Through the years, I have been blessed to have wise women placed in my life, just when I needed their sage advice the most. One in particular, Mrs. Carmichael, whom all her boarders called, “Mom,” always told me what I needed to hear, rather than what I wanted to hear, although I did not always heed her advice, of course. But, when I did listen and acted with good judgment, I avoided a lot of heartache and suffering for myself and my loved ones. The value of wisdom often is not understood until trouble comes. Then, a wise person becomes a God-send.
This is the lesson of the story of the wise woman from Abel-beth-maacah, known as the wise woman of Abel, found in Second Samuel 20. Joab, the commander of King David’s troops, was seeking a man named Sheba son of Bicri, who had disrespected King David. Joab’s forces attacked Abel-beth-maacah, determined to capture Sheba at any costs in innocent lives, without first offering a peaceful solution as was required by law (Deuteronomy 20:10-15). Then, a “wise woman in the town called out to Joab” (2 Samuel 20:16) from behind the wall of the city. Her name is not given, but she describes herself as a peace loving and faithful servant, and she tells him that her town belongs to the Lord.
She lets Joab know that her town has always been a seat of wisdom, where people came to settle arguments and ask advice. So, she asks him, “Why do you want to devour what belongs to the Lord?” (verse 19). He tells her that he does not want to devour or destroy; he simply wants Sheba son of Bicri. She assures him that the head of whom he seeks will be thrown over the wall.
The woman went to her people with her wise advice, which is not part of the text, but one can assume that she let them know it is better to give up the one man’s head than for all of them to die trying to protect him. Her advice was obviously heeded, for they gave Joab his head, and he called off his troops. She saved her whole town from destruction. I do not know if there were no men in the town willing to confront Joab, or if, as she was considered a wise woman, she was chosen because sound judgment was needed to keep everyone safe. What I do know is that because of her courage and her use of sensible words, the exact words that others on both sides needed to hear, as a means to solving a potentially deadly situation, she saved many lives, including her own.
Wisdom is needed so much today in the form of sage advice and the right words to deescalate the words of hatred and intolerance that seem to dominate in our discourse with other Americans. Whether liberal, conservative, or moderate, we need wise words to use to talk to each other, remembering that God loves the peacemakers of the world. Interestingly, in Proverbs 8:22, Wisdom tells us, ” The Lord formed me from the beginning, before he created anything else.” And Proverbs 3: 19 tells us that by wisdom the Lord founded the earth, and by understanding he created the heavens.
So, wisdom has been around longer than the earth has existed, with her amazing knowledge, deep understanding, keen discernment, and a capacity for sound judgment. In Proverbs 3, wisdom is described by feminine pronouns such as “her” and “she,” for it says in verses 14-16, “For wisdom is more profitable than silver, and her wages are better than gold. Wisdom is more precious than rubies and nothing you desire can compare with her. She offers you long life in her right hand, and riches and honor in her left.” As a woman, I find the prospect of wisdom as feminine very fascinating.
But, wisdom’s amazing value to us as a society today is found in the ability of the wise person to speak boldly and courageously to all people, using words that touch our hearts and lead us in the right directions towards love for God, for Jesus, for the Holy Spirit,and for each other, including the foreigners among us. Let us seek to be wise above all other prizes in the world, and let us begin by seeking God’s will in all aspects of our lives, and then heeding His wise words.
Dear Father in Heaven, Abba,
Grant us the wisdom you gave to King Solomon, so that we may know the right words to say at all times, especially when angry words are tearing apart relationships. Help us to heed sensible words when we hear them, words that will save us from so much pain and suffering. Give us discerning hearts to know a wise person when we are blessed to encounter them in our lives. Thank you for the wisdom found in Your words, for they are truly a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths. Bless you and praise to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.