Do you know anyone who just can’t get a break in life? Do you know someone who seems to resolve one major crisis only to be thrust into yet another? You know the kind of person I’m referring to here, the underdog, one we feel sorry for, one we want to reach out to. Do you know someone like that? This study presents us with just such a person. On the surface, one might assume that she had it all. After all, she’s the daughter of a king. In reality, our study will reveal that she was used as a pawn in a political chess game, surviving one major crisis only to be thrust into another. Her name? Michal, the youngest daughter of king Saul.
The Impact on Women in the Age of Kings
The omniscient characteristics of God (His all knowing ability) never cease to amaze me. It’s not simply that God knows everything, including our thoughts (that truly amazes me) it’s His ability to know the future that absolutely amazes me. Such is the case regarding Israel’s ultimate demand for a king.
God’s original plan, in terms of a political structure, for His people was built around judges. It all began after the Exodus. Let us look briefly at the account recorded in Exodus chapter 18.
Moses was, to be blunt, wearing himself out on the judgment seat. People were lining up before Moses, bringing Him their disputes and troubles (cf. vs. 16). Moses would resolve their issues according to God’s law (cf. vs. 16). The problem was, there were so many “disputes” that the line to Moses was so long it kept him occupied from morning to evening (cf. vs. 14). Jethro (Moses’ father-in-law) comes by for a visit and after realizing the demand being placed upon Moses (cf. vs. 18), suggests judges be appointed from the people (cf. 21-22). Thus, a political infrastructure is born.
Of course, this system of judges will stand for some 400 years until finally the people will demand for a change. This happens as Samuel, the last judge, ages and his sons, who are dishonest, are looked upon as heirs to the judgeship (cf. 1 Sam. 8:1-3). The people, obviously concerned about the dishonesty issue along with a desire to be like other nations around them, demand for a king (cf. 1 Sam 8:5, 19-20). The rest is history, as Saul, the son of Kish, is named as Israel’s first king.
Here’s the amazing part, God knew this would happen and made a provision for it in the law, years before the first king. Notice the section of law found in Deut. 17:14-20. This section of law applies only to Israel’s kings. Of course, when it was written, there were no kings; however, God knew the future need of this law. More profoundly, God knew the negative impact multiple wives would have, not only on a king and his ability to rule, but also upon the women themselves. Thus, the law states, neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away (Deut. 17:17).
Of course, from the beginning, this law was ignored. Though Saul had only one wife (Ahinoam) he did have a concubine (Rizpah). It was David; however, who first truly abused this law, taking for himself nine wives and an undetermined number of concubines (cf. 2 Sam. 5:13). David’s pattern of multiple marriages was followed to excess by his son Solomon, who had 700 wives and 300 concubines (cf. 1 Kings 11:3). Despite the fact that multiple marriages was forbidden in God’s law, this trend will continue even after the kingdom is divided. So, what’s the point of this detail, you might ask? It’s the foundation we need to fully understand and appreciate the impact the monarchy (Israel ruled by one king) had upon the women of that day.
The introduction of the monarchy, for the most part, went unnoticed by the majority of women living in ancient Israel. Their daily routine was all but unchanged. They had the same chores to do, they had the same rules to live by in terms of honor, and marriage, and law. For most, they lived their life out, just as their mother, grand-mother, and great-grand-mother had before them. That wasn’t the case for all, however.
The introduction of the monarchy did have a dramatic impact on some women. Samuel forewarned the people of such, if a king was chosen. He explained that if they were ruled by a king, this king would take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers… and your female servants… and use them for his work (1 Sam. 8:13, 16).
Even more dramatic would be the impact upon women who would become members of the royal family. To be married to a king or to be born into the royal family, did within itself bring about certain privileges; however, these were greatly outweighed by other duties and disappointments.
Such is the case with our character, Michal. The story of David and Michal fully illustrates the points we’ve been discussing. Although Saul was Israel’s first king, his relationship, use and abuse of his youngest daughter Michael shows that he fully understood the political use of women. Sadly, our text will show that David too fully understood this.
The setting for our story of Michal begins soon after Saul’s resentment for David has been solidified. Saul had become insanely jealous of David’s popularity and military success (cf. 1 Sam. 18: 6-9). This jealously soon consumed Saul, to the point that he even used his own daughters in a scheme to destroy David.
