Then Saul said to David, ‘Here is my elder daughter Merab; I will give her to you as a wife; only be valiant for me and fight the Lord’s battles.’ For Saul thought, ‘I will not raise a hand against him; let the Philistines deal with him.’ David said to Saul, ‘Who am I and who are my kinsfolk, my father’s family in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?’ But at the time when Saul’s daughter Merab should have been given to David, she was given to Adriel the Meholathite as a wife.
Now Saul’s daughter Michal loved David. Saul was told, 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.’ Therefore Saul said to David a second time, ‘You shall now be my son-in-law.’ Saul commanded his servants, ‘Speak to David in private and say, “See, the king is delighted with you, and all his servants love you; now then, become the king’s son-in-law.”’ So Saul’s servants reported these words to David in private. And David said, ‘Does it seem to you a little thing to become the king’s son-in-law, seeing that I am a poor man and of no repute?’ The servants of Saul told him, ‘This is what David said.’ Then Saul said, ‘Thus shall you say to David, “The king desires no marriage present except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, that he may be avenged on the king’s enemies.”’ Now Saul planned to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. When his servants told David these words, David was well pleased to be the king’s son-in-law. Before the time had expired, David rose and went, along with his men, and killed one 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. Saul gave him his daughter Michal as a wife. But when Saul realized that the Lord was with David, and that Saul’s daughter Michal loved him, Saul was still more afraid of David. So Saul was David’s enemy from that time forward.
Do you remember the suggestion that Saul’s daughter be given in marriage to whomever defeated Goliath (17:25)? Here, Saul offers Merab, his eldest daughter, to David; but on condition that David continues to go out to battle – hoping, thereby, that he will die at the hands of the Philistines. David responds that he is unworthy to become part of Saul’s family; and Saul’s duplicity is emphasised as he gives Merab to someone else!
Saul learns that another of his daughters, Michal, loves David, so he hatches another plot involving her. David’s refusal to accept her on the grounds of lowliness – his family cannot provide a marriage payment – enables Saul to suggest an alternative gift that would be acceptable, 100 ‘trophies’ of war (v.25). He presumes that David would inevitably be killed by the Philistines while he was obtaining such intimate items; but David accepts this ‘offer’ and returns to Saul with the required gift. Saul’s plan had backfired and Michal was given to David as a wife, whereby he became Saul’s son-in-law. David seems invincible; and he has God on his side. Saul’s hold on power is rapidly diminishing and his enmity towards David increasing.
But what about Saul’s daughters? Merab was given as a wife to serve her father’s plans with no thought for her wishes or well being. Michal was given to a man she ‘loved’ but nothing is said about David’s feelings for her; there is no indication that he actually knows her. Might Michal have been smitten by David’s reputation as a warrior and his good looks, without knowing him as a real person? This marriage will not end well (2 Sam.6:16-23).
Marriage cultures vary but unless a relationship is sustained by mutual love and commitment it will not flourish, nor bring joy to either party.
Let us pray for any who are caught up in loveless or abusive relationships; and for those trafficked, or tricked into sham marriages, by people whose motives are criminal or self-serving.
Loving God, make us alert to recognize any who are at risk that we might act to ensure their safety. Pour out your love wherever it’s needed that all your daughters (and sons) may have life in all its fullness. Amen
The Revd Dr Janet E Tollington A retired minister and member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge