Friday, November 18, 2011

Women of the Bible Encouragement Series: Michal ~ Words Without Wisdom

     The nursemaid showed me to a chaise in a parlor of sorts, so I sat, hands clasped tight in my lap. What would Michal say? What should I ask her? I looked around. The room was beautifully decorated with exotic palms, rich tapestries and animal furs. Michal had very rich taste.
     The nursemaid turned. “I will warn you, miss. The lady of the house has not been herself for many years. When her memory returns to her, she becomes so distressed… It is better to let her think and speak as she wills.”
     She left the room, sandaled feet casting echoes off the walls.  


     I jerked toward the door.

     A brightly robed Michal with silver-streaked hair came tearing toward me and squeezed me in a vise-like hug. “Oh, Merab! I’ve longed to see you so. Why did you wait so long to come to me?”

     I stood there, limp and speechless. Then it came to me. Merab. Michal thought I was her sister. But Merab died when Michal was much younger. The poor woman. Alzheimer's disease wouldn't have been discovered in 950 B. C. much less treated. She would probably stay shut up here, misunderstood.

     She pulled back and settled her gaze on me—happy, but empty. “Your sons are well. I just put the youngest to bed.” Her absent stare turned wistful. “They are growing so fast. I wish they would stay young forever.”

     I couldn’t help the cold chills that raced up my arms as I realized how completely her mind was gone. The five sons she raised for her sister were all hanged not over eleven years ago in 966 B. C. They had been offered to the Gibeonites to appease Saul’s violation of Joshua’s ancient covenant. Having never born children of her own, the grief must have been impossible for Michal to absorb, so now she chose to remember only the happy, if short-lived, times of her life.

     “Come.” She tugged at my arm. “Let us play in the gardens as we did when we were girls.”

     I stayed seated, a bit afraid of her. “Actually, I’d hoped we could sit and talk some.”

     Disappointment washed over her features, but she nodded and rested her head and forearms on my knees as she settled into a pile at my feet. She raised her face, olive skin grayish and faded, like it hadn’t seen the sun in a long, long time.

     “I wanted to ask you something.” I studied her, half dreading her reaction. The nursemaid’s caution came to mind, but, determined to have my interview, I barged ahead. “Could you tell me a little about the time you helped David escape the palace? You remember,” I coaxed. “You hid a statue in the bed and claimed it was David and that he was sick so your father wouldn’t kill him?”

     She slowly drew back. “Why do you ask me this?” She rose and moved toward the far wall. “I do not want to speak of David. He was always so… I don’t know. He never cared what others would think of him, only wanted to please that God of his—even if it meant disgracing himself in front of the people. He never put priority on what was important. Always running here and there.”
     She turned to face me and her brows came together, then smoothed into a mask of shock. “You’re not Merab.” Her face turned even paler, if that was possible, and she held a hand to the wall for support. “Merab’s dead.” She spat the words like they were burning her tongue. She shifted her attention to something in the middle distance. “My boys,” she whispered and slid down the wall to the floor. “My precious boys. He killed them--let the cursed men of Gibeon hang them for something my conceited, foolish father did to those blood-greedy heathens.” She seemed to crumble into herself. “Why?” she moaned. “Was he not content in denying me sons of my own?” She tangled her fingers in her graying hair and rocked forward and back, deep sobs quaking her body.

     I stood, not sure I could help her if I tried. 
     The nursemaid returned, rushing in to hold Michal, and glared at me. “What have you done?”
     “I’m sorry,” I said hoarsely and turned to leave, the hot breath of Michal’s grief and hatred following me out of the house.

     Okay. If your not familiar with the Biblical account of Michal’s tragic story, you can read it in I Samuel 18:17-20 ;19:11-17; 25:44, & II Samuel 3:14-16; 6:15-23.
     In brief summary, Michal was David’s first wife, married to him in place of her older sister Merab, who was promised to him, but given to another. Her father was jealous of David and plotted to kill him, but she helped him escape out a window, put a statue in the bed, and told her father it was David, sick. When her father, Saul, found out she had lied and asked her why she helped his enemy escape, she lied again and told him David had threatened her life (I Sam. 19:16).
     While David was gone, Michal’s father gave her to a man named Phalti. After Saul’s death, David returned and set in order his kingdom, sending for Michal as part of an alliance with a leader of Saul’s house. When Michal was taken back, her husband Phalti (also called Phaltiel) ran along behind, weeping.
     Much later, when the ark of God was returned to Jerusalem and David danced and whirled in the streets, wearing a linen ephod, before the Lord and the people, a jealous Michal despised David in her heart, then mocked and scolded him for his actions. Because of this, she had no children. She raised up her sisters 5 boys. But due to Saul’s breaking an ancient treaty, the Gibeonites required 7 of Saul’s descendants to be turned over in restitution. David gave the Gibeonites Merab’s 5 sons, and the 2 sons of Rizpah, Saul's concubine, since Saul’s sons had earlier died at the hands of the Philistines. As I understand, the only grandson of Saul to be spared was Mephibosheth, because David had made a covenant with his father, Jonathan.
     Another interesting fact: one of the two sons of Rizpah, who were hanged, was called Mephibosheth in II Sam. 21:8. Must have been a popular name at the time.
     Also, the Bible says nothing about her going mad. That was purely fictional on my part. 
     Well, here we come to the end and I can’t bear to leave you with such depressing thoughts, so let's think of how her life might have been different had she learned to control her tongue. I believe Michal’s tongue and lack of discretion caused most of her heartache. What if she had not lied and told her father that David threatened her life? Saul might not have given her to another man in David’s absence. What if she held her tongue after David danced and asked God to change her heart toward her husband? According to the Bible, her childlessness was linked to her outburst toward him. What if she’d had her own children? Being his first wife, she might have born the child that would inherited the throne. Had she maintained a right relationship with him, maybe we wouldn’t even read the name Bathsheba in the story of David’s life. Proverbs 14:1 says, “Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.” Michal's house, pulled around her with wrong and ill-timed words, became her own self-made prison. 
     I think the lesson to Christian writers here is: Words are powerful. What we say/write may change our lives, or the lives of others, forever. We must be sure to honor the Lord with our words. Proverbs 11:22 “As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion.” Beauty is wasted when there is no discretion. I believe this is so with writing as well. The most beautiful descriptions will be worth nothing if the words are not used wisely.

     On Friday, December 2nd, our guest will be Rebekah, suggested by Ashlen. Thank you for reading!!! 

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