Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Unlucky in Love, or, Addicted to Addicts?

First Samuel 25 is one of those passages in the Bible that makes you wonder what the "rest of the story" was. We know precious little about the life of Abigail. The rest we read between the lines. She was married to "A certain man in Maon (who) was very wealthy. He owned property ... His name was "Bobbo" (OK, it was Nabal, but it turns out that meant "fool" in his native language, so, I'll just substitute the Korean word for fool). His wife's name was Abigail. She was a wise and beautiful woman. But her husband was rude and mean in the way he treated others."

So, how on earth did this wise and beautiful woman get stuck with a bad charactered jerk like old Bobbo? Arranged marriage? Desperate circumstances? We aren't told. And, what made Bobbo turn into such meanie anyway? Was it because everyone called him a fool, or was that why they called him fool?

"David was staying in the Desert of Maon. While he was there, he heard that Bobbo was clipping the wool off his sheep. So he sent for ten young men. He said to them, 'Go up to 'the old fool' at Carmel. Greet him for me. Say to him, 'May you live a long time! May everything go well with you and your family! And may things go well with everything that belongs to you! I hear that you are clipping the wool off your sheep. When your shepherds were with us, we treated them well. The whole time they were at Carmel nothing that belonged to them was stolen. Ask your own servants. They'll tell you. We've come to you now at a happy time of the year. Please show favor to my young men. Please give me and my men anything you can find for us.'"

OK, hold it right there. Who on earth does David think he is? He thinks he and his gang should get some special favors just for being law abiding citizens? That's no better than the guy who held the door for a little old lady and then complained that she didn't express any appreciation. Was he opening the door to help her or to get an ego feeding? Nobody asked David for any help or had a contract with him. However, in his defense, social customs at the time probably had some kind of good neighbor policy in place, delineating who you had to share with. Bobbo had nothing but common decency obligating him to share with David. Similarly, the little old lady would probably expect to be expected to be courteous and at least say thanks.

Evidently Bobbo wasn't into "common decency". "When David's men arrived, they gave Bobbo the message from David. Then they waited. Bobbo answered David's servants, "Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are running away from their masters these days. Why should I give away my bread and water? Why should I give away the meat I've prepared for those who clip the wool off my sheep? Why should I give food to men who come from who knows where?" So David's men turned around and went back. When they arrived, they reported to David every word Bobbo had spoken."

You know how some people have some obvious reason why they are always on the defensive? Maybe a little something different about them, something that caused them to be mocked as a child. Now that they are adult no one is openly mocking them, but, still their guard is up. But, in Bobbo's situation, while all of that could possibly have also been true, this was not just a knee-jerk reaction. He had time to ponder over his answer while David's employees waited for it. What we have here is an example of a mean-spirited person outright. But, what, what, WHAT could have made him that way? Was he abused as a child? Did his parents set him a horrible example of public relations? Does he feel like a victim instead of a survivor? Or, had he simply chosen wrong over right so many times in his life that he no longer gave it a thought? Had he let his character slip without even caring about it? We can only surmise.

Enter David-who is no prize either. You know that bumper sticker "I don't get mad, I get even?" Well, get a load of this! "David said to his men, "Put on your swords!" So they put their swords on. David put his on too. About 400 men went up with David. Two hundred men stayed behind with the supplies. One of the servants warned Nabal's wife Abigail. He said, 'David sent some messengers from the desert to give his greetings to our master. But Nabal shouted at them and made fun of them. "David's men had been very good to us. They treated us well. The whole time we were near them out in the fields, nothing was stolen. We were taking care of our sheep near them. During that time, they were like a wall around us night and day. They kept us safe. Now think it over. See what you can do. Horrible trouble will soon come to our master and his whole family. He's such an evil man that no one can even talk to him.'"

There is no denying David's group did a good deed to the fool's shepherds. But, how malicious is it to make plans to knock off someone who doesn't respond to your good deed the way you want them to? Bobbo may be a fool, but David is a manipulator. Both of them are rage-aholics (glad they don't drive): Bobbo with his shouting and making fun, and David with his undue retaliation.

