Wives of King David: Michal, the wife who loved and hated
Michal was the younger daughter of King Saul. Her story is the only one that comes to us in several different parts.
David has already slain Goliath and become best friends with King Saul’s son, Jonathan. However, Saul is afraid of David. He probably has learned by this point that David has been anointed to become the next king.
Saul first offers his oldest daughter Merab to David in marriage, but for reasons not revealed in scripture this marriage does not transpire. Merab is given in marriage to another man. Saul clearly reneged on his promise to David.
1 Samuel 18:20 tells us “Now Saul’s daughter Michal was in love with David, and when they told Saul about it, he was pleased.” Michal, whose name means Who is like Jehovah, is the only woman mentioned by name in Scripture who is said to love a man. We are lead to believe that David may not have loved her in return and this was a political move on his part, but we cannot be completely sure.
After David proves himself by doubling the requested dowry, killing over 200 Philistines, Michal and David are married, but King Saul makes David’s life very difficult. When King Saul sends his men to kill David, Michal assist him by lowering him out the window and helping him escape.
She knew that she could be risking her own life by assisting her husband.
After escaping David makes no attempt to contact his wife. More than likely he knows such an act would lead King Saul to his location. David lived on the run for years after his escape. During his time on the run he took other wives.
If Michal mourned for her fugitive husband, it didn’t take long. Her father gives her hand in marriage a second time to Palti, son of Laish.
The years pass by and David becomes King of Judah. Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth, is the King of Israel. David demands the return of Michal to him in return for peace between the two women. We’re not told if David is aware she is with Palti, although it seems likely he is conscious of this information, but this is a suave political move on his part. This political move also reinforces “his legitimacy as a member of the Royal house.”
Zondorvan’s commentary sheds light by saying, “Her pride and love for prestige left little room for weeping and although she knew she could never become David’s ideal love, seeing she had been the possession of another man, yet as his first wife Michal thought of the position that would be hers at court.”
We’re not told of Michal’s reaction, although her further anger at David, is most likely a clear indication of her mindset. However, Palti is devastated. 2 Samuel 3:16 says “Her husband, however, went with her, weeping behind her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go back home!” So he went back.”
Palti publically mourned for his wife. He clearly loved her to mourn in such an unrestricted manner.
Michal is torn from a man who clearly loves and adores her to a man who treats here as a pawn.
Some time later, David brings the Ark of the Covenant into the City of David. 2 Samuel 6 tells us that “David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.”
Michal watched the scene unfold from her window. “And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.” Clearly, she had no relationship with the Lord God. Our commentary explains, “When they met, she with a biting sarcasm, revealing “her self-pride, and lack of sensitiveness to her husband’s magnificent simplicity…For her there were no pious and affectionate feelings at the return of the Ark to Zion. Like her father, Saul, she had no regard for the Ark of God.”
David’s response is that he danced before the God who chose him over her father’s household. He would become even more undignified and humiliated if it meant honoring God.
“And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.” God brought his own revenge by leaving her childless, which our commentary describes as “a punishment appropriate to her transgression”. This was a time when women’s whole reason for living and self-esteem was wrapped up in motherhood. She and David lived separately and in estrangement for the remainder of their lives. 2 Samuel 21:8 indicates she raised her sister,
Merab’s, five sons. “She ended her days without the love and companionship of a husband, caring for her dead sister’s five children, all of whom were ultimately beheaded.”
“But Michal made no effort to understand her husband’s Godward desires and so passed a wrong judgment upon him… Further, had Michal loved David enough, she should have sought his forgiveness after he had explained his demeanor before the Lord. “She worshipped him when he was poor and unknown and now that he is King ‘she despised him in her heart’ … David realized they could never love the same God. Therefore he cut her from his heart.”
As Zondarvan’s commentary states, “What a different story might have been written of her if she had been a woman after God’s own heart!”