Understanding Michal

English: Maciejowski Bible, Leaf 37, the 3rd i...
English: Maciejowski Bible, Leaf 37, the 3rd image, Abner (in the center in green) sends Michal back to David. Palti is shown on the left. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” 2 Samuel 6:20 (NIV)

Writing plays has been a great learning experience for me. One of the creative challenges that I’ve had to embrace is that every character in the play has a unique “voice” the comes from a back story the audience will never know or see. If I’m going to write a character well, then I have to understand that character’s story, person, and perspective. I’ve come to believe that I must truly love each character, even the unlovable ones, if I am going to give them their true and authentic voice and words.

I’ve always said that God’s Message changes every time you read it not because it has changed but because I and my circumstances have changed since the last time I read it. As I read today’s chapter I suddenly realized that I was reading it with the eyes of a playwright. I’ve always read this chapter and focused on David’s “undignified” worship, but today I found myself focused on Michal’s rebuke of her husband. I’ve always read Michal’s words and thought, “Sheesh, what a wench!” This time through, however, my playwright brain began asking what was really going on between Michal and David. There’s a larger back story there. Michal and David seem to have been those people who had the seeds of affection doomed never to take root:

  • Michal had a young girl’s crush on the young stud warrior David.
  • Michal’s father sought to wed her to David, not because he wanted what was best for his daughter but because he saw she could be used as his pawn in a desire to follow the Michael Coreleone playbook of “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Michal obviously was little loved by her father. He saw his daughter as a “snare” for his enemies.
  • Despite any teenage affections between them, David initially rebuffs being betrothed to her on the grounds he wasn’t worthy to marry the king’s daughter. I wonder how that made her feel?
  • Saul gives David a “price” of earning his betrothal to Michal of bringing him a 100 Philistine foreskins (Gross, I know. It was a brutal time in history). Saul figured David would be killed in the attempt, but instead David brings back two hundred Philistine foreskins to claim Michal. Pissed off and humiliated, Saul tries to assassinate David, but his newly betrothed wife Michal helps him escape out a window.
  • David flees the area for many years abandoning Michal in the home of her mentally ill father. Saul marries Michal off to another man.
  • Many years later David shows up the conquering hero. In a relational and political power play he demands his childhood bride be returned to him. Michal is ripped away from the man she’s been married to and made a home with. She is forcibly taken to David. Her husband follows in tears begging not to be separated from her. I wonder whom Michal truly loved. Was it her husband who was begging in tears not to lose her or the man who rejected and abandoned her and was now demanding her like she was a piece of impersonal property and a spoil of war?
  • We are told that Michal had no children until the day of her death. I am ashamed to confess that in my ignorance I have always seen this fact as some sort of divine punishment of Michal. I can’t see it that way now. I hurt for Michal and the difficult circumstances she was placed by her culture, her mentally ill father, and her betrothed young husband who treated her with indifference and contempt. As we begin to see what a messed up family system David creates as a horribly flawed husband and father, I begin to contemplate that Michal’s barrenness may have ultimately been for the best.

Michal’s rebuke of David’s actions may have seemed inappropriate on the surface of things, but I now see that they were motivated by feelings of abandonment, rejection, anger, and bitterness. Given the circumstance and the backstory, I totally see why there was so much conflict between the two of them. Their story is a tragedy. I wish David would have been man enough and loving enough to allow Michal to live out her life in peace with the only man in her life who ever really seemed to love her.

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