Another King James Bible Believer


2 Samuel 21:8 Michal or Merab?  Is there and error in the Hebrew Text?

2 Samuel 21:8 Michal or Merab?  Is there and error in the Hebrew Text?

2 Samuel 21:8 KJB -  "and the five sons of MICHAL the daughter of Saul, whom she BROUGHT UP FOR Adriel..."

2 Samuel 21:8 - ESV, NIV, NASB - "and the five sons of MERAB, the daughter of Saul, whom she BORE TO Adriel..."


Since Michal was childless until her death, it was asked how could she have five sons. There are several Bible critics and commentators who tell us that not only is the A.V. or King James Bible in error here, but that the Hebrew texts themselves have been corrupted.

The NASB, ESV, NET, NIV, Catholic St. Joseph NAB 1970 and the Catholic New Jerusalem bible 1985 have changed this verse to read: "the five sons of MERAB, the daughter of Saul"

First of all, the Hebrew Masoretic text clearly says: "and the five sons of MICHAL the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel..." Notice that the King James Bible  says "whom she BROUGHT UP FOR Ariel".

The first major English version to change the Hebrew text was the liberal Revised Standard Version. Since then others like the NASB, RSV, NRSV, ESV, NET, Holman Standard, some modern Catholic versions and the NIV editors have followed suit.

They do not believe God has preserved His words. They look at this verse and think the Hebrew texts must be wrong. So they correct it, supposedly on the basis of a two Hebrew manuscripts (but not the Masoretic Text) and "SOME LXX".

The NIV 2011 edition footnote says the reading of MERAB comes from  "Two Hebrew manuscripts, SOME Septuagint manuscripts and Syriac. MOST Hebrew and Septuagint manuscripts MICHAL." 

The 2001-2011 English Standard Versions also changes the Hebrew text from Michal to Merab and then footnote: "Two Hebrew manuscripts, Septuagint; most Hebrew manuscripts Michal"

Why didn't the ESV mention the Syriac like the NIV did? Well, most likely because the Syriac version translated by Lamsa in 1933 doesn't say "Michal" or "Merab" at all but instead reads: "the five sons of NADAB the daughter of Saul, whom she bore to Azriel"!  

Besides this, the ESV footnote is totally FALSE when it tells us the so called Greek Septuagint reads Merab. It does NOT. I have a hard copy of Brenton's LXX and you can see it online as well. It clearly says MICHAL and not Merab.

And the New Brenton's Translation of the Greek Septuagint 2012 also reads MICHAL - "and the five sons of MICHOL daughter of Saul". 


English Translation of the Greek Septuagint.

2 Samuel 21:8 - “the five sons of Michol daughter of Saul”

Greek OT (Septuagint/LXX)


2 Samuel 21

και τους πεντε υιους μιχολ θυγατρος σαουλ = the five sons of Mical daughter of Saul.


The NIVs footnote says the reading Merab comes from "2 Hebrew mss. and SOME Septuagint manuscripts and Syriac".  Well, good luck finding these "some" Septuagint mss. that supposedly read Merab, and the NIV is flat out wrong about the Syriac.  As pointed out, Lamsa's translation of the Syriac here says "NADAB the daughter of Saul" and not Michal or Merab!

Not surprisingly, Daniel "Anything but the KJV, scribal error" Wallace's NET version also adopts this phony reading of MERAB instead of the correct MICHAL.  Wallace's NET version reads: "and the five sons of Saul’s daughter MERAB 10 whom she had born to Adriel" He then footnotes: "The Masoretic Text reads "Michal" here but two Hebrew manuscripts read "Merab" along with some LXX manuscripts." 

I believe God puts many things like this in His word to cause unbelievers to stumble. The perverted bible versions that read MERAB instead of MICHAL are the New English bible 1970 and Revised English Bible 1989, the NASB, NIV, RSV, NRSV, ESV, the Message 2002, Dan Wallace's NET version 2006, Holman Standard 2009, Names of God Bible 2011, Common English Bible 2011, International Standard Version 2012, Common English Bible 2012, The Voice 2012


The Catholic Connection


The previous Catholic Douay-Rheims bible of 1610 and the Douay Version of 1950 both followed the Hebrew text here and said: "and the five sons of MICHOL the daughter of Saul".  

But then in more modern times when the Vatican has made a formal agreement with the UBS (United Bible Society) to create an "inter confessional" text, the Catholic St. Joseph New American Bible of 1970, the Jerusalem bible 1968 and New Jerusalem bible 1985 read like the ESV, NIV, NASB, NET and say: "the five sons of MERAB the daughter of Saul".  The Catholic New Jerusalem bible then footnotes - "Hebrew - Michal".  

