(just not our
Turkel on the "House of Saul"
by John Kesler
an addendum by Farrell Till
I came across the following quotation in Robert Turkel's article "Who
Killed Saul?" His accusations about Till's scholarship ring a
little hollow in light of statements like Turkel's regarding the house
of Saul mentioned in 1 Chronicles 10:6.
Turkel [quoting a theoretical skeptical argument]:
"One more, Holding! 1 Chr. 10:6 says 'all his house' died together.
What about his son Ishbosheth?"
What about him? Interestingly his name means, "man of shame"--why would
Saul name a son this? One suggests that it is because he was the son of
Saul via an outside affair. That would put him outside Saul's house by
First of all, who the blazes is "One" who "suggests" a solution to the
problem? Turkel complains when Till quotes from different Bible
translations to see how various translation committees viewed passages,
but I guess it is okay for Turkel to invoke the opinion of "One" when
doing so "solves" a Bible problem. Secondly, the claim that Saul named
his son Ishbosheth is dubious. The Anchor Bible Dictionary, volume 3,
page 509, heading "Ish-bosheth," says the following: "An
alternative, perhaps artificially created name for Saul's youngest son
by Ahinoam bat Ahimaaz, Eshbaal. The present form is found consistently
in the MT text of 2 Samuel and is reflected in LXX's Iebosthe...while
the form Eshbaal is found exclusively in both textual traditions of the
Saulide genealogy quoted in 1 Chr 8:33 (LXX Asabal); 9:39 (LXX Isbaal).
It is generally thought that the form of the name in Chronicles with
ba'al 'master, possessor' is authentic, and that the term boset,
'shame,' was later substituted for the former divine epithet ba'al when
it became commonly associated with the fertility god Baal... 'Baal'
appears to have been an accepted epithet for Yahweh until the early
Monarchic period, but after this time, it seems to have become
restricted to use for Yahweh's main rival, the Canaanite storm God."
The Harper Collins Study Bible has this note regarding 1 Chronicles
8:33: "Esh-baal. The form of this name (with the Northwest Semitic
divine name 'Baal,' familiar with the Canaanite deity of this name, cf.
vv30, 34) indicates the antiquity of this genealogy. The same person
elsewhere is called Ishvi (1 Samuel 14.49) and Ish-bosheth (2 Samuel
Heck, even the conservative The NIV Study Bible doesn't back Turkel.
Here is its note on 2 Samuel 2:8: "Ish-Bosheth. The name was originally
Ish-(or Esh-) Baal (1 Ch 8:33) but was changed by the author of Samuel
to Ish-Bosheth, meaning 'man of the shameful thing....' Evidently
Baal (meaning 'lord' or 'master') was at this time still used to refer
to the Lord. Later this was discontinued because of confusion with the
Canaanite god Baal, and the author of Samuel reflects the later
So Turkel's, er, "One's" premise is flawed and so, then, is the
"solution." There is no evidence that Saul had an affair that
resulted in Ishbosheth's birth. In fact, Ishbosheth is called Saul's
son and was even appointed King.
2 Samuel 2:10 Ishbaal, Saul's son, was forty years old when he
began to reign over Israel, and he reigned two years.
The Chronicler would have a good reason for saying that the whole house
of Saul died, since the Chronicler never mentions that
Ishbaal/Ishbosheth ever became king. 2 Samuel, however, mentions the
house of Saul in the following verses, all after the death of Saul:
2 Samuel 3:1 There was a long war between the house of Saul and
the house of David; David grew stronger and stronger, while the
house of Saul became weaker and weaker.
2 Samuel 3:6 While there was war between the house of Saul and
the house of David, Abner was making himself strong in the house
2 Samuel 3:9 So may God do to Abner and so may he add to it! For just
what Yahweh has sworn to David, that will I accomplish for him,
10 to transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul, and set up the
throne of David....
Apparently, one's "house" even extended to descendants, not just sons,
for 2 Samuel relates the story of how David sought out one of the house
of Saul and discovered that Jonathan's son, Mephibosheth, was still
alive (2 Samuel 9:1-12).
I guess that Turkel values "One's" opinion more than that of the author
of 2 Samuel.
John Kesler published the article above as a post to the II_Errancy list, and I asked him to
let me put it on this website, because I thought that he had done an
excellent job of exposing the speculative extremes to which biblical
inerrantists will go to keep from admitting that there are
discrepancies in the Bible.
Is there any real evidence that Ishbosheth was Saul's illegitimate son
and therefore not worthy to be considered a part of the "house of
Saul"? No, there isn't, but there are good reasons to think that
the writer(s) of the books of Samuel, as well as the chronicle writer,
considered him a legitimate son of Saul.
First, let's notice that at least some biblical writers did not think
that the children of adulterous relationships should be excluded from
the family of the father. The most obvious example would be the
twin sons who were born to Judah's adulterous relationship with Tamar
in Genesis 38:12-30. Although they were born out of wedlock,
Perez and Zerah were listed in the genealogies of Judah
thereafter. They were included in the list of Judah's sons who
went into Egypt with Jacob's family in Genesis 46:12. Judah's
genealogy in Numbers 26:19ff included both Perez and Zerah and their
sons, and verse 20 listed both the Perezites and Zerahites as
"families" of the tribe of Judah. Nahshon, a direct descendant of
Perez, served as the tribal representative of Judah all through the
wilderness wanderings (Num. 1:7). In fact, David and Jesus both,
according to biblical genealogies, were direct descendants of Perez
(Ruth 4:18; Matt. 1:3ff), so if the circumstances of Perez's birth kept
him from being of the "house of Judah," David and Jesus could not have
been members of the house of Judah, yet 2 Samuel 2:4 says that
the men of Judah anointed David "king over the house of Judah."