Michal fell in love with David as a young girl. After all, David was a national hero, one who defeated the great Philistine giant. It’s easy to see how the heart of a young girl could be captured by this dashing military man. Saul hoped to use her love to get rid of David. The plot will fail, and Michal will be allowed to marry David, the man of her dreams. For her, this might appear to be a dream come true, the beginning of a new life full of joy, happiness and great success. This simply wouldn’t be the case. On the contrary, her love for David will thrust her into even more complicated political issues. Michal will prove to be a victim. Ironically, the men who will use, abuse and eventually discard her are the very men in whom she should have been most able to trust — her father and her husband! Let’s study her story:
A Young Girls Dream Comes True (1 Sam. 18:17-27):
Vs. 17: Here is my older daughter Merab…
When Goliath, the great warrior for the Philistines, was terrifying Israel, Saul promised to enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel (free from public taxes and public service — 1 Sam. 17:25). From our verse 17, it would appear Saul was about to make good on his commitment; however, it’s clear Saul’s motivation was driven by his jealously not honor. Saul hoped a married David would become distracted in battle, making a mistake which would cost him his life.
Vs. 18-19: Who am I… she was given to Adriel…
David, as usual was very humble and submissive. Although the right to marry Merab had been earned, David acknowledges his pauper heritage. Of course, politically, a daughter of the king was too valuable to waste on a nobody like David, thus Saul married her to a man named Adriel. It’s pretty obvious why Saul reneged, not giving Merab’s hand to David. He more than likely realized that there was no love between the two and his scheme to distract David, leading him to take foolish risks in battle, would have little chance of success. Moreover, there was nothing to gain politically by marrying her to David. As for Adriel, well, your guess is as good as mine. The text just doesn’t reveal this information to us. I think is safe to say Saul gained something in this exchange.
Note: It is the five sons born to this union (Adriel and Merab) along with the two sons of Rizpah and Saul who are given to the Gibeonites by David as restitution.
Vs. 20-21: Michal… loved David…
Michal, Saul’s youngest daughter, had obviously fell “head-over-heels” for this young, handsome, valiant hero who had rid their land of the giant Philistine. Her love for David reached the ears of Saul. He’s jealous mind began scheming. How thrilled Michal must have been when she was told that her father would actually permit her to marry David. Of course, Saul wasn’t moved by a desire to please his youngest daughter. Rather, he saw her love as a weapon to use in his secret campaign against David. As was his earlier plan with Merab, he hoped Michal may become a snare to him, tripping David up and costing him his life in battle. Unlike Merab, this might actually work because of Michal’s love for David.
This is yet another sad and vivid illustration of Saul’s jealous consummation of David. More important to Saul than his daughters happiness was his desire to destroy David, no matter the cost.
Vs. 22-23: Speak to David secretly…
Saul’s original plan to give Merab to David was met with humble resistance. This new plan had a much higher probability of success, thus realizing David will most likely, once again, humbly deny his daughter’s hand, Saul sends servants to “butter” David up. This time, David’s rejection is more substantiated. He had nothing to bring into the marriage that could equal the value of a king’s daughter. It was customary for the groom to present a dowry to the family of the bride. This marriage present ensured the new wife’s financial security against the possibility her husband might forsake her or might die. The amount of the dowry depended on customs of the specific tribes or clans and upon the economic and social class of the parties involved. Besides guaranteeing future financial security, the dowry also compensated the bride and her family for the economic loss represented to her family by her leaving to join her husband’s family. Deuteronomy 22:29 apparently puts the price at fifty shekels of silver, a much larger price than paid for a slave -thirty shekels (Ex. 21:32; compare Lev. 27:1-8). The customary dowry for the hand of a king’s daughter is no doubt much larger.
Vs. 24-25: The king does not desire any dowry except…
Saul had obviously counted on such a reaction from David. Saul was willing to forego a dowry of gold and silver, all he required from the great hero to earn the hand of Michal were a hundred foreskins of the Philistines. Saul hoped David would be killed by the Philistines!
