Michal: The tragic story of a princess

 

michal

By Gideon

Michal’s story is a tragic story of a princess who was used as a pawn, first by her father, King Saul, and then by her husband King David.

David was successful in battle against the Philistines and this aroused the jealousy of Saul, who tried to kill David by throwing a spear at him. David stayed with Saul, however, and Saul offered him his own daughter, Merav, as a wife. He later reneged on his promise, but offered David his second daughter, Michal, in exchange for the foreskins of 100 Philistines, a price that David paid as the “bride-price,” or dowry. Gruesome as this sounds, it held great significance for the Israelites. First, it would prove David’s prowess as a warrior. Second, because circumcision was the physical symbol of their covenant with God, foreskins would prove that David had killed Philistines and not some other tribal group. Finally, the collection of so many foreskins would demonstrate Israel’s military strength to its neighbors. Saul was sure that David would be killed attempting such a monumental task, thus removing a strong rival to Saul’s kingship. Instead, David presented Saul with 200 Philistine foreskins and claimed Michal as his wife.

The only place in the Bible where a woman’s love for a man is recorded is in Samuel 18:20 where it says that Michal loved David. Michal risked her father’s wrath by helping David to escape out a window. Then she fooled her father’s envoy by putting a statue of a household idol called a “terephim” under a blanket on a bed, topping it with a net of goat’s hair. She told the envoy that David was sick and couldn’t go to her father. When her father Saul learned that David had escaped, Michal flat-out lied to protect her husband. “You gave him to me as a husband,” Michal told her father. “He’s a soldier, and a violent man, and he held a sword on me and made me help him.” Thus she put the onus for David’s escape back on her father. David returned briefly to make a pact of peace with Jonathan (Saul’s son) and to verify that Saul was still planning to kill him. He then continued his flight from Saul, finding refuge with the king of Moab. On the way, the priest Ahimelech of Nob gave David a weapon. When Saul heard this, he sent Doeg the Edomite to kill 85 of the city’s priests.

Saul gave Michal as a wife to Palti, the son of Laish while David was hiding for his life. When David became king of Judah and Ish-bosheth Michal’s brother (and Saul’s son) was king of Israel, David demanded her return to him, in return for peace between them. This Ish-bosheth did, despite the public protests of Palti who was so grief-stricken that he followed weeping as Michal was taken away until one of David’s envoys made Paltiel turn back. These events have raised moral issues within Judaism. On the one hand, some argue that it is prohibited to re-establish a marriage with a previous spouse who has subsequently remarried. On the other hand, other commentators explain that David had not divorced Michal at this point in time, but rather Saul acted to break their marriage by marrying her off to another without David’s consent. On that view, they were not technically divorced as David had not issued a writ of divorcement according to biblical law.

On hearing that God had blessed Obed-edom because of the presence of the Ark in his house, David had the Ark brought to Zion by the Levites, while he himself, “girded with a linen ephod,” (the ephod was a type of apron worn by priests, which exposed almost the entire body). David “danced before the Lord with all his might” and in the sight of all the public gathered in Jerusalem. He danced and whirled in ecstasy in front of the Ark as the procession made its way toward the palace, a performance that caused him to be scornfully rebuked by Michal. Aghast, Michal watched this spectacle from her window. Michal accused David of showing off his sexuality just so women would look at him. David fired back that God chose him to be king of Israel over her father, Saul, and that his dancing was religious ecstasy, not sexual vulgarity.

It says that out of the many wives of David in the Bible, “to her dying day Michal, daughter of Saul, had no children.”

s story is a tragic story of a princess who was used as a pawn, first by her father, King Saul, and then by her husband King David.

David was successful in battle against the Philistines and this aroused the jealousy of Saul, who tried to kill David by throwing a spear at him. David stayed with Saul, however, and Saul offered him his own daughter, Merav, as a wife. He later reneged on his promise, but offered David his second daughter, Michal, in exchange for the foreskins of 100 Philistines, a price that David paid as the “bride-price,” or dowry. Gruesome as this sounds, it held great significance for the Israelites. First, it would prove David’s prowess as a warrior. Second, because circumcision was the physical symbol of their covenant with God, foreskins would prove that David had killed Philistines and not some other tribal group. Finally, the collection of so many foreskins would demonstrate Israel’s military strength to its neighbors. Saul was sure that David would be killed attempting such a monumental task, thus removing a strong rival to Saul’s kingship. Instead, David presented Saul with 200 Philistine foreskins and claimed Michal as his wife.

The only place in the Bible where a woman’s love for a man is recorded is in Samuel 18:20 where it says that Michal loved David. Michal risked her father’s wrath by helping David to escape out a window. Then she fooled her father’s envoy by putting a statue of a household idol called a “terephim” under a blanket on a bed, topping it with a net of goat’s hair. She told the envoy that David was sick and couldn’t go to her father. When her father Saul learned that David had escaped, Michal flat-out lied to protect her husband. “You gave him to me as a husband,” Michal told her father. “He’s a soldier, and a violent man, and he held a sword on me and made me help him.” Thus she put the onus for David’s escape back on her father. David returned briefly to make a pact of peace with Jonathan (Saul’s son) and to verify that Saul was still planning to kill him. He then continued his flight from Saul, finding refuge with the king of Moab. On the way, the priest Ahimelech of Nob gave David a weapon. When Saul heard this, he sent Doeg the Edomite to kill 85 of the city’s priests.

Saul gave Michal as a wife to Palti, the son of Laish while David was hiding for his life. When David became king of Judah and Ish-bosheth Michal’s brother (and Saul’s son) was king of Israel, David demanded her return to him, in return for peace between them. This Ish-bosheth did, despite the public protests of Palti who was so grief-stricken that he followed weeping as Michal was taken away until one of David’s envoys made Paltiel turn back. These events have raised moral issues within Judaism. On the one hand, some argue that it is prohibited to re-establish a marriage with a previous spouse who has subsequently remarried. On the other hand, other commentators explain that David had not divorced Michal at this point in time, but rather Saul acted to break their marriage by marrying her off to another without David’s consent. On that view, they were not technically divorced as David had not issued a writ of divorcement according to biblical law.

On hearing that God had blessed Obed-edom because of the presence of the Ark in his house, David had the Ark brought to Zion by the Levites, while he himself, “girded with a linen ephod,” (the ephod was a type of apron worn by priests, which exposed almost the entire body). David “danced before the Lord with all his might” and in the sight of all the public gathered in Jerusalem. He danced and whirled in ecstasy in front of the Ark as the procession made its way toward the palace, a performance that caused him to be scornfully rebuked by Michal. Aghast, Michal watched this spectacle from her window. Michal accused David of showing off his sexuality just so women would look at him. David fired back that God chose him to be king of Israel over her father, Saul, and that his dancing was religious ecstasy, not sexual vulgarity.

It says that out of the many wives of David in the Bible, “to her dying day Michal, daughter of Saul, had no children.”

 

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