Category Archives: Scriptures

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Michal: The Ark of the Covenant and Fight Chapter

I’ve decided to include some of 2 Samuel 6’s highlights. (Read to the end of the post for some of my  commentary.)

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And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal Saul’s daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart…And he dealt among all the people, even among the whole multitude of Israel, as well to the women as men, to every one a cake of bread, and a good piece of flesh, and a flagon of wine. So all the people departed every one to his house…David returned to bless his household

And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself!

 And David said unto Michal, It was before theLord, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel: therefore will I play before the Lord. And I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight: and of the maidservants which thou hast spoken of, of them shall I be had in honour.

 Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.

Ouch! You know what? Both were right. Both were wrong.I think both had valid, solid points.

A king, in Michal’s honest opinion, shouldn’t act that way. He wasn’t reflecting modesty on the exterior and perhaps he wasn’t really modest inside. David said he meant to praise the Lord. (A common tactic of David’s.)

This fight greatly affected both their lives and the rest of Israel’s future. I call 2 Samuel 6 “Michal’s Mistake and David’s Downfall.” Or more appropriately, “The Beginning of the End. “

Painting by Francesco Salviati

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Michal: Reacting to Wives, Concubines, and Children

Before Michal returned to David, she probably had some sort of knowledge that David took on more wives. Perhaps Abner filled her in on more details on their way to Hebron. Accepting or not, nothing could have fully prepared her to be in the presense of his other families.

David’s wives are  obviously one of the hurtful aspects of her return. They had children which gave their positions a boost. It would have been humiliating if she was asked to acknowledge the wives and recognize their children as David’s heirs.

Reactions of Royal Women

Traditionally, royal women have been expected to turn a blind eye to their husbands’ other lovers. Some were forced into associating with them. And it’s typical for the strong ones to take a stand. Here are some examples.

Catherine of Aragon

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Catherine of Aragon usually turned a blind eye to her husband’s affairs, but there were times she felt it necessary to stand up to him which shocked him. Even before Anne Boleyn, she showed disapproval when Henry recognized a illegitimate son at court. That mistress was dismissed. When the Anne Boleyn burden did arise, Catherine would always consider herself to be the king’s true wife and called herself “Queen” till her death.

Anne Boleyn

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Anne Boleyn lashed out more than Catherine  about Henry’s affairs. With the assistance of her family, she made sure one of his mysterious mistresses didn’t return to court. I’m not a fan of her, but I think she was showed the dignity of a queen when she went to the executioner’s block.

Catherine of Braganza

Queen Esther and Queen Catherine of Braganza both had similar, selfless agendas

Before Catherine of Braganza married Charles II, she was informed of his affairs. She was also advised not let his head mistress into her presence.  But when that did happen, she got a bloody nose and fainted.   She improved restraining herself from making scenes in public. Once in a while, the mistresses made good allies, which put her more in favor with her husband. She even was on good terms with the mistresses’ children but never acknowledged them as his heirs.  She stayed queen consort and her husband asked for her forgiveness on his deathbed.

Problems With Approved Polygamy

I have not forgotten about how David’s marriages were approved by God at this time. That would have presented unique challenges and made it more difficult. Even the most righteous women in the Bible struggled with their husbands having other wives and concubines which bore them children.

Rachel and Leah

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Childen made a woman more valuable in ancient Israel. Leah thought Jacob would love her when she bore him sons. Then there’s younger sister Rachel, who’s barren but still Jacob’s true love. Rachel desired children so badly. When Rachel asked Leah for mandrakes (considered a fertility drug), Leah said, “Is it enough you have stolen my husband?” (Genesis 30:15)

Who did Michal relate to most in this case? Did she feel like the other wives stole David? Could she also have wanted children more than anything? Leah and Rachel’s stories both have a somewhat satisfying ending. Rachel bore Jacob his favorite sons, and Jacob requested to be buried with Leah. It seems non-royal families have a better chance at happy endings than royal ones.

