Bad Girls of the Bible: Michal

Bad Girls of the Bible | Liz Curtis Higgs

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.

Princess Michal

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.

Poisonous Toadstools

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.

He called. He really called.

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.

David in his loin cloth

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?

City of David in Jerusalem

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).

Oh my.

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).

An empty cradle

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

The Women of Christmas | Liz Curtis Higgs

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

31 Responses to Bad Girls of the Bible: Michal

  1. Linda Weems October 30, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

    If my heart had been as David’s We would have had a beautiful marriage and been very well taken care of by God.

  2. Susan Gruener October 30, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    Thanks for being so ‘transparent’ Liz. None of us women (wives) are perfect, but I think the key is to not let our mistakes, sins, or not-so-nice words keep us from asking forgiveness from our Father, and press on to look more like Jesus. We are human, and we will fail, but the God who made us will keep working with us, if it is our heart’s desire, to be ‘holy’, as He is Holy. I’ve been married 39 years, met Jesus at 14, have three kids, and 6 terrific grandkids…and my husband isn’t speaking to me right now…again… I press on…because I am more than a conqueror to Him who loves me, I am an overcomer!
    Blessings to you Liz!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 30, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

      Appreciate your transparency as well, Susan. It would be easier to keep such things to ourselves, I suppose, but for me, confessing my sins not only to God but also to others (whether that’s a small circle of friends or a large audience of sisters), helps me embrace God’s forgiveness as the gift it is. Pressing on with you!

  3. Susan Ireland October 30, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

    Be careful what you ask for God may give it to you Mark 11:24 – it would have been hard for any woman to wait 14yrs, many thoughts may have went through her mind. Those days were hard, just the thought of sharing your husband with another wife ? I ask to be delivered from a marriage after 21yrs and have never married ? it is difficult to answer unless you were there.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 30, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

      You are so right: it’s hard for us to grasp what life must have been like for Michal. What we can do is ask ourselves what steps we might take right now, in our own time and place, to honor God. (Sorry I didn’t word my question more clearly, Susan.)

  4. Janell October 30, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

    I can see myself in her sharp words to David. When I use them in the moment with my husband, they don’t sound so ugly but reading her story gives me a vivid mental image. My focus must be on God not my circumstances!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 31, 2013 at 7:49 am #

      Am thinking I need to write this one on my doorposts, Janell: “My focus must be on God not my circumstances!” So wise, my sister.

  5. Tracy October 30, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

    I believe many times I would have saved myself from years of hurt if I would have walked obediently after God’s heart. But, in trying to hurry things along, I turned to a man to feel love only to be severely hurt by being used emotionally. It wounded me and I’m still healing from that. But. I did not wait upon God to bring a true love but most of all to experience God’s love, the greatest love as my husband. I believe as we women want to feel is acceptance and love so I see where Michal might have turned to another man just for those reasons. Waiting is such a hard thing to do but I know that it is the best thing to do. Oh to wait upon the Lord and see His work in my life isn’t always easy, but learning that it is so worth it.

    Because of other situations that have happened in my life concerning men it is easy to put up a guard (harsh words) against them, categorizing them all as being alike. But, knowing that they are not all alike. Because I have been hurt, even misused by men does not mean that it means all will be that way. God is showing me to look to His heart to feel love and to know that I am loved. Waiting and holding on for someone can be very hard. You do look for substitutes or things to fulfill that once filled place in your life. So, I can see how Michal turned to another.

    Sometimes in our own misery we punish or hurt others. I believe Michal was doing this toward David because she knew David’s heart and she knew in whom He served and loved. At times I believe we face a lot of jealousy issues in our lives. Maybe Michal was jealous of David’s devotion and that is why the harsh words.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 31, 2013 at 7:58 am #

      You’ve climbed right into Michal’s heart, Tracy, and shown us how relevant her story is for women today. Jealousy issues definitely came into play for her, just as they do for many of us. And this is sadly accurate: “Sometimes in our own misery we punish or hurt others.” Thanks for sharing your thoughtful observations.

  6. Mel October 30, 2013 at 11:57 pm #

    Thanks for putting this in perspective! I am guilty of saying harsh words to my husband in retaliation for the hurt I feel he causes me. The world says hurt him as much as he has hurt me, but God says otherwise. Living God’s expectation for me is much harder, but so much better in the long run! I struggle with this daily, but knowing that God’s love for me surpasses yesterdays actions keeps me going…

    • Teresa October 31, 2013 at 6:48 am #

      That’s me too Mel.

  7. Linda H October 31, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    I would save myself so much anquish by keeping my focus on God in every situation. I loved your closing coments in the book, “Bad girls blame their situations. Good girls rise above them” . Also the scripture Ecclesiastes 7:14. Good and bad will happen but to remember that God made each one. I pray that when I am in a situation where words can hurt, I will keep my focus on God and not the situation. Oh to be a true woman after God ‘s own heart always!! Love your honesty Liz, it helps me to look at myself honestly and not be afraid to share openly with others.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 31, 2013 at 9:40 am #

      I’m glad that quote was meaningful for you, Linda, and that my honesty (gulp) helps you open up to the truth about yourself. If we saw ourselves and each other as we truly are, we’d live in constant gratitude for God’s grace. As the song says, “What a wonderful world it would be!”