No wonder the servants went to Abigail with their concerns. No one can even talk to Bobbo. But, here is where it gets sticky. Some have labeled Abigail a "co-dependent", saying that it sounds like she has a track record of fixing Bobbo's disasters. True, the servants wouldn't have come to her unless they expected her to DO something about the problem. But, I wouldn't go so far as giving her a label that presumes she is getting some kind of benefit from the situation (power, feeling holier than thou, loyalty from the staff, whatever). It could have been that she was stuck in an unfortunate situation and doing the best she could to keep the household together. And to keep from getting beat up. Never mind discussing the limits she should have set in the past to avoid everything getting out of control. Hind sight is 20/20. She is now to the point of an emergency.

"Abigail didn't waste any time. She got 200 loaves of bread and two bottles of wine. The bottles were made out of animal skins. She got five sheep that were ready to be cooked. She got a bushel of grain that had been cooked. She got 100 raisin cakes. And she got 200 cakes of pressed figs. She loaded all of it on the backs of donkeys. Then she told her servants, "Go on ahead. I'll follow you." But she didn't tell her husband Nabal about it. Abigail rode her donkey into a mountain valley. There she saw David and his men. They were coming down toward her."

It is clear that this is a very divided home. No meeting of the minds. No concurring on anything. Of COURSE she did not tell her husband what she was doing. No one could talk to him anyway. He has not shown any wisdom in the past, so, why should she trust his judgment now. She chooses to believe her servant's report that the whole household is about to die at the hands of a band of renagades. Her actions at this point of the story seem wise indeed. But, then things kind of fall apart.

"David had just said, "Everything we've done hasn't been worth a thing! I watched over that fellow's property in the desert. I made sure none of it was stolen. But he has paid me back evil for good. "I won't leave even one of his men alive until morning. If I do, may God punish me greatly!"

Pretty scary! No wonder Abigail felt she had to kiss up a bit. When she "saw David, she quickly got off her donkey. She bowed down in front of David with her face toward the ground. She fell at his feet. She said, "Please let me speak to you, sir. Listen to what I'm saying." Even considering the customs of the place and time, that seems a little excessively polite.

The she said "Let me take the blame myself...I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to see the men you sent." This is where people start saying, "See, she is a co-dependent, taking the blame for someone else's mistakes!" Not so fast! She is not REALLY taking the blame for anything. She "didn't get a chance" to see the men David sent. All she is doing here is deflecting the attention away from Bobbo. She is an operator. Her manipulative skills make David look like a beginner. But, she goes too far when she says, "Don't pay any attention to that evil man Bobbo. His name means Foolish Person. And that's exactly what he is. He's always doing foolish things." Her contempt for her husband really spills out here. People aren't that interested in seeing your dirty laundry. There are much more genteel ways to express that you don't approve of another person's actions.

She is good though. She really knows how to butter up her opponent. "Sir, the Lord has kept you from killing Bobbo and his men. He has kept you from using your own hands to get even (italics mine). May what's about to happen to Bobbo happen to all of your enemies. (BTW How did she know something was about to happen to him? Was she planning something?) May it also happen to everyone who wants to harm you. And may it happen just as surely as the Lord and you are alive."I've brought a gift for you. Give it to the men who follow you. Please forgive me for what I've done wrong. "The Lord will certainly give you and your family line a kingdom that will last. That's because you fight the Lord's battles. Don't do anything wrong as long as you live. "Someone may chase you and try to kill you. But the Lord your God will keep your life safe like a treasure that is hidden in a bag. And he'll destroy your enemies. Their lives will be thrown away, just as a stone is thrown from a sling. "The Lord will do for you every good thing he promised to do. He'll appoint you leader over Israel. When that happens, you won't have this heavy load on your mind. You won't have to worry about how you killed people without any reason. You won't have to worry about how you got even. The Lord will give you success. When that happens, please remember me."

Now how did she learn to smooth things over like that? I'm guessing from her mom. She probably came from a dysfunctional home that mirrored her married life.

