And David danced before the LORD with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the horn. As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, and she despised him in her heart. And they brought in the ark of the LORD and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it. And David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD . . . And David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” And David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the LORD—and I will celebrate before the LORD. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes. But by the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor. And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death” (2 Sam. 6:14-23, ESV).
We break into the story of David, someone realizing the promises of God in his life. After being anointed king of Israel many years before by the prophet Samuel, the young monarch’s life took on a set of twists and turns that both tested his faith and made him into a king. David defeated the giant Goliath to gain fame, wealth, and even become a member of the royal family by marriage. Then because of King Saul’s jealousy, David spent years in hiding and on the run, which I discussed in the article The Life of David Part IV: The Cave and the Exile. The cave squeezed him, and the exile trained him to become the leader God intended him to be as he led a group of mercenaries in the wilderness to protect Israel’s borders. Then Saul died, and for the next few years, David and his supporters fought a civil war against Ish-Bosheth. Finally, that war ended and David was crowned King of Israel, which was now a united country once again.
On top of all of his personal triumphs that God had brought to pass, David was bringing the Ark of the Covenant into the capitol. The Ark was a symbol of the presence of God; The Lord resided between the Cherubim, the golden statues on top of the box. As the group processed, David broke away into a worshipful dance in joy and adoration of the Lord. It was spontaneous and unrestricted. The Bible notes that he danced “with all his might.” The Bible also says David wore a linen ephod, or essentially an undergarment, so he was free to move around. After the years of personal frustration and hardship combined with the fact that the Ark had been absent from Israel since the time of the high priest Eli (before the reign of Saul), David led this great festival of the people. They were singing, dancing, making animal sacrifices, and even giving away large quantities of food to the crowds. This was a victory celebration for David and the people of the Lord.
When God gives you victory and the opportunity to praise Him for deliverance from circumstances or affliction, don’t let the watchful eyes of others stop your praise. Give Him the best praise you have. If those people criticizing you were not in the cave to feel the squeezing or were not exiled to the wilderness to experience the cold, lonely ground, then they cannot know the joy of your triumph. When you have joy in the Lord, there will oftentimes be someone waiting to tell you just how foolish you look. They are messengers of the enemy or have their mind on the fleshly comforts of life. They are the kind of people who say “Church is good, but don’t get too much into that Jesus stuff.” Let them have their say and dance away from them in the joy of the Lord. But make sure you dance and make sure it is away from them.
Michal was the person to tell King David that his praise was embarrassing. She was one of the most intriguing and tragic characters in the Bible. She was a princess of Israel, the daughter of Saul, and a given wife to David for the price of one hundred Philistine foreskins after his defeat of Goliath. She had quite an eventful life as her father used her as a pawn to try and ensnare David through palace intrigues and court politics (1 Sam. 18:21). But Michal was truly in love with David (1 Sam. 18:20, 28) and helped him escape through a window. She even created an elaborate ruse when Saul sent men to kill her new husband (1 Sam. 19:11-16). After David’s escape, Saul vengefully gave his daughter in a second wedding to an ally named Paltiel (1 Sam. 25:44), where she would stay for approximately the next decade (or longer).
We also see that David loved Michal in return. After Saul’s death, the country was at war over who would be king: David or the son of Saul, Ish-Bosheth. When Abner the general tries to defect to David with a large population of Israel, the young king gives him only one condition. Bring Michal to him (2 Sam. 3:13). This was his chance to finally diminish the house of Saul, but David wanted to guarantee his wife’s return first. That is a love that spanned years and much distance.
Of course, the rest of David’s wives had not been given to other men. They had been with him in the cave and his exile. So David’s family had grown around the common experiences of the hardship of those early years. Meanwhile, Michal had been away from the group, a prisoner to her father and new husband. She did not share the mutual bond or stories, and she had missed years of memories and relationships. Although she had not been through the same experiences as David’s wives, she had been forced into another marriage by her father. Regardless of the level of treatment in the intervening years, Michal had suffered the rape of a man who usurped her husband’s place. Michal is a sympathetic character in terms of what happened to her, and she was certainly not enjoying the life of her childhood during David’s hardships.
Even though Michal was a victim of her father’s plots, she “despised” David for his whole-hearted praise and devotion to the Lord. Too much of Saul and his court remained in her thinking. When Ish-Bosheth and Abner returned Michal unto David, many in Israel probably thought the match would be a salve to the wounds of the civil war. Any male child produced from that union would be the product of both the House of David and the House of Saul. From the human perspective of alliances, treaties, and détente, the matrimony of David and Michal was a perfect solution to Israel’s recent past. However, Michal proved to be too much like her father. Does anyone remember why Saul was removed as King of Israel? He refused to follow the Lord’s command to kill the animals and King Agag of the Amalekites because he was afraid of the opinion of the people (1 Sam. 15:24).
Michal was cursed by the actions of her father in terms of generational sin as well as learned behavior. Her upbringing was in the palace of a man who openly defied God and His prophet because of the opinion of the people. Being more worried about what other people thought rather than caring about the worship of the Lord was ingrained in her being.
David was a worshipper, and though Michal loved him, she did not regard the Lord. After David and Michal argued about his praise, the Bible says she “had no child till the day of her death.” Many people think that God cursed her, but the Bible gives no such indication (except in the general recognition that God can open and close wombs). Nor did David curse her. I think it was much simpler than that. David was going to follow the Lord even if he looked foolish to high society royals like Michal. Michal was concerned with palace politics and everyone’s little opinions and cared nothing for the true worship of the Lord. They did not have their most important beliefs in common. I think it is clear that Michal had no children because she and David stopped their relationship and no longer slept together as man and wife.
Sometimes, like David, you may get to a level with the Lord where people who have been friends and confidants for a long time no longer want to go with you. It may seem harsh but we have no record of God rebuking David for his treatment of Michal. In fact, God rebuked David several times throughout his life either through prophets or messengers to speak His words to the king, but never on Michal’s behalf.
David’s worship pleased God, and we should all strive to be at such a level of praise and intimacy with our Lord that we no longer care what the world thinks of us.
Featured Image by Joseph Gruenthal
In-Text Image by Adina Voicu