Did Michal Have Children or Not?

by Bodie Hodge and Jeremy Ham
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A reader wonders why there seems to be a contradiction in 2 Samuel about Michal having children. Bodie Hodge, AiG–U.S., takes a close look at the text.

Why does the Bible in 2 Samuel 6:23 tell us that Michal never had a child, but then in 2 Samuel 21:8 it says that she had five sons? Thank you, your ministry is a blessing.
—D.M., Guatemala

Thanks for your question on these passages of Scripture. Here they are in the NKJV:

2 Samuel 6:23
Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.
2 Samuel 21:8
So the king took Armoni and Mephibosheth, the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bore to Saul; and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite (emphasis mine).

The two phrases, “she bore to” and “she brought up,” are actually the same in the Hebrew (Yalad). When the translators realized the glitch that Michal had no children according to 2 Samual 6:23, they tried to “fix” the issue by translating this as “she brought up,” even though the Hebrew is identical for both italicized sections and in the same Qal tense, which means “bore” or “begat”—and not “brought up.”

“Michal” appears in some of the manuscripts of the Masoretic text, which was utilized by the translators. Two ancient manuscripts—some copies of the Septuagint and the Syriac—use “Merab” (Michal’s sister), who was married to Adriel (see 1 Samuel 18:19). Michal was married to David, who became king, and he would not have stood for his wife having children with her sister’s husband.

Some say that when Merab died, Michal took the place of Merab in the family (i.e., adoption); and though we are not necessarily opposed to this belief, having “Merab” instead of “Michal” is the better answer because of the reasons stated above. By good use of textual criticism, modern versions of the Bible—such as the ESV, NAS, NIV, and HCSB—have “Merab“:

2 Samuel 21:8
The king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bore to Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Merab the daughter of Saul, whom she bore to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite (emphasis mine)

In fact, the Spanish version, Reina Valera (1989), which you should have access to in Guatemala, also has “Merab” in 2 Samuel 21:8.

With kindness in Christ,
Bodie Hodge and Jeremy Ham


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