Grrrls, King David

Dirty Dancing

(Thinking about possibly Im-Proper 10…)

Patrick-swayze Oh, that David! He's such a shiny character in our Bible stories, except when he is a tarnished one.

Some people say God loved him SOOOO much because he was beautiful, or because he had such a lovely singing voice.

And maybe it was the dancing:

David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the LORD with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.

So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing;and when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. David danced before the LORD with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. (2 Samuel 6:5, 12b-15, NRSV)

You have to wonder, don't you?

I guess I like to imagine God, however we might imagine the Divine Source of All That Is, taking pleasure in the joy David expressed and encouraged in others, his joy at bringing God into the city, at making God the center of the city.

But not everyone saw it that way.

As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart. (2 Samuel 6:16)

Now, history is tough on Michal. We read that she despised David. She sounds like a spoilsport, a prude, a buzzkill. Maybe she was. But once she loved him. Once she loved him enough that her father used her as a pawn in his attempt to keep David under his control, his attempt to overcome God's favor of David. And once, though she loved him, her father gave her to yet another man in marriage. Their marriage and unmarriage and remarriage are topics of interest for scholars.

But Michal is not evaluating her life from a distance. She is seeing David, victorious and joyful and beautiful and musical and and mostly naked and maybe altogether just too much.

The lectionary doesn't go on to share the words she spews at him a few verses later, but let's just say she gives him a piece of her mind and he hands it right back to her.

We've been talking a lot about nudity around our house, as we explore the conflict between civil freedom and personal modesty. These are conversations that a 14-year-old girl might not always have so freely with her mother. Well, I wouldn't have had them with mine, anyway. I'm not sure I would have even thought of some of the things that cross her mind.

Why is it okay, for instance, for men to go around without shirts on, but not for women? And why do we comprehend intellectually the inequity of some cultural norms while reacting with aversion to actual people dressed immodestly?

David and Michal had such a complicated history. Imagine the torture of being married to someone you love, realizing your father hated him, realizing your father GAVE you to someone he hated, losing him, getting him back again sort of, and then watching him dance into town exposed to the world?

I imagine her heart felt exposed, too, flesh torn back, wounds unhealed. I imagine she realized he was not hers, if he had ever been.

I imagine she felt naked, too.

3 thoughts on “Dirty Dancing”

  1. In my house, it is NOT okay for men to go around without shirts on. Unless they’re outside by the pool or something.
    And this is a bone of contention between the boy and me. I insist, however, that our house is not a locker room and that he needs to put a shirt on. No matter how buff, ripped, etc. he is.
    So I’m with Michal. He needs to put that away. 😉

  2. Oooh, nice twist. That’s what bothers me most, in this story: that Michal is probably doing the best she knows how, according to the raw deal and tenuous status her family and culture have handed her, and when she gets upset and allows herself a bit of rage, she gets cursed and tossed into the shadows, her voice and her power stripped away.
    I’ve learned to read biblical stories with an eye/ear towards the lesser characters. Often their witness is just as powerful as that of the central characters. So, what’s the Word from Michal? That being a female pawn in the Big Ol’ Israelite Game basically sucks. Selah.

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