Really Seeing Abigail: Brains before Beauty

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Women are more than their outward appearance, yet are women admired more for their beauty or for their brains? How many compliments do you hear in regards to a woman’s intelligence? How often do you hear someone comment—positively or negatively—about a woman’s appearance? We live in a world in which, despite their qualifications, women are still not seen for who they really are, even in the church. How can we begin to change a culture that values the beauty of a woman more than her skills and abilities?

The story of Abigail is found in 1 Samuel 25; to put it succinctly, this is a story of a very rich man who is married to a very intelligent woman. We are told that Abigail is both intelligent and beautiful.[1] I want to us to stop and mediate on this for a moment. In a world where women could be considered merely possessions, owned by either their father or their husband, a woman’s beauty was a valuable asset. However, Abigail is first described as intelligent; her beauty is mentioned second. Why do you think that is?

I believe that Abigail being described as intelligent first is a key element in this story. I believe an oft-missed lesson of this story is that women are not to be seen first and foremost as ‘beautiful’, but as intelligent human beings. Women have brains! Women have important insights, perspectives, and ideas that should be sought out and shared with others. Women have more to offer the community, and the church, than just existing as pleasantly aesthetic scenery for the enjoyment and pleasure of others.

Abigail was married off to a wealthy man who probably appreciated her beauty, but it seems doubtful that Nabal ever appreciated his wife’s intellect and leadership abilities. If he had, he would not have been known in the community as one who deals evilly with others. This is still a problem that exists today. How many gifted and brilliant women are not even considered for positions of leadership because they are not appreciated first and foremost for their intelligence? I wonder how frustrating it must have been for Abigail to endure a life married to a man who consistently made the wrong choices, when it appears that she was much more capable and knowledgeable than he? How many women called to lead and preach can relate?

The word of God begins the story of Abigail by teaching us that societal and cultural views regarding women are not in line with God’s design and intention: a woman’s outward appearance is not her most valuable trait. God did not create women to be decorative ornaments whose primary job is to look good for men. No, God created women as intelligent beings who are to lead alongside men. The word God is showing us that to truly see Abigail is to see her intelligence before you see her beauty, and thus, this is to be our guide in viewing women in society and the church today as well.

 

[This is the first in a series of blog posts that will focus on life lessons and leadership learned from the story of Abigail.]

[1] 1 Sam. 25:3 NASB.

 

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