Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Women in the Bible – Abishag – Concubine of Aged King David

Women in the Bible – Abishag – Concubine of Aged King David

1 Kings 1:1-4 (ESV) Now King David was old and advanced in years. And although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm. Therefore his servants said to him, “Let a young woman be sought for my lord the king, and let her wait on the king and be in his service. Let her lie in your arms, that my lord the king may be warm.” So they sought for a beautiful young woman throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The young woman was very beautiful, and she was of service to the king and attended to him, but the king knew her not.

Today we look at Abishag. Her name comes from the Hebrew word ʾabîshag, which means “father of error.” I’m intrigued by some of the names of the women mentioned in scripture. The “ab” prefix in Hebrew means “father.” These are women, yet called names meaning father.

How would you feel about yourself having grown up being called “error”? In our Western mindset we do not think of these things because name meanings have for the most part become a thing of the past. That is unfortunate. It could be that Abishag was not a “planned” pregnancy. It could be that she was born out outside of marriage. Regardless of her origin, she turned out to be a beautiful woman; so beautiful in fact that she was chosen from all women to serve King David. David was old and never had sex with Abishag. She, however, remained faithful to David, even until his death.

As I mentioned, she was beautiful. David’s son, Adonijah, decided he wanted Abishag as his wife.

1 Kings 2:13-18 (ESV) Then Adonijah the son of Haggith came to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon. And she said, “Do you come peacefully?” He said, “Peacefully.” Then he said, “I have something to say to you.” She said, “Speak.” He said, “You know that the kingdom was mine, and that all Israel fully expected me to reign. However, the kingdom has turned about and become my brother’s, for it was his from the LORD. And now I have one request to make of you; do not refuse me.” She said to him, “Speak.” And he said, “Please ask King Solomon—he will not refuse you—to give me Abishag the Shunammite as my wife.” Bathsheba said, “Very well; I will speak for you to the king.”

Bathsheba agreed to speak with her son, Solomon, who was now King of Israel after David’s death. He loved his father, David. He also knew that Abonijah had secretly tried to take the throne, even though Solomon was the rightful heir.

1 Kings 2:19-23 (ESV) So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. And the king rose to meet her and bowed down to her. Then he sat on his throne and had a seat brought for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right. Then she said, “I have one small request to make of you; do not refuse me.” And the king said to her, “Make your request, my mother, for I will not refuse you.” She said, “Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah your brother as his wife.” King Solomon answered his mother, “And why do you ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him the kingdom also, for he is my older brother, and on his side are Abiathar the priest and Joab the son of Zeruiah.” Then King Solomon swore by the LORD, saying, “God do so to me and more also if this word does not cost Adonijah his life!

Abishag was indeed a woman of intrigue. She was faithful in her service to King David, simply to keep him warm in his old age. Men died trying to own her. She was content to serve her king until he died. We’re not told what happened to Abishag after David’s death. My guess is, based on his response to Adonijah, Solomon took care of her the rest of her life.

I’ve seen old people die. There is nothing more important to them than to know someone will be with them in the end. I’m sure the fear of the unknown, or perhaps just the regrets from a life lived, increases the desire to have someone close by to help them make the transition from life to death. Abishag gave that to David, and it blessed him.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Women in the Bible – Abihail – wife of Abishur and Mother of Ahban and Molid

Women in the Bible – Abihail – wife of Abishur and Mother of Ahban and Molid

1 Chronicles 2:29 (ESV) The name of Abishur’s wife was Abihail, and she bore him Ahban and Molid.

This is the second woman named Abihail that is found in the Bible. We know less about her than most of the women mentioned in scripture. As I stated early on, she is apparently is mentioned for a reason. I don’t think there are wasted words in the Bible.

Abihail, as we saw last time, means “father (i.e. possessor) of might.” She was married to Abishur, a wall builder. They had two sons, who most likely followed their father’s craft of wall-building.

Walls are many times considered negative things in our culture. We see them as a means of dividing, isolating, etc. However, in the time of Abihail and Abishur walls were a matter of life and death. Walls were very important. Whenever a city was established they would build walls to keep them safe from intruders.

