3:16 – The Rest of the Story – Our Response 7: 2 Samuel

A Bible Study exploring all the 3:16s in the Bible as they illuminate

  • the Human Condition
  • God’s Revelation of His Plan
  • God’s Fulfillment of His Plan
  • Our Response (Current location of study)

But her husband went with her, weeping after her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go, return.” And he returned.” – 2 Samuel 3:16

This is another of those studies in this series that presents a bit of a challenge at first glance. You really have to understand the total context for this verse for it to make any sense, and it is not one that you would tend to memorize or hang on your wall. Nevertheless, let’s dig in and unpack what’s going on here and see what God’s Word has to say to us about our response to His plans.

There are three people identified in this verse that we need to look at and understand. The only named person here is Abner. He was the “general” in charge of King Saul’s army. Saul has been killed in battle and his son, Ish-bosheth has been appointed king of Israel by Abner. However, David, has been anointed king over Judah, which was one of the tribes of Israel. In other words, the nation is on the edge of, or in the midst of, a civil war.

The second person identified in this verse is the “husband”. We know his name is Paltiel (or Palti), from the previous verse, but we know nothing else about him except that he is the son of someone named Laish and also the husband of Michal, Saul’s daughter. She is the third person referenced in this verse. It is Michal on which I want to focus a large portion of this study.

The following verses tell us the story, and all we know, about Michal.

  • 1 Samuel 14:49 – “Now the sons of Saul were Jonathan, Ishvi, and Malchi-shua. And the names of his two daughters were these: the name of the firstborn was Merab, and the name of the younger Michal.” In the culture of that time, families had essentially two first-born children – one of each gender. There was a first-born son who received the primary inheritance rights from the father, and there was a first-born daughter, who would be the first one given in marriage arrangements. During the early days of developing political relations (both positive and negative) between King Saul and David, Saul offered to give David his first-born daughter, Merab, as his wife, but David humbly refused because he felt he was too poor and unworthy to become the king’s son-in-law. Not to mention that Saul had already tried to kill David out of jealousy of David’s popularity and likely saw his being brought into the family as a way to exert more control on David.
  • 1 Samuel 18:20-21 – “Now Saul’s daughter Michal loved David. And they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. Saul thought, ‘Let me give her to him, that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.’” We see here that Saul’s reasons for bringing David into his family did indeed come with ulterior motives. He heard of David’s humble refusal of marrying his first-born daughter and, with the knowledge of Michal’s attraction to David, he designed a way that David could pay a “bride-price” that he could afford – the foreskins of 100 Philistines. However, we read in verse 25 that Saul intended this request to lead to David’s death at the hands of the Philistines.
  • 1 Samuel 18:27 – “David arose and went, along with his men, and killed two hundred of the Philistines. And David brought their foreskins, which were given in full number to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. And Saul gave him his daughter Michal for a wife.” David accepted the challenge and killed not 100 but 200 Philistines and brought their foreskins to Saul to lay claim to Saul’s daughter, Michal. Michal was David’s first wife.
  • 1 Samuel 18:28-29 – “But when Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David, and that Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved him, Saul was even more afraid of David. So Saul was David’s enemy continually.” Saul had already been told long ago (by Samuel) that God had removed his blessing from Saul and given the kingship to a successor. Samuel, at God’s direction, had found David and anointed him to be the next king. This was before David had killed Goliath, the Philistine giant, and before Saul had become acquainted with David. However, at this point in time there’s no evidence that Saul has figured out that David is the one that God has designated as his successor.
  • 1 Samuel 19:11-13, 17 – “Saul sent messengers to David’s house to watch him, that he might kill him in the morning. But Michal, David’s wife, told him, ‘If you do not escape with your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.’ So Michal let David down through the window, and he fled away and escaped. Michal took an image and laid it on the bed and put a pillow of goats’ hair at its head and covered it with the clothes…. Saul said to Michal, ‘Why have you deceived me thus and let my enemy go, so that he has escaped?’ And Michal answered Saul, ‘He said to me, ‘Let me go. Why should I kill you?” David had two roles under Saul: he was a great warrior leading troops in battle, but he was also a musician hired to play the lyre in Saul’s presence to soothe the evil spirits in him (probably what we might refer to today as a psychosis.) In his fear and jealousy of David, Saul sent assassins to David’s house. However, Michal (David’s wife and Saul’s daughter) warned him and helped him to escape. It is possible or even probable that this is the last time David sees Michal until after Saul’s death.
  • 1 Samuel 25:44 – “Saul had given Michal his daughter, David’s wife, to Palti the son of Laish, who was of Gallim. This comment comes after some unknown but significant amount of time has passed. During this time Saul has pursued David and several major events in their conflict have occurred. Additionally, David has married two women and the above statement was made as a side-note to the accounts of his two marriages. By the end of his life David had at least 8 wives. This is a good time to recall that in biblical times, polygamy was not unheard of or even uncommon. After the creation of humans (Adam and Eve), within seven generations we hear of polygamy being practiced (Lamech had two wives and was the great great great great grandson of Adam). We read of many polygamous relationships. However, suffice it at this point to say that while polygamy may have been practiced, it was not part of God’s original plan and is not prescribed by Scripture. In the present example of Michal, Saul treated her as the culture allowed – as property to be bestowed and retracted at will. Saul, because of his hatred of David and displeasure with Michal for helping him, chose to revoke David’s right to her and give her to another man – Palti.
  • 2 Samuel 3:13-14“And he said, ‘Good; I will make a covenant with you. But one thing I require of you; that is, you shall not see my face unless you first bring Michal, Saul’s daughter, when you come to see my face.’ Then David sent messengers to Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, saying, ‘Give me my wife Michal, for whom I paid the bridal price of a hundred foreskins of the Philistines.’” The book of 2 Samuel picks up with David’s story when he hears of the death of King Saul in battle. As I mentioned earlier, Abner was the commander of Ish-bosheth’s army. However, Ish-bosheth wrongly accused Abner of immorality and Abner, as a result, swore to remove his allegiance from Ish-bosheth and give it to David instead. Abner reached out to David after this, and David agreed to accept his allegiance provided that he bring David’s wife, Michal, with him. This is the context in which we find our 3:16 verse for this week – “But her husband went with her, weeping after her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go, return.” And he returned.
  • 2 Samuel 6:16 (also 1 Chronicles 15:29), 20, and 23 – “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 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. …. And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.” This is the last time we hear anything about Michal.

