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Monthly Archives: December 2012

The last post for the year

Here it is the last day of 2012. It has been an exciting year for Women from the Book Blog. WordPress sent a review of our activity during 2012, and I’d like to share some of the results. They are quite encouraging!

We posted eighty times since our beginning in mid-year, and included twenty-nine pictures. The blog had viewers from 70 countries, for a total of 4700 views. Fifty-eight of you are regular followers. Thank you!

Currently our production team (read, Mary and I) is brainstorming possibilities for 2013. Some topics under consideration are mothers, women from the Book of Proverbs, ancient beauty treatments, sorting out the Marys, and wives. We are discussing the Proverbs 31 woman, with an eye to placing her in her cultural context. Does she picture the wealthy woman of her day, perhaps even royalty or status? Or,  is she presented to be an idealized model for every woman down through time? Perhaps it’s both?

After a short time-out

Our first posts for the new year will start on January 7, 2013. If you have any suggestions for future topics, or how we might improve our blog, please feel free to contact me. Just post in the comments section, or I can give you a private email address upon request.

Thanks for stopping by. May your 2013 be a year filled with discovery. We certainly hope ours will be–especially concerning Women from the Book!

Prov 31 30 1280x800

Prov 31 30 1280×800 (Photo credit: Peej’s Photos)

Early childhood education

She looked at Timothy, opened her eyes expectantly and touched his thumb.

Hear, O Israel…

 She smiled and touched the tip of his first finger.

The LORD is our God…

 She nodded and touched his next finger.

The LORD alone.

Timothy’s mother was Jewish and his father was Greek. Whether Timothy’s father became a Jewish proselyte or if he was present in the home, is not known. In a letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul mentions his grandmother and mother but not his father or grandfather.  It may have been that Lois, Eunice and Timothy were a family of three when they converted to Christianity through the ministry of Paul in Lystra.

Rembrandt's Timothy and his grandmother, 1648.

Rembrandt’s Timothy and his grandmother, 1648. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Paul credits Eunice and Lois for Timothy’s spiritual foundation (2 Tim. 1:5), which is a significant compliment. Jewish parents highly valued education. They wanted their children to know God and their relationship to Him. Josephus states that the Jews’ “principal care” was “to educate our children well.” It was the “business of life” to “observe the laws…and rules of piety” associated with them.[1] Fathers and mothers were commanded to teach the word of God to their children (Deut. 6:6-8).

What did they teach?

In general terms, Hebrew children were taught “the way of the LORD,” following the commendation God gave Abraham. Abraham taught his children and household to “keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice” (Gen. 18:19). More specifically, when a child was able to talk, he learned two scriptures—one about God and the other about God’s law  (Deut. 6:4 and Deut. 33:4).[2]

Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD alone.

 Moses commanded a law for us, a heritage of the congregation of Jacob.

Following the Hebrew model, Timothy’s mother and grandmother taught him about God, the law and the right way of doing things.

How did they teach?

On the Sabbath and Holy Days Jews heard scripture read in the synagogue. Few families could afford to have their own copy of the law as a reference. Parents depended on memory and experience to teach their children. Children learned by listening to their parents, grandparents and experienced adults.  They repeated what they heard. They memorized scriptures. They asked questions. They practiced telling stories.

Parents taught when they answered questions. “And it shall be, when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ that you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the LORD, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households” (Exodus 12:26-27).

When a child asked a “why” question, an adult answered in context of God’s historical acts. One of the “singular aspects” of Jewish education was to “recognize and remember the Acts and events of divine providence in history.”[3]

In general, parents made ways to teach from morning to evening—drawing attention to lessons at hand (Deut. 6:7).

Why this method?

Hebrew education emphasized the importance of the whole person—mind and body. True knowledge and understanding came from God (Psalm 111:10), and parents based their teaching on that truth. They began the process of instilling wisdom into the minds of their children through discussion, repetition and memorization. The Hebrew model stressed developing a good memory. Without scrolls at home, it was important to store God’s word in the mind. “The worthiest shrine of truths that must not die is the memory and heart of the faithful disciple.”[4]

When boys like Timothy turned seven, they attended synagogue school or studied in the home of a paid teacher. Boys entering synagogue school had already learned the fundamentals of “the way of the LORD.”[5] Additional education prepared a young man to read and discuss the Law. His education built on what he had learned and covered a variety of subjects: agricultural laws and prayers, festival laws, laws concerning marriage and divorce, criminal law, dietary and temple practices and laws about purity.[6]

Eunice and Lois gave Timothy a good spiritual foundation. They taught him the word of God and set the example of living what they believed. Later Timothy became a protégé of Paul and a minister of the Church of God.

