The Wise Woman of Abel
Her character: Rather than passively waiting for someone else to save her city, she had the wisdom and courage to act quickly and decisively. / Her
sorrow: That her city, though faithful to the king, was besieged by his army because it had been infiltrated by a rebellious leader. / Her joy: That she was able to successfully intercede for the town, thus averting disaster for many innocent people. / Key Scriptures: 2 Samuel 20:14-22
Teddy Roosevelt once said that “nine-tenths of wisdom consists in being wise in time.” After the dust settles, the storm clears, the action stops, it’s often too late for wisdom to work its marvels.
Many women in Scripture stand out for their wisdom. One woman, who lived in a town at Israel’s northern border, is identified solely as “a wise woman” (2 Samuel 20:16), acting quickly to save her city.
The sad stories of Bathsheba and Tamar highlighted the decline of David’s household. Eventually, Absalom, David’s third son, rebelled and was killed in a battle for the throne. In the midst of this political instability, a rabble-rouser by the name of Sheba, from the tribe of Benjamin (Saul’s tribe), attempted still another revolt. But Joab, the commander of David’s army, chased Sheba all the way to Abel Beth Maacah, in the north.
Joab had constructed siege ramps to assault the walls of Abel and squelch the rebellion. It was evident that the entire city would be destroyed unless someone acted quickly to preserve the peace.
Suddenly, a woman stood on the walls of Abel and shouted: “Listen! Listen!
Tell Joab to come here so I can speak to him.
“We are the peaceful and faithful in Israel,” she cried out. “You are trying to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. Why do you want to swallow up the Lord’s inheritance?” she challenged Joab.
“Far be it from me to swallow up or destroy!” he replied. “A man named Sheba son of Bicri, from the hill country of Ephraim, has lifted up his hand against the king, against David. Hand over this one man, and I’ll withdraw from the city.”
“His head will be thrown to you from the wall,” she shouted back.
The woman turned to her fellow citizens, urging them to act. In just moments, a man’s head came careening over the wall. Disaster was averted.
The men in this story appear to behave only in conventional terms: mobilize the army, build a siege ramp, violently smash the city walls, squelch the rebellion. But the woman looked for another solution. Gruesome as it was, it kept the peace and spared lives on both sides. Through her intercession on behalf of her people, innocent lives on both sides of the city walls were spared.
The wise woman of Abel saw a need for immediate action, and she acted. She recognized that this was not a time to passively wait for someone else to take the reins of leadership, not a time for quibbling or wavering, just a time to do what needed to be done. Through this woman, God saved the innocent inhabitants of her city. There are times when quick action is required of us as well. We may hesitate, we may wish to go another way, we may dodge and shuffle, but in the end we must act. When we’re living in obedience and close relationship with God, we can trust that we don’t go alone. God is there, giving us the help and assurance we require.