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Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters

Michal, Saul's Daughter


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SHE DESPISED HIM IN HER HEART

NEVER, surely, were man and wife more unequally yoked together than was David, the man after God's own heart, with Michal, Saul's daughter. What was David's meat was Michal's poison. What was sweeter than honey to David was gall and wormwood to Michal. The things that had become dearer and dearer to David's heart every day, those were the very things that drove Michal absolutely mad; furiously and ungovernably mad that day on which the ark of God was brought up to the city of David.

It was the greatest day of David's life. And, sad to say, it was the very greatness of the day to David that made it such a day of death to Michal, Saul's daughter. Michal, Saul's daughter, died that day of a strange disease-a deep distaste at the things that were her husband's greatest delight. A deep distaste that had grown to be a deep dislike at David, till that deep distaste and settled dislike burst out that day into downright hatred and deliberate insult. You must understand all that the ark of God was to David, and the home-bringing of the ark, before you can fully understand the whole catastrophe of that day. It would take me till midnight to tell you all that was in David's heart as he sacrificed oxen and fatlings at six paces, and leaped and danced before the ark of God all the way up to the city of David. And, even then, you would need to be a kind of David yourself before you would look with right reverence and love at David that day. For David was beside himself that day. David never did anything by halves, and least of all his worship of God. It was like that day long afterwards in that same city when we read that His disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up. With all his might, then-and you know something of what all David's might in such matters was-with all his might David leaped and danced before the Lord till Michal despised him in her heart.

Those who are deaf always despise those who dance. The deaf do not hear the music. And, on the other hand, those who do hear the music, they cannot understand those who can sit still. David could not understand how Michal could sit still that day. But Michal's ear had never been opened to the music of the ark. She had not been brought up to it, and it was not her custom to go up to the house of the Lord to sing and play like David. Had Michal been married in the Lord; had Michal reverenced her husband; had she cared to please her husband; had she played on the psaltery and harp sometimes, if only for his sake-what a happy wife Michal would have been, and David what a happy husband! Had her heart been right with her husband's heart when he blessed his household every night; had she been wont with all her heart to unite with her husband when he blessed them every night and sang psalms with them; had she sung with him and said, We will not go up into our bed till we have found out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob: how well it would have been. Lo! sang David alone with the handmaids of his servants, Lo! we heard of it at Ephratah; we found it in the fields of the wood. Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest; Thou and the ark of Thy strength. Had David not been so unequally yoked, Michal would have put on David's shoulder that day an ephod that she had worked for that day with her own hands; and as she put it on him she would have sung and said, I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall shout aloud for joy. And then all that day in Jerusalem it would have been as it was at the Red Sea when Miriam the prophetess took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went after her with timbrels and with dances. But it was not so to be. For Michal sat at home that great day in Israel, and forsook her own mercy. Michal was not in the spirit of that day. And thus it was that she despised David in her heart when the very gates of brass and iron were lifting up their heads at David's psalm to let the King of Glory come in.

Not to speak of the past, had Michal done that day what any woman with any sense of decency left in her would have done-had she put on her royal garments and set out with David to the house of Obed-Edom, how differently for her and for David that day would have ended! For, once on the ground; once surrounded with the assembled people, the magnificent scene would have carried Michal away. The fast-dying ashes of her first love for David would have been blown up into all their former flame as she shared in the splendid salutation that David received from the assembled land. No ambitious woman, and least of all Saul's royal-hearted daughter, could have seen assembled Israel that day without being swept into sympathy with the scene. But Michal lost her last opportunity that morning. Michal did not overcome herself that morning. Her proud and unsympathetic temper got the better of her that morning, till David had to set out on the royal duties of that day alone. And as the day went on, Michal was left alone with a heart the most miserable in all Israel that day. And Michal's heart became harder and darker and fiercer as the day went on. Harder and darker and fiercer at David, and at all the ordinances and delights of that day. And then, when all Jerusalem rang with the ark just at her door, Michal stole to her shut window and saw nothing but David dancing before the Lord. At the despicable sight she spat at him, and sank back in her seat with all hell in her heart. You have had Michal's heart in yourselves, in your measure, on some Sabbath-day when you remained at home for some wrong reason, and when your husband came home with his face shining. And on other days, when you should have been at his side, but some distaste, some dislike, some pique, some catishness kept you at home to eat your heart all the time. And then the very high spirits of the party when they came home made your day end sufficiently like Michal's day. What a pity that David did not better prevail with Michal to accompany him to the fields of the wood that day!

