31 Days of Women from Scripture
Lessons from Michal
Michal has an unfortunate story. She is not in charge of her life. She is used as a pawn. Sadly, she allows that to make her bitter. Let’s look at her story.
Michal is the daughter of King Saul (1 Sam. 18:20). Saul is Israel’s first king. He was chosen by God after the people refused God as their king and expressed their desire to be more like the surrounding nations (1 Sam. 8:5-7; 1 Sam. 9:15-21; 1 Sam. 10:17-24). Saul displeases God and God chooses another to be king, David (1 Sam. 15:20-23; 1 Sam. 16:1-13). After David kills the giant Goliath (1 Sam. 17), Saul becomes jealous of David’s popularity (1 Sam. 18:6-9). Saul had been devoted to David (1 Sam. 16:18-23) and David’s closest friend was Saul’s son, Jonathan (1 Sam. 18:1; 1 Sam. 19:1-7). But when Saul begins to suspect that David could take the kingdom from him (1 Sam. 18:8), he begins to view David as the enemy.
Saul’s devises a plan to keep his enemy close – to have him marry one of Saul’s daughters. Merab is Saul’s daughter and Saul offers her to David in exchange for David becoming one of Saul’s valiant men. Saul’s purpose was to create occasion for David’s death, not to create a loving union for his daughter. Merab was a bribe. “Marry the daughter of the king and get a position of authority” was the offer dangled in front of David. David, in his humility, refused the offer (1 Sam. 18:17-19). So Saul married Merab to someone else.
Michal, however, already loved David (1 Sam. 18:20). Saul’s thought is not for helping his daughter to marry the man she loves. 1 Samuel 18:21 says, “Saul thought, ‘I will give her to him that she may become a snare to him, and the hand of the Philistines may be against him.’ Therefore Saul said to David, ‘For a second-time may be my son-in-law today.'” David again refuses, claiming he is a lowly and poor man (remember, he has already been anointed as the next king by Samuel in 1 Sam. 16:12-13). Saul instructs his servants to persuade him that David can provide the bride-price by killing 100 Philistines. Saul’s intention being that David would die doing so (1 Sam. 18:22-25). David was pleased to become the king’s son-in-law and willing to pay the price to do so. David accomplishes the deed and Michal becomes his wife. “When Saul saw and knew that the Lord was with David, and that Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved him, then Saul was even more afraid of David. Thus Saul was David’s enemy continually” (1 Sam. 18:28-29).
So, Michal has the man she loves, but now her father is always trying to kill him. That was a sad way for her marriage to begin, but sin often does divides families (Mt. 10:32-37).
After Saul tried to kill David with a spear (1 Sam. 19:10) and failed; Saul sent men to watch David so they could kill him in the morning. Michal hears of it and helps David to get away. She makes it look as though David is in bed and tells Saul’s messengers that he is sick. Saul demands that David be brought to him literally on his sick-bed so that Saul could kill him. When the messengers went to obey Saul’s order they found a household idol in the bed instead of David. Saul confronts Michal and she says David left to protect her (1 Sam. 19:11-17).
All of this causes David to be running for his life for some time. While he is away, he encounters Nabal and Abigail (1 Sam. 25). After Nabal’s death, David marries Abigail. He marries another woman, Ahinoam as well. 1 Samuel 25:44 says, “Now Saul had given Michal his daughter, David’s wife, to Palti the son of Laish, who was from Gallim.” David is off avoiding Saul’s men. While he is away, Saul hands Michal over to another man. This is not the end of things for Michal and David though.
After Saul and Jonathan are killed in battle David is made king over Judah. But there is still war between David and the house of Saul. Ish-bosheth’s commander, Abner ends up crossing over to David’s side, but David has a demand. David wants his wife Michal back (2 Sam. 3:12-13). To meet this demand, Ish-bosheth sent and took his sister Michal from her husband Paltiel. Poor Paltiel! As Michal is being taken away, Paltiel follows, weeping over losing her (2 Sam. 3:15-16).
Michal was given to the man she loved, David. Their marriage was shortened because of her father’s determination to kill David. Saul passes her over to another man. She is now married to a man who does not want to lose her. David comes back and demands that he be given back what was rightfully his. She does not have a choice in the matter. And by rights, she does belong to David, but after years of being away from him, what a way to be brought back together.
