Tag Archives: Saul

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The First Window Scene

Michal was in a tight spot (yet again) when she heard Saul’s servants were going to kill David in the morning. She prepared a couple ideas but had to improvise.

So Michal let David down through a window: and he went, and fled, and escaped. And Michal took an image, and laid it in the bed, and put a pillow of goats’ hair for his bolster, and covered it with a cloth. And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, He is sick. (1 Samuel 19:12-14)

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But there are two things that make people gasp. Michal has an image! A.K.A—idol!  Well, say critics, that’s proof she cares only for worldly status. Plus lying is terrible even if you’re trying to save someone.

Um, really?

Plus this is only a snapshot of her.

Was this possibly in her bag of tricks? She may have been drawn to idols, but having one nearby was so…convenient.

Her father’s reaction is full of shock.

And Saul sent the messengers again to see David, saying, Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may slay him.And when the messengers were come in, behold, there was an image in the bed, with a pillow of goats’ hair for his bolster. And Saul said unto Michal, Why hast thou deceived me so, and sent away mine enemy, that he is escaped? And Michal answered Saul, He said unto me, Let me go; why should I kill thee? (1 Samuel 19:15-17)

In Michal’s Moral Dilemma by Jonathan Rowe, he calls the use of the idol “genius.” In Leah Kohn’s essay “The Story of Michal Beyond Loyalty to Torah,” she suggests that Michal’s word choice actually saved her husband’s life while also sparing her father less humiliation.

This window scene gives a peek of Michal as a woman who kept her marriage covenant to David and did everything to save him.

The Bible mentions that she did things before this that honored David and scared Saul. (1 Samuel 18:28-29).  So there were multiple incidents of her helping David. If we were  told more details about these incidents, Michal would receive far less criticism.

Further Reading:
1 Samuel 19

Michal’s Moral Delemma: A Literary, Anthropological and Ethical Interpretation by John Rowe. (See http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/michals-moral-dilemma-9780567076885/#sthash.BZVDtEFV.dpuf  for details)

 The Story of Michal Beyond Loyalty to Torah by Leah Kohn

Painting:
Michal lets David escape from the window. By Gustave Doré, 1865.

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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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Manipulation and Marriage

After David and Goliath…

I read a fictional book and an article where it said Michal stole David from her older sister, Merab. That Michal manipulated David into marrying her. If that’s true, I actually think that deserves applause. Alas, I don’t think that’s the case. I have to say, though, that1 Samuel 18 is a game of manipulation.

The chapter starts out with Jonathan loving David, the two making a covenant, and Jonathan demonstrating he would do whatever it took to make David king. Don’t underestimate the friendship between Jonathan and David. Between tutoring David of royal duties and training him to become a warrior king, they had to have talked about other stuff…

Saul talked to David about marrying Merab at first. David could marry Merab if he swore his loyalty and fight for Saul. For me, David seems to be putting on an act when he responded: “What am I? and what is my life, or my father’s family in Israel that I should be the son in law to the king?”

There’s no mention of Saul pressing this matter on him, but the next verse reads: “But it came to pass at the time when Merab Saul’s daughter should have been given to David, that she was given unto Adriel the Meholathite to wife.” (1 Samuel 18:17-19)

If David had a preference for either Merab or Michal, it’s likely Jonathan would know. He would know and do something about it. Or perhaps Jonathan and David discussed who would be better suited for David as a wife. Whatever the case, I’m sure Jonathan—who would save David’s life and prove that he could persuade his father—would have stepped in.

The plan for Michal to marry David could have been in action before this. Certainly, now that one of two daughters was married off, David wanted the single one for his wife and something had to happen. I believe Jonathan was instrumental in the plan.

Verse 20 sparks suspicion from two opposing sides–those who think David wanted Merab and those who think he wanted Michal. The verse reads:

“And Michal Saul’s daughter loved David: and they told Saul, and the thing pleased him.”

Yes, now that Merab was unavailable, it seems people come up suddenly and speak of Michal’s love. There were things going on behind the scenes. But I hardly believe Michal could have orchestrated this plan by herself.

Besides, we’re told already all Israel and Judah loved David. So it wasn’t as if people came forward saying, “Guess what? Your young daughter also loves David!”

That wouldn’t have been news to anyone. Surely the readers must realize this.

The verse is vague. A question that should arise is who exactly is “they”? Most likely Saul’s servants but perhaps other servants. Did Saul send them to Michal and ask if she was interested in marrying David? Or was she and possibly Jonathan plotting with them? Michal’s love was perhaps something Saul wanted to hear.

Here was Saul’s thought process and commands to his servants:

And Saul said, I will give him her, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him. Wherefore Saul said to David, Thou shalt this day be my son in law in the one of the twain.