Now, in considering this story and what we can learn from it, there are several directions we could go. However, given the particular lens through which we’re examining these 3:16 verses, let’s think about what we might learn about how we should be responding to God’s plan. Ultimately, all the stories in the Bible are intended to direct us back to God and what He’s accomplishing towards His own glory. In this set of stories, God’s plan that is in the process of being implemented is the transference of power (the kingship) from Saul to David. This happened over a period of perhaps 15 years from the time that Samuel anointed David to the time that he actually became king.

First, I’ll point out that David is described by God as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). David was not sinless, of course, but he sought to be obedient to God and when he did sin (later, with Bathsheba) he pleaded with God to renew a right relationship with Him (Psalm 51). So in the particular story which we are considering today we need to remember that David is acting to the best of his knowledge and ability within the will of God.

Second, Saul is not operating within the will of God. We know that God removed His spirit from Saul (1 Samuel 16:14) and Saul’s motivation was selfish and narcissistic – his decisions were designed to benefit himself only. He gave Michal to David with the intent to bring about David’s destruction. He was angry with Michal for protecting David. He likely gave Michal to another man (Palti) as punishment to both her and David.

Third, we need to consider the responses of Michal. Even though she lived in a time period in which the thoughts or preferences of women were not much taken into consideration (with some notable exceptions), Michal nevertheless is credited with making some choices.

  • She chose to fall in love with David.
  • She chose to protect him from her father.
  • She chose to jealously accuse David of impropriety.

Now, it’s difficult to read too much into Michal’s character with such scant information. However, the final statement that we read about her is that “she had no child to the day of her death.” The way the statement links her inability to bear children with her response to David indicates that it was a statement of judgement against her. David’s response to her accusation indicates that she was jealous, not just of the women watching David, but also of his standing with the Lord.

Fourth, consider Abner. He was faithful to the house of Saul, but when that house (Ish-bosheth) turned on him, he quickly recognized David’s right to ascension of the throne. David saw this in him and was willing to accept him into his confidence. However, we read shortly after these events that Joab, David’s general, killed Abner in revenge for the loss of his brother at Abner’s hand during the civil war. David put a curse on Joab because of it.

Finally, we know nothing more about about Palti except that he had married Michal when Saul’s gave her to him. All I will point out with him is that he mourned the loss of her but ultimately obeyed Abner (who was obeying David who was obeying God) and returned home.

From all of those I think we should carefully consider how we allow ourselves to fit into God’s plan. Like David, we should strive to be obedient and place the highest priority in our life to seek God and His will. And when we sin, we confess that sin, repent, and seek renewal of a right relationship with God.

Using Saul as a negative example, we should not seek our own glorification but seek to bend to God’s will, even if it means the diminishment of our own importance.

Like Abner, when we discover that we are on the wrong side of God’s will, we should humbly seek to rectify the situation and align ourselves with God’s plan.

Unlike Michal, when we are faced with realizing that God’s plan is not suiting us the way we think it should, we need to humbly bow and ask God’s forgiveness and seek His glory.

And like Palti, if we are disappointed because of God’s plan, we might mourn for awhile, but get over it and get on with serving where God has placed us!

The next post will look at 1 Corinthians 3:16.

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