Recognizing Foolishness God’s Way
In order for us to truly perceive “the strange woman” and how she works in the day we live in, we first have to rearrange our thinking on “fools” and “foolishness.”
The next 4-5 posts are going to be an attempt to do just that.
This is not going to be a departure from our study on “the strange woman,” but rather an attempt to correctly define a word that has for so long been wrongly etched into our thinking.
We are going to be taking an extended and concentrated look into God’s view of “fools” and “foolishness” according to Scripture – a view He has had since the beginning of time.
But, before we start analyzing these words, we must understand that it is His definition of the terms that matters. Our experience and indoctrination are inconsequential.
If we believe the words of the prophets like we say we believe them, then we know that our God doesn’t change.
For I am the LORD, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
Those words are pretty cut and dried, so we can be confident that God’s view on “fools” and “foolishness” is the same as it was during the times of the Tanakh (OT). No, His view did not change with the canonization of the New Testament . . . He simply does not change.
Constantly return to this anchor in Scripture. It greatly helps when you are trying to understand things through His eyes.
If we can do this – if we can recognize fools and foolishness the way He recognizes fools and foolishness – then we can recognize the strange woman today without much difficulty.
The Benefits of Recognizing Foolishness
In a prior post, we drew an indelible connection between the simple and the foolish. In plain English, foolishness is a major characteristic of being simple, or “pethiy.”
A foolish woman is clamorous; she is simple [pĕthayuwth – root: pethiy], and knows nothing. For she sits at the door of her house, on a seat by the highest places of the city, to call to those who pass by, who go straight on their way: “Whoever is simple [pethiy], let him turn in here . . .”
As you read this passage, notice that the foolish woman who is calling to those who are “pethiy” – or simple – is herself, foolish and simple.
The “pethiy” – whom we will soon see are living in a framework saturated with foolishness – identify with the foolishness that beckons to them. They see something familiar – something comforting – in the strange woman, so they “turn in” to where she calls them, easily succumbing to her wiles.
This is obviously the crowd that we do not want to follow, so it is imperative that we allow our eyes to be opened and change our perception of foolishness.
We must see foolishness through God’s eyes instead of our own.
Once we have God’s view of foolishness, we can avoid the allure of the foolish (or strange) woman, instead of stumbling by identifying with it. This will be a major weapon in our arsenal against the snare of the strange woman. (Proverbs 7:23)
Over the next few posts, we’re going to be taking an in-depth look at 3 Hebrew words that are translated as “fool” or “foolishness” in the Tanakh.
Remember, it’s His view that matters. Let’s begin.
The Foolishness of Nabal
Let’s start by taking a look at the Hebrew definition of the word “Nabal.”
- Nabal – fool 
- From the root: Nabel – despise, dishonor, withering, come to naught 
Those of you who have dared to spend any length of time in the Tanakh (Old Testament) should easily recognize this word.
“Nabal” is the fool in the story of the soon-to-be king David. Nabal arrogantly rejected David’s request for charity/favor, even though David’s men had been honest and protected Nabal’s men.
Then Nabal answered David’s servants, and said, “Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants nowadays who break away each one from his master. Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers, and give it to men when I do not know where they are from?”
Nabal was a man who did not recognize God’s blessing on David, nor did he recognize the heart of David – a heart that considered obedience to the Torah of priceless value (see all of Psalm 119). Instead, he “despised” and “dishonored” him, labeling him a rebel, someone who “broke away” from his master and did not submit to authority.
While living, Nabal literally embodied the definition of the name given to him, despising and dishonoring God’s chosen.
Abigail Honors David
The name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail. And she was a woman of good understanding and beautiful appearance; but the man was harsh and evil in his doings. He was of the house of Caleb.
Nabal’s wife, Abigail, recognized David’s heart and honored it. She realized that this heart – a heart that honored Torah above all – had somehow “connected” with the heart of God, who had placed David in a position of authority and would soon do even more on his behalf.
Like so many women whose husbands refuse to take their rightful place in the family and lead in matters of faith, Abigail recognized her husband’s foolishness and chose another course of action.
Abigail Takes Up the Slack
As I read this passage, I find no evidence that Abigail had any ill-intent towards her husband. In fact, I believe she loved her husband, but her actions show that she was no fool.
She knew that not only she, but her entire household (including her husband) would likely suffer as a result of her husband’s foolish actions. David was well-known as a warrior who had slain ten times more enemies than king Saul had (1 Samuel 18:7). You did not want to end up on his bad side.
So Abigail, in an attempt to save the lives of her household, takes action and instructs her servants to load a bunch of food on donkeys and sends them to David in an attempt to appease him. When she finds him, she runs to David and bows to him, honoring him and shouldering the responsibility of Nabal’s arrogance.
So she fell at his feet and said: “On me, my lord, on me let this iniquity be! And please let your maidservant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your maidservant. Please, let not my lord regard this scoundrel Nabal. For as his name is, so is he: Nabal is his name, and folly is with him! But I, your maidservant, did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent.”
Abigail knew that her husband was the embodiment of his name and even says so as she repents to David.
Now therefore, my lord, as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, since the LORD has held you back from coming to bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hand, now then, let your enemies and those who seek harm for my lord be as Nabal.
Even today, while we can’t really make a definitive call as to when someone lives or dies, if a woman has to repent on behalf of an unrepentant husband, it does not usually bode well for the husband.
You can imagine how Abigail must have felt, having to essentially grovel because her husband was a deluded jerk. It’s possible that it was in the act of repentance on behalf of her husband that Abigail came to the realization that her husband would not live a long life.
Abigail was in a difficult spot, but she gets to prophesy to a king.