Vs. 26-27: It pleased David to become the kings son-in-law…
A dowry of 100 Philistine foreskins was certainly within David’s means. He acted quickly, not giving Saul a chance to “pull the rug from under him” as was done with Merab. David killed 200 Philistines! The text doesn’t say if 200 foreskins were presented to Saul. Nonetheless, I’m sure Saul was well aware of David’s success.
With his planned foiled, Saul has no choice but to permit the marriage. After all, there was still hope that Michal’s love for David might still trip him up in the days to come. It’s sad to think that a man can be so driven by jealousy and hatred that he would expose the emotions of his own daughter to such a divisive “game of chess!”
Lesson Today - Jealousy Rules!
What can we all learn from Saul and his dealing’s with David and Michal? Jealousy, when allowed to continue unchecked, will grow, fester and eventually cause one to make choices which otherwise would never be made.
Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood, but who can stand before jealousy? (Prov. 27:4).
Jealousy and spirituality are like oil and water — they won’t mix! You can’t claim to be a child of God and all the while have jealousy in your heart. The apostle Paul said, “because there is jealousy and quarreling among you, this shows that you are not spiritual.” (1 Cor. 3:3 — NCV).
Jealousy may very well be one of the most divisive and successful tools in Satan’s toolbox. There are so many ways he can use it against us:
A co-worker gets a promotion over us - jealous?
Our neighbor, the one who gets every break in life and is smug about it, gets a new car - jealous?
The prettiest girl in school is now interested in your boy friend, the one she otherwise wouldn’t give the time of day. He dumps you for her - jealous?
How do we defend against jealousy? I must admit, at times defeating jealously is no easy task. I’m afraid in most cases, we can’t go it alone. Fortunately, we have a friend in Jesus who can help us win this battle. A sure cure for jealousy involves much prayer, and keeping your head in the Book (the Bible). The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much (James 5:16), including winning out over Satan and jealousy.
Love is Thicker than Blood (1 Sam 19: 10-16):
Vs. 10 : Saul tried to pin David to the wall with the spear…
David’s marriage into Saul’s family did nothing to temper Saul’s jealousy. It’s quite apparent from our text, Saul’s jealousy has continued to grow to the point that he can no longer hide it. Saul openly made an attempt upon David’s life, seeking to “shish kabob” him!
Vs. 11-12: Michal, David’s wife, told him…
We don’t have to “read between the lines” to see Micahl’s love for David. She learns of her father’s plan to take her husband’s life (probably from Saul’s servants still loyal to her) and informs David of the impending danger. Moreover, she helps him with an escape plan, letting David down through a window.
Vs. 13-16: He is sick...
I don’t know exactly how she did it, but Michal pulled off the deception of the century. While David was running for his life, Michal, who had been left behind, did all she could do to give her husband a strong head start. When the servants arrived to take David, she first informs them of David being in bed, sick. This doesn’t slow Saul down, he tells them to bring David to him, bed and all. Unbeknown to them, Michal disguised a household idol (what this was doing there in the first place is another lesson for another time) and placed it in David’s bed. So well was her disguise, the dummy wasn’t detected until the blankets were thrown off in Saul’s presence.
Though her plan worked, Michal would eventually pay a heavy price. With her husband now considered an outlaw, a man on the run, Saul later exercised his prerogative as king (I’m not aware of any point in the Law allowing this) and gave Michal his daughter, David’s wife, to Palti the son of Laish, who was from Gallim (1 Sam. 25:44).
Lesson Today - Family Loyalty Shouldn’t Keep us From Doing That Which we Know to be Right!
I’m not sure how loyal Michal was to her father. The text just doesn’t say. Nonetheless, she is certainly loyal to her husband. The Bible tells us when we marry we leave our father and mother and cleave to our spouse, and we become one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24). Michal’s love for David is not only commendable, her actions stand as a strong example for us today.
Do you know anyone, married, who refuses to “side” with their spouse because they are “siding” with mom or dad? I wonder how many marriages today have ended in divorce or are currently “on the rocks” simply because of a position taken by one of the parties with their parents.
I have lost count of the number of people I have studied the Bible with, who, upon learning the truth, many times acknowledging the truth, even having a Christian spouse, refuse to accept it simply because of a loyalty to the religion of their parents.