Ah... but just to keep you guessing, now the 2009 Catholic Public Domain Version has come out and it goes back to the Hebrew reading of  "the five sons of MICHAL the daughter of Saul" and so does The Revised Douay-Rheims Bible 2012.


The Hebrew Text clearly says MICHAL


The Hebrew-English translations of the Jewish Family Bible 1864, The Ancient Hebrew Bible 1907, the 1917 (JPS) Jewish Publication Society,  the 1936 Hebrew Publishing Company, The Complete Jewish Bible 1998, the Judaica Press Tanach 2004, Hebrew Names Bible 2014, all follow the Hebrew Masoretic texts and say: "the five sons of MICHAL the daughter of Saul".  The 2011 Orthodox Jewish Bible reads: - "MICHAL Bat Sha’ul". 


Jewish Virtual Library The Tanakh [Full Text] 1998

“and the five sons of MICHAL the daughter of Saul”

Rashi’s Commentary in the Judaica Press Tanach 2004 is: - "Now did Michal bear them? Did not Merab hear them? We conclude that Merab bore them but Michal raised them and they therefore were called after her name; for one who raises an orphan in his house is as if he had begotten them and he is called after his name."


English translations that also read "MICHAL" and not "Merab" are  Wycliffe 1395, Coverdale 1535, the Great Bible 1540, Matthew's Bible 1549, the Bishops' Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1599, the Bill Bible 1671, The Thomson Bible 1808, Webster's 1833 - "the five sons of MICHAL the daughter of Saul, WHOM SHE BROUGHT UP FOR Adriel", the Longman Version 1841, the Lesser Bible 1853 - "the five sons of MICHAL the daughter of Saul, whom SHE HAD BROUGHT UP FOR ‘Adriel the son of Barzillai the Mecholathite", The Wellbeloved Scriptures 1862, the Smith Bible 1876, The Revised English Bible 1877, Darby 1890, Young's 1898, the Revised Version 1885, American Standard Version 1901, Rotherham's Emphasized bible 1902, The Modern Reader's Bible 1907,  the NKJV 1982 - "the five sons of MICHAL, the daughter of Saul, WHOM SHE BROUGHT UP FOR Adriel",  the Third Millennium Bible 1998 " the five sons of MICHAL the daughter of Saul, whom she BROUGHT UP FOR Adriel ", 21st Century KJV 1994 - "the five sons of MICHAL the daughter of Saul, whom she BROUGHT UP FOR Adriel", The Koster Scriptures 1998, The World English Bible 2000, the Complete Apostle's Bible 2005, the Jubilee Bible 2010, Knox Bible 2012 and the 2012 Natural Israelite Bible - "and the five sons of MICHAL the daughter of Saul, whom SHE BROUGHT UP FOR Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite".  All correctly read MICHAL - which is what God's preserved Hebrew Masoretic text says.


Other Bibles that follow the Hebrew texts and say MICHAL are God's First Truth 1999, Sacred Scriptures Family of Yah 2001, Green's Literal 2005, Ancient Roots Translinear Bible 2008, The Public Domain Version 2009, Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, Online Interlinear 2010 (André de Mol), Holy Scriptures VW Edition 2010, The New European Version 2010, the Biblos Interlinear Bible 2011, Conservative Bible 2011 - “the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite”, The Work of God's Children Illustrated Bible 2011, The Orthodox Jewish Bible 2011, Interlinear Hebrew-Greek Scriptures 2012 (Mebust), Lexham English Bible 2012, Modern English Bible 2012, The Revised Douay-Rheims Bible 2012, The Hebraic Roots Bible 2014 - “the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite” and the Holy Bible, Modern English Version 2014.

The Easy English Bible 2010 puts it this way - “They had grown up as sons of Michal, her sister.”

The Living Bible 1971 actually reads: "the five ADOPTED SONS OF MICHAL THAT SHE BROUGHT UP FOR SAUL'S DAUGHTER MERAB, the wife of Adriel."


Foreign Language Bibles


Among foreign language Bibles that correctly read MICHAL and not "Merab" are the Latin Vulgate - "quinque filios MICHOL filiae Saul", the French Martin 1744 and Ostervald 1998 - "et les cinq fils de MICAL fille de Saül",  the Italian Diodati 1649, La Nuova Diodati 1991 - "cinque figli, che MIKAL, figlia di Saul", the Spanish Sagradas Escrituras 1569, Cipriano de Valera 1602,  Reina Valera 1909-2011, the 2010 Reina Valera Gomez bible - "los cinco hijos que MICAL, hija de Saúl", Luther's German bible 1545 - "die fünf Söhne MICHALS, der Tochter Sauls",  German Elberfelder 1871 and the German Schlachter Bible of 2000 - "welche Michals", Finnish Bible 1776 "MIKALIN", the Dutch Staten Vertaliing - "MICHALS zuster, Sauls dochter", Hungarian Karoli Bible - "Mikálnak", the Polish Gdanska Bible - "MICHOLI", the Czech BKR - "MIKOL dcery Saulovy", Albanian Bible - "MIKAL, e bija e Saulit", Norwegian Norsk Bibelselskap 1930 "MIKAL, Sauls datter", the Russian Synodal Version 1876 "Мелхолы, дочери Сауловой", Hungarian Karoli Bible - "Mikálnak",  Swedish Bible 1917 - "MIKAL", Lithuanian Bible - "MIKALES",  the Tagalog Ang Dating Biblia 1905 - "Michal", the Vietnamese Bible 1934 "Mi-canh, con gái Sau-lơ", the Romanian Fidela Bible 2009 - "pe cei cinci fii ai lui MICAL, fiica lui Saul", the Chinese Union Traditional Bible -


the Modern Greek Bible - "και τους πεντε υιους της Μιχαλ, θυγατρος του Σαουλ"


and the Modern Hebrew Bible - ארמני ואת מפבשת ואת חמשת בני מיכל בת ילדה לעדריאל

Now for the explanation.

Merab was the sister of Michal, and she was the wife of Adriel. See I Samuel 18:19. Michal was childless till the day of her death, as is seen in 2 Samuel 6:23. Rather than jumping to the conclusion that the Hebrew Texts have been corrupted or that they just made a mistake, a very reasonable explanation is that Merab died (perhaps during childbirth or of natural causes), and that her sister Michal took her place in the nuclear family and brought up these 5 children for Adriel, just as the King James Bible reads - "the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom SHE BROUGHT UP FOR Adriel"

Adam Clarke points out that the Chaldee version of this verse reads: "And the five sons of Merab which Michal the daughter of Saul brought up, which she brought forth to Adriel the son of Barzillai."


John Gill comments: "Michal had no children to the day of her death, nor was she the wife of Adriel, but Merab her sister, (1 Samuel 18:19); wherefore these sons were not whom she "bare", as the word used signifies, but, as we rightly render it, whom she "brought up" or educated, so the Targum, her sister being dead; and SO THE JEWS SAY MERAB BROUGHT THEM FORTH, AND MICHAL BROUGHT THEM UP, THEREFORE THEY WERE CALLED BY HER NAME." 


Matthew Henry - "he delivered up two of Saul's sons whom he had by a concubine, and five of his grandsons, whom his daughter Merab bore to Adriel (1 Sa. 18:19), BUT HIS DAUGHTER MICHAL BROUGHT UP, v. 8."

I was looking at some more commentaries on this verse and Matthew Poole (as well as Matthew Henry) adopt the same view that Merab had died and Michal, who herself had no children, took upon herself to raise up these 5 kids after the death of Merab.


Matthew Poole Commentary on the whole Bible says: “The five sons of Michal, or, of Michal's sister, to wit, Merab; for Michal had no children, 2 Sam. vi. 23, nor was she married to this Adriel, but to Phalli, or Phaltiel, the son of Laish, 1 Sam. xxv. 44; 2 Sam. iii. 15; and Merab her sister was married to this very Adriel the Meholatlute, 1 Sam. xviii. 19. ... the sons of Merab are called the sons of Michal, to wit, BY ADOPTION; or, the near kindred and next heirs of Michal, AND BROUGHT UP BY HER; for upon that and such-like accounts the title of son is oft given in Scripture, as Gen. xlviii. 5; Exod. ii. 10; Deut. xxv. 5, 6; Ruth i. 11, 12; iv. 17. Question: But why then are not these called the sons of Merab?  Because they were better known by their relation to Michal, who was David's wife, and, it may be, alive at this time, and haying no children of her own, TOOK THESE, AND BRED THEM AS HER OWN; when Merab was now a more obscure person, and possibly dead many years before this. WHOM SHE BROUGHT UP; for so this Hebrew verb, which primarily and properly signifies to bear, is sometimes used, as Gen. 1. 23 ; Ruth iv. 17, because the education of children is a kind of bearing of them, as requiring frequently no less care and pains than the bearing doth.”  

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary - "the five sons of MICHAL the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel - Merab, Michal‘s sister, was the wife of Adriel; BUT MICHAL ADOPTED AND BROUGHT UP THE BOYS UNDER HER CARD."