Nothing much is said of Abihail. 1 Chronicles 2:29 contains the only reference to her in scripture. She is not known for having a miraculous angelic encounter. She did not aid a foreign army in overthrowing a city. All we know is she was married to one of the grandsons of Judah and bore two sons.

Abihail could be anyone. It is much more the norm in the life of Believers to have an un-extraordinary life. It is only within the past few decades that the “Super Christian, Everyone Was Made for Greatness” theology came into the church. I believe it has caused great harm to many, leaving them with feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness. This is so far removed from the teachings of Jesus. Abihail is given to us as someone who married a descendant of Judah, a distant relative of both King David and King Jesus. No fanfare. No extensive resume. Just a mom and a wife.

Somehow we can all take comfort in knowing Abihail was known by God.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Women in the Bible – Abihail – mother of Zuriel, chief of the house of Merari

Women in the Bible – Abihail – mother of Zuriel, chief of the house of Merari

Numbers 3:33-37 (ESV) To Merari belonged the clan of the Mahlites and the clan of the Mushites: these are the clans of Merari. Their listing according to the number of all the males from a month old and upward was 6,200. And the chief of the fathers’ house of the clans of Merari was Zuriel the son of Abihail. They were to camp on the north side of the tabernacle. And the appointed guard duty of the sons of Merari involved the frames of the tabernacle, the bars, the pillars, the bases, and all their accessories; all the service connected with these; also the pillars around the court, with their bases and pegs and cords.

When you are young many things go through your mind. Thoughts of what could be. How will you spend your life? What accomplishments will mark your path through this world? Abihail’s life was spent in the wilderness. She most likely was born during the captivity of Egypt. Life as a slave girl was not easy. Her Hebrew name, ʾabîhayil, which means “father (i.e. possessor) of might” indicated she may have had a strong will that would help her through some very difficult times.

She crossed the Red Sea on dry land. She saw the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud. She went out each day and gathered manna for her family during their years in the wilderness. As part of the band of Hebrews travelling through the wilderness their days were pretty much the same. She was married to someone from the Tribe of Levi, and thus served in the priesthood and tended to the Tabernacle. Specifically, they were responsible for “the frames of the Tabernacle, the bars, the pillars, the bases, and all their accessories; also the pillars around the court, with their bases and pegs and cords. ”There is no way Abihail could have ever imagined she would be part of a crew that erected a tent in the wilderness day in and day out, traveling as nomads. I can totally identify.

Growing up I never imagined I would be a computer programmer. There were no PCs, Macs, or any other form of personal computers. There were no gaming systems. I had never even seen a computer until I was in college. I took typing in high school, but every day in class I wondered why. “I’ll have a secretary. I don’t need to know how to type.” After my first year in college I worked with a band of brothers hauling hay. I worked on a pig farm. I learned to drive a tractor, back a trailer, slaughter a hog, and work a garden. None of these were ever on my “bucket list” as a child. It was not until years later that I understood, at least in part, why I had some of these life experiences. I was called to the Ministry of Helps. Most everything I learned came in handy when I went into full-time ministry.

Abihail probably knew how to do many things. Helping was probably at the top of that list. I imagine her being a source of encouragement and a steadfast rock for her children, husband, and others in the close family. Of course, we may never know fully what impact she had on the lives of those in her world. But, God mentioned her in His Book. I’m very glad. It lets me know that God knows the importance of those living a seemingly mundane existence. However, Abihail and her family played an important role in the development of a nation, Israel, that would one day produce the Messiah, Jesus, who would change everyone’s life forever.

Never underestimate the significance of your role in life. If you are a Believer, you have purpose. Your gifts and abilities are important to God, and needed by every other Believer. You are part of a Body. There are no “unneeded” parts of a body. Do what you do, and do it well, so that God will be glorified and you will be edified.

Even if it’s just putting up a tent!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Women in the Bible – Abigail – Wife of Nabal, Who Became a Wife of David After Nabal's Death

Women in the Bible – Abigail – Wife of Nabal, Who Became a Wife of David After Nabal's Death

1 Samuel 25:2-3 (ESV) And there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel. The man was very rich; he had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. He was shearing his sheep in Carmel. Now the name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail. The woman was discerning and beautiful, but the man was harsh and badly behaved; he was a Calebite.

