David’s marriages have been the subject of much debate and interest. In the Bible, David had six different wives and we must place them in the historical context of his time period. In her book The Primal Mind: Vision and Reality in Indian America, anthropologist Paul Kaye writes: “At the time of David, polygamy was a deeply rooted custom in a world where male power was supreme and women were endowed with limited rights.” This means that although David had multiple wives, it was not atypical or strange for his time.
The first wife of David was a woman named Michal, whom he married while he was still a shepherd. She was King Saul’s daughter. Her story with David includes some tragedy and is an example of how difficult David’s life was and some of the obstacles he had to overcome.
After Michal, the next wife of David was Ahinoam the Jezreelite. The Bible states that she was beautiful, although her name is often overlooked in the Bible’s narrative. David then took Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, King of Geshur. Next, he married Abigail, the widow of Nabal. Afterward, he married Haggith and then Eglah. The Bible does not list any other wives for David, making it certain that he had six wives in total.
In contrast to the practice of widow remarriages in the time of David, among some other patriarchal cultures, polygamy and concubines may have played a larger role. As circumstances changed throughout history, polygamy has seen various sorts of legal restriction imposed, culminating in being completely outlawed in many societies.
David’s complicated personal life provides an example of this changing view of polygamy, even within the Biblical tradition. David’s own sons with multiple wives were seen in a very negative light. Even his son Solomon, who had the most wives and concubines of all the kings, was seen as having acted in a questionable fashion in the eyes of God.
This reflects the changing attitudes towards polygamy and the rights of women in society. David’s many wives and their struggles gave rise to continued debates about gender and rights, a situation that remains true today as people in many cultures grapple with the issue of polygamy.
Michal & Saul’s Relationship
Michal was the daughter of King Saul and his first wife Ahinoam. But the king was opposed to David from the time the young man was first anointed to be the king of Israel. Sending Michal to David as an unarmed bride was one of Saul’s attempts to bridge the rift between him and David. Michal herself was in an awkward situation — she was sent to marry a man she did not know, a man with whom her father is also in conflict.
Michal and David’s relationship changed as a result of Saul’s rivalry with David. Although Michal was in love with David, she had to publicly support her father. In the meantime, David’s rise to power did not benefit Michal either, since she was still living with her father who had not yet accepted David as king of Israel. The conflicting loyalties eventually led to a breakdown in their relationship and she felt the wrath of her father.
The Biblical Account
The Bible mentions very little about the details of David’s marriages. In the Old Testament, we read about David’s marriages only in relation to his sons. For example, in 2 Samuel 3:2–5, David is described as having married a number of women and then fathering many children. Later, when his son Adonijah wanted to claim the throne for himself, David reminded him that he had other sons from other wives.
In addition, the Bible mentions that David, in spite of his lapse in his relationship with Michal, remained faithful to her, even after Samson had captured her and taken her to Philistine. This indicates that David had a strong sense of loyalty and responsibility even towards his wives. His very public commitment to Michal suggests that he held his wives to a standard and treated them with honor, something that may have been unusual for the time.
The Consequences of Polygamy
David’s multiple marriages and their outcomes should be viewed in the cultural and religious context of the time. Despite its ban in some religions like Christianity and Judaism, polygamy was widely accepted practices in many societies. On one hand, multiple wives provided benefits such as having children and ensure the continuity of a family lineage. On the other hand, it also resulted in complex familial relationships, strife between co-wives, and the marginalization of women.
David’s narratives can be read as cautionary tales on the consequences of polygamy. Although polygamy provides benefits to the man, it can potentially be detrimental to the women involved. In Michal’s case, her relationship with David was turbulent and eventually ended with her being deposed and humiliated. The negative consequences of polygamy in David’s family could also be seen in the rebellion of his sons, especially in the case of Adonijah.
David’s six wives provide us with a stark reminder of the oppressive and patriarchal society of the time. His marriages to multiple wives should be interpreted within the context of polygamy being deeply rooted in early cultures and religions. Despite his own sins, David is still famous for his faith and humility, traits which he displayed even to his wives despite the oppressive society. The lessons of David’s marriages are still relevant today as many societies grapple with the issue of polygamy.