Sunday, December 16, 2012

How many daughters did Yaakov have?

Summary: Ibn Ezra grapples with the plural mention of Yaakov's daughters and granddaughters, in light of the reference to only one of each in the ensuing genealogy. It can be plural banot to mean a single bat, or a reference to maidservants. I analyze what might be guiding Ibn Ezra in this, explain his reference to Michal bat Shaul, and have some suggestions of my own -- that there were indeed other daughters.

Post: In parshas Vayigash, the Torah makes reference to multiple daughters of Yaakov, who went down to Egypt. Bereishit 46:7:

ז  בָּנָיו וּבְנֵי בָנָיו, אִתּוֹ, בְּנֹתָיו וּבְנוֹת בָּנָיו, וְכָל-זַרְעוֹ--הֵבִיא אִתּוֹ, מִצְרָיְמָה.  {ס}7 his sons, and his sons' sons with him, his daughters, and his sons' daughters, and all his seed brought he with him into Egypt. {S}

Yet we only knew of Dinah, listed among the sons. If there were another daughter, why not mention her? And we cannot say that bnot banim harei hein kevanot, that granddaughters are reckoned as daughters, for the same pasuk explicitly references benot banav, the sons' daughters.

Ibn Ezra weighs in:

[מו, ז]
בנותיו -
היא דינה לבדה. 
ויתכן שהיו לדינה שפחות קטנות גדלו עמה ובעבור בתו קראם הכתוב בנות יעקב, בעבור שגדלו בביתו כמו בני מיכל. 
וכן: ובנות בניו. כי אחת היא.

"His daughters: this is a reference to Dinah alone. And it is possible that Dinah had young maidservants who grew up with her, and because of his daughter, the Scripture called them daughters of Yaakov, since they grew up in his home, just as the sons of Michal. And so too, 'and his sons' daughters' [in plural], where she was only one."

I have a few notes:

1) Ibn Ezra won't say here that there were other daughters. Even though he surely knows the midrash that each of Yaakov's sons was born with a twin sister, whom they married instead of marrying the prohibited local Canaanites, he will not say this, for he is trying to advance peshat.

2) Meanwhile, I do think that it is plausible that there were other unnamed daughters. The Torah only named the sons at their birth because they were to become the shivtei Kah. And Dinah's birth was only mentioned because we would soon hear of her abduction and rape at the hands of Shechem. (And Ibn Caspi even says we only hear about that so as to make sense of the curse of Shimon and Levi in Yaakov's blessing. I am not in accord with him on this point.) So Yaakov might well have had other daughters, but there was no point in mentioning them by name. See also how other sons of Yosef born alongside Ephraim and Menashe would be reckoned as part of the shevatim of Ephraim and Menashe, such that even males named in genealogies needn't account for a person's full output.

3) Another difficulty that is likely guiding Ibn Ezra is how to count up the numbered and named people who descended to Egypt. Only Dinah bat Yaakov and Serach bat Asher are explicitly named and are part of the count in the enumeration which follows in the next pesukim. How could other daughters have been born if they were not named and counted?

This is what Ibn Ezra means by  ובנות בניו. כי אחת היא. The one son's daughter he refers to is Serach bat Asher. Therefore, it must be that the plural banot means bat. We can turn to the parallel of Dan's one son, Chushim:

כג  וּבְנֵי-דָן, חֻשִׁים.23 And the sons of Dan: Hushim.

where bnei is used. This is true and convincing enough.

Meanwhile, at least for sons' daughters, Rashi has no problem, for he is willing to say that Yocheved, daughter of Levi, was born between the gates, entering into Egypt.

4) I am reluctant to say, though, that there were so few girls in the entire company of seventy souls from Yaakov's loins who went down to Egypt. See what I posted here. I would rather say that these are the ones who were explicitly listed, for reasons we know or don't know. Perhaps Serach was important for some extrabiblical or genealogical reason we don't know about, and the Torah here is citing those genealogical sources to provide the accounting.

5) In association with that, the idea that she was the one who played the harp to gently break the news to Yaakov that Yosef was still alive -- that is a midrash. I don't know that this would be the historical reason for what I propose above, for her inclusion in the list while other girls were not.

