And David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod...and as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through the window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart...and Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel today, who uncovered himself in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself (2 Samuel 6:14, 16, 20, KJV).
There are some passages in the Bible that seem to have been misused by almost everyone. I have heard this passage used by atheists to attempt to show the inconsistency of God in allowing David to dance nude and rewarding him for an immoral act. I have also heard it used by preachers who are trying to convince young people about the evils of dancing or the importance of dressing modestly. As you read various modern translations of the passage, you find that even translators have had a bad time with these verses. Various translators have translated verse 20 as:
"He exposed himself to the girls along the street...like a common pervert!" (The Living Bible).
"in disrobing himself...in the sight of...as one of the low people might disrobe himself" (The Emphasized Bible).
"as he stripped himself in the sight of his maidservants as a common rake exposes himself" (The Bible: An American Translation).
"exposing himself before women...as any loose fellow would expose himself indecently" (A New Translation of the Bible, Moffatt).
"that exposed his person to man and maid...graceless as a common montebank" (The Holy Bible, Knox).
"uncovering himself...to be ogled by the female servants...as some worthless fellow would strip himself" (The Modern Language Bible, Berkeley).
"who let himself be seen uncovered by his servant girls" (The Bible in Basic English).
"disrobing in the sight of the slave girls...as any vulgar fellow would." (New International Version).
The point here is that none of the suggestions we have recorded so far in this article are correct. All of them are the result of poor scholarship and taking a passage out of context and misapplying words so that the passage appears to be saying something it is not. This problem is not just applied to David and what is really going on in this passage, it is a basic problem that anyone who wishes to understand the Bible must deal with. You have to take the whole Bible when you read a particular passage, and make sure that you know who wrote it, who they wrote it to, and why they wrote it. Creation science advocates, dispensationalists, and atheists all fail to do this. Anyone who says "You can make the Bible say anything you want it to say" is doing the same thing.
In this case, one simply needs to go to a parallel passage which describes what is happening in this story in 2 Samuel. 1 Chronicles 15:25-29 is such a passage. In verse 27 of this passage we find out what David was wearing. The passage says "And David was clothed with a rob of fine linen, and all of the Levites that bare the ark, and the singers.and David also had upon him an ephod of linen." Fine linen was a tightly woven form of linen similar to what we might use today for a heavy curtain. The ephod was an upper garment somewhat like a vest, and in this case David was wearing one that was frequently worn by the priest--a simple apron that was not pretentious or expensive. It would have religious significance, but no social significance. The bottom line here is that David was not naked. What he wore was the same thing as everyone else, and what he did was a normal expression of joy and happiness. So what was David's wife so upset about?
To understand the situation, one needs to go back and learn about Michal. This woman was Saul's youngest daughter (1 Samuel 14:49) and was given to David by Saul for David's defeat of the Philistines. When David was in exile, she was given to Phaltiel (1 Samuel 25:44), and then bargained back to David from Abner as part of a political move to strengthen his claim to the throne. This woman was part of the political establishment, and had always lived in a politically correct environment. When she sees her husband take off his kingly garments and crown, and become like everyone else, and especially when she sees David participate in an undignified celebration she is incensed. David's lack of political correctness is so bad that the Bible says Michal "despised David in her heart" (2 Samuel 6:16). In verse 22 of this chapter, David responds to Michal by saying to her that the servants would hold him in special honor because of his conduct. Today, some of our greatest heroes in America are people who have defied political correctness to do what is right and fair--the recent death of Rosa Parks (the black woman who refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man) being a recent reminder of this.
Our interest in this story is not political or historical. The point that we want to make is a hermeneutic one. How we understand the Bible has a major impact upon apologetic arguments for the validity of the Bible and of the Christian system. Those who attempt to confine God to a particular time frame on the history of Israel or the history of life on Earth, are ignoring scriptures that talk about the fact that the kingdom of God is "not of this world" (John 18:36). They also ignore massive attempts by God to get us to understand that God does not function as a man, and that time is not an issue with God (see Acts 1:7, 2 Peter 3:8, etc.). The first chapter of Genesis cannot be viewed as a detailed discussion of the history of life on Earth to be understood in terms of the twenty-first century. It is a document to say to the people of Moses' day that God is the creator of all things, and that man is specially created in God's image after God's likeness with a component that separates man from the rest of the creation.
We offer a booklet that goes into this concept in depth, and if you would like a copy either go to our web site (doesgodexist.org) and get God's Revelation Through His Rocks and His Word from our site, or send us 87¢ in stamps, and we will mail it to you. David did not conduct himself in an immodest way, but in a politically incorrect way, and we too need to avoid the traditions and the requirements of denominational political correctness and just listen to what God has to say.
Back to Contents Does God Exist?, JulAug06.