All Of Us Are Like Paltiel, A Sad Story

2 Samuel 3:15,16 may be arguably the shortest and saddest story in the Bible. It is a tragic story of a man in love with another man’s wife. It’s a story of a commander of an army executing a plan to reunite two territories under one king and a story of a woman married to two men at the same time. It reads: So Ish-Bosheth gave orders and had her taken away from her husband Paltiel son of Laish. Her husband, however, went with her, weeping behind her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go back home!” So he went back.

Ish-Bosheth was Saul’s son and became the king of Israel after Saul’s death. Paltiel, was the recipient of Michal as his wife when Saul gave her to him. Michal was Saul’s daughter and was David’s wife. When Saul attempted to kill David, Michal warned David and helped him escape. She lied to her father by saying David had forced her to help him. I suppose Saul believed that David and Michal’s arrangement was under duress and considered the marriage or engagement void. After all, he wanted David dead anyway. Why not allow Paltiel to take her before she becomes a widow?

David wanted his wife back

After Saul died, his son Ish-Bosheth became king. Abner, the commander of Saul’s army, became disappointed with the new king and made plans to reunite Israel with the land of Judah, thus making David king of both territories. When Abner sent men to David to discuss terms for the reunification of the two kingdoms, the first thing David asked for was for his wife back.

I have left out few if any details, for the scripture says little more. We don’t know how far Paltiel walked crying the whole way. Nothing is said about whether or not Michal felt conflicted. It seems Paltiel loved Michal as much as David did. At this point, I’m reminded of the refrain parents hear from their children. “It’s not fair!”

All of us are like Paltiel

Life is not fair. The civil war between Israel and Judah ended. Yet, Abner was killed in revenge by Joab. Ish-Bosheth was beheaded by two of his army captains. David and Michal didn’t live happily ever after (David later had an affair with Bathsheba), and no one knows what happened to Paltiel. As sad as he was going to Bahurim, can you imagine how unhappy he was returning home? Worse yet, can you imagine when he entered the threshold of his abode, and everything there reminded him of Michal? So, why is this story in the Bible?

Maybe so we can show our children that life isn’t fair. No matter which character you identify with, in this tragedy, it is a sad story. In our lives, we all want to be David. David worked to glorify God, but his king tried to kill him and sent his wife away to another man. Abner worked to negotiate an end to the civil war and lost his life and never got to enjoy the peace he had sought. Michal lost her first love only to get him back after becoming a wife to another man. I am sure this wasn’t the way she wanted to live her life. In a metaphorical sense, all the characters in this story and we as well are like Paltiel. All of us experience sorrow as we travel through life. Eventually, we all have to walk to Bahurim and back.

(If you are unfamiliar with these Bible characters, I encourage you to read 1 Samuel chapter 17 thru 2 Samuel chapter 4.)