The next group of women we are going to look at are a few of the women in David’s life. All three – Michal, Abigail and Bathsheba – were wives of David. David actually had quite a few wives, and while some people will point to men like David having multiple wives as evidence that God was okay with that, if you read these stories closely, they never end very well. While God allowed these men to make mistakes, the stories make it clear this was NOT God’s ideal.
Today we are going to talk about Michal. She was the youngest daughter of King Saul in the Bible. She was also David’s first wife.
As I’ve studied the women in the Bible, I marvel at how utterly helpless women were in Biblical times. They had absolutely NO control over their own lives and were often used as pawns by the men in their lives – even the men who were supposed to protect them.
Michal is a prime example of this. We always hear about Michal and how she despises David for worshiping with abandon in the streets of the city. She is portrayed as a bitter woman – too uptight and prudish for empathy.
But when you dig into her story a little more, it’s a wonder that the only thing she jabbed at David with was her words. (personally, I would have been using something a little more pointy that would cause a little more collateral damage.
It all starts when David is still playing music for King Saul. This is right around the time that the popular little ditty “Saul has killed his thousands, but David has killed ten thousands” gained in popularity. Saul was not tapping his foot to the latest hit song – instead, he was overcome with jealousy toward David.
He offered David his oldest daughter Merab, if David would go fight against the Philistines. Saul’s hope was that in all that fighting David would come to an untimely and messy end. However, that didn’t happen. God was with David and he was victorious.
When it came time to claim Merab, David refused because he felt like he didn’t deserve to be the king’s son-in-law (or maybe he just didn’t want to marry into the family of a crazy man).
Then came Michal. In I Samuel 18:20 it says, “Now Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved David, When they told Saul, the thing was agreeable to him.” This is the only time in the Bible that it says that a woman loved a man. Obviously, she was in pretty deep -she was probably singing Israel’s version of the top 40 song dreamily around the palace.
Before you think that Saul was just an indulgent papa, the dowry he required of David was 100 Philistine foreskins. As you might imagine, the Philistines were not going to part with these willingly. (yuck!) Saul was using his daughter’s love for David in the hopes that in the process of obtaining these foreskins (I really, really don’t want to know how David pulled this off, btw), he would die, and Saul could be rid of him. Never mind that his daughter loved David and would have been crushed if he had died obtaining the dowry to marry her. That’s the kind of thing that could give you some serious baggage.
But, of course, David was successful. At this point, Saul’s son Jonathan was David’s best bud and his daughter Michal loved David which made Saul afraid of David, What was the outcome of that fear? It says in verse 29, “Thus Saul was David’s enemy continually.”
So, Michal and David marry. David continued to go in and play his music for Saul, but one day, Saul threw his spear at David with the intention of nailing the young man to the wall (and this wasn’t the first time either!). Talk about a difficult father-in-law! Michal gets wind that Saul is sending men to kill David so she helps him escape.
Instead of running with him, she stays behind to buy him more time. She puts a house idol into the bed and covers it with goat hair so that the soldiers are fooled and believe her when she tells them David is in bed, sick. Saul sends the soldiers back to haul David out of bed, but when they find that David is gone, they drag Michal to the palace instead.
Saul is angry that his daughter has chosen David over him. Thinking quickly, Michal tells him that David threatened to kill her if she didn’t help him – getting herself off the hook.
Then, she waits. Surely, she thought, David would send for her. But he didn’t. Several years went by and still she waited. Then she got the bitter news that David had married not one wife, but two!
At this point, her father Saul gives her to another man – Paltiel. Just like that, she was no longer David’s wife but Paltiel’s. While this seemed rather arbitrary, after all that happened, it’s unclear at this point if Michal still loved David or not. At least two years had gone by since she had last seen him, and he had married two other women.
Whatever Michal’s thoughts were at the beginning of the marriage, Paltiel was happy with his new bride. We don’t hear anything more about Michal until much later. As many as ten years had passed (maybe more as the timeline is a little hard to pinpoint).
