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The King’s Daughter

by Tala Bar

Table of Contents

The book tells the story of Mikhal, the Biblical King Sha’ul’s (Saul’s) daughter, according to her memories when she lives her last days in King David’s Women’s House in Yerushalem (Jerusalem). As memories go, the story is not always chronologically coherent, and it is full of flashbacks and interjections.

The background to the story is the getting together of the peoples of Canaan and Israel in the worship of the Canaanite goddess Ashtoret, and a struggle between her worshippers and those of Yhwh, the God of the Desert worshipped by some of the tribes of Israel. The story deviates in ideas and some events from the Biblical story.

Chronologically, the story begins with a flashback to Sha’ul’s early childhood in the town called Giv’at Sha’ul, a name that was obviously given to it after he was made king. Following the death of his mother, Sha’ul was looked after by his Canaanite grandmother Maakha. He was brought up in Ashtoret’s temple up to the age of seven, when he was taken over by his Israelite father, Kish. At the age of 13 he was betrothed to his relative Re’uma, and was taken to the Naaman temple to be introduced by the girl Ahino’am to the rites of Ashtoret.

Getting back to the chronological order of the story, Sha’ul is a grown, married man, father of three sons and a daughter and a war hero. At that time, the worshippers of Ashtoret persuade the rest of the people to crown themselves a king in the manner of neighboring peoples, by celebrating a sacred wedding between him and an Ashtoret’s priestess as a Spring Bride. They choose Sha’ul as that king, and the bride proves to be the same Ahino’am he had met in childhood, who is now a proper Love priestess. Following that ritual marriage, Sha’ul falls desperately in love with Ahino’am, but she goes back to her Temple, leaving the King and his legal and beloved wife Re’uma facing a difficult situation which leads to strained relationship and illness.

Mikhal is the daughter born to Ahino’am from Sha’ul, and her mother brings her back to Giv’at Sha’ul to be brought up at the King’s court. In the meantime, Ashtoret’s worship demands two things: a yearly sacred coronation in the spring, and a yearly sacrifice of the King or his representative at midsummer.

In the following years, having sacrificed surrogates, the people demand the genuine suffering of the King, thus bringing about the sacrifice of two of his sons. The rift between their mother and father widens as consequence, until Re’uma gets sick and dies and Sha’ul goes mad. His youngest son Yonatan goes in search for a cure, finding the young musician David and bringing him to court. David manages to sooth Sha’ul’s madness with his songs and tales, and Mikhal, now a teenage girl, falls in love with him. Yonatan brings about their marriage without the King’s knowledge, and when the King finds out, he wants to kill David. The prophet Shemu’el crowns David in the name of Yhwh, but the young man is obliged to escape from Sha’ul’s wrath.

Old Maakha then orders Mikhal to be married to Palti Ben Lyish, who lives in the remote village of Galim. It is a happy life for Mikhal, who bears a son. In the meantime, Sha’ul and Yonatan are killed in the battle with the Philistines, their permanent enemy, and Mikhal’s brother Ishbaal crowns himself King. David escapes south to his original tribe of Yehudah, where he crowns himself King over the southern tribes.

To legitimize his kingship, Ishbaal kidnaps his sister Mikhal and rapes her, to establish his right for kingship by a simile of marriage with the goddess’s representative. He also takes her son and makes him a sacrifice at midsummer. His reign ends abruptly when Avner, Sha’ul’s former army chief, rises against him, slaughters him and his people and takes Mikhal to King David in Yerushalem; David also wants King Sha’ul’s daughter as his wife, thus to legitimize his own kingship.

In Yerushalem, King David’s capital, Ahino’am, Ashtoret’s priestess, Mikhal’s mother and David’s lover, has established a temple to the goddess, with herself as chief priestess. Mikhal gives birth to a daughter, Tamar, conceived after Mikhal’s rape by her brother Ishbaal. Ahino’am brings Tamar up at the temple, planning to marry her to Amnon, her son from David, in order to make him king instead of his father. The plot is discovered, Tamar is raped by David’s son Avshalem, Amnon is sacrificed at midsummer, and Ahino’am kills herself.

Avshalem then rebels against his father, is caught and killed, and after a while David’s youngest son Yedidyah is pronounced heir to the King. When David dies, Yedidyah, who has changed his name to Shelomo (Solomon), become king of Israel; he ends all sacrifices, and reigns in the name of Yhwh.

Copyright © 2005 by Tala Bar

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