Timothy faced challenges and hardships pastoring the church in Ephesus. The comment in Paul’s letter must have encouraged Timothy when he doubted his ability to do the job. “Timothy, you’ve seen real faith in action since you were a child, and now it’s evident in you.”—Mary Hendren

 


[1] Against Apion, Book I, note on 1:12, Flavius Josephus

[2] “Ancient Jewish Education of Children and Use of Scripture,” Blair Kasfeldt, http://suite101.com

[3] “Education in Bible Times, “ Andrew Hill, Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, online

[4] Ibid

[5] Baker’s Evangelical Encyclopedia, “Education in Bible Times,” Andrew Hill

[6] “History of Education in Ancient Israel and Judah,” Wikipedia.

Two wise women

I find two of the most intriguing women who lived during the time of David are known only as “wise women.” While tradition assigns names to the wise men mentioned in Matthew, these individuals are identified only by the cities in which they lived—Tekoa and Abel. One speculation is that there were other such women in the land, and specific identification was of less importance than what they did. This post will concentrate largely on the woman from Tekoa, and incidentally with her counterpart in Abel.

The first encounter

Tragedy and heartache had visited David. His daughter Tamar was raped by her half-brother, Amnon, David’s firstborn son. In an act of passionate vengeance, Absalom (her full brother) murdered the rapist, and then fled his father’s wrath to the safety of his mother’s people in Geshur (2 Samuel 13:37-39). For three years, David mourned for his exiled son.

Joab, David’s nephew and commander of his army, was astute and knew his king well. Unless David reconciled with Absalom, the fate of the monarchial line was at stake. He devised a plan which included a wise woman in Tekoa.

Who is this woman?

Though nameless in the Bible, the fact that Joab knew of her and sought her out indicates she was a familiar figure. Presumably, she enjoyed some reputation in the environs of the area in which she lived.

What made her wise?

Claudia Camp, in her essay, The Wise Women of 2 Samuel,[1] presents a plausible scenario in my opinion. The Book of Proverbs has much to say about wisdom, its value indicated by the abundance of cautions and advice contained within its pages. Proverbs also “gives an indication of a mother’s role in the training of her children, not only as infants and toddlers, but also in the proper attitudes and actions of adult life,” she says. Furthermore, she notes that Proverbs 1:8 and 6:20 speak of the commands and instructions of fathers as a parallel to the law of mothers. Teaching children about life was a joint venture.

In Camp’s view, this woman likely heard axioms concerning wisdom repeatedly during her upbringing. She probably even memorized them and had them emphasized as object lessons at every opportunity. In turn, she passed these on to her own children. As she grew in wisdom from her life experiences, she might also have grown in stature not only in her family, but in her community as well. As others began to seek her counsel, she was gradually regarded as the village wise woman.

Wise women in action 

Both women exhibited some similarities of approach. First, they spoke with confidence and a certain authority (though not officially as a prophet or judge). They both were courageous—one in presenting a total fabrication to her king in order to change his mindset, and the other in effecting the decapitation of the secessionist and rebel, Sheba (2 Samuel 20).

Joab pursues Sheba to the city of Abel.

Joab pursues Sheba to the city of Abel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Additionally, each woman used a common wisdom device, the utterance of proverbs or sayings (14:14; 20:18). Camp comments, “A saying, then, is employed by a wise person for a particular purpose, possibly to educate another (which always involves some implicit directing as to what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’) or, as in this case [referring to the wise woman of Abel’s exchange with Joab], to exert influence over another’s action in a way that carries some authority” (pg 198).

“Acts” of persuasion

The wise woman of Tekoa, through her believable performance of a purely fictional scenario, was able to change King David’s perspective enough to bring about reconciliation and preservation of his line of succession. Though Joab had “put words in her mouth” (2 Sam. 14:3)—by essentially giving her a script—she had to draw on her own instincts and “wisdom” as to timing, and method of presentation.

