'Studies in the Old Testament'

Israel's monarchy begins! - 10

April 2019

(Continued from page 550)

David's flight from Saul aided by Michal

Chapter 19:8 records that David again fought the Philistines and was victorious. Although everyone benefited, Saul, in his petty jealousy, was angered because he was not included.  He did not care that the nation prospered and was victorious over its historic enemy.  His anger waxed hot against David and he attempted to kill him and we have already read of repeated instances of divine deliverance of David from the hand of King Saul in Chapter 18. The first is described in verses 1-7, when Jonathan rebuked and reasoned with his father about his response to David's success. The second is recorded in verses 8-10, where Saul providentially missed David when he threw his spear at him (perhaps because the evil spirit sent to Saul by God made it impossible for this normally excellent warrior to throw accurately while "raving" under the influence of the malevolent spirit; or it could simply be that God caused the spear to miss its target - cf. Luke 4:28-30; John 18:3-6).  A third deliverance comes from Michal, David's wife and Saul's daughter. She lowered David out their window, and then deceived her father and his servants to give David time to escape as we read in 1 Samuel 19:11-172:

11 Then Saul sent messengers to David's house to watch him, in order to put him to death in the morning. But Michal, David's wife, told him, saying, "If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be put to death." 12 So Michal let David down through a window, and he went out and fled and escaped. 13 And Michal took the household idol and laid it on the bed, and put a quilt of goats' hair at its head, and covered it with clothes. 14 When Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, "He is sick." 15 Then Saul sent messengers to see David, saying, "Bring him up to me on his bed, that I may put him to death." 16 When the messengers entered, behold, the household idol was on the bed with the quilt of goats' hair at its head. 17 So Saul said to Michal, "Why have you deceived me like this and let my enemy go, so that he has escaped?" And Michal said to Saul, "He said to me, 'Let me go! Why should I put you to death?'"

David may have escaped from Saul into the night (v10), but Saul was in no mood to give up his plan to capture and kill him. Saul puts some of his men on reconnaissance outside David's house with orders to wait until morning and then put David to death.  Michal knows her father well and emphatically informs David that unless he escapes during darkness, he will not live another day.  It has been argued that David's reticence may be related to the only way he is able escape, for it will not be a very dignified retreat for David but, if he is to live, he must leave his dignity behind.7 Personally I doubt this explanation because of the humble nature David has shown up to now.  Perhaps their house was located along the wall of the city and this made escape fairly easy but, nonetheless, Michal lowered her husband down through a window so that he reached the ground below and disappeared into the darkness of night.  David made good his escape and became a fugitive - which he remains until the end of the book of First Samuel.

Michal shows the extent of her love and diligence for her husband by buying some time for David to enable him to make good his escape. When the servants of Saul arrive at the door, Michal is ready for them and, in a scene re-enacted in dozens of contemporary films and plays, puts together a "dummy" made out of a household idol so that it gives the appearance of David's form under some of David's clothes, with a goats' hair quilt at the head. From a distance, without being able to look too closely, one would assume it is David lying very still in bed, and perhaps very sick, which is Michal's story to Saul's servants.  The messengers Saul sent return and report what Michal has told them, but Saul is more suspicious and sends messengers back to Michal's house to bring David to him so he can personally put him to death.  When the truth is discovered Saul is angry with his daughter for deceiving him and for letting David escape, but Michal is as adept as her father at this game of deception and deflects Saul by telling him David threatened to kill her if she did not co-operate. This probably fits very nicely into Saul's distorted estimation of David, though it is far from the truth.

How differently this turned out from the way Saul wished to use his daughter's love for David!  He was certain that Michal's love for David would be the death of David but, once again, Saul's plan backfired.  Michal loves her husband and will not willingly be a part of any plot to kill him. More than this, she is the one who saves David from his father.  When we consider this loving rescue by Michal, we should not overlook Psalm 59, which is David's reflection on his deliverance here.  We notice that Michal is never mentioned in the Psalm. It is not that she is somehow being snubbed by David, as though she did not take part in the rescue.  David is not looking at the immediate cause of his deliverance in this Psalm, but the ultimate cause - God.  Thus, David praises
God for saving his life.



  1. King James Authorized Bible, 1769
  2. New American Standard Bible, The Lockman Foundation, 1977
  3. Ackroyd, Peter R. The First Book of Samuel, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,  1971.
  4. Dale Ralph Davis, Looking on the Heart: Expositions of the Book of 1 Samuel, vol. 1 & 2 (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994)
  5. Wood, Leon J., Israel's United Monarchy, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979.
  6. McKane, William. 1 and 2 Samuel. Torch Bible Commentaries. London: SCM Press,  1963.
  7. Hertzberg, H.W. I and 2 Samuel: A Commentary, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1964.
  8. Vos, Howard F. 1, 2 Samuel. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1983.
  9. John J. Bimson, consulting editor, Baker Encyclopedia of Bible Places (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1995), p. 141.
  10. Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Old Testament, The Sage Digital Library, SAGE Software Albany, OR USA,Version 1.0 © 1996
  11. Laney, J. Carl, First and Second Samuel, Everyman̓s Bible Commentary. Chicago: Moody Press, 1982

Israel's monarchy begins!

Social changes wrought by Israel's monarchy

The kings of the United Monarchy

The anointing of Saul

The coronation of Saul

The first of Saul's tragic sins

Saul refuses to completely destroy the Amalekites

Saul's first two tragic sins and dynastic succession

The selection of David by Samuel

Saul, Jonathan, and David

David's flight from Saul aided by Michal

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