On Abigail and Submission: The Much Greater Significance of Her Story–Gender Notwithstanding

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

It is no secret on my blog or among the people with whom I fellowship that when the topic of biblical heroes comes up, mine is Abigail, of 1 Samuel 25 fame. I have written about her specifically here and in other contexts in my devotionals and commentaries as well.

Once in a while, I check out the latest teachings on this courageous woman of God although they are usually debates about her submission (or lack thereof) to her husband. Even though by defying him and going behind his back she saved his life. Even though she saved David’s throne. Even though she saved the lives of the male servants of her household–and secured the survival of their wives and children–there are still those hung up on whether or not she submitted or not, correctly or imperfectly, while her foolish, alcoholic husband Nabal by his bad attitude nearly caused the destruction of his household and while David, foolish in his own right, put himself and the kingdom at risk in another way. 

So really?

We have to worry about Abigail’s submission as a primary focus?

Just now I found another teacher obsessed over Abigail’s (lack of ) submission to Nabal and realized here was another opportunity to change the channel to perhaps another, Scripture-supported, way to view how God used Abigail. See what you think (if you dare).

ABIGAIL: A TYPE OF CHRIST, JOHN THE BAPTIST, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT

In my view, so many teachers and preachers miss what is perhaps a much bigger point in the story of Abigail. As the believer in that household, Abigail had a position of spiritual authority. And had she not acted on it, several things would have occurred:

1. David would have committed a grievous sin, a “stain” on his then and future position in God’s plan, one that Satan would have exploited;

2. Her husband (the guilty) and all of the household male servants (the innocent) would have died leaving her and the wives and children of her household in great distress;

3. Her husband would not have had ten days after he was informed of her actions to do what he had to do to get right with God. We don’t know his ultimate spiritual position, as it is not covered in the text, but God allowed him those ten days. One is reminded here of the “ten days of awe” or “repentance” after Rosh Hashanah…

Instead of the usual haggling over Abigail because of her gender and cultural position, can you see her as a type of John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit by alerting David of his sin condition, offering a way of salvation (in her context, illustrating it), and revealing God’s heart on the matter–including the consequences of disobedience?

Back in the flesh, as it were, even though Abigail possessed female body parts, she rose above the flesh to accomplish in the spirit what God ordained through her, her culturally mandated obligations to her foolish husband Nabal notwithstanding.

If we keep focusing on the flesh aspect of this (imposing rigid gender roles as if still under the law), we miss the spiritual, and as Scripture both denotes and connotes time after time after time in both Old and New Testaments, “the spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.

Abigail knew her true position as a believer, and she knew Who she ultimately had to submit to: God.

I strongly suspect that even if she had a respectful and loving husband, Abigail would have kept her eyes and her heart on her true Provider. This is pure conjecture, but her name means “father’s joy,” so chances are she gleaned the nature of a loving Heavenly Father from her biological father who perhaps “rejoiced” over her, tending her with love as she grew.

Then again, there is nothing like a little refining in the furnace of an abusive relationship such as with a man like Nabal, whose name literally means “fool,” to clarify God’s Word and His ways…

ABIGAIL AS A TYPE OF US, TOO

Would that more women really comprehended the much greater, in my view, significance of Abigail’s story to their–and their family’s–benefit.

Would that more men and teachers and preachers really comprehended this, to their own benefit.

And certainly, in these days when it behooves every believer to recognize our authority as the (collective) Body of Christ in a world getting darker by the minute, we need to comprehend this–and each take our rightful stand in the battle which is really, as Scripture also reminds us, not one of “flesh and blood,” but of “principalities and powers” over which Jesus gave us authority, gender–and age, tribe, and tongue–notwithstanding…

So once more for the journey, “THANK YOU, ABIGAIL!” for your clear and godly guidance–for us all.

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2 Responses to On Abigail and Submission: The Much Greater Significance of Her Story–Gender Notwithstanding

  1. pnissila says:

    Carl: thanks for the tip re: ads revealing, as it were, scantily class babes! I should write up a disclaimer, eh?

    Yes to what you said.

    One more thing occurs to me, too, re: the ten days (to repent?) that Nabal had left, albeit somewhat limited in his condition. Because of how I have come to “know” Abigail after nearly forty years’ of study and meditation on her leadership in many arenas, you know what I think she was doing in her husband’s last ten days? I think she was praying to her Heavenly Father for Nabal’s salvation now that she–and her household–no longer had to duck and cover from his surly and likely abusive behavior., That’s what I think. And I think she maybe did just that, loudly, 24/7, over his incapacitated body… in love, of course…

    Abigail had no doubt heard of the miraculous stories of God’s provision for His people, and she no doubt knew nothing was impossible for Him.

    Cheers.

    Like

  2. Carl Gordon says:

    (Aside from the scantily clad babes advertising hair products…I know you have no control over ad content here 😉) I wish this could be read from every pulpit, or when the Biblical text is read Jesus takes the veil off (apocalypto) with this revelation! The preacher who only “saw” “disobedience, according to his idea of how Abigail should submit, needs this information (spiritual glasses if you will) to bring his understanding into focus.

    Like

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