Spousal Relationships in the Books of Samuel

                                                And unto David were sons born in Hebron…

Nowadays with everyone around me married or in a serious relationship, one cannot help but become attuned to the nuances of spousal relationships in life. So the above verse shall form the text of a basic study on the life of the biblical David viewed through the prism of relationships. Certainly different portions of scripture could have been chosen but you must permit some level of blogtistic latitude here.

The biblical David, hereinafter referred to as our protagonist, was (initially) a shepherd. As a matter of fact, in our protagonist’s final piece of poetry in II Samuel he identifies himself as the sheepcote who God allowed to rule over His people, Israel. Something that is interesting about the above verse is that the sons were born in Hebron. Was it that they had agreed not to have children until things were safe, or that other children had been born but not necessarily sons? The human species is biologically made such that during times of stress such as during war, more girls are born than boys… But we digress. Let us look at his spousal relationships.

Ahinoam and Maacah

The names of these two ladies stand in stark contrast to one another. Ahinoam means ‘brother of pleasantness’. Ahinoam was a Jezreelitess making her a descendant of Judah. This would make Ahinoam arguably one of the wives closer to David in terms of psychological makeup by virtue of tribal customs. Even today Jezreel is a rather fertile valley in the territory of the tribe of Judah. This is also backed up by the story of Naboth. Ahinoam’s son was Amnon and we all know how that story went. If you don’t you should get acquainted with your Bible!

Maacah means ‘depression.’ Maacah is also the name given to a place in Syria and indeed she was of royal Syrian descent. Her father was the king of Geshur. If she lived up to her name then David was a man of varied tastes because these two may have been polar opposites in terms of personality. 🙂 However it cannot be denied that some of the most beautiful women have this sad look about them. Proof of this theory is the fact that Amnon had the hots for Maacah’s daughter, Absalom’s sister. This resulted in his own death. (I think Rehoboam also married Absalom’s daughter.) I will wager that by virtue of the fact that Maacah married David this early in his career, either David performed a military service for her father (what was the motivation?) or the political prospects of the kingdom of Geshur were not that bright in the middle eastern context of its day. This is only conjecture so don’t take it too seriously.

Abigail

The name Abigail means ‘father of joy’. Her story reads a bit like fiction. Around the time of the meeting between David and Abigail, David had been helping to protect the flocks of her husband from roaming bands of thieves presumably in the winter. It is possible that they lived close to the border and were therefore exposed to raiding incursions in this way. The custom was that as a result of such services, when harvest time came round the defence team was permitted to collect some form of payment usually in the form of agricultural produce, whether livestock or grains and the like. However, in this instance when David sent his men to ‘collect’, Abigail’s husband (Nabal) sent a rather stern message to the effect that the services had been freely offered and therefore did not require payment. This so incensed our main protagonist that he determined to do the ‘collection’ himself together with deadly consequences for Nabal. Abigail was warned about this and went to meet him herself.

They say that a gentle word turns away wrath, and that is exactly what Abigail used, besides of course much material and culinary provenance. However one Joel Osteen sermon put it this way. David was tired of running from Saul, tired of being hunted, tired of the whole business. His frustrations had reached boiling point and he was determined to let it be known in the land that he had military clout. Abigail’s basically told him “Look, we know that God has promised you the kingdom, and yes things are not going well for you. But you need not turn on your own people to prove this point. Trust the Lord and he will bring you to your rightful place again.”  Shortly thereafter Nabal died of natural causes and Abigail joined David in the wilderness together with five of her handmaids.

Something that ties Ahinoam, Maacah and Abigail together is that they experienced both Ziklag and Hebron. They had been through thick and thin together. They understood military men and their wives experientially.

Michal

Michal was the second daughter of Saul, the king of Israel. She had been betrothed to David at the cost of 200 Philistine heads. Marriage into the royal family had immediate effects on one’s prospects in life militarily and socio-economically. A couple of things about Saul:

  1. Saul asked Abner, “Whose son is this youth?” Might Saul have expected to know David’s father, and why did he expect this?
  2. Saul’s military government was not a meritocracy. This is belied by Saul’s question to his fellow Benjamites “Will David make your sons captains over hundreds and captains over thousands?”
  3. It is possible that he suffered from an inferiority complex. This is told by his statement to Samuel when he was being anointed “Am I not the least in my father’s family, which is the smallest tribe in Israel?”

