David-Michal Example on Arranged Marriage
A marriage arranged to serve extraneous interests likely will be unsuccessful and bring no benefit to the couple. Example: David-Michal marriage was motivated by interests different from any desire by the couple to live in marital love. Michal’s father Saul sought the marriage to lure David into danger. David embraced the marriage to show military valor and triumph over Philistines. Michal, on her part, was infatuated with being the king’s wife. Furthermore, while David believed in life founded on worshiping and serving God, Michal had no such belief or understanding. They were unequally yoked before God; therefore, incompatible for marriage.
We discuss David-Michal marital interactions to learn from their experience. Their marriage was driven by inappropriate motivations, got off on the wrong foot, and ended without discernible benefit to them individually or as a couple. We study negatives from their marriage to enrich our understanding of positive aspects of modern day marriages.
Michal’s father, Saul, the first king of Israel, lobbied hard to persuade David to marry Michal, because he wanted to use the marriage to lure David to death to eliminate him from contending for the throne of Israel. Michal, on her part, appeared to love David. However, later events showed that all she really cared about was getting married to a young man that was highly admired among her contemporaries and expected to become the king of Israel sometime later. She was in love with the prospect of such a marriage but did not know or understand David enough to care about him as a potential husband. David apparently got into the marriage to show himself equal to the challenge for a gruesome conquest and mutilation of several Philistines, the then number one enemy of Israel. He cherished his “prize” for the valiant victory, brought to life through marriage to Michal, but did not love or care about her as a wife.
David-Michal marriage, therefore, was arranged to satisfy interests totally extraneous to the marital interest of David and Michal. The marriage was driven by inappropriate motivation. In this study, we discuss events leading to David-Michal marriage to understand the marriage got off on the wrong foot because of inappropriate motivation. Also, we note that David and Michal separated for a long time and re-united thereafter. We discuss the separation and re-unification to underscore their lack of personal commitment either to their marriage or to each other. Further, we discuss a specific event that brought their mutual dismay to the surface. We use information from the event to understand their marriage was unsuccessful because they were unequally yoked before God and, therefore, incompatible for marriage.
Arranged Marriage of David to Michal
During the period following Israel’s victory against Goliath-led Philistines, Saul was increasingly troubled by David’s growing popularity among the people of Israel. He had expected the throne of Israel to stay with him and his descendants, but now feared David could become a viable contender [1 Samuel 18:8]: “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?” Therefore, Saul decided to kill David and made several unsuccessful attempts at his life.
One of his attempts at David’s life consisted of offering his daughter to David for marriage, to use the marriage to lure David into getting himself killed. He tried first with his older daughter Merab, but David politely refused. Thereafter, he was informed his younger daughter Michal loved David. He quickly hatched a plan to deploy her as a tool against David: “I will give her to him, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him” [1 Samuel 18:21].
GRUESOME CHALLENGE David initially did not want to go along. However, when Saul offered to give Michal to him for “one hundred foreskins of the Philistines” [1 Samuel 18:25] as dowry, David became interested. He mobilized his men, raided Philistine territory, killed two hundred of their men, and brought their foreskins to Saul. Thereafter, Saul gave Michal to David as wife.
DAVID’S MOTIVATION Was David motivated by love for Michal? Later events would show he really did not care about Michal. What about infatuation with becoming the king’s son-in-law? If that was so important to him, he would have made an attempt when he was offered the first daughter. It appears, instead, he mentioned the prestige of becoming king’s son-in-law to argue he wasn’t worthy and, therefore, use it to refuse a marriage proposal he did not want to accept. To reject the offer to marry Merab, David said to Saul [1 Samuel 18:18]: “Who am I, and what is my life or my father’s family in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?”
He initially gave the same response regarding the offer to marry Michal [1 Samuel 18:23]. However, when Saul sweetened the offer by issuing David a challenge to perform a gruesome act against Philistines, David took the offer and organized for the Philistine raid. Therefore, it appears that David was motivated by the opportunity to show valor against Philistines, but not by any love for Michal or infatuation with becoming the king’s son-in-law.
Saul continued to seek David’s life, notwithstanding his daughter was married to David. He never was really interested in David marrying Michal. He simply saw the marriage as a path to killing David. After a Saul’s attempt at his life, David realized he needed to get away from Saul for good. First, he ran to his house. But Saul sent men to arrest him there. However, Michal was aware of the plot against her husband. In a show of loyalty to their marriage, she thwarted her father’s plot by helping David to escape.