Hannah and Peninnah

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The prophet Samuel was the product of a woman with great faith who had been barren for years. Hannah felt low as her husband’s other wife , Peninnah, produced many children, yet her husband, Elkanah “loved Hannah” (1 Samuel 5) and tried to comfort her “Why is thy heart grieved? Am not I better to thee than ten sons?” (1 Samuel 1:8) Through Hannah’s faith she eventually conceived a great prophet and other children followed. Maybe David attempted to reassure her with love but there’s the question if David even wanted to have children with Michal due to a desire to prevent Saul’s descendants from inheriting the throne. With all his other wives, it was easy to avoid her. There wasn’t that much communication.  Also, the rulers that married off their daughters to David might be suspicious if he gave the daughter of a rival king (even if he was dead) more attention.

Sarah and Hagar

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According to Sarah, Hagar disrespected her: “She had conceived, I was despised in her eyes.” (Genesis 16: 5)Abraham let Sarah “do to her [Hagar] as it pleaseth thee.” Sarah might have been too harsh as Hagar ran away. Hagar she was still promised posterity, But it was Sarah who eventually bore Abraham’s son of the covenant. She was concerned that people would think Hagar’s son, Ishmael, was Abraham’s heir and not her son, Isaac. Sarah advised Abraham, “Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even Isaac.” (Genesis 21:10) Abraham took his what his wife said to heart and asked the Lord what he should do. The Lord agreed with Sarah, and the next morning, he sent Hagar and Ishmael off with sufficient supplies. (Genesis 21:11-14).

Sarah’s request was granted but royal women don’t always have the opportunities. Sometimes  king’s mistresses do fall out of favor much to his queen’s delight. Since many of David’s wives were prominent women, the chances of sending them away were slim. Michal was the first wife but had little power to pull off something like Sarah. If David sent away another wife who was the daughter of a king, alliances would be broken which would present problems such as the threat of war. The most powerful members in Michal’s family were dead. Yet, some of his wives were low born. Michal might have considered them bondwomen like Sarah saw Hagar.

The Ticking Time Bomb

Michal survived Hebron. But when the royal family changed their residence to Jerusalem, things became shakier.2 Samuel 5:13 practically yells Michal had a problem with the move and David’s further actions:

“And David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem, after he was come from Hebron”

So David had more children, wives, and concubines. This was bound to create more conflict and competition among the other wives too (2 Samuel 5:13-16). Who knows if she and the other wives conspired with or against each other Maybe Michal felt she had more power over the concubines, but was getting the impression she held little value to David. This was the perfect setup for he next chapter–their public spat after a controversial celebration. David taking on more wives, concubines, and having children was traumatic and contributed to that fight. There might have been individual incidences that left Michal shaken. I wouldn’t have been in the mood to celebrate.

 

Sources:

Catherine of Aragon: The Spanish Queen by Giles Tremlett
The Anne Boleyn Collection II by Claire Riidgeway
Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford by Julia Fox
“Keeping Up Appearances: Catherine of Braganza, Charles II’s Underestimated Wife” by Sarah Patten

Genesis 16, 21, 20
1 Samuel 1
2 Samuel 5

Images:
Catherine of Aragon  by Michael Sittow
Anne Boleyn portrait
Catherine of Braganza  Jacob Huysmans
Dante’s Vision of Rachel and Leah by Gabriel Charles
Hannah Giving Her son Samuel to the Priest by Jan Victors
Sarai Sends Hagar Away by James Tissot

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Michal: Persuasion, Party, and Murder

Abner presented David’s case to be king to the elders of Israel. He persuaded the Benjaminites and the rest of Israel to switch sides. Was Michal part of the things he spoke about in conversations? The daughter of Saul was pleased to be united with David and thought he was the true king–that could persuade people. Who knows, but she had to act a certain way for people to believe what Abner was saying.