The implications of this could be that the death of Goliath had some psychological effect on the nation of Israel. It was an injecton of basic anthropology and ‘self-evident truths’, into the stream of Hebrew political discourse. Michal was not stupid and understood this. Taken to the extreme logical conclusion, this theory would state that she understood the factors at play in the family’s ‘dynastic business’ and set about procuring that benefit for the family. However chances are that we are being too harsh on her because Michal is the only recorded instance in the Bible where someone loved romantically. The manner in which her story played out is perhaps biblical proof that romantic love is not enough to sustain a relationship.

Eventually, when rubber hit the road in David’s life, Saul started hunting him down and married Michal off to someone called Phalti. Before David assumed the throne of Jerusalem he asked for his wife back. It is recorded that Phalti wept for part of the distance. Be that as it may, at some point David and Michal differed seriously and as a result Michal died childless. I suspect that Michal’s concept of David was entirely royal – crowns, thrones, ceremony and pomp. David himself was about worship and war, governance and Philistines, sheep and pastures. Somewhere in the middle those worlds could have met, but their perceptions were totally different. As a result, when these perceptions did clash there was friction. Unfortunately the friction turned out to be about the only non-negotiable thing in our protagonist’s life which was worship (one thing have I desired).

Bathsheba

At the time of the meeting between our protagonist and Bathsheba, she was the wife of one of David’s elite fighting men. His name was Uriah and he was a Hittite. One of my close friends finds this an endorsement of the meritocracy of our protagonist’s administration. But to cut back to our theme, David and Bathsheba’s relationship was initially adulterous. The Bible gives clues that Bathsheba may have been the grand-daughter of Ahithophel. This might have made her considerably younger than many of David’s wives. She was also therefore from the tribe of Judah. Ahithophel was unfortunately a type of Judas, the anti-Christ. A later record of him in the Bible states that if one asked for counsel from him it was as though he had asked for counsel at the mouth of God. During the Absalom-led civil war, he understood the political tactic of “energising the base” which is so in vogue nowadays. He used it to drastic effect.

By virtue of Bathsheba’s relation to Ahithophel, it is my hypothesis that Bathsheba grew up understanding the issues and cultures related to governance and the aristocracy. Additionally, her first husband having been one of David’s elite fighters, she understood the privations of military life. This should not be taken lightly. Evidence of this is given by how Hushai’s counsel was received by Absalom’s court. Military men can be qualitatively different. Fortunately for her, and as a result of her youth, this understanding may have come without necessarily having had too many of the trials that a lady like Ahinoam or Abigail would have experienced. Given the partial tendency for intelligence to be hereditary, it is also possible that Bathsheba was also an exceptionally intelligent lady, a rare boon. (Proof of this is backed up by the fact that Solomon became exceptionally wise. Much as his wisdom was God-given, the raw material for handling and harnessing it was already there.)

Pastor John Ng’ang’a opines that the Bathsheba debacle was the result of our protagonist’s fallout with Michal. Bathsheba’s youth, understanding of military life, aristocracy and governance as well as her intelligence proved to be too heady a mix for our protagonist.

 

On the balance, I would opine that Abigail was our protagonist’s most important wife. Of the various persons and ladies who spoke into our protagnist’s life, she probably kept his purpose and potential front and center for him. Further I think this is vindicated by the fact that her son in Chronicles is called Daniel. This is the first mention of the name Daniel in the Bible. Daniel means “God is Judge” or “God will be my Judge.” Did she or David feel the need to defend themselves against accusations? However it must be noted that her son is not mentioned later on in the stories of succession to the throne. Was this a result of court intrigues or early death? Whatever the case, I find the fact that one of Israel’s greatest prophets was named Daniel an endorsement of their union.

Whatever the case, the path to Hebron and Jerusalem zigzags through Ziklag. #StayWoke

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One thought on “Spousal Relationships in the Books of Samuel

  1. Chrenyan

    I didn’t know that Saul did not run a meritocracy! Or that there is evidence that David did. Perhaps the roll of the 30 great warriors is further evidence, but perhaps the greatest proof is: :So David reigned over all Israel, and executed judgment and justice among all his people.”
    I Chronicles 18:14 (KJV)

    I also didn’t know that David and Abigail had a Daniel. But I had a scene in my mind in a book about David about Abigail standing by David the night before a battle, telling him that he was going to make it and giving encouragement bordering on advice.

    Thanks for the piece.

    Like

    Reply

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