The power of reasoning

On the other hand, the proverb spoken by the woman in Abel informed Joab that to attack the city to get at Sheba would be wrong (2 Sam. 20:18). After all, she reminded him, Abel’s reputation was as a “mother in Israel,” given to counsel, peace, and faithfulness. Perhaps she drew on her store of sayings, learned from her childhood, as she reasoned with this commander bent on assault. Principles such as, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger…” (Pro. 15:1) or “by long forbearance a ruler is persuaded, and a gentle tongue breaks a bone” (Pro. 25:15) come to mind. Whatever the case, her wise words carried weight with Joab (he was willing to listen) and the citizens of Abel (they were willing to act). The imminent attack averted, a potential flashpoint for civil war among the tribes of Israel was effectively quenched.

More to learn

These two anonymous women, sought out for their wisdom, positively affected David’s reign. The Bible notes other women who exhibited good judgment and insight. We will meet them in future posts and explore the impact of wisdom in their lives and in the lives of others.

Meanwhile, now might be a good opportunity to review the sayings of the Book of Proverbs. One never knows when she might find herself thrust into the role of a “wise woman.”


[1] Alice Bach, editor, Women from the Hebrew Bible (1999), pg 201

Michal: Part 2

Last week we looked at the life of Michal, David’s first wife. Although the story is a familiar one, I still have some questions. Unfortunately, three of them have no real answers, but, as always, there are many opinions. One question, however, has a fairly complete explanation, so I will begin with it.

QWhat is a teraphim?

A.  In 1 Samuel 19:13, the text says, “And Michal took an image and laid it in the bed, put a cover of goats’ hair for his head, and covered it with clothes.” The word for “image” in Hebrew is teraphim. All sources consulted agree this was a household god:

  • “…’the teraphim,’ of the figure and size of the human form, used for superstitious purposes by the Israelites in the times of the judges and of Saul (Judg 17:5), until the practice was suppressed by Josiah (2 Kings 23:24). They were considered the givers and guardians of life and property, or consulted as oracles (Zech 10:2; Hos 3:4).”[1]
  • “the teraphim…in all probability an image of the household gods of the size of life, and, judging from what follows, in human form….”[2]
  • “‘Teraphim’… an image, or bust in human form, and as large as life, of a kind of household god, to the worship of which the Israelites, and especially women, were much addicted.”[3]

However, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary poses an alternate explanation: “Since terephim is always plural, and since the idols they denote are presumably always small…the dummy was almost certainly not a single, man-sized idol. Michal’s ruse was probably effected by piling clothing, carpets, or the like on David’s bed and covering it with a garment, allowing only the goats’ hair head to show.”[4] 

Teraphim 4

Teraphim 4 (Photo credit: michaelz1)

Q. Why would such a figure have been in Michal’s room in the first place?

 A.  Expositor’s commentary notes that Michal’s use of household idols “doubtless reflects pagan inclination or ignorance on her part.” Further, it compares Michal’s deception with Rachel’s, when she, too, deceived her father, Laban, with teraphim. Each woman demonstrated more devotion to her husband than to her father.[5]

If it were due to a “pagan inclination,” could this partially explain her reaction when she saw David’s dance as something repugnant? There is no record of Michal exhibiting any particular reverence for David’s God, and Israel itself had a long history of flirting with idolatry. David trusted in God, we know. What we do not know is whether Michal trusted in teraphim. The Bible is silent in this regard.

Q. What was Michal’s fate?

A.  It is difficult to resist the temptation to fill in the blanks where the Bible is silent, especially when studying such a fascinating character as Michal. Following are various attempts to flesh out the scant details we do have.

Some wonder if David put Michal in a sort of confinement as he did in 2 Samuel 20:3: “Now David came to his house at Jerusalem. And the king took the ten women, his concubines whom he left to keep the house, and put them in seclusion and supported them, but did not go in to them. So they were shut up to the day of their death, living in widowhood.”

Edith Deen notices a rather conflicting passage in 2 Samuel 21:8 in which five sons of Michal are mentioned: “Scholars seem to be convinced that this is a scribal error, that these were not Michal’s sons but the sons of her sister Merab, and that she reared them as her own after her sister’s death.”[6] She does not express her personal opinion. Others, such as Sue and Larry Richards,[7] seem confident that Michal remained in David’s house as a symbol, that he never touched her again, and she died childless and alone.

At least one other ponders a different facet of her story—the reason behind such a fate. Professor Robert Alter of U.C. Berkeley asks, “Is this a punishment from God, or simply a refusal by David to share her bed, or is the latter to be understood as the agency for the former?”[8]

As you can see, opinions and questions are plentiful, but all the Bible will say on the matter is found in 2 Samuel 6:23: “Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children unto the day of her death.”