DAVID’S LACK OF COMMITMENT David escaped, was joined by several followers, and lived as a fugitive away from Saul for several years. He did not take Michal and there is no indication he ever sought to reunite with her while he was a fugitive. Either he did not trust her enough (after all, her father was his number one enemy) or he did not care. He would have sought to bring her with him if he loved her as his wife. Several of his followers had their families, so there would have been nothing unusual for him to take his wife.
MICHAL’S LACK OF COMMITMENT Michal didn’t look for David either. Her father gave her to another man after David escaped. She remarried and apparently thought nothing of her marriage to David. Maybe she didn’t care because what attracted her to David appeared to be in jeopardy. He was now a fugitive, instead of the glamorous king she expected. If she was committed to marriage with David, she would have accepted and sought to live with him through thick and thin. Instead, she just settled in another marriage and apparently forgot her marriage to David.
Michal Returned to David
After David had lived as a fugitive for several years (including about one and half years among Philistines), he was crowned king of Judah while the rest of Israel remained in a divided kingdom under Saul’s son Ishbosheth. Saul had been killed in a battle with Philistines. A few years later, David demanded that Michal be returned to him when Saul’s commander Abner proposed a meeting to discuss reunification of Israel under David as king.
His demand for Michal’s return appears to be more about David completing his victory over Saul than about any longing for Michal as his wife. Michal was his prize for a victory over the Philistines. Saul took the prize away when he could. But now, David had the power and wanted his prize back: “So David sent messengers to Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, saying, ‘Give me my wife Michal, whom I betrothed to myself for a hundred foreskins of the Philistines’” [2 Samuel 3:14].
Unequally Yoked Before God
One event in the life of David and Michal thereafter underscores the difference between them and provides an understanding of why their marriage was unsuccessful. After David settled in Jerusalem (having taken back the city from the Jebusites) as king of Israel, one of the things he wanted to accomplish was bring the Ark of God to reside in Jerusalem. The ark currently was in a long-term temporary home with Abinadab in the hill country of Kirath-Jearim, where it was placed after the Philistines captured it in a battle but were forced to send it back because it brought them calamity [1 Samuel 6 and 7:1].
David’s first attempt to bring the ark to Jerusalem was unsuccessful. He had built a tent for the ark in the city and organized 30,000 men to escort and celebrate the ark from its temporary home. An accident on the way resulted in the death of one of the custodian’s sons and the ark was redirected to another temporary home with Obed Edom. David was distressed and wondered whether he would ever bring the ark to City of David [2 Samuel 6:9–11].
His second attempt three months later was successful. David and a large contingent brought the ark to Jerusalem, singing and dancing to sounds of the trumpet and other musical instruments. As the ark entered Jerusalem, David danced with all his might wearing a linen ephod. Michal saw the dancing through a window and was ashamed of her husband: “Now 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 whirling before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart” [2 Samuel 6:16].
Later, when David returned home to celebrate with his family, she chided him for dancing undignified in the presence of other women [2 Samuel 6:20]: “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” David’s response was partly a rebuke of Michal, partly self-defense, and partly a promise to always worship God even if it meant appearing undignified in her eyes.
Michal was ashamed of David because the pomp and pageantry of kingship that she married was in that incident replaced with David wearing a priestly garment in simple dancing and celebration with his people. David worshiped with all his heart and might in celebration and thanksgiving. Michal saw the event as degrading to the kingly image she married. Worshiping God was important to David. But Michal thought nothing of that. All she cared about was the kingly image.
David and Michal were unequally yoked before God. One was committed to worshiping and serving God. The other was enslaved to the pomp and pageantry of kingship. Therefore, an incident that made David very happy, instead made Michal unhappy and ashamed of David.
Summary of What We Learned
A marriage arranged to serve extraneous interests likely will be unsuccessful and bring no benefit to the couple, together or individually. The bible provides an example through the marriage of David to Michal.
David-Michal marriage was motivated by interests different from any desire by the couple to live in marital love. Michal’s father Saul sought the marriage to lure David into danger. For David, the marriage was an opportunity to show military valor and triumph over Philistines. Michal, on her part, was infatuated with being the king’s wife. Furthermore, while David believed in life founded on worshiping and serving God, Michal had no such belief or understanding. Therefore, they were unequally yoked before God and incompatible for marriage.