Jezebel (1 Kings 21) and Abigail (1 Samuel 25)
A number of stories come to mind when I consider the power of influence. I’m going to focus on the influence of two women – Jezebel, wife of King Ahab of Israel and Abigail, wife of Nabal.
In 1 Kings 21 we read how King Ahab of Israel became angry and sullen at the news that his neighbour, Naboth would not sell him his vineyard. His plans to turn the land into a vegetable garden were ruined and “the king went to bed with his face to the wall and refused to eat.” (1 Kings 21:4). When Jezebel, his wife heard how distraught her husband was, she reminded him that he was the king of Israel and demanded that he get up and eat. She vowed to ensure that her husband got what he wanted (v.7). Jezebel proceeded to hatch a wicked plan to discredit Naboth. She arranged for false accusations to be brought against him and he was stoned to death, leaving King Ahab to now claim the land for himself (v.8-16).
Now let’s turn to Abigail, wife of Nabal. David and 600 of his men were living in the wilderness while they were on the run from King Saul who wanted to kill David out of envy (1 Samuel 25). One of the festivals of the people of God was approaching and David sent ten of his men to ask Nabal, a wealthy landowner, for food and drink, so that he and his men could also celebrate. David and his men had been like a wall of protection around Nabal’s men when they were in the wilderness with their flocks, so they assumed he would repay them with kindness. Nabal was foolish though and sneered at David’s request and treated his men with contempt. When they reported what Nabal has said, David became furious and took 400 men to fight against Nabal. In the meantime, one of Nabal’s servants told Abigail what had happened and she instantly acted to bring calm to the situation. She packed a large amount of food and sent it on ahead with her servants, but she didn’t tell her husband Nabal what she was doing (v.18-19). When Abigail saw David, she got off her donkey and bowed low before him. She accepted all the blame in the matter, presented David with the gift she had brought and begged him not to cause needless bloodshed and vengeance by killing her foolish husband and their household. David thanked God for Abigail’s good sense. He blessed her for keeping him from committing murder and carrying out vengeance with his own hand and agreed to spare her husband.
When Abigail arrived home, Nabal had thrown a big party and was drunk, so she waited until morning to tell him what had happened. When she told him everything, he had a stroke and lay paralysed on his bed for ten days until he died.
Jezebel influenced a group of men to kill an innocent man and Abigail influenced a group of men to not kill a guilty man.
Let us choose to have a heart like Abigail who was quick to act with Godly wisdom and influence the actions of others for good, bringing peace to a situation that could easily have led to the destruction of her husband and their entire household. She also saved David and his men from causing needless bloodshed. May we do the same.
© 2021 by Ruth O’Reilly-Smith