The wife see that she reverence her husband, says the apostle. Yes; but even Paul himself would have allowed that it was impossible for Michal to reverence David all at once that day. Paul would have needed to have got Michal's ear early that morning when she tarried at home in the palace. Nay, he would have needed to have got her heart while she was yet Saul's daughter in Saul's palace. It is to tell a waterfall to flow uphill to tell Michal at this time of day to reverence David. Reverence does not come even at a divine command. Reverence does not spring up in a day. Reverence is the result of long teaching and long training. Reverence has its roots in the heart and in the character; and the heart and the character only come and bring forth reverence as life goes on. That may be all true, but the apostle does not say that. He does not say that any of the wives to whom he wrote were too late now to reverence their husbands. He speaks it to all wives, and he expects that all wives who hear it shall lay it to heart, and shall do it. And yet their husbands, their very best husbands, are in so many things so difficult, so impossible, to reverence. They fall so far short of their young wife's dreams and visions. They are so full of faults, and follies, and tempers, and habits to which no wife can possibly be blind. Most husbands are at so little trouble, after they have been for some time husbands, to make it easy, or indeed possible, for their wives to continue to love, and respect, and reverence them. All our wives have dreary, lonely, sorely disappointed days at home-partly our fault and partly theirs, but mostly ours-that we know nothing about. Now, what are they to do between Paul on the one hand demanding in the name of God that they shall love and reverence us, and us on the other hand with all our might making both love and reverence impossible? Well, with God all things are possible. Let our wives, then, take us, with all our faults and infirmities, and let them think that with all our faults and infirmities we are still their husbands.

And let them take this to heart also, that though we fall ever so far below ourselves, that is all the more reason why they should rise all the more above themselves. It does not divorce a wife from her affection and respect for her husband that he causes her much pain and shame: many a blush in public, and many a tear in private. His sins against good taste, his clownish or churlish habits, his tempers, his prejudices, his ignorance, his rude, insolent, overbearing ways, not to speak of still grosser vices-all that will not absolve a wife from a wife's solicitude and goodwill to her husband. All that will not discharge her from her command over herself. She must often see and feel all that like a wolf under her gown as she sits at the top of the table and her husband sits at the foot. But she must all the more learn to say her own grace to herself before she sits down to her temptation, till she is able to return thanks as she rises to go upstairs. All the time they are talking and eating and drinking at the other end of the table, she must set a watch on her ears and on her eyes and on the blood in her cheeks. She must be as full of guile as her husband is of meat and drink and himself. The keenest and cruelest eye must not find her out. Its deceived owner must be sent home saying, What a fool of a wife that brute, that bore, that goose has! I declare the blind thing is still in love with him! The wife see that she is hypocrite enough to throw dust into the eyes of her oldest, closest, and most familiar friend. Dante describes Michal as a woman who stood scornful and afflicted at her royal window. But let not even Dante's terrible eyes see either your scorn of your husband or your affliction on account of his exposure of himself. Throw dust even into Dante's blazing eyes. We are poor creatures, the best of us husbands; and, at our best, we are still full of appetites and egotisms and all the other dregs of our indwelling sin. But if Almighty God bears with us, and does not despise us and spurn us and refuse us His love, neither will you. And you will be well paid for it all, and well acknowledged. For when we praise God at last, and say, To Him who loved us! we will not forget you. The wife see, then, that she prays for and puts up with her husband. The wife see that she makes his self-improvement easy for her husband. And if, after all is done, there is an irreducible residuum of distaste, and almost dislike left, well, all the more let her see to it that she work out his and her own salvation under that secret, life-long, household cross. To your thorn, as to the apostle's, Christ will come and will say, My grace is sufficient for it. My strength is made perfect even in such weakness as yours.

