Beauty Without Virtue

Dear Abigail,

If you lived today, we would call you a diva.

“Who or what is a diva?” I imagine you wondering. Well in popular culture a diva is a female version of a hustler , a woman who will do anything to get what she wants; and a considerable swathe of public opinion seems to put you in that category. Now I know that reads a tad perjorative, but it isn’t necessarily bad – depending on the context.

Considering you lived at a time when women were given away and even traded, you used the resources at your disposal to forge your own path. You didn’t allow your husband define you. Neither did you allow his decisions negatively affect you or your home. You maintained your independence in your decision making and showed women the world over that being a wife doesn’t equate to being docile.

As Scripture records and as many teach, you were a woman of great beauty and even greater intelligence. With the misfortune of being married to a man described as a fool. We can’t have it all, can we? [1]1 Samuel 25:3 When your husband, Nabal, chose not to return the favour extended to him by David and his servants, you took matters into your own hands. You gathered food and resources enough to appease David and his troop of vagabonds, and you were able to avert the certain bloodshed that was coming.

Nabal acted to protect you and all he had from a jealous, murderous king.

You were able to act differently from your husband, not just because your servant told you that David and his servants had been good to them, but because as Scripture records, you were wise. You discerned that David would become king one day and it would be wise to get in his good books. Your husband on the other hand, lacked discernment and therefore gravitated towards pleasing King Saul.

You could consider being called a diva within that context a compliment.

Looked at from another angle, being called a diva might begin to assume a different sort of appeal.

King Saul had only recently demonstrated how bloodthirsty he could be when it came to David. Like a mad man he killed Ahimelech the priest and his family for hosting David, and then for good measure he slaughtered the entire city of priests that they lived in – all because they foolishly helped David. [2]1 Samuel 22:7-19 The message King Saul sent throughout the land was simple – help David and you will be destroyed, you and all you know and love. Nabal, being a pragmatic family man of means, heard and understood the message loud and clear. In resisting David, poor Nabal acted to protect you and all he had from a jealous, murderous king.

So Abigail, if I strip the story as recorded of the added commentary by you and your servants on Nabal’s extreme folly and churlish behaviour, we have a man who chose a side based on his desire not to offend constituted authority and to preserve life and property as best as he knew how. Simple logic to the layman.

You were married to that man. He was pragmatic, you were discerning. You knew his flaws and his weaknesses and you were his partner in this journey of life.

This is where I began to ask questions.

You see from my reading of Scripture and my understanding of the purpose of marriage, it is the coming together of two people to help, support and build each other. Where one is weak, the other is strong and when one falls the other lifts them up. [3]Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Was there no other way to deliver a gift and obtain favour without tearing apart your own flesh?

Reading your story, I came to realise that I couldn’t see a woman acting like one in a marriage. It’s understandable that you couldn’t speak to your husband to influence his decision, or make him change his mind. But when you got to David, you put your husband down. In fact, you tore him up in order to massage David’s ego. Your response to your husband’s folly was not apologetic. It was derisory.

Again, I understand the argument that you did what you had to do in order to pacify David and make him see sense, but could you not have done it without mocking your husband? Was there no other way to deliver a gift and obtain what you wanted without tearing apart your own flesh?

You could simply have gone to David with all the items you had brought to pacify his rage and apologized. But you seemed to have an agenda of your own. Why, if I wasn’t being careful, I would’ve sworn you had an interest in David. “Remember thine handmaid?” Why? Or, why not “Remember my family or remember this gift”? After all you came on behalf of yourself, your husband and your entire household. Or didn’t you?

Do you see where I am going with this?

Perhaps you felt you had gotten the shorter end of the stick when you married Nabal. Perhaps you felt that although your husband was wealthy, you had married beneath you. So when an opportunity closer to what you felt you deserved presented itself in the form of the virile and powerful David, you grabbed it with both hands and feet. After all, you had discerned that he would be the future king and which woman wouldn’t want to become a queen? And because of that you put your personal agenda ahead of your home and the man who loved you.

When God made Eve for Adam, he made her as his help mate – someone to assist him in carrying out his duties in tending God’s garden. [4]Genesis 2:20-25 They were put together and were designed to cleave to each other and become one flesh. Such that when the palaver about the fruit of the forbidden tree occurred, they went down  together. [5]Genesis 3:16-19 And in Ecclesiastes it is rightly said that two are better than one, because when they fall, one will lift the other up. [6]Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Unfortunately, you didn’t see this as your role to play in your marriage. For you, the problem created by your husband’s decision meant escape alone and not resolve together. Diva.

Another biblical example of a marriage is the one between God and Israel. It was also far from perfect. We see God as an unwavering partner in this relationship who chooses not to give up on the love of his life. Irrespective of how adulterous they had been. I use the word adulterous intentionally because with Israel it was used to describe their unfaithfulness to Yahweh and the covenant they had with him.

Two are better than one, because when they fall, one will lift the other up.

Marriage is a covenant relationship, where there is a promise to love, honour and be faithful to each other. It’s not until one person in the marriage sleeps with another that adultery arises. It starts when honouring the terms of your relationship is no longer important. And with you, honouring your marriage was not a factor you took into consideration when you offered yourself, in the future of course, to David. You were adulterous when you sought greener pastures and decided to trust in your wisdom and cunning to prepare a place for yourself in David’s future harem. Diva.

So Abigail, although you had admirable qualities, you were calculating, unfaithful and disloyal to a man who loved you more than you loved him. That’s really where Nabal’s folly lay, for he didn’t know the kind of woman he married. Perhaps you could have been more like a wife and loved your husband, standing by him no matter what and helping him become a better, wiser person.

I must ask. Was it all worth it? You got the man you wanted and the position you schemed towards. But you also got an unfaithful husband, an unstable life as his queen and you lost the influence and control you enjoyed when married to Nabal. Once you became David’s wife not much was written in scripture about you. You had a son for David but he too led an uneventful life. He was merely listed as a son of David [7]2 Samuel 3:3 and was no contender for the throne of Israel, even after the death of his older brother. It would seem that the glittery future you saw for yourself as queen didn’t quite live up to its expectations.

When the writer of the book of Proverbs spoke of the virtuous woman [8]Proverbs 31:10-31, she was described as one who glorified her husband and made her children proud. This was not dependent on the character of the husband or children. It was not dependent on what resources she had to be virtuous. It all came out of her – kindness, industry, strength, honour, respect, wisdom and the fear of the Lord. Yes, you were a beautiful woman with great understanding. But that’s where it ended – beauty without virtue.



1 1 Samuel 25:3
2 1 Samuel 22:7-19
3, 6 Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
4 Genesis 2:20-25
5 Genesis 3:16-19
7 2 Samuel 3:3
8 Proverbs 31:10-31

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