6) To explain Ibn Ezra's reference to the sons of Michal bat Shaul, we see in II Shmuel 21:8:
ח  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.8 But the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bore unto 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;
ט  וַיִּתְּנֵם בְּיַד הַגִּבְעֹנִים, וַיֹּקִיעֻם בָּהָר לִפְנֵי ה, וַיִּפְּלוּ שבעתים (שְׁבַעְתָּם), יָחַד; והם (וְהֵמָּה) הֻמְתוּ בִּימֵי קָצִיר, בָּרִאשֹׁנִים, תחלת (בִּתְחִלַּת), קְצִיר שְׂעֹרִים.9 and he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the mountain before the LORD, and they fell all seven together; and they were put to death in the days of harvest, in the first days, at the beginning of barley harvest.

that Michal bat Shaul had five sons. King David, who married Michal, is delivering her sons whom she bore to Adriel the son or Barzilah, up for death.

Yet, in II Shmuel 6:23, we read:
כ  וַיָּשָׁב דָּוִד, לְבָרֵךְ אֶת-בֵּיתוֹ;  {ס}  וַתֵּצֵא מִיכַל בַּת-שָׁאוּל, לִקְרַאת דָּוִד, וַתֹּאמֶר מַה-נִּכְבַּד הַיּוֹם מֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר נִגְלָה הַיּוֹם לְעֵינֵי אַמְהוֹת עֲבָדָיו, כְּהִגָּלוֹת נִגְלוֹת אַחַד הָרֵקִים.20 Then David returned to bless his household. {S} And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said: 'How did the king of Israel get him honour to-day, who uncovered himself to-day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself!'
כא  וַיֹּאמֶר דָּוִד, אֶל-מִיכַל, לִפְנֵי ה אֲשֶׁר בָּחַר-בִּי מֵאָבִיךְ וּמִכָּל-בֵּיתוֹ, לְצַוֹּת אֹתִי נָגִיד עַל-עַם ה עַל-יִשְׂרָאֵל; וְשִׂחַקְתִּי, לִפְנֵי ה.21 And David said unto Michal: 'Before the LORD, who chose me above thy father, and above all his house, to appoint me prince over the people of the LORD, over Israel, before the LORD will I make merry.
כב  וּנְקַלֹּתִי עוֹד מִזֹּאת, וְהָיִיתִי שָׁפָל בְּעֵינָי; וְעִם-הָאֲמָהוֹת אֲשֶׁר אָמַרְתְּ, עִמָּם אִכָּבֵדָה.22 And I will be yet more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight; and with the handmaids whom thou hast spoken of, with them will I get me honour.'
כג  וּלְמִיכַל, בַּת-שָׁאוּל, לֹא-הָיָה לָהּ, יָלֶד--עַד, יוֹם מוֹתָהּ.  {פ}23 And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death. {P}

Thus, she died childless, so how could she have had five children?

Furthermore, in David's absence, though Shaul had earlier promised her to David, King Shaul had given Michal to marry Palti ben Laish, not to Adriel ben Barzilai. I Shmuel 25:

מד  וְשָׁאוּל, נָתַן אֶת-מִיכַל בִּתּוֹ--אֵשֶׁת דָּוִד:  לְפַלְטִי בֶן-לַיִשׁ, אֲשֶׁר מִגַּלִּים.44 Now Saul had given Michal his daughter, David's wife, to Palti the son of Laish, who was of Gallim.

And the one who married Adriel ben Barzilai was actually a different daughter of Shaul promised to David, Michal's sister Merav. I Shmuel 18:19:
יז  וַיֹּאמֶר שָׁאוּל אֶל-דָּוִד, הִנֵּה בִתִּי הַגְּדוֹלָה מֵרַב אֹתָהּ אֶתֶּן-לְךָ לְאִשָּׁה--אַךְ הֱיֵה-לִי לְבֶן-חַיִל, וְהִלָּחֵם מִלְחֲמוֹת ה; וְשָׁאוּל אָמַר, אַל-תְּהִי יָדִי בּוֹ, וּתְהִי-בוֹ, יַד-פְּלִשְׁתִּים.  {ס}17 And Saul said to David: 'Behold my elder daughter Merab, her will I give thee to wife; only be thou valiant for me, and fight the LORD'S battles.' For Saul said: 'Let not my hand be upon him, but let the hand of the Philistines be upon him.' {S}
יח  וַיֹּאמֶר דָּוִד אֶל-שָׁאוּל, מִי אָנֹכִי וּמִי חַיַּי, מִשְׁפַּחַת אָבִי, בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל--כִּי-אֶהְיֶה חָתָן, לַמֶּלֶךְ.18 And David said unto Saul: 'Who am I, and what is my life, or my father's family in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?'
יט  וַיְהִי, בְּעֵת תֵּת אֶת-מֵרַב בַּת-שָׁאוּל--לְדָוִד; וְהִיא נִתְּנָה לְעַדְרִיאֵל הַמְּחֹלָתִי, לְאִשָּׁה.19 But it came to pass at the time when Merab Saul's daughter should have been given to David, that she was given unto Adriel the Meholathite to wife.
כ  וַתֶּאֱהַב מִיכַל בַּת-שָׁאוּל, אֶת-דָּוִד; וַיַּגִּדוּ לְשָׁאוּל, וַיִּשַׁר הַדָּבָר בְּעֵינָיו.20 And Michal Saul's daughter loved David; and they told Saul, and the thing pleased him.

