Michal: Bitter to death

I Sam. 18:20-29, 19:9-17, II Sam. 3:13-15, 6:12-23

King David had many great qualities, but honoring marriage was not one of them. Michal was one of David’s tragic marriage relationships. She was the daughter of King Saul and David’s first wife. The Bible says she loved David, but to him, she was just a prize to be won. He killed 200 Philistines as a bride price to win her from her father.

The saga continues as Saul grows increasingly jealous of David. David was an amazing warrior, a gifted leader and extremely popular among the people. Even Jonathan and Michal, Saul’s own children, loved David more than Saul. In one of Saul’s attempts to kill David, Michal helped him escape through the window at night. She further deceived Saul’s men by putting a household idol under some covers, pretending David was sick and could not come to see the king. When her father asked about her actions, she lied to him and said she only saved David to keep him from killing her. Michal was willing to risk her life and betray her father to save David. Saul spitefully gave Michal to another man to marry.

Finally, Saul is killed, and David is on his way to becoming king. Once again, Michal is part of the political negotiations as Abner, Saul’s general, tries to make a covenant with David. David orders his wife to be given back to him. Michal is forced to leave the only man, Paltiel, who really did love her and go back to the man, David, who sees her as a trophy to be returned.

At this point our sympathy is with Michal. What a tragic story! She is politically used by both her father and the one she loves. She is passed around from man to man with absolutely no say in the matter.

By this time, Michal is more than tired of the game. Her love for David has turned to hatred. She waited until David had his highest moment as king and spiritual leader of the Israelites. Then, as David eagerly celebrated the return of the Ark of the Covenant, she bitterly criticized him in public. “When David returned home to bless his household, Saul’s daughter Michal came out to meet him. ‘How the king of Israel honored himself today in the sight of the slave girls of his subjects like a vulgar person would expose himself’” (I Sam. 6:20). Ouch! Michal told David his godly celebration was vulgar! This statement did not go over well with David or God. Her bitterness caused her to be childless and alone for the rest of her life. 

Now, what do we do with this tragic story? Michal certainly had some legitimate complaints, yet something was not right. Many people in the Bible were treated unfairly. The difference between Michal and others in the Bible is how they handled the unfairness, and in whom they trusted. Michal loved David, but the Bible never says she loved God. In fact, why would she have a household idol on hand for David’s escape, if she truly only loved God? Why did she not call out to the one who could help her when she was mistreated? Instead, she passively endured mistreatment, holding her bitterness inside until it exploded at the worst possible moment. When God was to be honored the most, all she could do was burst forth in anger. Michal’s surface problem was surely David and Saul, but her real problem was with God.

What do I learn from this story? First, I realize that life is not fair. In a fallen world, I cannot expect people to treat others fairly. Second, I realize that my response to unfairness in the world is not to get bitter, but to actively work toward justice and put my trust in God alone. Esther and Abigail are great examples – they trusted God, and used their gracious influence to right wrongs. Our troubles are meant to turn us to God, not away from Him.

Finally, I learn compassion for others. I need to see the injustices in the world and work toward helping make things better for the future. I pray I will turn to God’s active, corrective love, not hatred, when I am faced with unfairness in the world and in my own life.  

Last Published: July 11, 2009 5:59 PM