How many children did Michal have? Sanhedrin 19b[i]:
שאלו תלמידיו את רבי יוסי היאך נשא דוד שתי אחיות בחייהן אמר להן מיכל אחר מיתת מירב נשאה רבי יהושע בן קרחה אומר קידושי טעות היו לו במירב שנאמר תנה את אשתי את מיכל אשר ארסתי לי במאה ערלות פלשתים מאי תלמודא אמר רב פפא מיכל אשתי ולא מירב אשתי מאי קידושי טעות דכתיב והיה האיש אשר יכנו יעשרנו המלך עושר גדול וגו' אזל קטליה אמר לו מלוה אית לך גבאי והמקדש במלוה אינה מקודשת אזל יהבה לעדריאל דכתיב ויהי בעת תת את מירב בת שאול לדוד וגו' אמר ליה אי בעית דאתן לך מיכל זיל אייתי לי מאה ערלות פלשתים אזל אייתי ליה אמר ליה מלוה ופרוטה אית לך גבאי שאול סבר מלוה ופרוטה דעתיה אמלוה ודוד סבר מלוה ופרוטה דעתיה אפרוטה ואיבעית אימא דכולי עלמא מלוה ופרוטה דעתיה אפרוטה שאול סבר לא חזו ולא מידי ודוד סבר חזו לכלבי ושונרי ורבי יוסי האי תנה את אשתי את מיכל מאי דריש ביה רבי יוסי לטעמיה דתניא רבי יוסי היה דורש מקראות מעורבין כתיב ויקח המלך את שני בני רצפה בת איה אשר ילדה לשאול את אדמוני ואת מפיבושת ואת חמשת בני מיכל אשר ילדה לעדריאל המחולתי וגו' וכי לעדריאל נתנה והלא לפלטי בן ליש נתנה דכתיב ושאול נתן את מיכל בתו אשת דוד לפלטי בן ליש וגו' אלא מקיש קידושי מירב לעדריאל לקידושי מיכל לפלטי מה קידושי מיכל לפלטי בעבירה אף קידושי מירב לעדריאל בעבירה ורבי יהושע בן קרחה נמי הכתיב את חמשת בני מיכל בת שאול אמר לך רבי יהושע וכי מיכל ילדה והלא מירב ילדה מירב ילדה ומיכל גידלה לפיכך נקראו על שמה ללמדך שכל המגדל יתום בתוך ביתו מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו ילדו
The accepted understanding of this passage is that according to Rabbi Yossi David married Michal only after her sister had five children from Adriel and died. Michal later brought up the five children as her own. The mefarshim[ii] ask how Meirav could possibly have five children within just two and a half years of Shaul’s reign and answer that she was pregnant with twins twice, and once with the fifth child[iii]. After these difficult terutzim we need to look back on this sugia to see if there is a simple way to understand it. The difficulty of the Gemorah is with the following posuk from the end of David’s life (Shmuel 2:21:8):
וַיִּקַּח הַמֶּלֶךְ אֶת שְׁנֵי בְּנֵי רִצְפָּה בַת אַיָּה אֲשֶׁר יָלְדָה לְשָׁאוּל אֶת אַרְמֹנִי וְאֶת מְפִבֹשֶׁת וְאֶת חֲמֵשֶׁת בְּנֵי מִיכַל בַּת שָׁאוּל אֲשֶׁר יָלְדָה לְעַדְרִיאֵל בֶּן בַּרְזִלַּי הַמְּחֹלָתִי
Five children of Michal and Adriel are mentioned in this verse. All the commentators follow the explanation of our Gemorah that the children were born to Meirav and Michal only raised them. But a careful reading seems to reveal that R. Yossi is not the one who holds that the five children were Meirav’s. This teretz is provided by the Gemorah later according to Rabbi Yehoshua ben Karcha. If so, Rabbi Yossi must hold that indeed Michal was the one to have the five children. Since David only took her back seven years after he became king, there was plenty of time for her to give birth to five children. But Michal was never married to Adriel, she was “married” to Palti. The key in explaining is what Rabbi Yossi is trying to imply by the words: מקראות מעורבין (mixed up verses). The marriage of Michal to Palti was just as sinful as the marriage of Meirav to Adriel. Both marriages were based on an incorrect psak of Shaul and his Beis Din. David's Kidushin with Meirav was declared invalid and his later Kidushin with Michal was declared invalid again[iv]. Indeed Josephus (Antiquities 7:4:3) says that Michal had five children from Palti[v].
