Princess Michal, the “younger daughter of King Saul” (1 Samuel 14:49). I’ve always considered her brave, misunderstood, and troubled. Her name means “Who is God?” Do you ever feel your life is reflecting similar, troubling questions? If so, you and I might have plenty to chat about with Michal over coffee.
As a daughter of the first king of Israel, Michal could have been the poster child for family dysfunction and chronic instability.
By the time she was a young woman, her father’s kingship was rejected by Yahweh (1 Samuel 15) and David was secretly anointed king by Samuel (1 Samuel 16). In her time and culture how much of men’s dealings could Michal have known? Could she see Saul’s authority declining? We are also left wondering if she had any awareness of God’s plan to remove Saul and install a new king.
Nonetheless, she must have been aware of David once he became a musician in her father’s service, playing in the palace and during their meals:
“Saul said to his servants, ‘Provide for me a man who can play well and bring him to me.’ One of the young men answered, ‘Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the Lord is with him.'” 1 Samuel 16:17-18 ESV
We can safely assume that Michal notices David’s admirable traits very quickly—especially when he slays Israel’s greatest foe, Goliath (1 Samuel 17). In fact, David’s accomplishments seem to win the hearts of many, but his successes also earn him King Saul’s wrath. And yet, almost overshadowed by Saul’s first attacks on David, we find the revelation of Michal’s true feelings:
“Now Saul’s daughter Michal loved David.” 1 Samuel 18:20 ESV
Michal’s love would prove to be both gift and curse. In a culture where a maiden dare not pursue but must wait patiently for a marriage ordained by men, the revelation of Michal’s feelings became a weapon in her father’s hands.
“And they told Saul [of Michal’s love], and the thing pleased him. Saul thought, ‘Let me give her to him, that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.'” 1 Samuel 18:20-21 ESV
Saul agreed to give his daughter to David but set the bride price at one hundred Philistine foreskins, hoping David would be killed in his attempt to pay. But God had other plans. David returned with twice the demanded price, so Michal and David were wed.
“When Saul realized that the Lord was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David, Saul became still more afraid of him.” 1 Samuel 18:28-29 NIV
Michal’s father wanted David dead, and she had to choose sides quickly. She chose her new husband!
“Saul sent men to David’s house to watch it and to kill him in the morning. But Michal, David’s wife, warned him, ‘If you don’t run for your life tonight, tomorrow you’ll be killed.’ So Michal let David down through a window, and he fled and escaped.” 1 Samuel 19:11-12 NIV
To stand up to her father, who also happened to be king, was no small act of love. But tucked into this story we see an interesting reference.
“Then Michal took an idol and laid it on the bed, covering it with a garment and putting some goats’ hair at the head.” 1 Samuel 19:13 (emphasis added)
Saul was tricked by the idol in the bed, thinking it was David, but have you ever wondered why there was an idol in David’s home in the first place?
What had Michal been taught of the true nature of Israel’s Yahweh? Anything of His true power and love and presence? Had she personally experienced anything of Yahweh in her daily life?
Though she may have observed or learned from a few glimpses of Samuel, it seems there had been a deep neglect of Michal’s spiritual life. She revealed no roots sprouting into life. We only see that there was an idol close at hand. Was the soil of her heart dry and barren or rich and waiting for someone to plant a seed of truth?
Perhaps David lived out what her soul longed for. Was that part of her attraction to him? Had his escape left her stumbling again, desperate for sincerity and stability? Remember, the very meaning of her name—Michal—begs to know, Who is God?
Scripture leaves a large gap here. The next time we see Michal, she is married to another man!
“But Saul had given his daughter Michal, David’s wife, to Paltiel son of Laish, who was from Gallim.” 1 Samuel 25:44 NIV
And the next thing you know, David is bargaining for her like a trinket in the market.
[David said] “I will make an agreement with you. But I demand one thing of you: Do not come into my presence unless you bring Michal daughter of Saul when you come to see me.” 2 Samuel 3:13 NIV
David hadn’t fought for, loved, or led Michal as he did his other wives during the years of Saul’s attacks. Michal hadn’t witnessed Yahweh’s favor on David as he fought for his life day after day.
No, Michal had likely felt nothing at all from Yahweh while being passed from David to a second husband, Paltiel, with no say in the matter. But as years passed, perhaps she found a measure of peace with Paltiel. Comfort. Safety. Until she was dragged back into the world of kings and parades and politics.
“So Ish-Bosheth gave orders and had her taken away from her husband Paltiel son of Laish. Her husband[Paltiel], however, went with her, weeping behind her all the way to Bahurim.” 2 Samuel 4:15-16 NIV
The next time we encounter Michal, she looks down from a palace window at David as he returns the Ark of God to Jerusalem.
“And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.” 2 Samuel 6:16 NIV (and 1 Chronicles 15:29)
Michal confronts David, feeling he has disgraced himself. The confrontation tears open old wounds, and David rebukes the wife of his youth.
“David said to Michal, ‘It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord.'” 2 Samuel 6:21 NIV
Some say that Michal is, in fact, punished because of how this episode ends.
“And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.” 2 Samuel 6:23
It’s so easy to cast the stone at Michal, to despise the one who despises David’s heartfelt worship of Yahweh. But does Scripture explicitly say she had no children because she despised David’s worship? Granted, it is assumed, but what about the greater issue of kingship and family lines? Later, the rest of Saul’s heirs are killed, and it appears Michal was helping raise these heirs, her nephews. What if her barrenness was mercy—grace even—to spare her the heartache of losing her own children?
Or was Michal perhaps childless because she embraced the worship of idols? Was she doomed from the start as the child of a failed King of Israel who was condemned to have no bloodline mixed in with the righteous line of David? The truth is…we don’t know.
When we look at ALL of Michal’s story, we see a broken woman who needed to be shown God’s love. Instead, she was used, traded, ignored, and misunderstood. She was desperate for love, but most of all she needed Yahweh’s love. Yet who was faithful to lead her to Him?
Michal’s story is a call to awareness. Some “Michals” in our world today refuse God. Some have never been given the opportunity to know Him. Did Michal stumble through the pain of her life because she did not know any better or because she rejected the better way?
Let Michal’s story remind us to be aware, to love out loud. In response, we can seek out what it is that God would teach us about the Michals we encounter every day.
- Let Michal’s story remind us to love out loud!
- Did Michal stumble through life not knowing any better or because she rejected the better way?
- Michal was desperate for love, but most of all she needed Yahweh’s love.
Who, around us, is searching for real love and purpose but may not have been exposed to God’s daily presence? How can we model repentance and meaningful relationship with Jesus in a way that draws others to Him, our Truest Love?