Being the woman she was, and having the husband she had, Michal could not but feel both scorn and affliction that day. But, when all is said for her, and all allowance made, she should not have spoken to David as it is recorded she did speak. She could not command her proud heart when she saw David dancing, but by the time he came home she should have had her tongue tamed and under a bridle. David was, no doubt, a great provocation and a constant cross to Michal. They were never made for one another. It was impossible they could ever be happy as man and wife, short of a miracle. David was all emotion, especially in divine things; whereas Michal was as proud and cold as if she had been a daughter of Lucifer, as indeed she was. David that day was like one of our own ministers coming home from the communion table. It takes a night and a day and more than that till the agitation and the emotion of a communion day subsides and settles in a minister's heart. And if he were met with a blow in the face about his sermon or his prayer or his table service as he opened his own door, that was exactly the reception that poor David met with at Michal's hands that day. The wife see, at any rate, that she holds her tongue. I do not now speak of communion time. There is no fear of any minister's wife speaking on that day as Michal spoke. But there are other times with ministers and with all men. Times when husband and wife do not see eye to eye. Times when their two hearts do not beat as one heart. Times of distaste, and disapproval, and difference of opinion, and positive dislike; when Michal, who is written for our learning, must be called to every wife's mind. Michal with her heart full of war, and her mouth full of wicked words, and her whole after-life full of remorse and misery for that evil day in her house in Jerusalem-Michal is a divine looking-glass for all angry and outspoken wives.

'It was before the Lord,' was David's noble answer to Michal's taunting and insulting words. That was the whole explanation of David's emotion and the sufficient justification of it. David's overflowing joy that day had its deep and full spring in that far-off but never-to-be-forgotten day when Samuel came to Bethlehem with his horn of oil. To understand David and to sing David's psalms, you must have come through David's experiences. You must have had David's birth and upbringing; David's election and anointing and call; David's sins and David's salvation; David's falls and David's restorations; David's offices and David's services in the church of God. No wonder, then, that so many of David's psalms are as much beyond your depth today as his dancing was beyond Michal's depth that day. Michal thought of her royal father Saul that day, and despised David. David thought of his poor father Jesse that day, and danced before the Lord. And, as he says, he would have danced all the same, and still more, had earth and hell both been all let loose to scoff and scout at him. 'Both less and more than king,' is Dante's whole remark on David's dance. As we shall be on that day when we look down at the hole of the pit from whence we were digged, and cast our crowns at His feet who took us from the dung-hill and set us beside David.

And then, the truly noble, the truly humble, and the terribly lonely man that he was, David took up the taunt of his godless and heartless wife, and wore it as a badge of honour before the Lord that day. Yes, he said, it will be as you say. I will seek and I will find among the poorest and the most despised of God's people that which my own married wife denies me at home. And who can tell how many husbands here are in David's desolate case? Who can tell how many have to go out of their own homes to find the finest sympathy, and the fullest utterance, and the completest rest for their hearts? The wife see that her husband has not to go abroad to find his best friend, his most sympathetic and fellow-feeling friend, and, above all, in his religion. A minister once told me that he preached best and prayed best when his wife was at home. What a gulf there was between David and Michal; between Jesus and His brethren, not to say His mother; and between my desolate friend and his wife! My brethren, the Holy Ghost knew what He was doing, and for whom He was doing it, when He moved the sacred writer to put that day in David's life into our Bible. And this,-'Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it.' And this,-'And the wife see that she reverence her husband.'


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Bibliography Information
Whyte, Alexander. Entry for 'Michal, Saul's Daughter'. Alexander Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wbc/m/michal-sauls-daughter.html. 1901.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, October 23rd, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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