Now we can offer a simpler understanding of the entire sugia. The students asked R. Yossi, how could David marry two sisters? They are obviously assuming that some form of Kidushin was involved when Shaul offered his (presumably older[vi]) daughter to the one that kills Goliath[vii]. If David was technically married to Meirav he could not marry Michal even if Meirav was incorrectly given to a different man. R. Yossi answered that Meirav died before David married Michal. R. Yehoshua ben Karcha however holds that there was no kosher Kidushin between David and Meirav. He learns it from the words in a posuk: “my wife Michal”, meaning only Michal is my wife, Meirav is not. The Gemorah goes into the technical explanation of why Michal’s Kidushin was valid and not Meirav’s according to R. Yehoshua ben Karcha. R. Yossi however only learns from this posuk that Michal was David’s wife meaning her Kidushin was valid just as Meirav’s, and giving her to Palti was incorrect. He learns that the posuk (Shmuel 2:21:8) describing David’s giving five children of Michal and Adriel to Givonim to be executed[viii] were really Michal’s children from Palti and is using “mixed up verses” to teach us that Michal’s Kidushin with David was valid just like Meirav’s was[ix]. R. Yehoshua ben Karcha however says the posuk in Shmuel 2:21:8 is not talking about Michal’s children but about Meirav’s children whom Michal raised. The Gemorah goes on to give other examples where children raised by someone are considered like one’s own children.
[i] Note that this article does not claim to research the words of Tanach but only the Chazal’s explanation of it. In particular we are trying to offer a novel explanation of R. Yossi’s shita in the Gemorah.
[ii] Yad Rama, Tosafot Harosh.
[iii] See however Marguilut Hayam that according to the calculation of all the evens that had to occur before David married Michal and after he ran away from Shaul, there is not enough time left for three pregnancies of Meirav. He therefore concludes that we must accept the shitah of Rabeinu Yeshaya on Shmuel (1:13:1) that the two and a half years that Shaul had ruled are only considered till the time David was anointed. However this shitah is in contradiction of Seder Olam which is a product of Rabbi Yossi himself. In the commentary of Gaonim on Sanhedrin another possibility is offered that Shaul himself did not realize that Meirav had been married to Adriel when he offered her to David. (Incidentally modern scholarship supposes that Shaul ruled over Israel for more than two years and possibly the word “thirty” is missing in Masoretic text before the word “two” in Shmuel 1:13:1 … [thirty] two years he ruled in over Israel. Abarbanel has a different explanation of our text according to which Shaul also ruled longer.)
[iv] . It’s also possible (though this is not R. Yossi’s shita) that Palti was the same person as Adriel and Shaul first gave Meirav to Adriel and later when she died soon after this marriage and Dovid was running away from Shaul and was considered a rebel, Meirav’s sister Michal was given to Adriel who was now called Palti.
[v] While Josephus was a controversial person at best, he had excellent Jewish education and his traditions may be largely reliable. He is quoted numerous times in Daat Sofrim and other traditional commentaries.
[vi] See Tosafot Kidushin 52b.
[vii] As to the nature of this Kidushin, we do find some cases where “work” performed is counted as Kidushin as well as saving from danger (see Kidushin 8b, in particular “saving from a dog” in 30:11). Apparently both R. Yossi and his students don’t question that some kind of Kidushin happened here, and if Meirav was no longer minor it must be that she either agreed on Shaul’s proposal or made Shaul her shliach to accept such a Kidushin as saving from a “dog” (incidentally Goliath is in fact compared to a dog, see Sota 42b).
[viii] According to David these children were mamzerim.
[ix] As mentioned previously neither R. Yossi nor his students had any doubt that Meirav’s Kidushin was valid. Therefore the posuk used that Kidushin to compare to Kidushin of Michal and emphasize that giving Michal to Palti was just as sinful as giving Meirav to Adriel. The posuk therefore means: “And David took … and five children of Michal daughter of Shaul that gave birth to them from [Palti to whom she was given incorrectly just like Meirav was given to] Adriel”. This may be similar to Chazal’s explanation of Zecharia 12:11: “On that day the mourning will be as great in Yerushalaim as the mourning of Hadadrimon in the valley of Megiddo”. There is no known tragic incident in our history that is related to Hadadrimon and the valley of Megiddo. The Talmud (Megilah 3a) quotes the Targum adding a number of words and relating this verse to two different events: “On that day the mourning will be as great in Yerushalaim as the mourning of [Ahab who was killed by] Hadadrimon … [and the mourning of Yeshayahu who was killed …] in the valley of Megiddo.