There are two ways to resolve this contradiction.

The first is that there is a taus sofer in our Sefer Shmuel. This is not necessarily kefirah, to the same degree as it would be to assert this for the Torah. And it is plausible, given the many such discrepencies in sefer Shmuel (and associated Divrei HaYamim) that could be readily explained in like manner.

The second is what Ibn Ezra is suggesting here, that where the pasuk states:

וְאֶת-חֲמֵשֶׁת, בְּנֵי מִיכַל בַּת-שָׁאוּל, אֲשֶׁר יָלְדָה לְעַדְרִיאֵל בֶּן-בַּרְזִלַּי, הַמְּחֹלָתִי.

they are called her sons, even though they were actually Merav's sons, because she raised them up. And presumably he would dismiss אֲשֶׁר יָלְדָה which typically means birthed, as being raised. And this would then be precedence for other girls raised in Yaakov's house to be called his daughters. At the end of the day, I don't find this argument convincing.

Update: As Shmuel (the commenter, not the Navi or Sefer) points out in the comment section:
The explanation re Michal is not only Ibn Ezra's; it comes from Sanhedrin 19b and is quoted by Rashi too.
We can see this gemara in Sanhedrin here:
Now as to R. Joshua b. Korha,26  surely it is written, And the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul whom she bore to Adriel. — R. Joshua [b. Korha] answers thee: Was it then Michal who bore them? Surely it was rather Merab who bore them! But Merab bore and Michal brought them up; therefore they were called by her name. This teaches thee that whoever brings up an orphan in his home, Scripture ascribes it to him as though he had begotten him.
Despite it appearing in a midrash in the gemara, Ibn Ezra surely regards it as peshat. If one is not going to ascribe it to scribal error, it is difficult to make sense of the pesukim otherwise. After all, Michal was explicitly unmarried at the time she married David, and was the replacement for her sister who indeed married Adriel.

Despite it appearing in a gemara, at the end of the day, I still don't find this argument convincing.


Shmuel said...

The explanation re Michal is not only Ibn Ezra's; it comes from Sanhedrin 19b and is quoted by Rashi too.

joshwaxman said...


thanks for pointing that out. i'll modify the post to make note of it.


Alberto Attia said...

Hi Josh,
There is no doubt that the verb Yalod must sometimes be interpreted as rear/educate etc. See RAMBAM More Nevuchim Chapter 7.

Please be aware, however, that with respect to Yaakov, there is another passuk in the Torah which gives clear indication of him having other daughters besides Dinah.

Take a look at parashat Vayeshev after Yaakov Avinu rends his garments and begins mourning for Yosef. The Torah informs us: "All his sons and all his daughters (plural) arose to comfort him...." (Bereshit 37:35)

The commentaries of our Rabbis on the above passuk are most interesting. However, I still do not understand their reasoning for wanting to restrict the number of Yaakov's daughters to Dina alone other than to harmonize it with the count of those who later descended to Egypt.

Likewise R. Juda's mentioning that each brother had a twin sister whom another brother married seems to want to harmonize the text with the above count while still admitting the fact of physical daughters.

Nevertheless, in my view, it appears that one can understand Yaakov having other physical daugthers. However, these did not become part of his spiritual "generations."

joshwaxman said...

"There is no doubt that the verb Yalod must sometimes be interpreted as rear/educate etc. See RAMBAM More Nevuchim Chapter 7."

thanks. i'll check out Moreh Nevuchim.

to touch just on this point, in the pasuk in question, it is that Michal was yaldah to male person X these children; just as earlier in the same pasuk, that Ritzpah was yaldah to male person Y these children.

in this context, it seems extremely farfetched to say that yaldah refers to something other than giving birth.

kol tuv,

th said...

Off the top of my head - there are those who explain that Michal had these children before the incident in which she was told she wouldn't have children. meaning, it was going forward.

joshwaxman said...

that is fine, and I agree that it is a neat resolution. but the pasuk says that Michal bore these five לְעַדְרִיאֵל הַמְּחֹלָתִי. and we never see Michal marrying him, but rather that Merav married him, while Michal loved David. Plus (for those commentators who suggest that), what about Achot Ishto? How could this Adriel marry two sisters in the same lifetime?


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