We saw last time that the name Abigail comes from the Hebrew word ʾabîgal, which means “father (i.e. source) of joy.” We learn about this Abigail by reading the whole chapter of 1 Samuel 25. Her story is all too familiar.

Over the years I have been acquainted with other women that, who like Abigail, enable their husband’s bad behavior. On the short 1 block street where I lived as a young child there were at least three, maybe four men who were drunks. Even though I was young I remember seeing many times where the wives would intervene on behalf of their husbands to cover up their mistakes. It was a sad existence, but they did it to protect their household and their children. It was just normal life to them.

In the story cited in 1 Samuel, David (who would be king) and his men had been protecting the people of Israel without them even being aware of their presence. So was the case with Nabal. David and his men were hungry. He sent some of his men to Nabal to explain what they had been doing and asked if he would give them some food. He refused.

This infuriated David. He and his men prepared to go and smite Nabal and all of his household, killing all the men. Abigail heard of Nabal’s refusal from one of David’s young men. When she heard it she quickly gathered goods and hurried to meet David before he came to Nabal’s house.

Abigail was a good repenter. She probably had much practice going behind Nabal to clean up his messes. She knew of David’s reputation and acted quickly to prevent a catastrophic result.

1 Samuel 25:23-31 (ESV) When Abigail saw David, she hurried and got down from the donkey and fell before David on her face and bowed to the ground. She fell at his feet and said, “On me alone, my lord, be the guilt. Please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant. Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name, and folly is with him. But I your servant did not see the young men of my lord, whom you sent. Now then, my lord, as the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, because the LORD has restrained you from bloodguilt and from saving with your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek to do evil to my lord be as Nabal. And now let this present that your servant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who follow my lord. Please forgive the trespass of your servant. For the LORD will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the LORD, and evil shall not be found in you so long as you live. If men rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the LORD your God. And the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling. And when the LORD has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel, my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for my lord working salvation himself. And when the LORD has dealt well with my lord, then remember your servant.”

David accepted her goods and her apology for her husband’s bad behavior, and returned home. When Abigail returned home she found her husband having a drunken party. Instead of telling him what she had done at that time, she waited until morning when he was sober. After Abigail told Nabal what she had done he apparently had a stroke or heart attack. The Bible says, “… his heart died within him and he became like a stone. He died ten days later.”

We are not told much about Abigail, like how many children she had, if any, or how long she had been married to Nabal. All we are told is “she was discerning and beautiful.” We clearly saw her discerning characteristics by the way she handled things with David. Apparently she was beautiful as described, because when David learned that Nabal had died, David sent for her to become his wife. She agreed.

We don’t know much more about this Abigail. One can imagine that she spent the rest of her years tending to David and possibly even playing a role in cleaning up some of his messes he created along the way.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Women in the Bible – Abigail – Mother of Amasa, Sister of David

Women in the Bible – Abigail – Mother of Amasa, Sister of David

1 Chronicles 2:16-17 (ESV) And their sisters were Zeruiah and Abigail. The sons of Zeruiah: Abishai, Joab, and Asahel, three. Abigail bore Amasa, and the father of Amasa was Jether the Ishmaelite.

Martha and I enjoy watching certain TV shows together. One of these is “Person of Interest.” The gist of the show tells of a computer system that is constantly scanning every action of every person (presumably on the planet) and alerting the authorities so they can intervene in matters of national security. It also has a “back door” program that notifies the systems designer with “irrelevant” people whose life is some way at risk.

The Bible is full of names. Many you have never heard because, quite frankly, their place in the historical events recorded in scripture is not very compelling, or “irrelevant” to the main storyline – Jesus reconciling man back to God. However, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at these folks and find out for myself their relevance. In my opinion, anyone mentioned in the Bible deserves to be considered. I do not believe there are any “wasted” words in the Bible.

The first name on the list is Abigail. There are two women mentioned in scripture that have this name. The first one we will consider is found in 1Chronicles 2. The name comes from the Hebrew word ʾabîgayil, which means “father (i.e. source) of joy.” Many of the “sisters” are never mentioned in scripture. It is possible that Abigail is mentioned because she was the daughter of Jesse, sister of David, who would one day be King of Israel.