“And Abner also spake in the ears of Benjamin: and Abner went also to speak in the ears of David in Hebron all that seemed good to Israel, and that seemed good to the whole house of Benjamin.”.

She must have conducted herself well. David was pleased enough to throw Abner a feast.

Did Michal attend? Would she have been allowed? Thanks to her, Abner was honored and  more people recognized David as king. It was a sort of celebration for her arrival—even if she had come back as a prop and trophy.

The feast was a signal that David trusted Abner, and Michal and other Benjaminites had security. This proved untrue, and way too soon, she was reminded she couldn’t let her guard down.

Not long after the feast, Abner was dead.

Murdered by David’s nephews, Joab and Abishai, in revenge for their brother’s death during the war between the houses of Saul and David.

How could Michal trust David now? He made it a point for all the people to know it wasn’t his fault and Joab would be responsible. David gave an emotional performance at Abner’s burial. He “wept at the grave of Abner; and all the people wept.”

There’s a probability that Michal was one of those people.  Was she also scared?

Abner’s death was terrifying for the house of Saul. This was a warning to watch out.

Source
2 Samuel 3

 

 

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The Lord Looketh on the Heart

Okay, I know summer ended but I want to squeeze in a few more Michal posts. Before I post anything else, though, I need to talk about something I should have at the very beginning. This prompting can’t be ignored anymore.

I want to discuss one of the main themes of Michal’s story. In fact, it applies to everyone in the Books of Samuel.

The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”

This was the counsel the Lord gave Samuel when looking for a new king who ended up being David. Both David and Saul were young and good looking when called. They rose to prominence, but in the end their position and charisma proved to contribute to their downfalls.

Samuel knew even before Israel wanted kings that status didn’t matter in the end. It was hard to make others see despite him being right. I see the Lord’s counsel as comfort to Samuel and all those whose hearts were broken in the Books of Samuel. I’m talking about everyone in the record—including the thousands that are nameless. Even Israel’s enemies –who didn’t have the truth— but many were fighting to protect their families. The Lord knows their hearts and is the final judge. He’s the only one to make things fully right for a person.

When it comes to Michal, her critics will say that she just cared about being associated with the king. I’m somewhat unsure as she witnessed the downfalls of the men most important in her life. It would have been hard to set priorities when you’re in high positions and the whole world can judge your movements.

I noticed that most people in life are neither all good nor evil but somewhere in between. That’s exactly how it is in the Books of Samuel.
1 Samuel 16:7

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Michal: Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Call her a pawn but could Michal wanted to go back to David? Conflicts have arisen about this since she spent more time with Patil than with David. Or some say she really wanted to go back—others go beyond that and say she just wanted to go to be associated with the king.

It was unsafe to be rescued or escape. Not just for her ad David, but for others. Did she soften hearts or was hers hardened with she was with those who probably despised David? Did she keep some people from chasing after him? To answer that last question, yes. Yes she did by staying.

There was too much bloodshed in her country already. After he father and three of her brothers were killed, Saul’s house and David’s house engaged in a long war—what was the expected outcome? Land? To get loyal subjects? Included in the winner’s package was Michal. Have we ever realized that part of this war was fought for her? She was used as a pawn and bait.  She was a girl worth fighting for.

She was a very valuable pawn but maybe a little more powerful than we think. But how do you really stop of war?

David proved to have more advantages as the war with Saul’s house continued. (2 Samuel 3:1) He was the one who declared he wanted Michal back. (2 Samuel 3:14) And she went. It wasn’t a simple walk though. She stilled had security guards—most notably her husband, Phaltiel (2 Samuel 3:16)

I assume that spending so much time with the Benjaminites made her care more for them. Whatever she felt about Patil, her strong connection with the other Benjaminites mattered. Too many kin and members of her tribe were dead. Israelites who weren’t part of either Benjamin or Judah were suffering from the two tribes’ conflicts.

When Michal was offered to go back with David, she accepted. It’s very possible she might have fought against it. Was she physically forced? I’m not saying she went back willingly, but it was a duty she completed for the sake of a nation. She was a peace offering but had little peace herself.