Q. Did David love Michal?

A.  I Samuel 18:20 states, “Now Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved David.” In fact, this is the only place in the Hebrew Bible where it is stated that a woman loves a man.[9] No place does it say that David loved Michal.

Most authorities address the obvious. Michal was a pawn in her father’s hand. Saul offered her in marriage for one reason—he hoped that her bride price would result in David’s death. It was purely a matter of retaining power.

Michal, however, was looking through a different set of lenses. David was a familiar personality in the royal household. He was young. She was young. It would be logical to assume that she held at least some physical attraction for David. He definitely did for her.

After they were married, Michal defied her father by helping David escape Saul’s murderous intent. No Bible record indicates that David ever tried to contact her afterwards, or come back for her. But there are accounts that he managed to meet with her brother Jonathan on at least two occasions.

Both were thrust into new roles—he as a fugitive; she, by her father’s intervention, as another man’s wife. David took other wives, and then concubines. Years passed, and children were born. When he finally returned years later, David came as a king, replete with a royal entourage and harem.

He called for Michal once more. There is no mention of celebration or jubilation as might be expected after such a long separation. Scholars view this as a shrewd political move to assure David’s bid for the throne of a united monarchy. He just needed Saul’s daughter to help him seal the deal.

So did David love Michal? Perhaps, at least in the beginning, one would hope. However, accounts of true and lasting marital love are scarce in the pages of the Bible, especially among the households of the Royals. Politics, not love, always seem to reign supreme.

The story of Michal continues to be a fascinating one. With each reading I discover new questions and curiosities which keep me coming back for more.


[1] From Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc.

[2] Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament: New Updated Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.

[3] Barnes’ Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc.

[4](1992 edition)  Volume 3, page 716.

[5] See Genesis 31:33-35.

[6] All the Women of the Bible (1955), page 100

[7] Every Woman in the Bible (1999),  p 115

[8] The David Story (1999), page 230

[9] Women in Scripture (2000), Carol Meyers, Gen. Ed., page 126

Coming next week: Michal, Part 2, and two wise women

If you are like me, you probably found that the account of Michal and David poses some interesting questions. Did David love her? What is a teraphim, and why did Michal have one in her room? What was her fate? Next week we’ll complete her story, and  move on to the last personalities in our series, the mysterious wise women of Tekoa and Abel.

English: "Make them known unto thy childr...

English: “Make them known unto thy children and thy children’s children.” Deuteronomy 4:9. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And then…what better way to start a new year than with a focus on education?

Education has always been a concern for parents—whether it be in the form of teaching a trade or skill in order to make a living, mentoring in areas of responsibility and decision-making, or, most importantly, instilling principles for living a successful, moral life.

The Bible gives guidelines for teaching children, particularly about God, and defines appropriate conduct. It also furnishes examples. We’ll visit two New Testament women who joined forces to provide a quality education for a boy they both loved. Their names are Lois and Eunice.

Thanks for stopping by!

Rizpah

For anyone outside the king’s court to see Rizpah was rare. Closely protected by eunuchs, she was a royal concubine and lived in separate quarters. She belonged to King Saul and may have been his only concubine. Her story begins, “Now Saul had a concubine named Rizpah daughter of Aiah” and continues with the reason she was out in public (2 Samuel 3:7, 21:10-14).

A mother’s vigil

After Saul died, Rizpah became part of King David’s harem. In the normal course of events, Rizpah would have lived in the seclusion of his court. But Gibeonites had killed the two sons she had borne to Saul and impaled them on a hilltop for public scrutiny. There they hung as restitution for something they hadn’t done. Rizpah watched over them.

Painting of a Biblical scene

Painting of a Biblical scene (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rizpah…took sackcloth and spread it out for herself on a rock. From the beginning of the harvest till the rain poured down from the heavens on the bodies, she did not let the birds of the air touch them by day or the wild animals by night.

Sackcloth symbolized mourning and penance (Gen. 37:34). Considering her gruesome vigil, I wonder if Rizpah could have had any thoughts of some greater purpose being worked out through her slain sons? Her sad efforts to defend the dead from scavengers would have been enough thought.

The backstory

Some years before, King Saul had gone after Canaanite tribes northwest of Jerusalem. Among the people he killed were Gibeonites. Putting to death any Gibeonites violated a treaty of protection Joshua had made with them four hundred years earlier. Because Saul broke the treaty Joshua had made, he triggered divine punishment—a three-year famine that commenced in the reign of David. As the famine intensified, David inquired of the LORD about the meaning of it (2 Samuel 21:1).

