M'chal (Heb. Mikal', מַיכִל, rivulet, as in 2Sa 17:20; Sept. Μεχόλ v.r. Μελχόλ; Josephus, Μιχάλα, Ant. 6:11, 4), the younger of king Saul's two daughters (1Sa 14:49), doubtless by his wife Ahinoam (1Sa 14:50). In the following statement of the Biblical history, we chiefly dwell upon those points that relate to his successor. SEE DAVID.
The king had proposed to bestow on David his eldest daughter Merab; but before the marriage could be arranged an unexpected turn was given to the matter by the behavior of Michal, who fell violently in love with the young hero. The marriage with her elder sister was at once put aside. Saul eagerly caught at the opportunity which the change offered him of exposing his rival to the risk of death. The price fixed on Michal's hand was no less than the slaughter of a hundred Philistines. For these the usual "dowry" by which, according to the custom of the East, from the time of Jacob down to the present day, the father is paid for his daughter, was relinquished. David by a brilliant feat doubled the tale of victims, and Michal became his wife (1Sa 18:20-28). What her age was we do not know — her husband cannot have been more than twenty. B.C. cir. 1063.
It was not long before the strength of her affection was put to the proof. They seem to have been living at Gibeah, then the head-quarters of the king and the army. After one of Saul's attacks of frenzy, in which David had barely escaped being transfixed by the king's great spear, Michal learned that the house was watched by the myrmidons of Saul, and that it was intended on the next morning to attack her husband as he left his door (1Sa 19:11). That the intention was real was evident from the behavior of the king's soldiers, who paraded around and around the town, and "returning" to the house "in the evening," with loud cries, more like the yells of the savage dogs of the East than the utterances of human beings, "belched out" curses and lies against the young warrior who had so lately shamed them all (Ps 59:3,6-7,12). Michal seems to have known too well the vacillating and ferocious disposition of her father when in these demoniacal moods. The attack was ordered for the morning; but before the morning arrives the king will probably have changed his mind and hastened his stroke. So, like a true soldier's wife, she meets stratagem by stratagem. She first provided for David's safety by lowering him out of the window; to gain time for him to reach the residence of Samuel, she next dressed up the bed as if still occupied by him; one of her teraphim; or household gods, was laid in the bed; its head enveloped, like that of a sleeper, in the usual net (so Ewald, Gesch. 3:101, renders כּבַיר, rather perhaps a quilt or mattress, A.V. "'pillow" [q.v.]) of goat's hair for protection from gnats, the rest of the figure covered with the wide beged or plaid. It happened as she had feared; Saul could. not delay his vengeance till David appeared out of doors, but sent his people into the house. The reply of Michal is that her husband is ill and cannot be disturbed. At last Saul will be baulked no longer: his messengers force their way into the inmost apartment, and there discover the deception which has been played off upon them with such success. Saul's rage may be imagined: his fury was such that Michal was obliged to fabricate a story of David's having attempted to kill her (1Sa 19:12-17). B.C. cir. 1062.
This was the last time she saw her husband for many years; and when the rupture between Saul and David had become open and incurable, Michal was married to another man, Phalti, or Phaltiel, of Gallim (1Sa 25:44; 2Sa 3:15), a village apparently not far from Gibeah. Her father probably did not believe her story concerning David's escape; but he had taken advantage of it by canceling her former marriage. David, however, as the divorce had been without his consent, felt that the law (De 24:4) against a husband taking back a divorced wife could not apply in this case; he therefore formally reclaimed her of Ish- bosheth, who employed no less a personage than Abner to take her from Phaltiel, and conduct her with all honor to David. It was under cover of this mission that Abner sounded the elders of Israel respecting their acceptance of David for king, and conferred with David himself on the same subject at Hebron (2Sa 3:12-21). As this demand was not made by David until Abner had contrived to intimate his design, it has been supposed by some that it was managed between them solely to afford Abner an ostensible errand in going to Hebron; but it is more pleasant to suppose that, although the matter happened to be so timed as to give a color to this suspicion, the demand really arose from David's revived affection for his first wife and earliest love. After the death of her father and brothers at Glib, Michal and her new husband appear to have betaken themselves, with the rest of the family of Saul, to the eastern side of the Jordan. If the old Jewish tradition inserted by the Targum in 2 Samuel 21
