Prudence is described as the ability to have and apply good judgment. A prudent person is shrewd in practical matters and has foresight like Noah had. He or she looks into the future, gets the facts concerning a thing that he or she is interested in and then connects the dots by making a decision concerning that very thing in the future. However such a person exercises caution, carefulness, discretion and forethought.
In the book of 1 Samuel 25 we come across the account of Abigail whose husband, Nabal, was mean, surly, bad tempered and wicked man. Infact we are told that his name meant-‘fool’-and folly would be found around him. Abigail on the other hand is described as a beautiful woman, intelligent, with good reasoning and power to understand.
At the time of their mentioning, David was a king-in-waiting. He was, however, on the run, trying to avoid the jealousies of Saul who wanted to kill him. He only had his loyal soldiers around him. On sending them off to get provisions from Nabal, they were met with abuses and disrespect despite having one time protected Nabal’s sheep from harm. The latter’s name meant ‘fool’ so we can assume that he did not even know who David was; he displays his ignorance in 1Sam 25:10-11, ‘Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. Why should I take my bread and water and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?’
David’s anger was unmatched when he heard of what had occurred. He ordered four hundred of his men to put on their swords and get ready to clear Nabal’s household.
Nabal’s servants, who knew their master to be wicked, informed his wife Abigail, what had transpired. She, with her prudence, acted to save this household. The same request that was made to Nabal was received differently by his wife who decided to act positively knowing that one did not respond rudely to a king even if he was in waiting. She understood who David was, took the blame upon herself in the knowledge that her husband could not be reasoned with and decided to act without consulting him. But first, she sent food supplies ahead of her.
When she encountered David, she bowed down low to show total submission and surrender and gave what we now know as the longest speech by a woman in the Bible. Not only did she make a plea for what had happened and took her husband’s folly to herself but she also reminded David of his future and how terrible it would be if he marred that with needless bloodshed. Her good judgment saved David from bloodshed and he recognized this. David acted wisely and was convinced of his rashness so that disaster was averted. Proverbs 12:16 says, ‘A fool shows his annoyance at once but a prudent man overlooks an insult’.
Abigail was a true picture of prudence in her ability to act with care and foresight. She was not selfish and she thought of her whole household when she acted. She possessed the ability to look beyond the crisis and see the bigger picture. She must have previously encountered her husband’s silly deeds but these only served to make her wiser. She recognized that Nabal’s foolishness had directed David’s wrath to her household.
She was, however, a clever woman and she dealt with external threats before she turned her attention to her husband whom she found drunk and merry and quite unaware of what had been averted. In her good judgment, she did not talk to him while his spirits were high on wine; she waited for him until the next morning and explained everything. Proverbs 12:23-‘A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the hearts of fools blurts out folly’. Nabal recognized the graveness of the account and his heart failed him, ten days later, he was dead. The widowed Abigail became David’s wife.
Prudence will help us make good decisions and save people. It will help us see that there is plenty of room for God. And He will show us that life is not just about us but also about those around us. It may be challenging to make good decisions when we are faced with a crisis but through Abigail we learn that we can be loyal but not necessarily blind to people’s weaknesses. Prudence is about right timing- knowing when to do what. Proverbs 13:16 says, ‘Every prudent man acts out of knowledge; but a fool exposes his folly’. If we are prudent, we will find ourselves asking, ‘Is this the right time?’ We must therefore be wise for the sake of all. Nabal’s understanding of the situation was only made possible by Abigail’s prudence.
We may be in a place where we need to make a decision and do not know how to go about it. We can only use knowledge in such circumstances but also ask the Lord for wisdom to deal with the issue. We may want to move fast but we should consider all those around us- how will our decision impact them?
Proverbs 14:15 concludes for us,’ A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps’.