1 Samuel 25:3b: “…she was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance.”
All of my husband Nabal’s friends and business associates praise my intelligence. This is, of course, after I catch them looking at me with those hungry carnivorial eyes. Men. They’re so simple to figure out, yet so hard to understand.
Nabal, by some strange miracle, or more likely, by some total accident, is a man of substance and importance here in Carmel. Years ago, when I was insecure and stupid, I married him. More than once I have increased our wealth, or prevented it from shrinking significantly, by quietly circumventing Nabal’s crass arrogance. That man is all sharp angles. People need some curves.
Nabal is a hard man. Life has completely removed any traces of grace, human kindness or dignity from him. My “dizzying intellect” (his words) completely fails me when I try to figure out what it was I ever saw in that loud bulging vulgar man. Society views my position as his wife as a prominent one which commands respect. I view it as an embarrassment. God punishes my youthful gutless stupidity through Nabal’s vile mouth, his cruel laugh, and his hard hand.
The problem with wisdom is that it never visits the young; wisdom is born of pain, and it is sired by experience.
Some of David’s men have “requested” (men are so transparent) protection and provisions in return for the fact that they have protected us: they didn’t wipe out our shepherds and flocks. Life is cheap out here in Carmel, and courtesy is as rare as Ethiopian ivory. Nabal, ever the idiot, only said, “Who da hell is dis guy David? I ain’t feeding and protecting every upstart that Saul pissed off.” As our servant relays this turn of events to me, along with the fact that, to his credit, David hadn’t wiped them out already on general principle, and they, in fact, had treated our men well (this David has a reputation as a man of Yahweh), I can easily read the servant’s pleading eyes: “Fix this mess, Abigail, or we’re all dead. Your husband is such an ass; there’s just no dealing with him.”
Nabal is clueless. He could care less that he’s just carelessly made an enemy of the next King of Israel. If I don’t do something, his innocent men and my servants will no doubt be killed, and I’ll not only be married to a churlish fool, I’ll be married to a recently impoverished, and possibly dead, churlish fool. And the new King of Israel will have fresh blood on his hands.
I immediately gathered bread and wine, had five sheep killed and dressed, and threw in a fair amount of parched corn and some fruit, told my servants to take the peace offering to David and his men, and I would follow directly. I took charge of preparing myself: this thick hair, these eyes, this skin, and my wits are the only offensive weapons I can wield. To save my family, to atone for Nabal’s disrespect, I must be perfect. I must wield skillfully.
I chose the donkey: my stallion is too grand. Humble posture is best when approaching a future king your husband has insulted.
I’m taken aback by his eyes: they shine with intelligence and something else…music? He speaks to me, and confirms it-yes, there is music in those deep eyes. This man has the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen.
His confident posture and clear speech confirm what my servant told me. I am mortified and incensed by my husband’s idiocy. I dismount, fall on my face before the future king and think. There is only one option: take the blame, and pray the music in those eyes is a compassionate song.
“Upon me, my Lord, upon me let this iniquity be: and let thine handmaid, I pray thee speak in thine audience…”
His eyes display a curious kindness; I continue. I tell him the truth: my husband is…well, beneath him. He is not worth regarding because he’s well, he is Nabal (foolish). I apologize for not seeing to his men myself, and for not immediately attending to their needs. I thank him for his mercy, ask for his forgiveness.
I tell him what I know of boorish men: they will seek to harm him, and Yahweh will judge them. I warn him: my husband is arrogant and cruel And I tell him what I know of Yahweh: He protects His annointed. I tell him I don’t believe God will judge him for protecting himself against Nabal, but that God will handle the situation better, and he should accept my gifts and keep his hands clean: he is to become Isreal’s king. I cannot allow Nabal’s mouth to put a stain on the good character of this man, and I can’t let my servants bear the weight of Nabal’s disrespect. I lift my head. And, God help me, I look straight into those musical eyes, and I ask the future king to remember me, and the startled look in his eyes tells me he takes my meaning clearly.
He’s either going to kill me right here in this dirt, or accept my gift and let us live. An eternity passes as his intelligent eyes blink. He speaks: “Blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with my own hand.”
He continues. He tells me his intention was to kill Nabal and all who rode with him that “pisseth against the wall.” My God…Nabal almost started a war with thoughtlessness.
I return home, barely able to breathe. Stunned, I see Nabal’s throwing a party: he thinks he’s scared off the new king. I say nothing. He’s worse when he’s drunk.
When I tell him I took an offering of peace to David, his heart stopped. He dies ten days later, never leaving the bed. I’m terrified: have I killed my fool? Did God? How will God judge me?
David did remember me…and I am now his wife. Sometimes, when we are alone, and he has his lyre, we are happy: his eyes dance, he shares his psalms with me, and together we sing to Yahweh, the Rock that is our strength.
But, these times are rare: his eyes rarely dance (they must constantly plot wars), and he’s never satisfied. But love is about giving, and because I love him, I give him all I have to give. He rarely sleeps, and when he does, it’s fitful. I lie awake, watching him as he stirs. There are two other wives, and I am certain there are other women as well. It seems God’s justice comes with the terrible growth of wisdom: man’s need for beauty is difficult to satisfy, and that which becomes familiar can rarely remain intriguing for long.
Men. They are so simple to figure out, and so hard to understand.