Was she as pretty as a princess? Or a royal pain in the neck?
Anyone’s guess on the first. Apparently yes on the second.
As the daughter of King Saul, Michal might have enjoyed a life of privilege. Yet her story was a sad one and, for at least one moment in Scripture, a bad one.
Chapter 9: Out of Step
1 Samuel 18:1-30, 19:1-18, 2 Samuel 3:13-16, and 6:12-23
When we first meet Michal, she has fallen in love with a handsome young musician named David. “When they told Saul about it, he was pleased” (1 Samuel 18:20). In fact, her father “rubbed his hands in anticipation” (MSG).
Because he wanted David for a son-in-law? Oh no.
Because he wanted David dead. The young man was too popular, too applauded, too praised. Saul’s ego couldn’t bear it another minute.
He realized Michal might serve as “a snare” (1 Samuel 18:21) to David, “a stumbling block” (DRA), “a trap” (NCV), neatly set so the Philistines could “kill him” (CEV).
What was Saul’s problem? Jealousy. God’s favor was clearly on David, and no longer on King Saul, who “remained [David’s] enemy the rest of his days” (1 Samuel 18:29).
Like a lethal toadstool, Saul poisoned David’s marriage as only a scheming, manipulative in-law can.
When Saul sent men to David’s house to put an end to him, Michal warned her husband, “If you don’t run for your life tonight, tomorrow you’ll be killed” (1 Samuel 19:11). Then she let him down through a window (shades of Rahab), and put a large idol in his bed, so when the men came for him, that’s all they found.
So far, Michal was a hero. She defied her bad dad and saved her good husband’s life.
Alas, David stayed away fourteen years—a lifetime for young Michal. Only when it became politically necessary did David call for his forgotten bride, saying “Give me my wife Michal” (2 Samuel 3:14).
But she was someone else’s wife by then. Her father had “given his daughter Michal, David’s wife, to Paltiel” (1 Samuel 25:44). King Saul could sidestep the law of the land because he was the law of the land.
Did his grown daughter take a second husband willingly? submissively? We only know she married the man. Now that David wanted Michal back, “Her husband went with her, weeping behind her” (2 Samuel 3:16).
Oh, the melodrama! We have no record of her shedding tears. Whatever her feelings for Paltiel, she left him behind and returned to her first husband, the love of her young life.
If you’ve ever carried a torch for someone, you know how this works. The guy stops calling, stops texting, stops looking in your direction. Heartbroken, you go through a great deal of anguish and gnashing of teeth until you finally get him out of your system.
Then the phone rings. Your heart skips a beat. “Wanna get together?” Yes, you do.
It’s easy to feel sympathetic toward Michal and her plight. Pushed around by her father, deserted by her husband, she had a hard way to go, that’s certain. Feelings of abandonment, of frustration, of helplessness surely clouded her days.
As far as the biblical record shows, Michal had yet to step into Bad Girl territory. But in our final scene, it’s clear she must have been moving that direction, no doubt fueled by bitterness and resentment.
The day came when King David escorted the Ark of Covenant into the City of David, the oldest settled neighborhood in Jerusalem. Along the route he was worshiping the Lord with all his might. “Wearing only a linen cloth around his waist” (2 Samuel 6:14 GNT), David “danced and spun around with abandon” (CJB).
We get the picture. A lot of David was on display.
Michal finally made her Bad Girl move. “Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart” (2 Samuel 6:16).
David’s eyes and heart were focused upward, worshiping his God.
Michal’s eyes and heart were focused downward, despising her man.
The fact that she’s identified as the daughter of Saul, rather than the wife of David, tells us where her loyalties rested. She was still daddy’s girl, even though Saul was long dead. As for David, she’d “lost all respect for him” (CEB) and was “filled with contempt for him” (CJB).
Her love for David had grown cold.
Yet I wonder if her love for God had ever truly been kindled?
Here we are at David’s Tower in the Old City of Jerusalem. “When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him…” (2 Samuel 6:20). There it is again: daughter of Saul. Not simply his child by birth and blood; she also had her father’s jealous, vengeful heart.
Michal greeted David with a scathing speech: “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” (2 Samuel 6:20).
Her words could not be more demeaning. A slave of a servant would be the lowest of the low in their society. She called her husband a “dirty old man” (CEV), a “burlesque street dancer” (MSG), a “vulgar exhibitionist!” (CJB).
David’s response was filled with equal passion, not because she had insulted him, but because she had insulted the One he was honoring with his dancing. “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).
Another mention of her father, and not a favorable one.
Before Michal could respond, David told her that he would humiliate himself further if necessary to bless the Lord. “But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor” (2 Samuel 6:22).
Michal did just the opposite: she dishonored her husband, her king, and her Lord. That may explain the closing line of her story: “And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death” (2 Samuel 6:23).
Still the daughter of Saul. At the end, her heart no longer belonged to her husband.
Having no children would have brought great shame on Michal in that time and place. Maybe David wanted nothing else to do with her—he did, after all, have another wife, Abigail, to turn to—and so Michal might have had no opportunity to conceive a child. Or perhaps God quietly, permanently closed her womb.
Whatever the reason, the outcome was tragic for Michal. And the lesson for us is clear. However justified our anger, our bitterness, our disappointment, God is still God and is ever worthy of our worship.
In Bad Girls of the Bible, Michal is labeled Bad for a Moment, yet her sharp words to David echo through the centuries, and her disregard for the Lord speaks to us here and now.
David is hardly a role model as a husband, but when it came to worshiping God, he got it right. Michal, unfortunately, did not.
Here’s this week’s question
According to Acts 13:22, “God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.” How might your life be different if you followed David’s example, rather than Michal’s?
Just gotta say it: in 27 years of marriage, I have spoken sharply to my husband on more than one occasion (including Monday of this week). I didn’t bring God into the conversation (thank you, Lord), but my words were mean-spirited and hurtful.
At the time I was thinking only about how deeply I had been wounded, how greatly my day had been affected. Finding a way to honor God with my words didn’t even cross my mind.
Love triumphed and apologies were eventually made, but I’m left with another hard lesson learned. If I hope to be a woman after God’s own heart, then honoring him with my words and my actions must come first. Must. Any wrongs done to me—whether on purpose or by accident—aren’t sufficient excuse to turn my back on God, even for an instant.
As David himself wrote, so must I plead, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions” (Psalm 51:1).
Now, it’s your turn
How might your life be different if you followed David’s example, rather than Michal’s, and became “a man [or woman] after God’s own heart?”
Please take a moment to post a Comment below. Your sisters and I would love to hear from you, learn from you, pray for you.
And do take a peek at Michal’s princess pink Pinterest board. Despite the difficulty of her story, we still had fun with this one.
The last woman featured in Bad Girls of the Bible is my favorite of the ten. Yours too? Join us next week as we wipe away our tears and embrace the freedom Christ offers.
Your sister, Liz
If you’re planning on doing a Bible study with The Women of Christmas this season, you might find helpful this free leader’s guide: How to Use the Women of Christmas as a Bible Study.