The marriage problems of King David

King David had a bunch of wives. 2 Samuel chapter 3 lists at least 6 spouses that David had just while he was in Hebron:

"Ahinoam the Jezreelitess".
"Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite".
"Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur".

These were all marital consorts of David. This was not exactly the perfect will of God. The LORD specifically warned Moses against future Israelite kings multiplying wives and hording money:

"When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me; ... Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold."
 - Deuteronomy 17:14,17

There it is in verse 17 - Kings over God's people were NOT to become polygamists! Yet David did. Surely he knew this verse? We never read of King Saul gathering Israelite girls for his own personal harem.

What was going on with David? The problem begins with King David's FIRST wife: Michal.

His First Love

David was best friends with King Saul's son, Jonathan. Saul welcomed David into his royal court, and even set him over the men of war.

Living in King Saul's court brought him close to Saul's daughters. Saul decided to give David his oldest daughter, Merab, in marriage. At the last minute, Saul reneged on the deal and gave Merab to someone else (1 Samuel 18:17-19).

But then a funny thing happened - Saul's youngest daughter, Michal, fell in LOVE with David!

"And Michal Saul's daughter loved David: and they told Saul, and the thing pleased him."
 - 1 Samuel 18:20

She loved him! Saul agreed to give her to David, for a price ... the (nonconsensual/forced) circumcisions of 100 Philistines - sworn enemies of Israel.

Surely David would die in the attempt! If he lived, The Philistines would be trying to kill him for the rest of his life. In either case, this would take David out of Saul's way (1 Samuel 18:25-27). But not only would David perform this task and live, The Philistines would offer him shelter several chapters later! Saul was wrong again.

David's bold act of war against her father's sworn enemies, The Philistines, made Michal adore David. She loved him with all of her heart:

"And Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David, and that Michal Saul's daughter loved him."
 - 1 Samuel 18:28

And that was it. Happily ever after! If only that were true ...

Saul kept trying to kill David. As with many families, David's father-in-law hated him. David was everything that Saul was not.

The person caught in the middle was David's wife, Michal. She had to choose: her husband or her family. Her dad was trying to kill him. Here's what she did:

"Saul also sent messengers unto David's house, to watch him, and to slay him in the morning: and Michal David's wife told him, saying, If thou save not thy life to night, to morrow thou shalt be slain. So Michal let David down through a window: and he went, and fled, and escaped. And Michal took an image, and laid it in the bed, and put a pillow of goats' hair for his bolster, and covered it with a cloth. And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, He is sick."
 - 1 Samuel 19:11-14

She chose David over her own blood-family! She risked her life to save her one true love, David.

It's a love-story for the ages!

The woman putting everything on the line for her man. It came at great cost to her. Her father, King Saul, had their marriage annulled and gave Michal to "Phalti the son of Laish".

She saved David, and had to live for years with a man she is never said to have loved. I do not know what she put up with. I believe she missed David dearly, and that David missed her.

The problems begin right after David and her are forcibly separated.

Years on the run

His wife was gone. His life was in danger. David was having it rough.

In his grief & pain, he did something dishonorable. He became a polygamist.

"And Abigail hasted, and arose and rode upon an ass, with five damsels of hers that went after her; and she went after the messengers of David, and became his wife. David also took Ahinoam of Jezreel; and they were also both of them his wives. But Saul had given Michal his daughter, David's wife, to Phalti the son of Laish, which was of Gallim."
 - 1 Samuel 25:42-44

It started with Ahinoam the Jezreelitess. I have no idea when he married her, but apparently she wasn't enough for David. He took Abigail the widow of Nabal as wife as well. 2 wives so far.

Maybe he figured Michal was gone, never to come back. Maybe he truly believed this would be his life from now on. Traveling warrior ... outcast Israelite ... anointed-but-wayward. This may well have been his belief.

You must know that Saul heard about David's new marriages. It is also not that far-fetched to believe that Saul was eager to tell his young daughter Michal that David had 'moved on' from her. However the news came to her, I bet Michal was heartbroken ...

Back to Israel

From this point forward, she most likely believed her man was gone. She probably resigned herself to this new marriage with "Phalti the son of Laish". He was an Israelite of Gallim. She could live with him. Probably a decent fellow, but not her true husband - not the man she really loved.

One day, a tragedy occurred - her father died in battle. Problematic and wayward though he was, he was her father. Saul's death opened the door for David to return.

But not so fast! David returned, but was only crowned King over Judah. Michal's Brother, Ishbosheth, reigned over the rest of Israel.

