I can’t stress enough how impossible it was for Michal and David to reunite with each other. How could she find David who was on the run? Jonathan would have made a good ally as he was also helping preserve David’s life—but was also busy serving Saul and country. He didn’t seem to have the time to fully help her. How could Jonathan drag his sister through battles to reach David where she could be killed? It was so risky. We find out just how risky it was for Saul, Jonathan, and Israel’s best soldiers during the Battle of Gilboa.
The Israelites lost at the Battle of Gilboa. The Philistines’ main strategy was to go for the leaders. They “followed hard upon Saul and upon his sons.” (1 Samuel 31.: 2) Saul was literally the main target. Archers shot him, and his wounds were fatal. The Israelites were losing, and to Saul, it was pointless to go on. He asked his armor bearer to kill him with his sword, but the armor bearer couldn’t bring himself to kill his king. An Amalekite fulfilled Saul’s death wish. After Saul died, the armor bearer killed himself with the sword. (2 Samuel 1: 8-10)
Saul’s sons Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchi-shua and choicest men were slain by the Philistines. This battle is full of blood and loyalty—people did care for their king and country. Even Jonathan, whom Saul had nearly killed times, fought beside his father. Jonathan, who “loved David like his own soul,” protected showed he would have died for David, (1 Samuel 18:3 ) but he still loved his father and fought for the same cause. As part of the army, he also had made allegiance to Saul that he would die for him. He ended up dying with him. Jonathan “So Saul died, and his three sons, and his amour bearer, and all his men, that same day together.” (1 Samuel 31:6). In David’s psalm, How Are the Mighty Fallen, “In their death, they were not separated.” (2 Samuel 1:23)
“How Are the Mighty Fallen” can be seen as a form of propaganda with an objective to get Saul supporters on David’s side. It is genuine as David showed compassion to Jonathan and Saul at past moments when it would have been easy to kill Saul.
David didn’t want Gath (home of the Philistines) to know the details of Saul’s death “lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice” (2 Samuel 1:20). He wants Israel to know of a mighty king’s death. In contrast to the daughters of the Philistines, he says, “ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with other delights, who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel” (2 Samuel 1:24) He’s telling Israel to look at the wonderful things Saul did for them, and if gossip comes up about him (which always does with royalty), the talk among gossips should be positive.
This psalm could also be reaching out to Michal. How fast did it reach her and how was it received? The psalm expresses a range of emotions into already mixed feelings she held towards her father. Saul did look after her while taking away who she valued most. Now that person was praising Saul which raised confusion. Yet the death of her father and three brothers would have taken a greater toll on her than the rest of the country. She was living in an area extremely loyal to Saul who would have met their king and kinsmen’s death with more distress than the other tribes of Israel.
David really wanted Israel to know—especially the Benjaminites and Michal—that he was very sad over the death of Saul. The song is beautiful, but who was nearer to comfort her? Patil and others who were loyal to Saul, and in a literal sense, closer to her than David. It was the perfect setup for Michal to be manipulated. Michal probably heard David’s song, but it didn’t totally reach out to her. The sorrow David expressed is touching, but could the song have fell flat to a wife who made sacrifices for him?
David finishes his psalm mourning the loss of Jonathan. Michal would have been sad over his death too, but as David’s wife, there was a possibility that she was offended by a particular line about David and Jonathan’s relationship: “Thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.” (2 Samuel 1:26) Michal was tough, but that line could have put her over the edge. Her father had died in a shameful way, and three brothers were killed in that same battle. Could such losses ever be forgotten?