There’s a void of what happened between Ish-bosheth’s death and Israel accepting David as king but it would be interesting to know how David succeeded. Swords, arrows, alliances, and good advisors helped but who really brought the civil war to a close? With her hard work, smart moves, and sacrifice, Michal was the woman who put David on the throne.

Matthew 5: 9
2 Samuel 3

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Michal: Relationship Rumors and Allegiances

Okay, the ever popular question surrounding Jonathan and David:Was Jonathan gay?

I don’t know the answer to that. But I wonder how Michal felt about the close relationship of her husband and brother.

I see the Princess Caroline of England (1713-1757) relating somewhat to Michal in this case. Caroline was childless and unmarried which caused grief—especially when it came for her love toward a certain Lord Hervey. He was married, bisexual, had affairs with the ladies at court and possibly with Caroline’s brother.

Now I think David was a noble man who followed God’s commands—including polygamy. It’s a known fact that many people in the Bible struggled with it. Though David was lawfully married to his other wives (before the real craziness), it would be difficult to know of his other wives with children. I also don’t believe David was gay, but he recognized Jonathan’s love publicly: “thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women” (2 Samuel 1:26). That may have also had a crushing effect on her heart has well.

Princess Caroline died suddenly but her goodness and sadness was well-known.

As for Michal, she still lived long after Saul and her brothers died. It’s hard to imagine how she managed. She wasn’t returned to David after Saul’s death. Rather, war went on between the houses of Saul and David—started by her cousin Abner and David’s nephew, Joab.

Abner put her surviving brother Ishbosheth on the throne. It wasn’t until Ishbosheth accused Abner of taking Saul’s concubine, Rizpah, for himself that Abner decided to switch allegiances to David, the stronger house.

David sent messengers to Abner to bring him “Michal, Saul’s daughter,” and Ishbosheth that said, “Deliver me my wife Michal” to seal the deal with Abner.

And, oh, what went on when Michal found out she had to go also sparks debate…

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Michal: The Battle of Gilboa

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?

 

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Michal: David’s Calf?

Another heartbreaking moment of Michal’s story is when we read the list of David’s wives and children. Michal’s name is not mentioned anywhere. However, according to Jewish tradition, she is present in this list with a son. See if you can guess:

“Now these were the sons of David, which were born unto him in Hebron;
The firstborn Amnon, of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess;
The second Daniel, of Abigail the Carmelitess:
The third, Absalom the son of Maachah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur:
The fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith:
The fifth, Shephatiah of Abital
The sixth, Ithream by Eglah his wife.”

Did you use the process of elimination? Well, it’s the last one mentioned.

Eglah.

At first is seems rather far-fetched, and I think it’s almost too good to be true. However, I do like the reasoning of rabbis and some other reasons from myself.

Rabbis say that Michal has to be included on this list according to laws of kingship and the cap Nathan put on the limit of David’s wives.

Besides math, there’s etymology going on.

Eglah means heifer. A calf.

Here are some insights from others and myself about Michal being Eglah:

  • Michal was David’s favorite wife. According to rabbi Louis Gibzberg, Eglah could have been David’s pet name for Michal because he valued her as a prized calf.
  • Rabbi  Mordechai Torczyner refers to midrashes that offer the Michal Eglah connection. One midrash says Michal trembled like a calf because she wanted Saul to think she was afraid of David (Midrash Shemuel 22:4) Another midrash says Michal is like a wild calf since she wouldn’t accept the yoke of her father (Midrah Tehillim 59:4).
  • If indeed Michal is also known as Eglah, there’s another comparison between her and great, great, etc. grandmother, Rachel. Eglah means “calf” and Rachel means “ewe.” Both valued animals.
  • The last backup is the very definition of “heifer.” The basic definition: “female cow who hasn’t given birth to a calf.”  There are variants which expound such as the Oxford Dictionaries’ addition of: “or has borne only one calf. ”

My verdict of the Michal is Eglah theory:
I still go back and forth if Michal is Eglah. I can only conclude that I believe Michal was David’s most valuable wife for various reasons.