  8. Carol October 31, 2013 at 9:54 am #

    How timely this post is for me. Just Tuesday I entered into a discussion with my husband of 7 years and it deteriorated into a battle of mean-spirited words on my part. The wounding was huge. This is a second marriage fir both of us and so often baggage from the past enters in. My heart is heavy because of it.

    I pray that I can learn to focus on the character of Christ and let go of the selfishness and bitterness I hold inside.

    Thank you for this!

    • Debboe November 1, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

      Carol, I understand your wounds and pain. But precious one, remember God is a God of Grace and He loves you and doesn’t want your heart to feel heavy. Let go of the past Carol and if it takes you every hour of the day to say, God loves me and remembers my past no more, then say it.
      You have got to understand His love for you and move on. Having to hold on to selfishness and bitterness is NOT from God but from the liar himself, satan. Don’t give him any foot hold Carol by holding on these emotions. This is what Jesus died for to release us from bondage of our
      past and our sins. HE LOVES YOU Carol!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! xo Debbie

    • Liz Curtis Higgs November 5, 2013 at 11:07 am #

      Debbie offers wise counsel here, Carol. Many of us truly identify with that heaviness of heart. May the God of all comfort assure you of his love this day.

  9. Ocieanna Fleiss October 31, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    How wonderful to dig deeper into this story. Thank you so much, Liz! I think Michal only spoke out what was in her heart. Out of the heart the mouth speaks. She had no life in there. She had no Holy Spirit power! Truth is, I don’t either–without Christ. The harder I try to tame my tongue the worse it seems to get. But Jesus’s words always perfectly glorified his Father, and amazingly, He lives in me. By keeping my eyes on Him, then my words begin to be seasoned with the loving salt of his gentle and humble character. And when I blow it (a lot!), my sin sends me running back to Him. What a joy to enter into this discussion. I love your blog!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs November 5, 2013 at 11:09 am #

      I think you are exactly write, Ocieanna: she had no Life in her heart, therefore no Life in her words. Thanking the Lord today that, by his Spirit, we can have a much happier ending.

  10. cathy gross October 31, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    Gosh the lessons! There seems to be a bit of every bad girl we have studied in me. If I didn’t know that I have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus I would throw in the towel and run away. When I am just about ready to do just that, He reaches out and says, “I love you”. I know my love is pitiful compared to His, and I am so thankful He honors my gift to Him, knowing how I long to offer a pure and uninhibited love, but offer only what I have to give. He honors me by accepting that, as He did for David. And He does this knowing right now that I will mess up and dishonor Him in the future. Oh my, how He loves! Grace.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs November 5, 2013 at 11:11 am #

      I definitely found traces of all 10 Bad Girls lurking inside me! Thank the Lord he never abandons us to our sinful nature. Instead, he rescues us. GRACE!

  11. Lynn October 31, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    My mother had surgery to remove a brain tumor last February. She is doing well, praise God. She tells everybody her story, the customer service rep, the clerk in the store, the mailman. I hate to say it but sometimes her forty-something daughter is a little embarrassed. “Mom, that person said they’ve got to go three times” or “They just asked how you were doing. They don’t want your life story.” Sometimes I react out of embarrassment, and sometimes to protect her feelings. Still, she has told many, many people, and has five dates in Heaven, and has touched many people. Like Michal, who am I to tell my Mom how to worship God?

    • Liz Curtis Higgs November 5, 2013 at 11:12 am #

      Thanks for sharing your situation, Lynn. I’m sure many followers of this blog are nodding with “been-there” compassion and understanding.

  12. Laura November 1, 2013 at 2:35 am #

    I am thankful for my Heavenly Father who has such a huge heart and great patience with the likes of me!
    I have an unspoken prayer request…some health issues (that, even though the enemy would like to convince me otherwise, I am confident are not punishment). There is therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!! Amen!

    May He be glorified in much more of my life in the days and weeks to come…He must increase, I must decrease! To quote Jefferson Bethke’s facebook page,
    “I love Jesus, I’m addicted to grace, and I’m just a messed up dude trying to make Him famous.”
    Love that!

    I just want others to be as excited about this emancipation from self and therefore, total liberty because of His blood, and the word of our testimony…as we love not our own lives unto death…
    He is my anchor, my firm Foundation…

    Thanks to you, Liz…and all the other commentors…Your encouragement is worth gold..

  13. Jessika November 1, 2013 at 8:07 am #

    I got convicted how i have been talking rudely to my husband while reading this devotion. Please pray for me to help since i fall in the same category of bad girls of the bible like Michal. I want to be a woman of a gentle and a quite spirit as the word puts it. Thank you for your sharing. God bless you.

