1 Samuel 18:20-21 (KJV):

And Michal Saul's daughter loved David: and they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. And Saul said, I will give him her, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him. Wherefore Saul said to David, Thou shalt this day be my son in law in the one of the twain.

The idea that Michal being given to David will cause the Philistines to be against him seems to be consistent across Masoretic translations ["that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him" (KJV) -> "She'll be a trap for him, and the hand of the Philistines will be against him" (CSB) -> "that she may be a snare to him and so that the hand of the Philistines may be against him" (NIV).], but I'm uncertain why that would be. Why would David marrying Michal carry any consequences in relation to the Philistines?

I thought the Septuagint might help, but the MT's 'Michal + David = Philistines vs David' isn't present. Instead the Septuagint has (seemingly) separate statements -- Michal will be a stumbling block for David. The Philistines are against Saul. (v.20-21, Brenton Translation):

And Melchol the daughter of Saul loved David; and it was told Saul, and the thing was pleasing in his eyes. And Saul said, I will give her to him, and she shall be a stumbling-block to him. Now the hand of the Philistines was against Saul.

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    – user25930
    Feb 10, 2019 at 21:33

5 Answers 5


There are probably two possible reasons for Saul thinking that his daughter would be a snare/stumbling block to David:

  • Michal was deeply in love with the handsome David and providing a new wife for David would mean that her affections and attentions would (at least) partially drain his energy and attention and at least provide a distraction. Then he might not be so successful and his popularity might decline and Saul would be less jealous.
  • The Torah has a law about this very thing found in Deut 24:5,

    If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.

    Thus, David would not (at least legally) be able to be part of the army but would have to stay home to establish is family and hopefully become absorbed in home duties to keep him away from Saul.


How would marrying Saul's daughter be a snare/stumbling block to David?

Saul was hoping that David would lose his life in trying to get 100 foreskins of the Philistines ,instead of the normal money payment and gifts which would have been paid for dowry . For a king's daughter, the dowry may have been substantial.

1 Samuel 18:25 (NASB)

25" Saul then said, “Thus you shall say to David, ‘The king does not desire any dowry except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to take vengeance on the king’s enemies.’” Now Saul planned to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines."

Other occasions on which dowry or service had to be rendered as in the case of Jacob for Rachel but was given Leah. Genesis 29: 18-30- Jacob, Rachel and Leah. Genesis 34:10-12 -Dinah and Shechem. Genesis 24:53- Rebekah.


I hadn't thought about the idol worshipping aspect before. That is interesting, and an indictment against Saul as a father and as king. The best answer, in my view, is that knowing David was poor (See, vs. 18), Saul planned to ask for the dowry requiring David to kill 100 Philistines and hoped that would cause David's death. What Saul didn't understand was how God was protecting David despite his (Saul's) best efforts to destroy him (David).

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    – agarza
    Feb 22, 2021 at 3:52

In addition to the above, Saul would've also known his daughter's character and nature which would work against, rather than for David, i.e., it's doubtful that she would've been considered a "Proverbs 31" type of woman. Also, as already referenced she was an idolator. "Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin" (Neh. 13:26).


I suggest there is devious political calculation in what Saul is doing. There seems to be a degree of paranoia in his mental outlook, as implied by the hostility which develops in ch20. We know that he fears David as an ambitious young man who is already making a good case for taking his place as military leader.

Is there, at the back of his mind, the fear that David is the kind of unscrupulous man who might advance his career by deserting his current employer and joining up with the Philistines instead? We might not believe that about David ourselves, but we should still see the possibility that Saul might believe it.

In which case, the "cunning plan" would be "I will tie him to an alliance with myself and thus destroy the possibility of any bridge-building between him and the Philistines". In the political world, marriage often has the effect of cementing alliances, so marriage to either daughter would go a long way towards this plan. The further requirement of demanding Philistine foreskins would, of course, increase Philistine hostility towards David, and THAT is the intended political snare. And if the Philistines kill him in the process, that would work just as well.

There are signs, indeed, that David could make friends among the professional fighters on that side of the region. When he fled from Saul, he took refuge among the Philistines and ostensibly fought on their side. As king, he recruited mercenaries from the Cherethites and Pelethites (e.g. 2 Samuel ch20 v7), who are probably at least related to the Philistine peoples. I don't see David as a potential traitor, but I can see why Saul might have thought so.

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