Questions From Readers
● According to 2 Samuel 6:23, Michal, Saul’s daughter, died childless. Yet 2 Samuel 21:8 speaks of five sons she bore to Adriel the Meholathite. But according to 1 Samuel 18:19, Adriel had married Merab, Michal’s sister. How can these apparent discrepancies be harmonized?—L. B., United States.
David had eclipsed King Saul in battle; so much so that the women of Israel sang: “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” Because of this Saul became envious and sought to get David out of the way. This he thought to do by offering his daughter Michal, who was in love with David, to him in return for a dowry of one hundred foreskins of the Philistine warriors—Saul expecting David to be slain in the attempt. However, David and his men procured not only one hundred but two hundred foreskins: “And David came bringing their foreskins and giving them in full number to the king, to form a marriage alliance with the king. In turn Saul gave him Michal his daughter as a wife.”—1 Sam. 18:7, 25-27.
Sometime later, after David had become king, he brought the ark of Jehovah’s covenant to Mount Zion, near his palace. In his great joy David danced enthusiastically, divested of his outer garments. His wife Michal, Saul’s daughter, seeing this, “began to despise him in her heart.” When David returned to his household, Michal sarcastically said: “How glorious the king of Israel made himself today when he uncovered himself today to the eyes of the slave girls of his servants, just as one of the empty-headed men uncovers himself outright!” This king’s daughter had no appreciation of the kind of zeal that David displayed for Jehovah’s worship. David not only rebuked her for this but penalized her by having no more relations with her: “So, as regards Michal, Saul’s daughter, she came to have no child down to the day of her death.”—2 Sam. 6:14-23.
This text, however, does seem to contradict what we read at 2 Samuel 21:8: “Consequently the king [David] took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah whom she bore to Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth, and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul whom she bore to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite.” These David gave to the Gibeonites in atonement for Saul’s having endeavored to annihilate the Gibeonites.—2 Sam. 21:1-10.
It appears that some scribes have endeavored to resolve the difficulty by substituting the name of Merab, her sister, for Michal. This is apparent from the way the Septuagint as well as two Hebrew manuscripts read. Certain modern translators have followed their example, concluding that the way the passage reads in most Hebrew manuscripts is due to a scribal error.
The Interpreter’s Bible states that this is an obvious slip, since Saul later gave Michal to Palti. (1 Sam. 25:44) But this is not a reasonable explanation, for Michal was restored to David once David had become king. This is therefore but another example of the lack of reliability of modernist scholars.—2 Sam. 3:12-16.
However, there is a traditional explanation of this passage based on the way it reads in nearly all Hebrew manuscripts and the way it appears in the New World Translation, and that is this:
Merab, the sister of Michal, was the wife of Adriel and bore him the five sons mentioned. But Merab dying early, her royal sister Michal, having been rejected by David, undertook the bringing up of the five boys. Because of this they were spoken of as the children of Michal rather than of Merab. In agreement with this the Isaac Leeser translation (7th Ed., 1922, Bloch Publishing Co.) reads at 2 Samuel 21:8: “And the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she had brought up for Adriel.” A footnote reads: “As Michal was David’s wife; but the children were those of Merab, the oldest daughter of Saul, who were probably educated by her sister.”
It might be said that in assigning these executed boys to Michal, further disgrace and reproach were brought upon Michal because of the insulting attitude she adopted toward her husband, King David, at the time that he brought the Ark of Jehovah’s covenant to Mount Zion, near his palace. And since it is quite likely that she was alive at the time these five foster children of hers were executed, her grief must have been great, not only because of the death of her nephews, but also because there were no fruits from her labors in rearing these boys. Truly, we cannot seek to serve God in our own way and expect to have prosperity and happiness.