Now Saul has died and David is large and in charge. In II Samuel 3:13, David tells Abner (with whom he was making a covenant) that he wouldn’t talk to him unless Abner returned Michal to him.
Let’s get real here – nowhere does it say that David loved Michal. This was not sweethearts reuniting. This was about using Michal, who was the previous king’s daughter, to help establish his authority. It was also a little bit about throwing his newly acquired power around, too.
While David was a man after God’s own heart and he did a lot of great things, he was kind of a hound dog when it came to women. The man had a lot of wives, and then there was that whole thing with Bathsheba. Like his son after him, David’s Achilles’ heel was women.
Poor Michal. All the men in her life, including David, treated Michal pretty shamefully – all except Paltiel. And now she is losing him.
First, Saul tries to use her love to get David killed. Then, David leaves her hanging for years at the mercy of her father while he is on the run, marrying women left and right; then her father gives her to some other guy.
After she finally settles in and is presumably contentedly, and even happily, married, David comes along again and turns her life completely upside down.
We find a tender and sad description of what happened in 2 Samuel 3:15,16, “Ishbosheth sent and took her from her husband, from Paltiel the son of Laish. But her husband went with her, weeping as he went, and followed her as far Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, ‘Go return.’ So, he returned.”
Whether she loved him or not, Michal is not happy to be back with David. The last time we see Michal is in her confrontation with David.
David, in abandoned worship, was dancing wildly in the streets as the ark is returned. Michal confronts David afterwards and basically tells him he was making a big display of himself.
This sounds like Michal was being nit picky, but if you really understand what took place, Michal’s objections aren’t as bad as they seem at first glance.
David was wearing a linen ephod – this was a garment that resembled Tarzan’s loincloth. And like a kilt, men didn’t wear anything under this ephod. So, when David is dancing with all of his might in the street, he was also flashing the entire crowd – specifically the young servant girls.
Michal accuses David of doing this to gain the admiring attention of the servant girls. David shoots back that God chose him, NOT her father as king and he’d rather have the admiration of the servant girls than hers.
The last verse tells us the Michal had no children ever. Some have seen this as judgment from God for her harsh words to David. However, there is no phrase of God closing her womb. To me, it is a sad statement of fact on a life that is consumed by bitterness.
The thing is, in her final confrontation (that is recorded anyway) with David, you can almost hear Michal’s anger and bitterness spilling out of her mouth. David’s undignified behavior is the last straw for her. She’s had it!
And you know, Michal really had every right to be bitter.
The thing is, though, just because you have every right to be bitter, it doesn’t mean you have to be.
God calls us to forgive those to hurt us – even if they never acknowledge that hurt or ask for forgiveness.
Forgiveness is really not about the other person anyway – it’s about us. God knows that if we allow unforgiveness to fester, it turns into bitterness that eats away at us from the inside out.
Forgiveness does NOT mean we act like we have not been hurt or what the other person did was okay. In fact, you can’t really forgive until you acknowledge the hurt and grieve if you need to.
It’s only then that you can turn over the consequences of that to God – to relinquish your right to be right. It’s easy to say, but not always easy to do. However, it IS a choice. If we wait until we feel like being forgiving, it probably won’t happen. Instead, we need to make the choice and then drag our feelings (usually kicking and screaming) into line with that choice.
But we can trust God to take care of things. He IS the perfect judge – just the right blend of mercy and justice.
Once we do that, only then can God move in to heal our hurts and make us whole again. Sometimes, because the actions of others cause multiple consequences, we may have to choose to forgive every time we run up against one of those consequences. In some cases, this might mean you have to make the choice to forgive on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, we don’t know how Michal’s years on this earth ended. We don’t know if she died clutching her bitterness tightly to her or if she made the choice to forgive.
But we can learn from what we do read that while it’s hard and may not feel fair, forgiveness is the only cure for bitterness.
Is there someone in your life you need to forgive? Have you allowed bitterness to take root in your heart? God doesn’t expect you to do this all alone. He is just waiting to help you.