And Saul commanded his servants, saying, Commune with David secretly, and say, Behold, the king hath delight in thee, and all his servants love thee: now therefore be the king’s son in law. (1 Samuel 18:21-22)

At first David has the same reaction as he did when Saul presented the idea of marrying Merab:

And Saul’s servants spake those words in the ears of David. “And David said, Seemeth it to you light thing to be a king’s son in law, seeing that I am a poor man, and lightly esteemed?” (1 Samuel 18:23)

Saul wasn’t about to let David go this time. Was he getting counsel from someone? If so, the whom? Perhaps Saul had made David an offer before, but David didn’t take it. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say David was being coached.

Back to the chapter and what happens after David’s passive answer:

And the servants of Saul told him, saying, On this manner spake David. And Saul said, Thus shall ye say to David, The king desireth not any dowry, but an hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to be avenged of the king’s enemies. But Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines.And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to be the king’s son in law. (1 Samuel 18:24-16)

Whether David was pleased to be on his way to coming king or/and couldn’t wait to marry Michal. He doesn’t mind he could marry her. It’s kind of strange actually. He puts his whole heart in the deadly mission.

“Wherefore David arose and went, he and his men, and slew of the Philistines two hundred men; and David brought their foreskins” (1 Samuel 18:27)

Saul had no choice but to let Michal and David marry. Instead of Saul manipulating the situation, David won this battle.

Jonathan had made a covenant with David. Now Michal also made a covenant with David through marriage. She would be a good wife.

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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: 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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Michal: Why Michal Didn’t Run Away and Why David Didn’t Rescue Her

Some  say David betrayed Michal by leaving her behind, and others say Michal was okay with marrying Phalti. Some of the latter go beyond that and say she could have escaped.

I found more fault with David because he saved two other wives on the run (1 Samuel 30) Why couldn’t he save her? But Michal had proved herself clever in the past. So why didn’t she find a way out?

I’m excited to say I found the answer—it was too unsafe.

Just how unsafe would be a rescue mission? The answers are found in the short verses that give Phalti a description—and some follow up examination.

 

“But Saul had given Michal, his daughter, David’s wife, to Phalti the son of Laish, which was of Gallim.” (1 Samuel 25:44)

In order to make Michal disappear from David’s life, Saul gave his daughter to someone in a geographic area he could trust.

Let’s examine this “Phalti son of Laish, which was of Gallim.”

Michal was given to man loyal to Saul. His name and the locations point toward him being a Benjaminate since he resided in Benjaminite territory.

Laish is the name of land that the prophet, Isaiah, associated with Gallim(Isaiah 10:30). “Lift up thy voice, O daughter of Gallim: cause it to be heard unto Laish.”

Phalti was either native to the land of Laish or his father shared or gave his name to the territory. Gallim is thought to belong to the tribe of Benjamin and north of Jerusalem. (To see a map and more information take a look  at http://bibleatlas.org/laishah.htm)

 

“And her husband [Phalti] went with her along weeping behind her to Bahurim.” (Samuel 3:15-16)

This description of Phalti occurs when Michal returns to David.

Though some of David’s mighty men hailed from Bahurim (2 Sam 23: 31), David preferred to stay alive. Any association with David, and your life was in danger.  A woman had to hide two of David’s messengers there. (2 Samuel 17:18)

The time David did venture into Bahurim was years later and he was now king of Israel. Still, he didn’t get respect.

“And when king David came to Bahurim, behold, thence came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera: he came forth and cursed still as he came.” (2 Samuel 16:5)

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Shimei throwing stones at King David in Bahurim.

 

David kept his peace and pardoned Shimei (then) for downright treason. Shimei threw stones and made piecing remarks at David’s dysfunctional family.  David was lucky enough not to be assassinated. He probably would have been killed by Saul’s men when Saul was king, and  he wouldn’t have been able to reach Michal.

 

Conclusion

David wanted to please the Lord and fulfill his calling by becoming king of Israel. Sadly, that prevented him her from rescuing Michal. Michal might have realized this, but she still had to stay alive in order for David to fulfill his calling—a huge act of faith on her part.

Michal probably experienced more pain than the reader can imagine when she found about David rescuing his two other wives. But living in such a guarded place prevented her from running away. Maybe she tried, but it wouldn’t have worked. It would have been hard to make allies in a land so loyal to Saul. It’s very likely Saul had spies. He surely received reports of events.

David would have been committing suicide if he went as a fugitive to rescue his wife. It’s possible he sent some men there. If that happened, though, they would have been killed. Even after Saul died, there was a war between the houses of David and Saul. David and Michal were powerless to reunite with each other.  Michal and David were united as soon as it was possible.

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Notes:

Bible: King James Version.
For the summary of Michal’s storyline, click here.

