woman who is “beautiful and intelligent”, lives with Nabal – an oppressive husband, “surly and mean”. How things have changed in 3,000 years! But here’s the thing: does God care about her? Yes, he does. In fact, she comes to David – God’s anointed King – and he takes her for his own bride.
If you read your Bible carefully, you will know that Jesus is the King who comes “from the line of David” – this is made clear in several places, not least the genealogies in the gospels (e.g. Luke 3:31 includes David as an ancestor of Jesus). Jesus is the King, the Messiah, the chosen one – who is greater than David.
I think what we have in this story is a microcosm of what God is doing now: God listens and he cares about the plight of these women. He has listened, and will send his anointed king to take them for his own – to be part of the bride of Christ, the church. This story shows that God cares about women suffering – but this story also shows the solution: Jesus Christ. In Christ we have a solution to the problems highlighted by #MeToo – a solution which will affect both men and women.
That’s what this website is about: there are problems, deep problems, in our society – but Jesus Christ is the answer. Look to him.