 

 

Sources
1 Chronicles 3:1-3

Deuteronomy 17:17

2 Samuel 12

“Michal, daughter of Saul: Midrash and Aggadah” by Tamar Kadari  http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/michal-daughter-of-saul-midrash-and-aggadah, (Visited on September 19, 2015)

The Family of David in The Legends of the Jews, Vol. 4 by Louis Ginzberg

On-line Tanach Class:
Michal by Mordechai Torczyner, http://ohave.tripod.com/chumash/michal.htm  (Visited on September 19, 2015)

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/english/heifer (Visited on September 19, 2015)

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Michal: Michal In the Movies

Since we’re on the subject of Michal’s appearance and that she’s due to be in three screen  productions this year, I thought I’d briefly talk about her appearance on screen as a young woman. The three actresses differ in physical appearance (in 2015), most notably their coloring—light, olive, and dark. Lovely, diverse, and twenty-first century.

Go back to 1960’s David and Goliath. Michal is played by Guila Rubini, an Italian actress with light skin, dark hair, and resembles legendary beauty Elizabeth Taylor. Interesting that Elizabeth Taylor, appeared on screen in 1963 as Cleopatra just with more makeup and skin showing. Their style is similar.

According to the Internet Movie Database, there are more than twenty actresses who portrayed Michal. That’s not including the modern retellings and characters she’s inspired (such as Snow White/Mary Margaret in ABCs Once Upon a Time).

If producers want the Michal character want to be pretty, it depends on times and audience.

Sources:
imdb.com:
Cleopatra movie 
Michal’s character page  

Image of Hollywood from https://commons.wikimedia.org

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Michal: Her Physical Appearance

According to Jewish tradition and texts like the Talmlud, Michal was so beautiful, married men would be tempted to leave their wives for her.I can’t say what Michal looked liked for sure. No one can. So people dive into the cliche question–was she pretty or ugly? I can’t answer that  fully either.

But I have formed some theories about her looks and attractiveness by going back to the Bible.

The Unique Look of Benjaminites
During the reign of the judges, the tribe of Benjamin nearly became extinct due to the vicious fights with the other tribes of Israel.  None of the other tribes wanted their daughters to marry into the tribe, So the Benjaminites married local maidens of Shiloh. Thus, the tiniest tribe had a makeover.Their new look would have set them apart from the other Israelites.

Immediate Family
The King James Version of the Bible describes Saul as: “a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people.” (1 Samuel 9:2)

Other versions like the New International Version replaces some words and reads “as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.”

Though different versions and translations of the Bible use different word choice, the meaning is same.

Simply put, Saul was the tallest and best looking man in Israel.

Did Michal inherit her father’s good looks and height? We don’t get any description of her mother, but because Saul was the tallest man in Israel, she probably was on the taller side. She definitely wasn’t ugly.

 

One of a Kind
The Benjaminish woman was somewhat of a novelty item in Israel. It all started the moment Jacob saw Rachel (mother of Benjamin). Benjaminite women were rare during the reigns of the judges, Saul, and David,. Many, many centuries later, the king chose Esther as queen out of multiple maidens.

Rachel, the Shiloh women, and Esther were all specially  handpicked to be wives. I believe Michal was as well.

David would have found Michal appealing.

Imagine. A shepherd from the tribe of Judah marrying a woman from the tribe of Benjamin. A poor boy marrying a princess. Absurd!

David liked the impossible—and obtaining Michal was impossible.

Sources:
Photo from pixabay.

On-line Tanach Class: Michal taught by Mordechai Torczyner
(http://ohave.tripod.com/chumash/michal.htm)

King James and New International Version of the Bible: Judges 21, 2 Samuel 9: 2, Book of Esther.