It is because of Saul and his bloodthirsty house, because he killed the Gibeonites.

Atonement

When David learned that the famine resulted from a broken treaty, he asked the Gibeonites what he could do to atone for Saul’s infraction.  To settle accounts, they required that seven of Saul’s sons be turned over to them for execution and public exposure. David agreed and handed over five sons of Merob (Saul’s daughter) and the two sons of Rizpah.

Did God approve of the Gibeonites’ request and David’s handling of the matter? Commentators disagree. Noted Bible scholar Herbert Lockyer states, “Vengeance was taken out of God’s hands and executed by revengeful men in God’s name on seven innocent men.”[1] Adam Clarke states, “It is very strange that a choice of this kind should be left to such people. Why not ask this of God himself?”[2]

The Expositor’s commentary states that because “the famine was due to the breaking of the covenant between Gibeon and Israel…propitiation could only be effected by the death of the sons of Saul at the hands of the Gibeonites.”[3] Other commentators conclude that because the rains commenced, God was satisfied.

How long?

How long did Rizpah remain on watch? The Expositor’s Commentary says she stayed until the rains came that ended the drought, and these rains “were probably an unseasonable late-spring or early summer shower.”[4] Josephus states, “So when the Gibeonites had received the men, they punished them as they pleased; upon which God began to send rain.” [5] However, the Bible does not say that God brought an immediate rain, a late spring rain or an early summer rain. Edersheim believes the rains were the periodic ones that began in October, meaning that Rizpah continued her sad duties for five months.[6]

A proper burial

When David was told about what Rizpah had done, he was moved to bring back the bones of Saul and Jonathan from where they had been buried in Jabesh Gilead. He took the bones of the seven sons from the hill and buried them with Saul and Jonathon in tomb of Kish, Saul’s father. What happened to Rizpah after the interment is not known. Perhaps she was comforted that Saul and his sons had a decent burial.

Did God approve?

A post-script to her tragic story is the question of whether God approved of concubines and multiple wives. Many notable men had several wives and/or concubines (Abraham, Jacob, Gideon, Saul, David, Solomon). Jesus said that from the beginning of creation, marriage was an institution uniting one man and one woman (Matt.19:4-5, Gen.1:27, 2:21-24). Because people strayed from God’s pattern, by the time of Abraham having another wife or a concubine was not considered “evil.” Taking additional wives and concubines became a “regular custom among the Jews” so some of the laws God gave Moses for Israel “were directed to prevent excess and abuse”[7] of the practice. The allowances made for divorce, multiple marriages and concubines are laws and procedures made necessary because men have departed from God’s will.

Life as a concubine

Royal concubines were kept under close supervision and enjoyed privileges in food, clothing, and living quarters. They entered a king’s harem through a political alliance, from the slave market or as a requisition from among the beautiful women in the kingdom. Customarily they were well cared for because they added to a king’s prestige. A Queen Mother or head eunuch managed the harem and each concubine’s access to the king. The wives and concubines of a king that died or was deposed became the property of his successor.♦ Mary Hendren

.


[1] All the Women of the Bible, Herbert Lockyer, p. 143.

[2] Adam Clarke’s Commentary, One-Volume Edition, p. 333.

[3] The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 3, p.1054

[4] Ibid, p.1055

[5] An Exposition of the Old and New Testament, by John Gill, online, note on v.10

[6] Bible History Old Testament, Alfred Edersheim, p. 570.

[7] The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary,  “Concubine,” pp. 250-251

Michal’s window

Prologue

Young David had made quite a name for himself. Who had not heard the glorious tale? Imagine! Felling Goliath, the Philistine giant, armed with only a slingshot and his faith in the God of the armies of Israel (I Samuel 17). Word had it that such a deed would not go unrewarded. “It shall be that the man who kills him the king will enrich with great riches, will give him his daughter, and give his father’s house exemption from taxes in Israel” (vs. 25). The future looked bright for the handsome lad.

David and Saul

David and Saul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From that momentous day, David served Saul wherever he was sent, and word of his exploits spread throughout the land. He soon became a familiar figure in the royal household, often soothing his tormented king with music. He and Jonathan, the king’s son, forged a lasting friendship. Did he notice the princesses Merab and Michal watching him with admiring eyes as he went about their father’s business?

Hero or menace?