David is eventually made king over all of Israel (2 Sam. 5:1-5). David was under the age of twenty when he fought Goliath (1 Sam. 17:28, 33; Num. 1:3). He was thirty when he became king (2 Sam. 5:4). So all of the events for Michal thus far have taken place over a ten-year span!
Now that David is king he seeks to bring the ark of the covenant back to Israel (2 Sam. 6:1-11; 1 Chron. 13). When he finally accomplishes this, there is a great celebration. David walks with the ark as it is carried in and sacrifices are made all along the way. David is worshiping God along with the people (2 Sam. 6:14-15). 2 Samuel 6:16 says, “Then it happened as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.” Where is Michal’s joy in the return of the ark of the covenant? She expresses none.
David comes back to “bless his household.” Michal goes out to meet him and says, “How the king of Israel distinguished himself today! He uncovered himself today in the eyes of his servants’ maids as one of the foolish ones shamelessly uncovers himself!” (2 Sam. 6:20). David tells her she is wrong. God chose him over her father Saul to be king. David WILL worship the Lord. David will humble himself before the Lord, and the maids will esteem him more because of it (2 Sam. 6:21-22).
The final word on Michal is given in 2 Samuel 6:23, “Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.” Michal loved David in the beginning and ended up despising him. I believe her having no children is mentioned to indicate that the rift between she and David was on going, not just that one moment. Proverbs 21:19 says, “It is better to live in a desert land than with a contentious and vexing woman” and Proverbs 27:15 says, “A constant dripping on a day of steady rain and a contentious woman are alike”. The impression is given that Michal was no longer pleasant for David to want to be around her.
David’s behavior in regards to the ark of the covenant is no different from his behavior towards God in his younger days. He was “a skillful musician, a mighty man of valor, a warrior, one prudent in speech, and a handsome man; and the Lord is with him” (1 Sam. 16:18). We see in his Psalms his devotion to serving the Lord (Ps. 122; Ps. 150). Michal knew this about him when she loved him. So what changed for her?
Michal, to me, shows what can happen when you allow the circumstances of your life to make you bitter. I think there is no question that being used as a pawn in the political schemes of Saul took its toll on Michal. Where she once loved and protected David, now she despises him for the very thing that made him stand out to the Lord (Acts 13:22). We cannot always control what happens to us, but we CAN control how we allow those events to shape us. Remember Naomi? She told others to call her “Mara” because life was not as she would have it, but it did not make her bitter toward others. She was able to receive the blessings when they came later. When your circumstances are grim do not allow yourself to wallow in “what might have been” or by living in the past. Make the most of your present like Ruth and Esther.
As a practical lesson, and we will learn more about this when we study Abigail, Michal used poor timing and choice of words in taking her criticism to David. There may not have been a rift between them if she had not flown at him in such a way, because of her disdain. Sometimes husband’s will do things we will be ashamed of – and we will do things they will be ashamed of. How would you want to be approached about it? A shrill condemnation and being called a fool? That’s what Michal did. How about, instead, a quiet conversation expressing concern over the choice and asking to better understand the intent of his actions? Or better yet, joining in with what you can – like expressing thanksgiving that the people are able to worship properly again – and be understanding that the behavior was in response to that joy he was expressing? Michal had choices, she chose poorly. She met him at the door, unjustly rained on his parade, and called him names. Her marriage was not blessed after that. Matthew 7:12 says to treat people the way you want to be treated. If Michal wanted understanding, recognition, and caring she should have shown those things to David herself.
For young women, Michal can show what to look for in the men who are around you. Saul showed no care for Michal. She was a means to an end in his battle with David. We need to recognize when we are being treated in such a way. Do not marry a man who uses you this way. Do not go after a man who uses others this way.
To those who are married to men like this, remember that submission does not require one to go along with sin. Use your words and your timing carefully to express that you will not go along with something. If you run into a brick wall and he is not listening to you, get help from someone else to talk to him (Mt. 18:15-18). Your marriage should be based upon mutual respect and a desire to protect (Eph. 5:22-33).
Michal’s love for David in the beginning was not strong enough to last through the trials their marriage was put through. When she was brought back to him, even after a long period of separation, she could have worked to love him again. Titus 2:4 tells us that loving husbands and children is a LEARNED behavior. It is not a switch that just stops working. She failed to CONTINUE to love David. David was no more in control of the circumstances that affected their marriage than she was. There were other people in their way. But once those barriers were gone, their marriage could have been rebuilt. Use Michal as an encouragement to NOT let your own relationships die in the same way.