And, dysfunctional David ate it with a spoon. David said to Abigail, "Give praise to the Lord. He is the God of Israel. He has sent you today to find me. May the Lord bless you for what you have done. You have shown a lot of good sense. You have kept me from killing Nabal and his men this very day. You have kept me from using my own hands to get even. "It's a good thing you came quickly to meet me. If you hadn't come, not one of Nabal's men would have been left alive by sunrise. And that's just as sure as the Lord, the God of Israel, is alive. He has kept me from harming you." Then David accepted from her what she had brought him. He said, "Go home in peace. I've heard your words. I'll do what you have asked."

Bobbo is not the only fool. See, David's problem is that he DOESN'T take responsibility for any of his actions. First Bobbo made him do it, then Abigail made him not do it, all the while he wants God to back up his foolish knee-jerk reaction. Yeah, he'd make a good king - spineless, in need of anger management, and more interested in getting even than doing the right thing. Well, he was a youngest child and probably accustomed to getting his own way.

"Abigail went back to Bobbo. He was having a dinner party in the house. It was the kind of dinner a king would have. He had been drinking too much wine. He was very drunk. So she didn't tell him anything at all until sunrise. The next morning Nabal wasn't drunk anymore. Then his wife told him everything. When she did, his heart grew weak. He became like a stone. About ten days later, the Lord struck Bobbo down. And he died."

Oh! So, someone COULD talk to him. That someone was Abigail, providing she chose the right time. But, why did he stroke out like that? Did he get so mad his blood pressure went through the roof? Or, was this the first time she ever stood up to him? If so, what gave her the courage to do it this time as compared with all other times. Had she already decided she was done with him? Questions, questions.

"David heard that Bobbo was dead. So he said, "Give praise to the Lord. Bobbo made fun of me (oh boo-hoo, poor baby). But the Lord stood up for me. He has kept me from doing something wrong. He has paid Bobbo back for the wrong things he did." Well, yes, David was kept from doing a horrendous act. And, for that he really should praise God. However, had he been ready for it, God might have also had opportunity to show him that he does not have to lose his temper every time he has a presumed right to do so. He could be a grown-up and ignore it when someone makes fun of him. It is not necessary to act like a spoiled child everytime things don't go his way. It is possible to do a good deed without expecting something in return.

"Then David sent a message to Abigail. He asked her to become his wife. His servants went to Carmel. They said to Abigail, "David has sent us to you. He wants you to come back with us and become his wife." Abigail bowed down with her face toward the ground. She said, "Here I am. I'm ready to serve him. I'm ready to wash the feet of his servants." Abigail quickly got on a donkey and went with David's messengers. Her five female servants went with her. She became David's wife." Here is where the wisdom of Abigail falls short. She jumps from the frying pan into the fire. And, she did this quickly, hardly with any thought.

Surely she had other choices than jumping from one addicted husband to another. Bobbo had his rages, stupidity, and booze. David had his dangerous road-rage-pay-you-back-at-any-cost type anger. And David was addicted to women. He was already twice married and only once divorced. ("David had also gotten married to Ahinoam from Jezreel. Both of them became his wives. But Saul had given his daughter Michal, David's first wife, to Paltiel.)

What could have caused Abigail to have so little self worth? Other than living with an abusive husband, of course. Did she feel like she was not worth anything on her own. Did she feel she had to be with a man at any cost? Way back then we see the same old problem. The abused don't think they are worth anything better. How sad.

But, the hope that the Bible gives us is that God can work with anyone-regardless of their issues or their past. Even David and Abigail. When we are ready for it, He is prepared to give us the experiences that can give us growth. And, HE is capable of picking up the pieces of those wounded on the way. That's no co-dependency!

Note: For the Bible text I used the New International Reader's Version available at


Rondi said...

What a great, thought-provoking "study" on this story! Thanks for putting the whole thing down! I enjoyed reading...and thinking....

Sunny said...

Oooh Rondi! Thanks for reading it.