Tag Archives: Michal and David

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She Lives With Angels: Others’ Views of Michal and Catherine

 

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Okay, since November 25 was Catherine of Braganza’ birthday, I decided to add another post about her…

If you look around my blog, you might discover that I’m writing a biography of Michal,King  David’s first wife, and the similarities she shares with other princesses. Now,  I don’t imagine Michal looking like any of those princesses.

The last princess I’d ever compare Michal to in physical appearance is Catherine of Braganza. As I was doing some online Michal research, I came across a website about biblical woman and was taken aback that the author, Elizabeth Fletcher, inserted Catherine’s portrait into a her Michal post.  Ironic, isn’t it?

rtiist: After Dirk Stoop

Catherine_of_Braganza, by (after) Dirk Stoop

I emailed her about my project and asked why she used Catherine’s picture. She responded:

“I used her face because the emotions on the Princess’s face seemed to sum up what Michal must have felt…I see sadness, real grief and the beginning of wisdom/understanding in the Princess’ face, even though she is so young. It is a subtly tragic face, and no other image I’ve seen fitted Michal so well.”

That makes sense.  Neither princess foresaw the struggles they’d face. Dirk Stoop’s painting of Catherine before her marriage to Charles screams naïve.

It would be a mistake, however, to judge the two women solely on that portrait. As I mentioned in my earlier post about Catherine , you can see her story unfold with her further portraits.  She transformed from a neglected princess bride into a calculating queen. I cannot rule out, though, both princesses might have carried a certain sadness described by Ms. Fletcher.

Did Catherine ever view herself as Michal?  Neither produced an heir, and both saw their husband as father to many. Even if she didn’t, others made a connection during her lifetime.

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I was surprised to discover John Dryden and Nahum Tate’s 1681/82 allegory poem, “Absalom and Achitophel” in which they based Michal off of Catherine. Michal/Catherine gets one of the more favorable edits:

Such was the charge on pious Michal brought
Michal, that ne’er was cruel e’en in thought.
The best of queens, the most obedient wife,
Impeached of cursed designs on David’s life,
‘Tis scares so much his guardian angel’s care.
Not summer morns such mildness can disclose
The Hermon lily and the Sharon rose,
Neglecting each vain pop of majesty,
Transported Michal feeds her thoughts on high;
She lives with angels, and as angels do,
Quits heaven sometimes to bless the world below,
Where, cherished by her bounty’s plenteous spring,
Reviving widows smile and orphans sing

Whether the two women can be considered angels, the stanza lets the reader know the risks they took to help others.

It’s a relief I’m not the only one to remember and liken Michal to figures thousands of years after her death.

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The Good Wife

The rabbis say Michal was a model wife. I believe it. The Midrash says that though she wasn’t required to, she wore the tefillin—scriptures on bands that could be worn around the forehead and arms. This was a reminder of how God delivered the Hebrews from Egypt as well as a sign of a clean mind and body.The Greek  word for tefillin is “phylacteries” which means to guard and protect. Whether Michal wore the tefillin or not, I believe she was prayerful, remembered scriptures, and for sure she protected David.

I have no doubt she strove for perfection. She supported David. The following Bible verses show she  cherished him very much:

“And Saul saw and knew that the Lord was with David, and that Michal Saul’s daughter loved him. And Saul was yet more afraid of David” (1 Samuel 18: 28-29)

I’ve seen emphasis more of why Saul was afraid of David. And I agree with the common consensus: Saul was scared because he was even losing support from the people in his family. If that happened, he could lose the support of the nation.

What I also get from this verse is that Michal was helping out David. A lot. She wasn’t just this princess brushing her hair longing for her prince. She was a princess at work. She was a good example of a Israelite, military wife and princess. She would have showed her support for him when she was out in public and when he was gone.

The scriptures say from the start that David is wise and well-behaved but he continues to grow and gain more support following both the mentions of Michal and Jonathan’s love. Like Jonathan, Michal would have also tutored him on royal behavior. Shortly after his marriage to Michal we see that “David behaved himself more wisely than all the servants of Saul.” (1 Samuel 18:30) Good job, Michal!

I’ll agree that Michal was attracted to the handsome hero, but I believe she looked more on the heart. Saul sent David on dangerous missions, and whatever Michal did he while he was gone, scared Saul. Rabbi David Kimhi said that Saul was scared of David because she found out Saul’s plots to kill David and prevented them.

Saul hoped David would die on these missions and that David being away from Michal would prevent the newlyweds from starting a family. Saul probably didn’t want his daughter producing an heir that would support David. Likewise, later on it seems David didn’t want have children with Michal because he wanted to prevent the blood of Saul from inheriting the throne.

