Abihail—a broken heart mended, a character reborn

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t yet read Trouble in the Ruins, and don’t want to know how Abihail’s story will play out, STOP HERE.

Abihail is the only fictional character among the set of seven youthful protagonists in The Stones of Gilgal saga. She was originally created to be a tragic character, the daughter-in-law of the Biblical Achan., who would not survive his treachery. I made her Acsah’s dearest childhood friend so we would come to know her well and care about her when the disastrous chain of events set in motion by Achan’s rebelliousness and greed ended with the stoning of the entire family. 

As the writing of this story continued, I came to love Abihail and I just couldn’t bear to let her go. Although there are several horrifying Old Testament stories of whole families punished together, God’ expresses his standard of justice in Ezekiel 18;20: “The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent.”  So . . . the innocent Abihail lives. As her broken heart mends, she develops incredible inner strength and wisdom.

Fast forward twenty-five or so years into life in Canaan. Joshua.has died and the glorious beginning has devolved into chaos. You have entered the biblical era of Judges. In the final book of my series, Othniel will rise as the first hero-judge, bringing the people back to covenant faithfulness, then defeating their oppressive enemy. Abihail’s role in that book will be remarkably similar to the woman “Wisdom” in Proverbs 8-9, a personification of wisdom. The tragedies she overcame in her young life through the power of God give her a sense of urgency to reach out to “at risk” young people, inviting them to her home for sumptuous meals, exhorting them to seek the blessings of covenant living.

Did the author of this section of Proverbs base his personification on a real person, legendary by his time? It seems probable to me. And what a perfect role for the mature Abihail. She has lived long enough to witness countless examples of the curses spawned by the Canaanite culture of greed, violence, and decadent idolatry. She is loved as a midwife who helped birth hundreds of Judeans and respected widely as a “mother in Israel.” She is a woman of courage, unafraid to reveal what she has learned from her own youthful struggles. Many will listen to her and Judah will be the stronger for her counsel. But many will not heed the warnings of Lady Wisdom. My heart already breaks as I sketch out the tragic consequences of their choices. Steel yourself. My final book includes one of the most heart rending stories in the Bible.