  14. CarolAnne November 1, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    Thank you, Liz, for this Study. Your ability to put Biblical stories in today’s language is amazing. Also, your ability to relate those teachings to our lives is so helpful. I used to think all you Teachers were perfect, and then you tell on yourself and I gasp or laugh out loud! My hubby and I (and the kids) had to move frequently in the early years of our marriage because of his job. Then, when my parents health declined, the kids and I moved in with them to care for them. Hubby traveled back and forth, so I feel Michal was lonesome, sad, and all the other emotions the previous posters mentioned, because that’s how I felt…but I never had to share him. That Old Testament stuff was hard! Yet, we tried our best to follow God’s word, and keep our spirits up. It is always better to be nice, than mean. Like so many of the Bad Girls, Michal’s is a Cautionary Tale. xo

  15. Sonya Contreras November 2, 2013 at 1:39 am #

    It is easy to say the end result is bad—and find the angry words that made it so. But I wonder her love at the beginning when she watched him leave—but didn’t go with him? Or didn’t try to find him during those 14 years.
    Maybe that is not the woman’s place to pursue, but he was her husband. Would he have married Abigail, if Micah had been there with him?
    Would some of those Psalms of loneliness been writter, if she had supported him in the cave?
    I know when my husband has to be away for business–part of my heart leaves with him…and we are not whole until he returns.

    Michal had the selfish love that wanted the successful man–but not the one in the cave. Do we then doubt why another enticed David? (Not to say, because a man is enticed it is always the woman’s fault…

    The badness didn’t take long to be shown. Her heart left him when he left the comfortable life.

  16. Brandy November 3, 2013 at 8:03 am #

    My wall with the Lord has always been a personal (aka private and mostly in my head) one in a home where I knew that God existed but only as I knew that Einstein had existed, a fact. He impacted a lot but what did that really have to do with me? I cannot ever express how life-changing finding the Lititz Moravian Church was for me in growing my knowledge and faith and personal relationship with God. I didn’t have that at home so they were “it”, what PK’s (like my hubby) grew up with at home.

    Long diatribe to say: if I could follow David’s example of praising the Lord so joyfully in public (OUT LOUD!) I can give my young girls (2 and 4) the example I didn’t have and didn’t really know I wanted until I git older and thought it was “to late”. We have the Sheila Walsh devotional abs say Grace every once in awhile but I want it to be so natural for them to first turn to WWJD in every single moment instead of just our “normal” human/self-serving instincts.

  17. Linda Hunter November 3, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

    It is so easy to be in our own space (thoughts about our lives) when a husband or child says something we agitate against and we are cruel in our words. I’ve done it and then regretted having spoken unkindly to my marvelous husband God brought to me in high school, never to leave till he went to be with the LORD in 2011. 47 1/4 years of marriage to a man who loved God and loved his family intensely. He never did anything grievous to me, only good. But I came from a life with a bitter mother and it, as he put it, “took 40 years to get Annie Mae out of me”. You still have Bill as well as God. Keep your focus on Jesus and give Bill a hug for all of your fans.

  18. Tammy November 4, 2013 at 5:56 am #

    Perfect timing on this…….it is so easy to be led down the wrong path in certain situations by raw emotion instead of being guided by God. He does not even become part of the equation when we act and speak in sheer haste and frustration. This area is where I struggle most. As you said, no matter the situation, God deserves to be honored. I guess this is where pride comes in, even though it doesn’t seem prideful at the time. We (I) get so wrapped up in how I feel and the injustice I felt I went through that by the time I am done explaining, whining, ranting…whatever the case may be, I owe God an apology for the injustice I just did to Him. If I would include Him from the beginning in everything life would be better, and those closest to me would smile a whole lot more. Out of our love for God should come a genuine desire to see things through His eyes which are fair and just, not ours which are clouded and jaded through selfish desire. Clearly David’s worship was innocent, beautiful,and sincerely straight from his heart. Michal did not see it that way because her heart was not true to God. In order to attempt to have a heart like His our eyes, ears, and mouth have to be committed to the pursuit also. Thank you for sharing your story. As always your insight is much appreciated.

  19. Sandra (Sandy) Wall November 7, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    I need to do “catch up” on this series. I know this is about Michal, but I wish I was more like David. Free with abandon. Maybe Michal was envious of this with David. Being the daughter of the King you have to be proper in every aspect of your life. What I struggle with in regards to my relationship with my husband, is to find the love I had for him. There has been a lot of “stuff” happen thru-out our 33 years of marriage and I find that I have closed myself off to him. I am afraid to really say what I feel. Why, because the fear of things being thrown back in my face. It is my fear, not his. How do you get past this fear and open your life up to the person you do love? I am trying to figure this out. My husband and I did separate for 9 months after 10 years of marriage. He went to a Men’s Retreat and re-dedicated his life to the Lord. It has been wonderful, but, the stress of our circumstances has closed me up. So, I do not want to be like Michal…..a bitter woman against her husband. Only the Lord can walk me thru this and I do find little “rays of sunlight” coming thru. I just want it all at once. Plus, I need to be more like David and feel free with God in my worship of Him.

  20. Rebecca Mahannah November 7, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

    Thank you so much for this Bible study blog, Liz. You get the ball rolling and the commentators bring out thoughts that are so familiar to everyone reading. On so many chapters I’ve wanted to just say “ditto” (smile). It’s nice to know that you are not alone with the feelings the study brings to the surface.