But she still loved him. I wish with all my heart that she did had children. She was very deserving. I also wish the Bible gave more details about her show of love and how she stopped Saul’s plots to kill him. Jonathan gets credit his multiple rescues but she had been hard at work even before her famous heroic window scene.

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

“Tefillin” Wikipedia article.

1 Samuel 18

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Michal: Possible Psychological Effects on Michal (Just a Few)

I read an article about how Michal is a bad example because of her show of bitterness when she confronted David in public. I left a comment in hopes the writer visits this website. First, I’d like to say that though she and I have complete opposites views on Michal, I think it’s a well written article. Secondly, I wish to expand on the “bitterness” I hope no one will ever have to experience, and yet so many do.

In this post I wish to talk about the psychological effects certain events might have had on Michal.

I don’t claim to be an expert in this field, but I truly believe Michal, those close to her, all of Israel and its opponents went through some sort of trauma. Michal’s life was literally a war. Soldiers and families of soldiers lost what and who was dear to them.

Anxious about many things
Here are some “things”—or traumatic ordeals—that I believe produced grief, survivor’s guilt, and post trauma stress disorder:

  • Lone survivor. Michal was far away from close family and was one of the last children—if not the last—of Saul and his wife, Ahinoam. Her father and brothers were slayed in battle. Shortly after she and Abner returned to David, Abner was killed. She didn’t die. Ishbosheth was brutally murdered and his head was presented to David. Was she happy to be alive or guilty she survived and hadn’t been with her family at their deaths?
  • Moving. In general, it’s stressful and can place strains on family life—especially marriage. Being sent to Patil and then back to David was dramatic. If she had started to feel settled in Hebron, David’s household moved again—this time to Jerusalem. The move to Jerusalem was especially stressful because more women were added to David’s harem.
  • The other families. There’s no mention Michal and David had children together. The hurt she felt at seeing his other families must have been beyond horrible. Even nowadays, there is a stigma in some religious cultures if a woman can’t reproduce. I said “culture” and not the religion itself. There are examples of good women in the Bible who did nothing wrong and yet had no children. Yet, there were still those that looked down on them.

I think there is so much to what Michal was going through emotionally at this time. I will discuss one more possible scenario that I believe is one of the most important. It is..

The Window Flashback
The serious reader compares the passage of “Michal, Saul’s daughter looked through a window, and saw David leaping before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart” (2 Samuel 6:16) to the time she showed her love when he helped David escape out of the window. It’s a literary device yes, but Michal had more of a serious flashback than the reader.

That night when Michal saved David’s life was terrifying. Was she  reliving it? Was she scared she was going to be taken away again? The fact that he was taking time celebrating and had been talking to everyone—even in front of the “handmaids of his servants”—  gave Michal time to think and anger to build up. She might have planned to humiliate before this event happened, but the commotion and noise coming from the celebration (2 Samuel 6:5) might have made her physically shakier.

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The night Michal let David down through the window was both a heroic and traumatic night.

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Did Michal experience a serious flashback when she saw David dancing through her window?

She took the offensive, but really she was defending herself. It might have been her way of coping. She might have been wondering why he hadn’t come for her and was taking his time to come to her. Only Michal knows the terror she felt that night when the guards and Saul came in to kill David. Or when she was given to another. Even if she had had no physical harm done to her, she was in a position that someone she loved (David) had been closed to death.

As I said before, I’m no expert and don’t know exactly how Michal felt. I haven’t gone through the trauma Michal experienced, but I have gone through lesser experiences that led to counseling. Let’s remember that emotional and psychological illnesses have always been real. We have more of an understanding of them today but still are learning. Though religious, Michal and David didn’t know how to help each other. More churches and religious leaders today see the necessity of counseling.

 

Paintings by Gustave Dore and Francesco de’Rossi

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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: 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.

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Summer’s Story: Princess Michal, Wife of King David and Daughter of King Saul

There’s David and Goliath. Then David became king. A huge thanks goes out to Michal, his first wife and daughter of King Saul.

So what’s the story of Michal? Here’s the basic rundown:

She married David, saved his life, and her father married her to another man faraway. Nearly twenty years later she came back to her first husband’s home.

While we don’t know exactly what happened to her during those two decades, we know what she came back to: her first husband, now king, plus his wives and kids. A very big blow.

Then her last appearance occurs when she and David have a public spat over his actions when he brought the sacred Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem.

Commentators have taken different sides. Some have smeared her image and others elevate Michal. The princess had many enemies and allies during both her life and after her death.

This summer, I wish to share some of my findings about her. They include:

  • What the Bible says—and doesn’t say—about her.
  • Common princess problems.
  • Portrayals of her, including those on primetime TV.
  • Events in the past, her times, and future.
  • Possible psychological effects.

This summer, I hope you will get to know the real Michal.

Stay tune!

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