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments - "2 Samuel 21:8. The five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul. Merab, not Michal, was married to Adriel. Therefore the sons are called Michal’s after the Hebrew manner of speaking, because as a mother, having no children of her own, she had undertaken to bring them up. See Genesis 16:2; Genesis 30:3; Genesis 1:23. Ruth 4:17. So Jeremiah’s uncle is put for his uncle’s son: Jeremiah 32:12."


Even if you translate the word as "born to", which the KJB rightly did not but rather as "brought up" like the NKJV, Webster's translation, the Lesser Bible 1853, Third Millennium Bible 1998 and the Natural Israelite Bible 2012, you need to compare how this word is sometimes used.

In Ruth 4:17 the exact same word is used in the phrase "There is a son BORN TO Naomi." Now Naomi was not the biological mother of this child, but Ruth was. Even here in this same chapter of 2 Samuel 21 in verse 22 we read of the brothers of the Giant Goliath, and it says "these four were BORN to the giant". God sometimes uses this word to mean "born in relation to a family member". 

The same Hebrew word translated as "BROUGHT UP" here in 2 Samuel 21:8 is also translated as "BROUGHT UP" in Genesis 50:23 where we read: "And Joseph saw Ephraim's children of the third generation; the children also of Machir the son of Manasseh were BROUGHT UP upon Joseph's knees."

Joseph obviously did not "give birth to" these children, but they were brought up or raised often sitting on his knees as grandfathers are wont to do with their grandkids.

This simply means that Joseph was a doting grandfather who often set the little boys upon his knees and played with them as they were growing up and maturing.

John Gill comments on Genesis 50:23 - "said to be brought up upon his knees, being educated by him, and often took up in his lap, and dandled on his knees, as grandfathers, being fond of their grandchildren, are apt to do."

Not only does the KJB translate this same word as "BROUGHT UP" upon his knees but so also do the Geneva Bible - "also the sonnes of Machir the sonne of Manasseh were brought vp on Iosephs knees.", The Ancient Hebrew Bible 1907, the 1936 Hebrew Publishing Company Bible "were BROUGHT UP UPON HIS KNEES", the NKJV 1982 - "The children of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were also brought up on Joseph’s knees.", the KJV 21st Century Version 1994,  the Lesser Old Testament 1853 - "were BROUGHT UP upon Joseph’s knees.", The Revised English Bible 1877 - "were BROUGHT UP UPON Joseph's knees.", the Amplified Bible 1987 - "were brought up on Joseph’s knees.", The Koster Scriptures 1998, the English Jubilee Bible 2000 - "were brought up upon Joseph’s knees.", The Revised Geneva Bible 2005, The Voice 2012 - "and brought them up as his own.", and the Orthodox Jewish Bible of 2011 - "also the Bnei Machir Ben Menasheh were brought up upon the birkei Yosef (knees of Yosef)." 

The Lesser Old Testament 1853 - "were BROUGHT UP upon Joseph's knees"

The Ancient Hebrew Bible 1907 - "were BROUGHT UP upon Joseph's knees."

The Koster Scriptures 1998 - "The  children  of Makir,  son  of   Menashsheh,   were   also BROUGHT UP on Yoseph’s knees."


The Orthodox Jewish Bible 2011

“also the Bnei Machir Ben Menasheh were BROUGHT UP UPON  the birkei Yosef (knees of Yosef).”


The Biblos Bible 2013 - “were BROUGHT UP on the knees of Joseph.”



This online Interlinear Hebrew Bible - "were BROUGHT UP upon knees Joseph"

God's Word Translation 1995 puts it this way: "Even the children of Machir, son of Manasseh, WERE ADOPTED BY  Joseph at birth."

The ESV completely paraphrase this verse as: "The children also of Machir the son of Manasseh were counted as Joseph's own."

The NIV says: "Also the children of Makir son of Manasseh were placed at birth on Joseph’s knees."[a] And then Footnotes: "That is, they were counted as his."  Well, isn't this the same thing that happened to Michal and the 5 sons of Merab?

The Names of God Bible of 2011 also paraphrases it as: "Even the children of Machir, son of Manasseh, were adopted by Joseph at birth"

The New International Reader Version1998 puts it this way: "they were placed on Joseph’s knees and counted as his own children."

And Dan Wallace's NET version is different from them all with this wild paraphrase - "He also saw the children of Makir the son of Manasseh; they were given special inheritance rights by Joseph."

The KJB is correct, and the ESV, NASB, NET and NIV are false perversions written by "good, godly, pious" unbelievers in the infallibility of the Bible, and that is the unvarnished truth.