Image:
Woodcut for “Die Bibel in Bildern”, 1860. By Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld .

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Michal: Early Life and Traditions

The younger daughter of King Saul and his wife, Ahinoam, was born during a time of war and political change. They named their daughter Michal.

There’s a debate of what the name “Michal” means.

  • The first possible meaning is “Who is like God.” If this is the case, her name would be a feminine form of the boy name “Michael” and a possible variant of her name would be “Michelle.”
  • The other possible meaning is “little stream. ” This is also spiritual in nature as the Bible connects streams to God’s creations and powers. The name “Michal” is one of the most popular baby names for girls in Israel today.Huge picWilliam-Adolphe_Bouguereau_(1825-1905)_-_At_the_Edge_of_the_Brook_(1875)While we don’t know much about her childhood, there are definite things she would have learned from a young age.

Michal’s Education

  • Virtuous, Israelite Woman: A woman in Israel would know the importance of loving and obeying God. Michal was fortunate that she and her family had close connections to the prophet Samuel. She would have learned to be a dutiful wife who was expected to give her husband children.
  • Benjaminite: The small tribe of Benjamin had an interesting reputation among the other tribes of Israel .They were loyal and fierce fighters to the very end despite being small in numbers. The tribe had close calls when it came to being extinct but they would make a comeback. Benjaminite parents taught their children to be proud of their heritage.
  • Princess: The public would expect the best from the royal family. Michal would have been taught how to deal with crowds—how to charm them and when to ignore people. Her father had been especially good at that in his early days as king. At the end of one of his speeches, Samuel backed him up. The people shouted “God save the king.” There were those, though, who doubted Saul’s ability to protect them, but Saul, “held his peace”. He went on to defeat enemies, and more people accepted him gladly as king.

It’s important to remember that Saul’s early glory days were admirable. Very soon after we’re introduced to Saul, we know Saul was the most righteous man in Israel and a die-hard Benjaminite.Right after Samuel anointed Saul as the Lord’s chosen one, he gave further instructions for Saul to go to Rachel’s sepulcher. That was Saul’s first stop on a literal journey to gain followers that led to national victories.

Rachel’s sepulcher held significance to Israel, but it was most sentimental to the tribe of Benjamin. It illustrates the bravery the tribe of Benjamin value and a good role model—especially for Michal.

The Story of Rachel and Jacob

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Jacob (later called Israel) had traveled far. As he came to the well, he asked the men if they knew Laban, whom he was seeking. The men said yes and pointed out Laban’s beautiful daughter, Rachel, approaching the well with the sheep. Rejuvenated, Jacob opened the mouth of the well and watered the sheep under Rachel’s care. It seemed as if it was love at first sight. He kissed her and the shepherdess went running to her father.

After discussion, a deal was struck. After Jacob labored for seven years under Laban, he would marry Rachel. Jacob said, “I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.”  Laban agreed and said, “It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man.” For Jacob seven years felt like “a few days, for the love he had for her.”

But that Laban was slick. Seven years later. When the time came for the marriage, he swapped Rachel for her elder sister Leah on the wedding night. When Jacob confronted his father-in-law the next morning, Laban said in his country it was tradition to marry the older women first. But Laban hastily added, Jacob could also marry Rachel the following week if he worked seven more additional years.

Jacob paid double the bride price, but “he loved Rachel more than Leah.”

In Old Testament stories that mention love between two people, only one individual is said to love the other. It’s not necessarily unrequited love.   In the case of Rachel and Jacob, we’re told how Jacob loved Rachel, but not if she loved him. But judging but her devotion to him, we can assume she did.  We know Leah pined for Jacob. After she gave Jacob his first son, she said, “Now therefore my husband will love me.”

Again we can assume that Leah also loved Jacob—and yet—there’s no direct mention of her actually loving Jacob.

Jacob cared and provided for his wives and children. Rachel, though, would always hold the most special place in his heart despite Leah giving him six sons and Rachel giving him two sons.

Rachel displayed bravery as she traveled pregnant and went into labor. It was a “hard labour.” The baby lived but she did not. In his grief, Jacob set up a pillar in tribute to Rachel and named the baby “Benjamin.”

Benjamin surviving was a miracle. His mother Rachel was a hero to his descendants. Though Michal probably liked this story, she couldn’t have expected just how much she would relate to the well-remembered matriarch.

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Sources:
1 Samuel 9-11, 14
Genesis 29, 35

http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Michal.html#.VZ_sUubJCUk

http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/streams/

http://babynames.allparenting.com/babynames/Popular/Popular_baby_names_in_Israel/

Images:
At the Edge of the Brook by William-Adolphe Bouguereau
The Meeting of Jacob and Rachel by William Dyce

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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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