Margins of Miraculous – Michal by Shawn Blythe

We all know people who seem to get the short end of the stick at virtually every occasion.  They are in constant peril, suffer endless setbacks and are never able to get their heads above water.  Even when things are going well for them, it is difficult to enjoy the moment as there is the clear expectation that it will be short-lived – and when it ends it will likely be in spectacular fashion.

Michal is just such a person.  She was King Saul’s youngest daughter and therefore an important part of the royal family.  Michal likely knew things that the general population did not.  She was a first-hand witness to the royal family dynamics and certainly would have been a respected person among the Israelites. 

She would have also been aware of her father’s fear and jealousy of David and subsequent efforts to eliminate him.  As part of Saul’s first attempts to neutralize David, she watched as her father offered her older sister Merab to David in marriage.  After David turned down this offer, she would have been there to experience the despair or relief of her older sister depending on Merab’s feelings toward David.  Michal at some point fell in love with David herself.  This provided her father with a second opportunity to eliminate David by requiring the death of 100 Philistines as the price to become his son-in-law.  His assumption was that this task was too great for David and would ultimately result in his death. 

It is worth pausing a moment to consider Michal’s position.  We know very little about her other than she was the younger daughter of Saul (I Samuel 14:49) and was in love with David (I Samuel 18:20).  It is difficult to think that she did not at least have some understanding of her father’s feelings toward David.  It is likely that she and Merab may have discussed it given that both had been offered to David. The palace scuttlebutt would likely have been split on David’ ability to meet the requirements to obtain Michal’s hand in marriage.  I can even imagine a palace betting pool with Saul’s supporters betting against David and David’s supporters betting against the Philistines.  Perhaps she recognized that she was being used as a pawn in a game of royal subterfuge, but simply didn’t care if she ended up with David in the end.  Perhaps she was furious with her father for setting such a seemingly insurmountable obstacle (remembering that there was no such requirement when her father offered her older sister Merab to David). 

But it is equally plausible that Michal was so in love that she assumed David would conquer hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands to be her husband.  It is important to note that at no point does the scripture indicate that David loved Michal.  In fact, in discussing the situation, David refers to the opportunity three times as one related to becoming the king’s son-in-law rather than becoming Michal’s husband.  More specifically it states that David accomplished the task specifically to become Saul’s son-in-law (I Samuel 18:27).  Regardless of the motivation, Michal got what she wanted as David met the requirement twice over and the scripture now refers to Michal as David’s wife rather than Saul’s daughter.

It is difficult to tell how much time David spent at home following his marriage.  We know that he fought regularly with the Philistines and therefore likely spent some time away from home.  But we also know he was around enough to play the harp in Saul’s house on occasion.  Whatever familial routine that had been established was quickly disrupted as  Saul returned to his efforts to kill David.  Michal maintained her allegiance to David rather than her father by taking an active role in helping David escape.  She took an idol and placed it in the bed with goat hair around the head to make it appear as though David was asleep in his bed.  She lied both in claiming that David was ill – and then after being caught lied again in claiming that David threatened to kill her if she didn’t help him escape.

We will pause here a second time to touch on a point that could easily be passed over.  Michal used an idol (in Hebrew the word is teraphim) that she had in the house.  It is the same word used in Geneses 31 to describe the household gods that Rachel stole from her father Laban when she and Jacob left her family to return to the land of Jacob’s father Isaac.  The presence of an idol in the house would indicate that at least Michal (and perhaps even David) had not wholly eliminated idols from their home.  It would suggest that although Michal was in love with David, her undivided love did not extend to the God of Abraham.  It is possible that she worshipped the man God had created, rather than God the Creator.  This is a mistake which inevitably leads to disappointment and would so in this case.

At this point Michal’s life takes a turn for the worse.  David is on the run, avoiding Saul while periodically winning battles against the Philistines.  Saul dies and David is anointed King of Judah.  However, at no time does he seek out Michal.  In fact, there is a notable passage that describes David taking the time to find a refuge for his father and mother while hiding from Saul (I Samuel 22:3), but there is no record of any such thought or kindness toward his abandoned wife.  He has time to tenuously and temporarily reconcile with Saul, but no time to reunite with his wife.  Rather, over this time period David takes other wives (I Samuel 25:43) and Michal’s father Saul effectively reclaims his daughter from David and gives her to a man named Paltiel (I Samuel 25:44).

Let’s be clear – Michal is not being treated fairly.  Her father used her for political advantage.  Her husband has abandoned and forsaken her.  She is caught up in events far beyond her ability to control.  Her life is not turning out as she may have imagined so many years earlier when she fell in love with a brave, handsome young man.  It is only when David is about to be anointed king of Israel that he demands that Michal be taken from her current husband and returned to him (II Samuel 3:14-16).  There is no record of a joyous reunion and no indication that this was a rekindling of long-lost love.  In fact, the only indication of love we have is the anguished weeping of Paltiel as Michal is being taken from him.

I believe that somewhere between helping David escape from her father and her return to David, the love she had for husband had died.  Their relationship had not been fed, nourished or otherwise encouraged.  In its place was a bitterness that would become apparent in the last record we have of Michal – who is now once again referred to in scripture as the daughter of Saul rather than the wife of David.

In celebration, David danced as the Ark of the Covenant was returned to Jerusalem.  However, Michal was furious and the anger in her sarcastic attack is palpable: “How the King of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” (II Samuel 6:20) And David responds with an equally devastating reply stating quite clearly that he simply doesn’t care what she thinks and actually places more importance in the honor bestowed on him by slave girls than the concerns of Michal.  It is a painful end to their relationship and Michal is only mentioned one last time as being childless to her death.

We will pause a third and final time to consider Michal’s position.  She would be well aware of David’s other wives – many of which had already had children with David (II Samuel 3:2-5).  She may have lived to see the debacle with Bathsheba.  She saw a “man of God” behave in the worst possible ways and was a victim of a man who most others held in high esteem.  She was his first wife.  She married him and risked her life for him when he was nothing but a young soldier.  But now that he was the King, she was no longer worthy of his attention or honor.  There must be an enduring loneliness in that position.

It is not possible to know the full story here.  Perhaps I am having more empathy for Michal than she deserves.  Perhaps she was rejected by God just like her father was.  But it is equally plausible that she is just like so many other women who were treated like property – bartered and traded for the benefit of others.  Who was Michal’s advocate?  Who pleaded her case before the decision-makers of the day?  Who provided comfort through her life’s many setbacks?

It is a reminder of the role that we as Christians must play when we see the Michal’s of the world being unfairly treated.  I often wonder what would have happened if Michal had a godly influence in her life besides the clearly flawed David.  Somebody to reinforce that the unfairness of this physical world is temporary and must not distract us from our spiritual responsibilities.  Somebody to remind her that her role on this earth was not limited to being Saul’s daughter or David’s wife.  Somebody to remind her that our eyes must remain on the Creator, not the created. 

We should actively search for those opportunities to be that somebody.