Summary: Do you know anyone who just can’t get a break in life? Do you know someone who seems to resolve one major crisis only to be thrust into yet another? This study presents us with just such a person. Her name? Michal, the youngest daughter of king Saul.
Do you know anyone who just can’t get a break in life? Do you know someone who seems to resolve one major crisis only to be thrust into yet another? You know the kind of person I’m referring to here, the underdog, one we feel sorry for, one we want to reach out to. Do you know someone like that? This study presents us with just such a person. On the surface, one might assume that she had it all. After all, she’s the daughter of a king. In reality, our study will reveal that she was used as a pawn in a political chess game, surviving one major crisis only to be thrust into another. Her name? Michal, the youngest daughter of king Saul.
The Impact on Women in the Age of Kings
The omniscient characteristics of God (His all knowing ability) never cease to amaze me. It’s not simply that God knows everything, including our thoughts (that truly amazes me) it’s His ability to know the future that absolutely amazes me. Such is the case regarding Israel’s ultimate demand for a king.
God’s original plan, in terms of a political structure, for His people was built around judges. It all began after the Exodus. Let us look briefly at the account recorded in Exodus chapter 18.
Moses was, to be blunt, wearing himself out on the judgment seat. People were lining up before Moses, bringing Him their disputes and troubles (cf. vs. 16). Moses would resolve their issues according to God’s law (cf. vs. 16). The problem was, there were so many “disputes” that the line to Moses was so long it kept him occupied from morning to evening (cf. vs. 14). Jethro (Moses’ father-in-law) comes by for a visit and after realizing the demand being placed upon Moses (cf. vs. 18), suggests judges be appointed from the people (cf. 21-22). Thus, a political infrastructure is born.
Of course, this system of judges will stand for some 400 years until finally the people will demand for a change. This happens as Samuel, the last judge, ages and his sons, who are dishonest, are looked upon as heirs to the judgeship (cf. 1 Sam. 8:1-3). The people, obviously concerned about the dishonesty issue along with a desire to be like other nations around them, demand for a king (cf. 1 Sam 8:5, 19-20). The rest is history, as Saul, the son of Kish, is named as Israel’s first king.
Here’s the amazing part, God knew this would happen and made a provision for it in the law, years before the first king. Notice the section of law found in Deut. 17:14-20. This section of law applies only to Israel’s kings. Of course, when it was written, there were no kings; however, God knew the future need of this law. More profoundly, God knew the negative impact multiple wives would have, not only on a king and his ability to rule, but also upon the women themselves. Thus, the law states, neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away (Deut. 17:17).
Of course, from the beginning, this law was ignored. Though Saul had only one wife (Ahinoam) he did have a concubine (Rizpah). It was David; however, who first truly abused this law, taking for himself nine wives and an undetermined number of concubines (cf. 2 Sam. 5:13). David’s pattern of multiple marriages was followed to excess by his son Solomon, who had 700 wives and 300 concubines (cf. 1 Kings 11:3). Despite the fact that multiple marriages was forbidden in God’s law, this trend will continue even after the kingdom is divided. So, what’s the point of this detail, you might ask? It’s the foundation we need to fully understand and appreciate the impact the monarchy (Israel ruled by one king) had upon the women of that day.
The introduction of the monarchy, for the most part, went unnoticed by the majority of women living in ancient Israel. Their daily routine was all but unchanged. They had the same chores to do, they had the same rules to live by in terms of honor, and marriage, and law. For most, they lived their life out, just as their mother, grand-mother, and great-grand-mother had before them. That wasn’t the case for all, however.
The introduction of the monarchy did have a dramatic impact on some women. Samuel forewarned the people of such, if a king was chosen. He explained that if they were ruled by a king, this king would take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers… and your female servants… and use them for his work (1 Sam. 8:13, 16).
Even more dramatic would be the impact upon women who would become members of the royal family. To be married to a king or to be born into the royal family, did within itself bring about certain privileges; however, these were greatly outweighed by other duties and disappointments.