Michal enjoyed the delicacies, privileges, and riches of the king’s palace, but she was never blessed with children. Or was she? The passage in 2 Samuel 6:23 reads, “Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death,” yet 2 Samuel 21:8 reads, “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” (emp. added).
Michal was the younger daughter of the first king of Israel, Saul (1 Samuel 14:49), and she married the successor to the throne, David (1 Samuel 18:27). Because Saul wanted to kill David, David had to flee, leaving his bride behind (1 Samuel 19:11-12). When David returned some years later, Saul had cancelled the marriage, and Michal was married to Phalti (1 Samuel 25:44). David reclaimed her, but both Michal and David were very different people by this time, and a sharp disagreement drove them apart (2 Samuel 6:12-23). It is in the context of the disturbance of Michal’s marriage to David that the Bible reveals she had no children until the day of her death. If Michal indeed had no children, it might seem that the Bible has contradicted itself in this instance.
Before believing that the inspired writer got “mixed up,” consider the following: Michal’s sister, Merab, married Adriel the Meholathite (1 Samuel 18:19), and it was Adriel’s children that, according to 2 Samuel 21:8, belonged to Michal and were “brought up” by Michal. The Hebrew word translated “brought up” could mean that Michal actually gave birth to the children, but it also could mean that Michal acted as a midwife when the children were born, or that she reared the children. It is altogether possible that Merab died, and Michal, having the resources to provide for a family, and being childless herself, “adopted” Merab’s children (Coffman, 1992, p. 297). In that case, it would be perfectly reasonable to assume that the children, for all practical purposes, belonged to Michal, and that Michal “brought them up.”
Another possibility is that a copyist of the Hebrew Old Testament made a mistake. Since it is clear that Michal was married to David and not Adriel, and that Michal had no offspring, some have suggested that a copyist of long ago simply got the two sisters confused (Clarke, n.d., p. 367). There are manuscripts, including the Kennicott and Chaldee, that use the name of Merab in the place of Michal in 2 Samuel 21:8 (p. 367). Some translations, including the New American Standard Bible, the New International Version, and the English Standard Version, also render 2 Samuel 21:8 with the name of Merab rather than Michal.
We know that Michal had no children, but we will probably always be uncertain of what role (if any) Michal played in the rearing of the children of Adriel. With the two possible explanations given, we can see that a contradiction does not exist in this case.
Clarke, Adam (no date), Clarke’s Commentary: Joshua-Esther (Nashville, TN: Abingdon).
Coffman, James Burton (1992), Commentary on Second Samuel (Abilene, TX: ACU Press).
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