Questions From Readers
● Why did David, a faithful servant of Jehovah, tolerate his wife Michal’s having a teraphim image among her possessions, as indicated in 1 Samuel 19:12, 13?
Here is the record at 1 Samuel 19:12, 13: “Immediately Michal had David descend through the window, that he might go and run away and escape. Then Michal took the teraphim image and placed it on the couch, and a net of goats’ hair she put at the place of his head, after which she covered it with a garment.”
According to the findings of archaeologists in Mesopotamia and adjacent areas, the teraphim images were just as vital to family inheritance as title deeds and written testaments are in our day. According to ancient custom, a son-in-law who possessed the family images could appear in court and make claim for the estate of his father-in-law. This may well have been true of the teraphim that Rachel took along when Jacob and his household secretly fled from Laban, even as noted in The Watchtower, December 1, 1953, pages 734, 735.
However, it is not likely that this custom had sanction upon Israel’s becoming an organized nation and receiving the Ten Commandments, the second of which expressly forbade the making of teraphim images, in view of their use in idol worship as well as serving the purpose of inheritance. If their use could have been justified, Samuel would not have told King Saul: “Look! To obey is better than a sacrifice, to pay attention than the fat of rams; for rebelliousness is the same as the sin of divination, and pushing ahead presumptuously the same as using uncanny power and teraphim.”—1 Sam. 15:22, 23.
According to the Soncino Hebrew Bible, the older Jewish commentators were greatly exercised to try to explain the presence of the teraphim in the household of David. As for David himself, we know that there was no worshiping of teraphim on his part, for he gave Jehovah exclusive devotion or we would not repeatedly read of his heart having been “complete” or perfect with Jehovah. (1 Ki. 11:4; 15:3) We can, therefore, only conclude that his wife’s heart was not complete with Jehovah and that either David did not know about her having the teraphim or else he tolerated it because of her being the daughter of King Saul.
Representative of David’s whole-souled worship of Jehovah is his expression in song: “For Jehovah is great and very much to be praised, and he is to be feared more than all other gods. For all the gods of the peoples are valueless gods. As for Jehovah, he made the heavens.”—1 Chron. 16:25, 26.