The Situation

I know of a wife who was married to a man who was rude and harsh. She tried to protect her husband from his poor decisions. Once, her husband profoundly insulted someone, which caused that person to become enraged. When she heard of it, she took some of her husband’s belongings and gave them to that man to appease his anger. She didn’t tell her husband what she did because by the time she returned, he was very drunk. She waited until he had sobered up the next day. Is she to be condemned as an unsubmissive wife? Did she violate Ephesians 5:22? Should her church leadership be notified?

Yes, I’m describing Abigail, who was married to a fool, Nabal (1 Sam. 25). Nabal risked the life of his family when he refused to offer hospitality to David. He insulted David and did not acknowledge David’s protection of his property (sheep, in this case). Abigail acted “with haste” when she heard about the situation. Bringing generous provisions, she rushed toward David and his four hundred armed men who were on their way to attack Nabal and his men. She humbled herself on the ground and took the blame for her husband’s rude behavior. David realized that his hot-headed response would have led to sin against God and relented. Abigail quietly went home and kept the news of the encounter from her husband until the next day because Nabal was too drunk to listen. In the morning, she told him what had happened. When he heard this, he promptly experienced a medical emergency, something like a heart attack or stroke. About ten days later, he was dead.

If we haven’t already, at some point we will counsel a woman who is married to a foolish man. Some of these men are rude and insulting. They do not value God’s authority. They quarrel and fight. They may physically damage their property or even threaten their family. Some men threaten to harm themselves if they don’t get what they want. The Bible has something to say to wives living in this situation. Abigail’s story can be used to help women who are married to angry men. Below are five lessons to learn from Abigail.[1] 

1. We can help our counselee understand how to fear the Lord in her circumstance. God’s honor is paramount.

Abigail is known for her wisdom and discernment (v. 3). Her husband is the opposite; harsh and badly behaved. When Abigail speaks to David, she talks about the Lord and His dealings in David’s life. David recognizes that she has been sent by the Lord to prevent his sin and blesses her. Abigail trusted God and did what was good (1 Pet. 3:6).

2. Our counselee can learn peace-making principles to defuse conflict.

Abigail uses a gentle answer to turn away David’s wrath (Prov. 15:1). She humbles herself and specifically asks forgiveness for not intercepting David’s messengers, saying, “Please forgive the trespass of your servant” (v. 28). Many women can give a testimony of how conflict de-escalates when they do not respond to a husband’s anger with anger (Rom. 12:17, 21; James 1:19-20; 4:1).

3. Our counselee can learn to choose her words carefully.

Abigail gives a beautiful speech to David, full of reminders of his duty to fight the Lord’s battles. She exhorts him that, “evil shall not be found in you so long as you live” (v. 28). She gently shows David the consequences if his rage is fulfilled. James advises his readers to be slow to speak (James 1:19). David was a man after God’s own heart and responded well (Acts 13:22). But other men may be walking in the flesh, which means that further steps may need to be taken…

4. She needs to protect herself and her family, which includes involving her church leaders.

Abigail courageously takes decisive action to prevent disaster upon her household. She “made haste” and hurries toward David and his four hundred armed men, carrying gifts and with a mind filled with wisdom. A woman who is threatened by an angry man should quickly get help in order to keep herself and her family safe. In our day, she can call the police and/or leave the dangerous situation. She should have someone available in her church who will let her and her children stay with them, if necessary. The church leadership should be aware that the situation at home is frightening. If she believes she has been misunderstood by the elders or is afraid to reveal the truth, the wife should seek an advocate to speak for her. Abigail’s story demonstrates that submission doesn’t preclude getting help. The wife of an angry husband should seek to restore her husband to a right relationship with the Lord (Gal. 6:1).

5. She can model Christ.

Abigail is a picture of Christ in many ways. She takes the blame for Nabal’s action, even though she did not sin. She intercedes between David’s wrath and undeserving Nabal. She is humble in the way she addresses David. Jesus took our sin upon himself, though He knew no sin (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus is in heaven, interceding for us (Rom. 8:34). Christ knew that the Father had given all things into His hands and that He had come from God and was going back to God, yet He stooped down and washed the dirty feet of His disciples. He washed the feet of all of them, even the one who would betray Him (John 13:1-11).

This brief blog shows only a few ways that a study of Abigail can help a woman who is married to an angry man. Counselors seeking additional resources can visit the website of Chris Moles, who is a BCC partner, pastor, and biblical counselor who helps churches and families confront the evil of domestic violence.

Final Thoughts

  1. We need to be aware that when a woman speaks about anger in the home, verbal and/or physical abuse may be occurring.
  2. We need to be willing to ask specific questions about how anger is manifested. Is there shoving, throwing things, threatening with a weapon, etc.? In a counseling situation with a couple, these questions should be asked privately of the woman.
  3. We need to offer protection if she is in an unsafe situation, including housing for her and her children, as well as going with her as she speaks to her husband about it.
  4. We need to be aware that some of these women have been told that they are unsubmissive if they tell anyone. Some who seek counseling may have been forbidden from attending church at all.
  5. Abigail’s story offers hope for the woman who interacts with an angry man.

Question for Reflection

What other ways can we offer help, support, and protection to a counselee who is married to an angry man?

[1] While the principles in this blog are derived from Abigail’s interaction with David, who is not her husband, the same principles would apply to a wife dealing with the anger of her husband.