me'-rab (merabh "increase"; Merob):
The elder daughter of Saul (1 Samuel 14:49), promised, though not by name, to the man who should slay the Philistine Goliath (1 Samuel 17:25). David did this and was afterward taken by Saul to court (1 Samuel 18:2), where he was detained in great honor. Merab was not, however, given to him as quickly as the incident would lead one to expect, and the sequel showed some unwillingness on the part of some persons in the contract to complete the promise. The adulation of the crowd who met David on his return from Philistine warfare and gave him a more favorable ascription than to Saul (1 Samuel 18:6-16) awoke the angry jealousy of Saul. He "eyed David from that day and forward" (1 Samuel 18:9). Twice David had to "avoid" the "evil spirit" in Saul (1 Samuel 18:11). Saul also feared David (1 Samuel 18:12), and this led him to incite the youth to more dangerous deeds of valor against the Philistines by a renewed promise of Merab. He will have David's life, but rather by the hand of the Philistines than his own (1 Samuel 18:17). Merab was to be the bait. But now another element complicated matters--Michal's love for David (1 Samuel 18:20), which may have been the retarding factor from the first. At any rate Merab is finally given to Adriel the Meholathite (1 Samuel 18:19). The passage in 2 Samuel 21:8 doubtless contains an error--Michal's name occurring for that of her sister Merab--though the Septuagint, Josephus, and a consistent Hebrew text all perpetuate it, as well as the concise meaning of the Hebrew word Yaladh, which is a physiological word for bearing children, and cannot be translated "brought up." A Targum explanation reads: "The 5 sons of Merab (which Michal, Saul's daughter brought up) which she bare," etc. Another suggestion reads the word "sister" after Michal in the possessive case, leaving the text otherwise as it stands. It is possible that Merab died comparatively young, and that her children were left in the care of their aunt, especially when it is said she herself had none (2 Samuel 6:23). The simplest explanation is to assume a scribal error, with the suggestion referred to as a possible explanation of it. The lonely Michal (2 Samuel 6:20-23) became so identified with her (deceased) sister's children that they became, in a sense, hers.
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