Monday, July 11, 2022

Listen to Wise Counsel

 By: Joanne Viola

 Recently I found myself reading and rereading the story of Nabal and Abigail as found in 1 Samuel 25.

Nabel was a rich and prosperous man in the Old Testament. Depending on the Bible translation one uses, he is described as “brutish and mean” (MSG); “harsh and evil (NASB); “surly and mean” (NIV); “crude and mean” (NLT); “harsh and badly behaved” (ESV).

To be clear, his name – Nabel – literally means “fool” according to the Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon.

Contrast this with his wife, Abigail, who is described as “intelligent and good-looking” (MSG); “intelligent and beautiful” (NASB and NIV); “sensible and beautiful” (NLT); “discerning and beautiful” (ESV).

The intelligent and beautiful Abigail married the harsh, mean, and foolish Nabel.

Given the time frame of the story, this was most probably an arranged marriage. Abigail was in an unhappy marriage not of her doing or by her choice.

After David and his men had done right by Nabel, protecting his herds and herdmen, David asked for some food for his men. Nabel responded in a most insulting and ungracious manner which sparked anger and vengeance in David.

Upon hearing of David’s response, Abigail jumped into action to smooth the matter over. She herself brought food and wine, meat and grain to David and his men. Her actions diffused the situation and saved not only her husband’s life but the life of his men.

We are living in days where opinions abound. Everyone has one and is willing to share them with anyone who lends an ear. Let’s be honest … we cannot agree with everyone. Some people have wisdom and discernment, the words they share offering guidance and encouragement. Some … not so much.

Abigail’s actions brings us several insights when handling difficult (foolish) people:

  • Words must be chosen carefully and wisely so as not to exacerbate a situation. Abigail approached David humbly, appealing to David’s good sense.
  • Don’t argue with a difficult person. Abigail did not enter into an argument or a debate in an effort to change Nabel’s mind. She let him be and quietly did what needed to be done to diffuse a heated situation.
  • Recognize the shortcomings of others. Abigail knew the lack of character in her husband. I know Nabal is a wicked and ill-tempered man; please don’t pay any attention to him. He is a fool, just as his name suggests” (1 Samuel 25:25, NLT). In recognizing Nabel’s lack of character, she knew she had to take action to make up for his lack of wisdom.
  • Continue to encourage others to put life situations into perspective. Abigail encouraged David to put the events which had angered him into perspective, thus helping him to respond wisely rather than reactionary.

There will always be those with whom we cannot agree or come to a compromise. We cannot control their actions but we can control our own reactions and choices.

May we surround ourselves with people of wisdom and character,
thus working past the foolishness we encounter in life.

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.”
(Proverbs 12:15, NASB) 


Photo by Melanie Pongratz on Unsplash


  1. These are contentious times - so similar to the fraught ones in this scripture. It would seem kindness and hospitality are actions that never cease to fail - yet, Nabal forgets the hospitality that lines his heritage. Comparing Nabal's hospitality to Abraham's hospitality is a stark contrast - and it seems something that Nabal lacks but his wife doesn't. Your post also reminded me of one of my husband's favorite scriptures: "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones" ~ Proverbs 16:24. Praying we act in wisdom during this times, my friend! Thank you for the wise counsel! ~ Maryleigh

  2. Maryleigh, I so appreciate the thoughts you shared. It is interesting to compare Abraham and Nabal's actions and responses as they surely handled situations differently. And I am so glad you shared your husband's favorite Scripture as it is one we need in these days we are living!

  3. These are good insights from Abigail's interaction with Nabal. We can't always avoid interactions with the Nabals of the world, but we can follow Abigail's example and ask God for wise and gracious words.

    1. Barbara, we will surely not be able to avoid every "Nabal", but can surely respond correctly as the Lord gives us the ability. Thank you for sharing that nugget of insight!


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