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For other uses, see Michal (disambiguation).
Two window scenes
1 Samuel 18
2 Samuel 6
The narrative of Michal in Samuel includes two window scenes.[1] In 1 Samuel 19, Michal helps David escape from Saul by letting him down through a window (top), while in 2 Samuel 6, Michal watches David dance before the ark (bottom).

Michal (/mˈxɑːl/; Hebrew: מיכל‎‎  [miˈχal]) was, according to the Book of Samuel, a daughter of Saul, king of Israel, who loved and became the first wife of David, (1 Samuel 18:20-27) who later became king of Judah, and later still of the united Kingdom of Israel.

Michal in the Bible[edit]

Michal's story is recorded in the Book of Samuel, where it is said in 1 Samuel 18:20 that Michal loved David. It does not indicate whether this is reciprocated. It is told that she chose the welfare of David over the wishes of her father. When Saul's messengers were searching for David in order to kill him, Michal sent them away while pretending he was ill and laid up in bed. She let David down through a window and hid teraphim in his bed as a ruse.[2] J. Cheryl Exum points out that although she risked her life in helping him, after he leaves the court, he makes no attempt to contact her.[2]

Whilst David was hiding for his life, Saul gave Michal as a wife to Palti, son of Laish, and David took several other wives, including Abigail. (1 Samuel 25:43-44) Later when David became king of Judah and Ish-bosheth Michal's brother (and Saul's son) was king of Israel, David demanded her return to him, in return for peace between them. This Ish-bosheth did, despite the public protests of Palti.[3] Robert Alter observes that by stressing that he had paid the requested bride price, David makes a legal argument as a political calculation to reinforce his legitimacy as a member of the Royal house. Alter notes the contrast between David's measured negotiations and Palti's public grief.[4]

After Michal was returned to David, she criticised him because he danced, as he brought the Ark of the Covenant to the newly captured Jerusalem in a religious procession. (2 Samuel 6:14-22) Unlike Abigail and Bathsheba, Michal is not described as being beautiful, though Rabbinic tradition holds that she was of "entrancing beauty."[5]

Legality of second marriage[edit]

These events have raised moral issues within Judaism, especially in the context of the prohibition in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. On the one hand, some argue that it is prohibited to re-establish a marriage with a previous spouse who has subsequently remarried. On the other hand, other commentators explain that David had not divorced Michal at this point in time, but rather Saul acted to break their marriage by marrying her off to another without David's consent.[6] On that view, they were not technically divorced as David had not issued a writ of divorcement according to biblical law.


It is unclear whether Michal died barren and childless, as stated in 2 Samuel 6:23, or had children, as described in most manuscripts[7] of 2 Samuel 21:8, which mention "the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul".

Gill attempted to resolve the contradiction by translating 2 Samuel 21:8 as "the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite". Now, Merab, Michal's older sister, was the wife of Adriel (1 Samuel 18:19). According to Gill, these five sons were not born to Michal but were brought up or educated by her after Merab perhaps had died; i.e., Merab brought them forth, and Michal brought them up. [8] However, the Hebrew word, ילדה, which Gill understands to mean "brought up," everywhere else means "gave birth to."

Michal in poetry[edit]

  • In 1707, Georg Christian Lehms published in Hanover the novel Die unglückselige Princessin Michal und der verfolgte David ('The hapless Princess Michal and David pursued', based on the Biblical story.
  • In her poem "Michal", the Israeli poet Ra'hel Bluwstein draws a parallel between the speaker and Michal:

"Like you I am sad, O Michal ... and like you doomed to love a man whom I despise." (Poem "Michal" in her book Flowers of Perhaps.)

Use as a name[edit]

"Michal" was one of the Biblical names embraced by Zionism, very rarely found in pre-Zionist communities. It is a very common female first name in contemporary Israel.

Although possessing an identical or almost identical spelling when using the Latin alphabet, the Czech and Slovak language "Michal" and the Polish language "Michał" (popular male given names) are the local forms of "Michael" rather than of "Michal". This can be compared to French spelling "Michel", which is also a local form of "Michael".


  1. ^ Ellen White, "Michal the Misinterpreted," JSOT 31.4 [2007] 451 – 464.
  2. ^ a b Exum, J. Cheryl. "Michal: Bible." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 20 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive
  3. ^ 2 Samuel 3:13-16
  4. ^ Alter, Robert. "Characterization and the Art of Reticence", The Art of Biblical Narrative, (London:George Allen & Unwin 1981)
  5. ^ Louis Ginzberg, The Family of David in The Legends of the Jews, Vol. 4.
  6. ^ Though the Book of Deuteronomy attributes itself to the period of the Hebrews' Exodus from Egypt, many historians regard it as having been actually written during the late monarchy. David's appearing to be oblivious to the prohibition laid down in it seems additional evidence in support of such theories.
  7. ^ The New International Version of the bible uses Merab from two Hebrew and some Septuagint manuscripts but cites that most manuscripts say Michal
  8. ^ See John Gill commentary on 2 Samuel 21