He often went into battle, and always returned victorious. Women danced and swayed to the rhythm of their tambourines, singing jubilantly of his conquests. “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” The king’s mood turned dark toward this young hero; no rewards were forthcoming, only sudden fits of anger and malevolence. David’s acclaim grew. So did Saul’s paranoia and fear. His troubled mind devised a plan to rid himself of this perceived threat.

Of traps and snares

First, there was the promise of Merab’s hand in marriage. Just fight for me, the king had said, hoping for David’s death in battle, and you can have her to wife. But when David failed to fall into his trap, Merab was abruptly given to another.

Then word came that his younger daughter Michal was in love with David, and Saul immediately saw her as the snare to bring this interloper’s demise. It became increasingly clear that life with Saul was going to be a challenge.

A window of escape

Michal could hardly believe it. David provided  the bride-price Saul requested: one hundred foreskins of his enemies, the Philistines–in fact he doubled it. Only after a tally of the grisly payment were they allowed to wed. When her father should have felt secure as David repeatedly proved his loyalty, he only grew more obsessed. Even her brother Jonathan couldn’t reason with him, and became alarmed at their father’s murderous intent.

What could she do? Even in the dark, she felt the presence of her father’s assassins waiting near the courtyard below. Slowly a plan crystallized. Perhaps it was her trusted servants, or even Jonathan himself who helped her quietly lower David from her window to the ground. She leaned out after him, watching him disappear into the inky night.

Michal’s feint

Now she must move quickly. Her father’s messengers of death could enter her room at any time. Michal managed to pivot a household image onto David’s bed, and disguise it with goats’ hair and clothing. After a few minor adjustments she was satisfied it would pass for her sleeping husband—at least temporarily. By the time Saul’s henchmen discovered her ruse David was well on his way to Ramah.

Waiting

Saul’s rage would not be cooled until David was dead, that he proved by an endless, merciless pursuit. Michal’s fugitive husband was forced farther and farther away. There was spotty news of him now, usually from the mouth of an itinerate tradesman, and what little she did receive only caused her heartbreak and despair. Could it be true—he had another wife…was her name Abigail? And then another? Why had he not sent for her?

As if unknowing was not enough, her father did the unthinkable. He gave Michal as wife to another, one Paltiel, and with the passing years, she made a new life. When she learned that her father and brother were killed in battle, there was still no word from David—only reports that he had been made the king of Judah.

Key to the contest

Now some fourteen years later[1], David laid claim to the throne of Israel in order to unify its tribes with Judah. Once again Michal found herself helpless, now in the midst of a contest for a united monarchy. Key to David’s ascendency as she was his rightful wife and daughter of Israel’s deceased king, he wasted no time in demanding her return. In spite of Paltiel’s tearful pleadings, Michal now found herself  in David’s palace.

English: "David danced before the LORD wi...

English: “David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod”; 2 Samuel 6:14; watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A window of judgment

Once again she stood at her window, drawn by sounds of trumpets and shouts of jubilation. The ark of the Lord was coming to Jerusalem! As she watched the nearing crowd, she spied her husband, leaping and whirling, in an ephod[2]. Disgust filled her heart. He should have stayed a shepherd. Such dancing in public and he, the King!

Hours passed before David returned home. His day had been filled with celebration, offerings, and gifts for the whole multitude of Israel. Now his own household would receive his blessings. Michal met him with cold anger and disdain. “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!”[3]

Unintended consequences

Michal had gone too far. David met her derision with a stern rebuke. “It was before the LORD, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the LORD. And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor.”[4]

Michal’s scorn for her husband ended with the ultimate curse for a woman of her day: “Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.”


[1] The Woman’s Study Bible, Topic “Michal,” says, “Fourteen years later and seven years after the death of Saul, David was still not the king over all of Israel. As condition of a treaty with Abner, David demanded the return of Michal in order to stabilize his position over the Kingdom. Once again, Michal was used for political advantage” (page 475).

[2] The ephod was a linen vest worn by a priest over his robe. It was much shorter than the usual outer garment, which made it convenient for dancing. The Woman’s Study Bible, reference, 2 Samuel 6:14.

“From the historical books we learn that ephods were worn by persons other than the high priest. Thus, the boy Samuel was girded with a linen ephod while assisting the aged high priest (1 Sam 2:18); the priests at Nob, 85 in number, are described as men wearing a linen ephod (22:18); and David was girded with a linen ephod when he danced in the procession that brought the ark into Jerusalem (2 Sam 6:14). (from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright © 1996, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc.)

[3] 2 Samuel 6:20

[4] 2 Samuel 6:21-22

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