Michal daughter of King Saul

Michal watching David Dance before the Ark
Michal daughter of King Saul watching her husband King David dance naked before the Arc of the Covenant.

How David got to be the second King of Israel is a complicated story with two versions side by side in the Old Testament. The Priest’s version begun in the last post has the LORD denounce his first choice Saul and next send Samuel to the home of Jesse, a man with seven or eight sons from whom the Lord chose the youngest, David to be the second king…

for he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance and goodly to look to.” The LORD told Samuel, “Arise anoint him: for this is he. I Samuel 16-17

Fortunately, the political story is right there also, with the tale of the young warrior David who endeared himself to King Saul and his son Jonathan and became so popular with the people that Saul felt he had to offer him his eldest daughter Merab in marriage in a classic marriage alliance with your friend/enemy. But, David, knowing nothing about his own special anointing, refused:

Who am I? and what is my life, or my father’s family in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king? I Samuel 18:18

Since David could not afford to marry a daughter of the king, Saul sent him off to kill Philistines and gather 100 foreskins which he would accept as his daughter’s bride’s price or dowry. Much to Saul’s annoyance, David came back with the foreskins. He reneged on giving David his eldest daughter, though, and gave him his next daughter Michal:

I will give him her, that she may be a snare to him...I Samuel 18:21

We are told that Michal loved David and proved herself his ally against her father who tried to kill him repeatedly. At last David fled King Saul, leaving Michal behind,* and went to Hebron to rally the troops to his side. As David’s role as military commander grew, he started marrying other wives, as was customary but also, at least in part, because of this: 

But Saul had given Michal his daughter, David’s wife to Phalti the son of Laish, which was of Gallim. (I Samuel 25:44)

Pulling back your daughter from a marriage alliance with a dangerous son-in-law is a classic kingly maneuver. Other than killing the king and all his sons in warfare, marrying the king’s daughter was the only access to the throne for someone not of the royal house and bloodline. Eventually Saul and two of his favored sons were killed in battle and the next son Prince Ishbosheth was set to inherit…guaranteeing more years of strife ahead. Finally, Saul’s general took the matter into his own hands:

And Abner sent messengers to David…saying…make thy league with me, and, behold my hand shall be with thee, to bring about all Israel unto thee. And (David) said, Well: I will make a league with thee; but one thing I require of thee, that is, Thou shalt not see my face, except thou first bring Michal Saul’s daughter, when thou comest…And David sent messengers to Ishbosheth Saul’s son, saying, Deliver me my wife Michal, which I espoused to me for an hundred foreskins of the Philistines. And Ishbosheth sent and took her from her husband…II Samuel 3:12-16

David was reunited with the king’s daughter and Ishbosheth conveniently died. It was a lovely story but with the reunion of man and wife, the fairy tale was soon tested. When David defeated the Philistines, he recaptured the Ark of the Covenant from the enemy and brought it into his camp–thereby getting the priests on his side–and I would guess, prompting his actual anointing by Samuel the old priest/prophet. But then…

…David danced before the LORD with all his might (as) David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting…And…as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal Saul’s daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him to her heart…Then David returned to bless his household and Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel…who uncovered himself today in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself! And David said unto Michal, It was before the LORD, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler…over Israel: therefore will I play before the LORD, And I will yet be more vile than thus…of the maidservants which thou hast spoken of, of them shall I be had in honour. Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of death. II Samuel 6

According to Josephus’ version of this story, (Antiquities of the Jews Book VII.IV.3) Michal laughed at David for dancing naked, never a good thing to do to a new king. Yes, she angered him but it is pretty clear that David now felt he didn’t need her anymore. He had his anointing. He had the Priests on his side. He had her in a cage and so could now set about establishing his own House of David in which no son of Michal daughter of King Saul would ever inherit HIS kingdom. That is the point of the story.

*Interesting note: While Michal is the daughter of the first Hebrew king, she had idols/images herself. She was a Hebrew woman…and yet she also had idols. That is what the priests were up against. In the story, she had gotten word that her father was sending soldier to take David as he slept with her the king’s house. She warned David to flee. So Michal let David down through a window: and he went, and fled, and escaped.

And Michal took an image, and laid it in the bed, and put a pillow of goats’ hair for his bolster, and covered it with a cloth. And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, he is sick.  I Samuel 19:10-18

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