Abigail had at least one child, a son named Amasa, which means “burden.” Abigail married a man named Jether the Ishmaelite, the father of Amasa. In 2 Samuel 17 Jether is referred to as Ithra the Israelite. There certainly seems to be a difference between the writers of the two books regarding the man’s name and family origin. I’ve read some documents about this written by folks above my pay grade. They assure us that it is not a discrepancy, simply an alternate form of the same name.

It would be very easy to invent a story line for Abigail. She could have lived a life similar to that of Lady Edith of Downton Abbey. In the TV show Edith had a child outside of marriage but was still loved by her father. The child grew up with the blessings that come with its station in life. The same may have been true for Amasa. We know from other references that Amasa was placed as a leader in the Israeli army under David. We also know that David considered him “bone of his bone.”

2 Samuel 17:24-26 (ESV) Then David came to Mahanaim. And Absalom crossed the Jordan with all the men of Israel. Now Absalom had set Amasa over the army instead of Joab. Amasa was the son of a man named Ithra the Ishmaelite, who had married Abigal the daughter of Nahash, sister of Zeruiah, Joab’s mother.

2 Samuel 19:13 (ESV) And say to Amasa, ‘Are you not my bone and my flesh? God do so to me and more also, if you are not commander of my army from now on in place of Joab.’”

David was king over Judah before he became king over all of Israel. He united the divided kingdom of Israel, but there was a price in doing so.

2 Samuel 20:4-13 (ESV) Then the king said to Amasa, “Call the men of Judah together to me within three days, and be here yourself.” So Amasa went to summon Judah, but he delayed beyond the set time that had been appointed him. And David said to Abishai, “Now Sheba the son of Bichri will do us more harm than Absalom. Take your lord’s servants and pursue him, lest he get himself to fortified cities and escape from us.” And there went out after him Joab’s men and the Cherethites and the Pelethites, and all the mighty men. They went out from Jerusalem to pursue Sheba the son of Bichri. When they were at the great stone that is in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Now Joab was wearing a soldier’s garment, and over it was a belt with a sword in its sheath fastened on his thigh, and as he went forward it fell out. And Joab said to Amasa, “Is it well with you, my brother?” And Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. But Amasa did not observe the sword that was in Joab’s hand. So Joab struck him with it in the stomach and spilled his entrails to the ground without striking a second blow, and he died.

And one of Joab’s young men took his stand by Amasa and said, “Whoever favors Joab, and whoever is for David, let him follow Joab.” And Amasa lay wallowing in his blood in the highway. And anyone who came by, seeing him, stopped. And when the man saw that all the people stopped, he carried Amasa out of the highway into the field and threw a garment over him. When he was taken out of the highway, all the people went on after Joab to pursue Sheba the son of Bichri.

Abigail’s son, Amasa, died in service to King David. He gave all trying to bring together the factions of Israel. It reminds me of the movie Braveheart where William Wallace wages war with England to free his native land of Scotland. It also brings to mind many in both the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland who died trying to unite their homeland. Abigail, like many mothers of sons, suffered anguish because of the sacrifice of men on the battlefield. However, David made sure that Amasa’s death was vindicated. He killed Joab to avenge the death of his nephew, Amasa.

1 Kings 2:5 (ESV) “Moreover, you also know what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, how he dealt with the two commanders of the armies of Israel, Abner the son of Ner, and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed, avenging in time of peace for blood that had been shed in war, and putting the blood of war on the belt around his waist and on the sandals on his feet.

1 Kings 2:32 (ESV) The LORD will bring back his bloody deeds on his own head, because, without the knowledge of my father David, he attacked and killed with the sword two men more righteous and better than himself, Abner the son of Ner, commander of the army of Israel, and Amasa the son of Jether, commander of the army of Judah.

So much of Abigail’s life remains a mystery. I’m sure there are many stories of being part of the royal family that went untold. However, there was much anguish that came with that role as well. David’s family, especially his sons, caused him much grief in his reign as king.