But Ishbosheth was not meant to be King. David was. Eventually, the remaining inner circle of King Saul (Abner - Saul's uncle) defected from Ishbosheth and asked to join David. But David shocked them all: he would only accept him if they brought him Michal, his wife!

"And he said, Well; I will make a league with thee: but one thing I require of thee, that is, Thou shalt not see my face, except thou first bring Michal Saul's daughter, when thou comest to see my face."
 - 2 Samuel 3:13

He doesn't wait for Abner to say yes: he sends messengers directly to Ishbosheth to go and get her!

"And David sent messengers to Ishbosheth Saul's son, saying, Deliver me my wife Michal, which I espoused to me for an hundred foreskins of the Philistines. And Ishbosheth sent, and took her from her husband, even from Phaltiel the son of Laish."
 - 2 Samuel 3:14-15

He wanted her again! He loved her! She went back to him.

It can be argued that her marriage to Phalti/Phaltiel was not exactly valid: no divorce or bill-of-divorce was ever transacted; then again, King Saul was never one to obey formalities. Nevertheless, they were reunited now: the lady, Michal, and the man she loved, King David.

Only they weren't the same. She had her share of heartaches. It must have been a jolt to leave the man she lived with for years and come back to David after all this time. It must have been a surprise to witness how he'd changed during his time in Gath.

And it must have been *uncomfortable* to share the palace with his other wives, yet she somehow managed. No outbursts from her or arguments with her husband are recorded.

She even watched him father children with his other wives - which grew in number by the chapter! Yet she quietly stood with him in all of it. She stuck it out with him.

Together again

She had to have been a STRONG lady. Michal must have LOVED David truly & deeply to have overlooked all this.

But then the LAST straw happened. He gave her no children. He treated her no differently than her "sister-wives", though she risked her life for him and went against her own father, King Saul. And now, he went out in front of the Ark of the Covenant and worshiped like nothing was wrong ... and she just SNAPPED! Everything came boiling to the surface ...

The polygamy, the barrenness, the feelings of not-being-appreciated: she threw a fit!

"Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself! And David said unto Michal, It was before the LORD, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel: therefore will I play before the Lord. And I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight: and of the maidservants which thou hast spoken of, of them shall I be had in honour. Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death."
 - 2 Samuel 6:20-23

There was her sentence: she would have no children. For ONE single solitary moment of frustration, David put her away and never fathered children. Note that The LORD never told David in this passage to do this. David had a moment of fleshly anger, and sent away the wife who loved him.

Was she right for fighting with him? No. Was David right in how he treated her? No. The Bible Stories are never as simple as Children's tales. There are no Heroes or Villains we can easily identify. No obvious characters we can point to as the "good guy" or the "bad guy". Sometimes fundamentally Godly people will mistreat others around them. Sometimes individuals who commit great wrongs were not as bad as originally assumed.

But David would go on to make it even worse. In 2 Samuel 21, The LORD punishes Israel for breaking their treaty with the Gibeonites. David asks the Gibeonites how he can make it right, and they respond that they want him to kill 7 men of King Saul's family. Without going to The Tabernacle or even seeking to consult The LORD at all, David agrees to their demand ... even though the Old Testament EXPRESSLY FORBIDS punishing children for the sins of their fathers!

"The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin."
 - Deuteronomy 24:16

But who among Saul's male descendants would David forcibly slaughter?

In the intervening years, Michal had found some measure of happiness by adopting children. She raised 5 sons as her own. But David would not leave her with the semblance of peace she'd carved out. He took away her children, and gave them to the Gibeonites to be murdered:

"But the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bare unto Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the MeholathiteAnd he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the hill before the LORD ..."
 - 2 Samuel 21:8-9

Once again, David never consulted with God before doing this. There is a reasonable chance that the same God who gave Abraham a RAM in the THICKET might've offered David a substitute, but he never requested one. He simply took her sons and had them murdered. Human sacrifice of the last joy she had in this world.

The lesson for us

I don't believe Michal was a bad person. Nor do I think David was. But there were continual problems in EACH of their lives.

Would David have had the affair with Bathsheba if he'd had his first wife there supporting him? We'll never know. But it's a good question to ponder.

Bottom-line, the marriage issues of King David started with his first wife, Michal.

I don't post this to make you sad about his mistreatment of her or their bad decisions and fights.

I write this to point toward a simple truth: the issues in his marriage-life going forward could've probably all been avoided if he focused on repairing his relationship with the first one.

Don't put off repairing your broken relationship until "the next one". Don't assume you can make it better with a future spouse. Cherish who The Lord brings you NOW.

David, love the Michal that God has placed in your life!


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