It’s easy to see that Abigail was not some undermining woman wishing death upon her husband. She was “a woman of good understanding”(1 Samuel 25:3b) who recognized the favor of God upon the heart of David, despite her own husband’s opinions.
This is an incredibly difficult spot to be in, but Proverbs says:
Good understanding gains favor, but the way of the unfaithful is hard.
Understanding is a wellspring of life to him who has it. But the correction of fools is folly.
But Abigail’s faithfulness in this situation rewarded her with the opportunity to prophesy to a king!
1 Samuel 25:28-31
Please forgive the trespass of your maidservant. For the LORD will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord fights the battles of the LORD, and evil is not found in you throughout your days.
When a King Listens to a Woman
In response to Abigail’s words and prophecy, David listens to her and blesses her words.
1 Samuel 25:32-34
Then David said to Abigail: “Blessed is the LORD God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! And blessed is your advice and blessed are you, because you have kept me this day from coming to bloodshed and from avenging myself with my own hand.
It is worthy to note here that David . . . warrior . . . man after God’s own heart and prophesied soon-to-be-king did not consider it beneath him to listen and give authority to the words of a woman.
I’m just going to let that statement rest there. As much as I would like to, I’m not going to go down the rabbit hole of a woman’s role in the family and “in the church.”
I concede that there have been many crazy women out there who think they hear from God when, in fact, they’re just “prophesying out of their own heart,” (Jeremiah 23:26) but in writing them all off as “hormonal timebombs,” guys, we’ve short-changed our own spirituality.
This is easy to do in a culture that places a greater value on a Babylonian marriage model (see Esther 1).
But David obviously had a different view of things.
He sends Abigail off with these words:
Go up in peace to your house. See, I have heeded your voice and respected your person.
Abigail Returns Home
After this encounter, where Abigail has humbled herself on behalf of her husband to save his life and the lives of his household, she returns to her house and finds it in full “party mode.”
1 Samuel 25:36-37
Now Abigail went to Nabal, and there he was, holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. And Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk; therefore she told him nothing, little or much, until morning light.
Abigail refuses to say anything to a drunk Nabal but waits for a moment of clarity when she reveals that she saved Nabal’s backside by humbling herself before David and showing him the favor he originally requested from her husband.
Since this passage says that Abigail told him of her encounter with David, she had to have told him of the prophecy of God’s favor upon the soon-to-be-king. This means she told Nabal of the “enduring house,” how David’s life “shall be bound in the bundle of the living,” and how God would make David the “ruler over Israel.”
This was the moment of truth for Nabal, the fool. At this very moment, Nabal, whose name means “despise, dishonor, withering, come to naught,” was at a crossroads.
He could have recognized that he was being a fool. He could have run to David and pled for mercy on his own, but he was Nabal, who “despised” and “dishonored” the heart of David. He “despised” and “dishonored” the heart that valued obedience to the Torah above all. (See all of Psalm 119)
Yes, Nabal was an arrogant fool through-and-through, so he chose to do nothing and remain in his delusion.
What was Nabal’s delusion?
Even though the prophet Samuel had already spoken of the collapse of Saul’s kingdom (1 Samuel 13:14), even though people were already ascribing more honor to David than Saul (1 Samuel 18:7), Nabal did not recognize the favor of YHWH upon David’s life.
In Nabal’s eyes, David was just an usurper who had “broken away” from King Saul.
Nabal conveniently forgot that YHWH had set Saul over the people in response to their sin in wanting a man to rule them (like all the other nations) when YHWH had been MORE than faithful to protect them when they were walking in covenant. (1 Samuel 10:18-19
No, in Nabal’s mind, Saul was the “God-ordained” king and David had rebelled.
Likewise, a fool (nabal) given over to delusion will not hear any message that gives honor to the heart of David, the man after God’s own heart. Even if the Father extends His kindness and offers them a chance to repent, bringing them to their own crossroads or moment of truth, most are given over to the delusion.
They may temporarily think, “Man, I need to get this right,” but eventually the delusion takes over and their cognitive dissonance kicks in. “I don’t have to honor and obey the Torah … I’m free!”
It is in this refusal to honor the heart of David and repent that the fool’s heart becomes evident.
When God Kills You
What is the penalty for the “Nabal” kind of foolishness?
Let’s go back to the Hebrew definition:
- Nabal [H5036] – fool
- From the root: Nabel [H5034] – despise, dishonor, withering, come to naught
When someone mimics the foolishness of Nabal by despising and dishonoring those who have the heart of David – a heart that values obedience to Torah above all – eventually their heart “withers” and they become unresponsive to any reasoning or basic logic.
From this point, death by God’s hand is inevitable.
Then it happened, after about ten days, that the LORD struck Nabal, and he died.
Those who act like Nabal will share the same fate as Nabal.
It might not be a physical death, but it will be as if they went beyond a certain “point” and the Father will no longer try to woo them.
Nabal is as Nabal does
So we see that, just as Nabal was the embodiment of his name while living, so too in dying did Nabal prove that he was indeed “nabal.”
He refused to repent and honor the heart of David, who honored the ways of God.
He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel.
Nabal foolishly refused to soften his heart towards the Father, choosing instead to dishonor and despise the heart that the Father chose to honor and esteem. Because of this refusal to soften his heart, the Father assisted him in his journey much like He did with pharaoh.
“Nabal” is used 18 times in the Tanakh and it’s root “Nabel” is used 21 times.
I’ve included links in the footnotes for those of you who wish to study this out further.
You will find that in almost every instance of the word “nabal” or “nabel,” there is a reference to a hardness of heart toward the Father’s ways.
But “nabal” is not the only Hebrew word translated as “fool” (or “foolishness”). There are actually 2 more words we need to look at! We’ll be discussing these words in the following posts.