may be followed, she was occupied in bringing up the sons of her sister Merab and Adriel of Meholah. At any rate, it is on the road leading up from the .Jordan valley to the Mount of Olives that we first encounter her with her husband — Michal under the joint escort of David's messengers and Abner's twenty men, en route to David at Hebron, the submissive Phaltiel behind, bewailing the wife thus torn from him. It was at least fourteen years since David and she had parted at Gibeah, since she had watched him disappear down the cord into the darkness, and had perilled her own life for his against the rage of her insane father. That David's love for his absent wife had undergone no change in the interval seems certain from the eagerness with which he reclaims her as soon as the opportunity is afforded him. Important as it was to him to make an alliance with Ishbosheth and the great tribe of Benjamin, and much as he respected Abner, he will not listen for a moment to any overtures till his wife is restored. Every circumstance is fresh in his memory. "I will not see thy face except thou first bring Saul's daughter... my wife Michal whom I espoused to me for a hundred foreskins of the Philistines" (2Sa 3:13-14). The meeting took place at Hebron. B.C. cir. 1047. How Michal comported herself in the altered circumstances of David's household, how she received or was received by Abigail and Ahinoam we are not told; but it is plain from the subsequent occurrences that something had happened to alter the relations of herself and David. They were no longer what they had been to each other. The alienation was probably mutual. On her side must have been the recollection of the long contests which had taken place in the interval between her father and David; the strong anti-Saulite and anti- Benjamite feeling prevalent in the camp at Hebron, where every word she heard must have contained some distasteful allusion, and where at every turn she must have encountered men like Abiathar the priest or Ismaiah the Gibeonite (1Ch 12:4; comp. 2Sa 21:2), who had lost the whole or the greater part of their relatives in some sudden burst of her father's fury. Add to this the connection between her husband and the Philistines who had killed her father and brothers; and, more than all perhaps, the inevitable difference between the boy-husband of her recollections and the matured and occupied warrior who now received her. The whole must have come upon her as a strong contrast to the affectionate husband whose tears had followed her along the road over Olivet, and to the home over which we cannot doubt she ruled supreme. On the side of David it is natural to put her advanced years, in a climate where women are old at thirty, and probably a petulant and jealous temper inherited from her father, one outburst of which certainly produced the rupture between them which closes our knowledge of Michal.
It was the day of David's greatest triumph, when he brought the Ark of Jehovah from its temporary restingplace to its home in the newly-acquired city. It was a triumph in every respect peculiarly his own. The procession consisted of priests, Levites, the captains of the host, the elders of the nation; and conspicuous in front, "in the midst of the damsels playing on the timbrels" (comp. Ps 68:25), was the king dancing and leaping. Michal watched this procession approach from the window of her apartments in the royal harem; the motions of her husband, clothed only in a thin linen ephod (1Ch 15:27), shocked her as undignified and indecent — "she despised him in her heart." B.C. cir. 1043. It would have been well if her contempt had rested there; but it was not in her nature to conceal it, and when, after the exertions of the long day were over — the last burnt-offering and the last peace-offering offered, the last portion distributed to the crowd of worshippers — the king entered his house to bless his family, he was received by his wife, not with the congratulations which he had a right to expect, and which would have been so grateful to him, but with a bitter taunt, which showed how incapable she was of appreciating either her husband's temper or the service in which he had been engaged. David's retort was a tremendous one, conveyed in words which once spoken could never be recalled. It gathered up all the differences between them which made sympathy no longer possible, and we do not need the assurance of the sacred writer, that "Michal had no child unto the day of her death," to feel quite certain that all intercourse between her and David must have ceased from that date. Josephus (Ant. 7:4, 3) intimates that she returned to Phaltiel, but of this there is no mention in the records of the Bible; and it would be difficult to reconcile such a thing with the known ideas of the Jews as to women who had once shared the king's bed. SEE ABISHAG; SEE ADONIJAH. The fanciful Jewish tradition, preserved in the Targum on Ru 3:3, states that Phaltiel had from the first acted in accordance with the idea alluded to in the text. He is placed in the same rank with Joseph, and is commemorated as "Phaltiel, son of Laish, the pious (חֲסַידָא, Assidaean, the word used for the Puritans of the New Testament times), who placed a sword between himself and Michal, Saul's daughter, lest he should go in unto her." It was thus, perhaps, as Abarbanel remarks, ordered by Providence that the race of Saul and David should not be mixed, and that no one deriving any apparent right from Saul should succeed to the throne.
Her name appears but once again (2Sa 21:8), as the bringer-up, or more accurately the mother, of five of the grandchildren of Saul who were sacrificed to Jehovah by the Gibeonites on the hill of Gibeah. But it is probably more correct to substitute Merab for Michal in this place (see Hitzig, Begr. der Krit. page 145 sq.; Flieschmann, De filiis Michal, Altorf, 1716). SEE ADRIEL.