Will Kinney

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Additional Notes.  Recently (August 2010) a man named Jonathan Sarfati challenged a rather long list I posted about how versions like the NIV, NASB, ESV, Holman Standard, etc. so often reject the Hebrew readings, and he responded in this fashion.  He got a little testy about it too, and deliberately called me Miss Kinney for the second time in our exchanges.

The reason Mr. Sarfati started calling me Miss Kinney was because I addressed him as Mr. Sarfati.  Well, it turns out the man has a doctorate and he wanted me to call him Dr. Sarfati.  I then told him that it didn't matter to me whether he were a "Doctor" or a high school drop out.  When it comes to knowing spiritual truth, God often chooses the foolish, the weak, the base and the things that are despised, to bring to nought the things that are wise and mighty, that no flesh should glory in His presence. I then referenced 1 Corinthians 1:26-31.  He did not receive it very well, so he then started to call me Miss Kinney.  I guess Mr. Sarfati wasn't good enough for him.

 A couple of verses come to mind here. Psalm 62:9... "men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity." and Job 32:21-22 "Let me not, I pray you, accept any man's person, neither let me give flattering titles unto any man.  For I know not to give flattering titles; in so doing my maker would soon take me away."

Then I answered him.  Here is part of our interchange.

Jonathan Sarfati posts: Who would trust anything from an anti-scholar like Miss Kinney on what the Hebrew says or doesn't say? The KJV departed from the extant Hebrew manuscripts ...when it inserted "the brother of" Goliath into their text. But rightly so, because they recognized that there was a copying mistake, as shown by the uncorrupted parallel passage. The NIV, like Luther, also removes a contradiction in 2 Sam 21:8 by going against the Masoretic and using two Hebrew MSS and the LXX to have the sons of *Merab* rather than the childless Michal."

Hi Mr. Sarfati. A Christian does not have to be a renowned scholar to be able to read the Bible, but he should have a spirit of humility to believe it. On the one hand you mention the "brother of Goliath" and tell us the KJB did correctly for inserting the word in the passage because it is found in the other, and I agree. But this was using the Hebrew.

The case with the NIV, NASB, ESV, Holman, NET etc. is that they so often reject the clear Hebrew readings, and either make up their own numbers out of thin air, and STILL don't agree with each other (See 1 Samuel 13:1), or as in 2 Samuel 21:8 you ASSUME the Hebrew text is wrong by having Michal instead of Merab. You ASSUME that there is no possible way to explain this apparent contradiction, and so you defend your false NIV reading and call it "scholarship" when in fact it is nothing more than unbelief tampering with the pure words of God.

You start off with TWO false statements as well. You tell us that Luther changed Michal and put in Merab on the basis of 2 Hebrew mss. and 'THE LXX'.

Well sir, The Luther German Bible of 1545 which he translated does NOT say MERAB, but the Hebrew reading of MICHAL.

"dazu die fünf Söhne Michals". Look it up please. Now some other guy came along in 1912 (no doubt some other bible corrector like you) and he changed Michal to Merab - "dazu die fünf Söhne Merabs", - and labeled the translation Luther's German bible of 1912. Sorry, Mr. Scholar, but it wasn't ol' Martin himself that did this. The German Elberfelder of 1905 still agrees with the Hebrew text and has Michal, not Merab - it reads -die fünf Söhne Michals as does the German Schlachter Bible of 2000. 

Your second piece of questionable scholarship is when you tell us that "the LXX" also has Merab and not the correct Hebrew Michal. Wrong again, Sir. I have a copy of the most common edition of the so called Greek Septuagint or LXX that is used by almost anyone who thinks thing is worth studying for any number of reasons. It is called the Septuagint Version put out by Zondervan, and published "by special arrangement with Samuel Bagster & Sons, LTD. London, 4th printing 1977.

My copy of the LXX clearly says both in the Greek and in the accompanying English translation - "the five sons of MICHAL". So, your advanced scholarship to this point is not faring too well. That is two strikes right off the bat. Strike three is coming up.

Now, to look at the passage and WHY the Hebrew reading is correct. Of course, I fully expect you to simply brush aside the massive evidence that the traditional Hebrew text is correct and that there is a very reasonable way to explain this apparent contradiction. Rather than believe God may have in fact preserved His words in a real book, you prefer to adjust, change, modify and correct your as yet unsettled and ever changing bible texts at will, and call it "scholarship".

I then sent him this full article on 2 Samuel 21:8 and why the Hebrew reading is correct.

All of grace, believing the Book, 

Will Kinney


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