David and Jonathan

Summary: Following the victory over Goliath and the Philistines, David and Jonathan become close friends and King Saul appointed David as commander over all the soldiers. When he came back from successive victories, the women would sing praises to David which would also disparage Saul’s more modest success. Saul became jealous of David and plotted to end him. Yet his plans failed and David married Saul’s daughter Michal. With ever more success on the battlefield, David’s reputation grew while Saul’s jealousy and anger burned.

A deeper look: While Saul’s jealousy and hatred towards David burned inside him, he couldn’t dispatch with David himself. Saul offered his eldest daughter Merav to David as a wife on condition that David would fight for Saul against the Philistines. Saul’s proposal was however, a pretext to put David in harm’s way in the hope that the Philistines would eventually overcome him (Samuel I 18:17).

David immediately queried his own suitability to become the king’s son-in-law (ibid. 18).  Rabbi David Kimchi (known as the Radak, d. 1235) notes that David was genuinely concerned; he saw his victory against Goliath as an act of God’s might, not a personal triumph worthy of some special reward. Yet events took an interesting turn. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 19b) reports that according to some opinions, there was some deficiency in the kiddushin (process of betrothal) carried out by David. Merav was ultimately married off to a man called Adriel the Mecholatite (ibid. 19). Yet we are further told that Michal, Saul’s younger daughter loved David and so Saul arranged that they should marry (ibid. 20).

Saul thought that at least by being married to her and pledging to fight the Philistines, David would ultimately die in battle. Rabbi Shabbsai Sheftil Weiss explains that Saul was of the opinion that the original Kiddushin with Merav had worked and so David was already technically married to Merav. If so, it was forbidden for David to marry Michal, for there is a Torah prohibition against marrying two sisters (Leviticus 18:18). Saul hoped that this sin would be enough for the Satan to accuse David in the Heavenly court, causing him to fall at the hands of the Philistines (Mishbetzot Zahav).

Saul’s mistake was thinking that the original Kiddushin with Merav had worked. In truth, it had never held and so David was well within his rights to marry Michal who would play a critical role in protecting David and guiding him on a straight path.