What should we learn from Michal? Family loyality shouldn’t keep up from doing that which we know to be right! Especially if that right is turning from a denominational based religion and becoming a member of Christ’s church.
A Final Confrontation (2 Sam. 6:16-23)
David was born around 1040 BC. His battle with Goliath took place around 1017 BC, thus David would have been around 23 years old at the time. I think we can safely assume his marriage to Michal took place relatively soon after Goliath’s defeat (no more than a year or so after). David becomes king, after Saul’s death, around 1010. This would make David at least 30 years old. We don’t have another “semi-firm” date until 990 BC when David warred against the Arameans (cf. 2 Sam. 8:6). At this point in time, David would be about 50 years old. The events we are about to study, regarding Michal, took place before the war against the Arameans. We can’t be sure, but more than likely some 20 years have passed without a word in scripture regarding Michal and her new life with Palti. Once again, as has been in Michal’s life, she is thrust into yet another emotional situation.
Remember Ish-bosheth’s (Saul’s son) charge against Abner, regarding a relationship with Saul’s concubine, Rizpah? This charge angers Abner and turns him to David. It’s after this event that David demand’s to have Michal back. The text says, "And Ish-bosheth sent and took her from her husband, from Paltiel the son of Laish. But her husband went with her, weeping as he went…" (2 Sam. 3:15-16). After all these years, one asks why now? We simply don’t know!
We can only assume how hard this change must have been for her. Her love for David was strong. I think it safe to say, she didn’t give him up over night. It may have taken years for her to accept her new husband and grow to love him. Now, years later, David turns her world upside down again. Now, it would appear, Michal is once again “under David’s control.” David has triumphed over all his foreign enemies, and has established Jerusalem as the political capital of the nation. He has just succeeded in bringing the ark of the covenant to they city, making it the nation’s religious capital as well. Let’s look at the text which describes this event:
Vs. 16, 20: As the ark of the Lord came into the city…
David is full of joy and is rejoicing over his victory and the bringing of the ark to Jerusalem. In his delight and celebration, he lead’s the procession of priests carrying the ark through the streets and for this, David had taken off his royal robes. Michal had watched him from one of the palace windows, and as she watched she was overcome by feelings of bitterness and contempt. The text said, she despised him in her heart. When the opportunity presented itself, Michal condemned David’s action, stating, He uncovered himself today in the eyes of his servants’ maids as one of the foolish ones shamelessly uncovers himself! (vs. 20).
I don’t believe this isolated event is the sole purpose of Michal’s bitterness and contempt. More than likely, it had been building up for years, beginning first when she was betrayed by her father, and climaxing when she is pulled away from her second husband, Paltiel.
How terrible for Michal and how betrayed she must have felt, to be treated as an object by both her father and her first love. How helpless she must have felt. She had no control over her own life and no trust in the men who had showed themselves so willing to misuse her. Yet the real tragedy is yet to come!
Vs. 21-23: So David said to Michal…
The real tragedy in Michal’s life is the fact that her bitterness became so intense, it separated her from God. The true tragedy is not that Michal became a victim of men but that in her pain Michal lost sight of God’s grace. Her bitterness, in the end, caused her to be childless. She lived the rest of her life, lonely and no doubt very unhappy.
Note: The KJV of 2 Sam. 21:8 renders the five sons to Michal. Other translations, such as the NAS, render the text as the sons of Merab, which is in agreement with 1 Sam. 18:19. Most scholars acknowledge the corruption in the Hebrew text and agree that Merab is proper. It could be that Merab died and Michal raised her orphan children. We simply don’t have textual support for this, and to claim this as truth would be mere conjecture.
Lesson Today - Bitterness and God Just Don’t Mix
We all know that oil and water don’t mix. The same is true for bitterness and God - the two simply don’t mix! There is simply no room in a Christian’s heart for bitterness. The Spirit and bitterness can’t co-exist!
Paul said, Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you (Eph. 4:31-32).
Bitterness can separate us from God. Bitterness can separate us from God’s forgiveness. Bitterness can cause us a life of loneliness and despair. Bitterness can cost us our soul!
I close with the following verse: Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled (Heb. 12:14-15).