Michal, A Political Pawn

“As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart” (2 Sam. 6:15 NRSV).

Michal was a wife of David. When I have heard teaching on the above scripture passage, she has always been presented in a negative view. Here was David dancing in worship of God before the ark as it is brought into the city of David, and she can only criticize David. A few verses later she speaks to David and says, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ maids, as any vulgar fellow might shamelessly uncover himself!” (2 Sam. 6:20b). Finally, the passage ends informing its readers that Michal never had children. Some interpret this as her being punished with barrenness due to her attitude toward David; that she got what she deserved. Is this portrait of Michal accurate? No. We must look at what else scripture tells us about Michal and her relationship with David.

Is there perhaps a reason why Michal despised David? I believe there is. Michal was the younger daughter of King Saul (1 Sam. 14:49). We find out that she loves David (1 Sam. 18:20). However, scripture does not tell us that David loved her in return, probably because he did not. When King Saul found out that his daughter loved David, he set a trap to try and get rid of David. He offered Micah to David as a wife, which would make him a son-in-law to the king. As a bride’s price, Saul asked for the foreskins of one hundred Philistines. Saul was hopeful that David would be killed while attacking the Philistines. However, David was successful, and Michal was given to David as a wife (1 Sam. 20-29).

Due to David’s success and the praise that David received from the people of Israel, Saul considered him an enemy and wanted him dead. Saul had a plan to kill David in his home, but Michal helped David escape. She did so at a risk of personally facing her father’s wrath, but she loved David and did not want to see him killed (1 Sam. 19:11-17). After David fled, he took care to make sure his parents were protected by taking them to Moab and leaving them in the care of the king of Moab (1 Sam. 22:3-4), and David also married two more women: Abigail and Ahinoam, who were with him while he was hiding from Saul in the wilderness (1 Sam. 25:39-43). However, he never goes to visit Michal, there is no record of him doing anything to take care of her, and he does not take her with him. She loved David, helped him escape, and he leaves her and seemingly never has another thought about her.

Michal who is abandoned by her husband, is given by Saul to another man, Palit son of Laish, as a wife (1 Sam. 25:44). Only the story does not end there. After Saul dies, there is a power struggle in the land because some people want an heir of Saul to be the next king instead of David. So David in an attempt to draw support for him to be king from the entire land demands that his wife Michal be brought to him. Since she is Saul’s daughter, people will support David is she is his wife. She is taken away from her husband, who loves her, and forced to be David’s wife once again (2 Sam. 3:1-16).

The husband she used to love, who she risked her life for, who then completely abandoned her, is now back and wants her, not because he loves her, but because he needs her as a political pawn in order to establish himself as the rightful king. She has finally found a man who loves her, but she is forced to leave him to be one of many of David’s wives, a neglected ornament. Can we see why Michal learned to despise David? Additionally, scripture does not say that God closed her womb. It is highly possible that she never had children because David completely ignored her. All he needed her for was to pacify the Israelites. She was a wife in name only so David could get what he wanted. Her wants or needs are not a concern for David. I think her negative feelings toward David are justified. 

2 thoughts on “Michal, A Political Pawn

  1. Interesting lesson and perspective on this story Michelle. I’m often reminded of two important things when we dig into these stories. 1. It was so easy to believe niave narratives about these stories as though people and society back then we simple and one-dimensional. These perspectives have done most of us a grave injustice. And 2. People and politics haven’t really changed. We just see it and hear about it more with social media and media in general.

    Liked by 1 person

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