Would they have anointed someone king over the house of Judah whom they
did not consider to be a member of that house? The writer of Hebrews
said of Jesus that it was evident that "our Lord has sprung out of
Judah" (Heb. 7:14).
The genealogies in 1 Chronicles listed illegitimate offspring.
1 Chronicles 2:48 Maachah, Caleb's concubine, bore Sheber and Tirhanah.
49She also bore Shaaph the father of Madmannah, Sheva the father of
Machbenah and the father of Gibea. And the daughter of Caleb was Achsah.
1 Chronicles 7:14 The descendants of Manasseh: his Syrian
concubine bore him Machir the father of Gilead, the father of Asriel.
15Machir took as his wife the sister of Huppim and Shuppim, whose name
was Maachah. The name of Gilead's grandson was Zelophehad, but
Zelophehad begot only daughters.
This last entry is particularly interesting because of the prominence
that the biblical record gave to Machir and Gilead. Machir was
called "the son of Manasseh" in Genesis 50:23, who was specifically
mentioned as an offspring of Manasseh whom Joseph held on his knees
before his death. Joseph evidently didn't consider this
great-grandchild, who had been born to a concubine, to be of shameful
birth. In fact, Machir became the eponymous ancestor of an
Israelite family known as the Machirites (Num. 26:29). Why would
this name have been given to an Israelite family descended from
Machir if he were not considered a member of the house of Manasseh
because of his illegitimate birth?
Machir's son was Gilead, whose prominence in Israelite history
especially stands out. He became not just the eponymous ancestor
of a family known as Gileadites (Num. 26:29-30), but an entire
territory or region was named after him (Num. 32:1). Why would
such honor have been given to one who was considered to be of shameful
I could cite other examples, but these are sufficient to show that
Turkel is again pulling an "explanation" out of thin air. How
many times have you read where Turkel has said something like, "If X
[let X be whatever skeptic Turkel was 'replying to'] just knew more
about the Hebrew mind and culture, he would understand that there is no
inconsistency in this text"? He never seems to tire of saying
this, and then he will show his incredible ignorance of Hebrew culture
by claiming, contrary to biblical information--which he is
admittedly deficient in--that an illegitimate son was not considered a
part of his father's "house."
Now let's notice the biblical evidence that indicates that Ishbosheth
was not an illegitimate son of Saul. First of all, the
genealogies of Saul listed Ishbosheth as one of his sons.
1 Chronicles 8:33 Ner begot Kish, Kish begot Saul, and Saul begot
Jonathan, Malchishua, Abinadab, and Esh-Baal. 34The son of Jonathan was
Merib-Baal, and Merib-Baal begot Micah.
As Kesler noted above, Esh-baal was an earlier name for Ishbosheth, and
I don't think that even Turkel will make a fool of himself by trying to
deny that. Keep an eye on Merib-Baal, the son of Jonathan and
Saul's grandson, because I will be getting back to him shortly.
1 Chronicles 9:39 Ner begot Kish, Kish begot Saul, and Saul begot
Jonathan, Malchishua, Abinadab, and Esh-Baal. 40The son of Jonathan was
Merib-Baal, and Merib-Baal begot Micah.
This genealogy is a duplicate of the other, but I quoted it so that
readers could see that Ishbosheth was listed twice by his earlier name
in two separate genealogies of Saul. Now Turkel may try to claim
that the genealogies that I quoted above show that the sons of
concubines were sometimes listed in genealogies, so it could still be
true that even though Ishbosheth was listed in Saul's genealogies, he
was illegitimate. Notice, however, that in the genealogies quoted
above the writers specifically pointed out the sons of Judah, Manasseh,
and Caleb whose mothers had been concubines. No genealogy ever
identified Ishbosheth as the son of Saul's concubine.
This implies that Ishbosheth had been born to Saul's wife, and that
conclusion is supported by texts that mention that Saul had a concubine
named Rizpah, whose sons by Saul were named but did not include
Ishbosheth. But first, let's establish that Saul did have a concubine
named Rizpah. This was established in a passage that tells of an
apparent attempt by Abner to take Rizpah as his own concubine after
Saul had been killed and Ishbosheth had been made king over Israel (as
Kesler pointed out above)
2 Samuel 3:6 Now it was so, while there was war between the house of
Saul and the house of David, that Abner was strengthening his hold on
the house of Saul. 7And Saul had a concubine, whose name was Rizpah,
the daughter of Aiah. So Ishbosheth said to Abner, "Why have you gone
in to my father's concubine?" 8Then Abner became very angry at the
words of Ishbosheth, and said, "Am I a dog's head that belongs to
Judah? Today I show loyalty to the house of Saul your father, to his
brothers, and to his friends, and have not delivered you into the hand
of David; and you charge me today with a fault concerning this woman?
Let's notice that Ishbosheth did not say, "Why have you gone into my
mother?" He asked instead why Abner had gone into his "father's
concubine." This would indicate that if Ishbosheth had been
illegitimately born, Rizpah was not his mother. Furthermore, the
passage above mentions war between the house of Saul and the house of
David, but at this time Saul and his sons mentioned in 1 Chronicles
10:6 were dead, so if their deaths had ended the house of Saul, how
could there have afterwards been war between the house of Saul and the
house of David?
The listing of Rizpah's sons by Saul is found in the context of the
Gibeonite demand that vengeance be taken on Saul's "house" for his
slaughter of Gibeonites during his reign.
2 Samuel 21:8 But the king spared Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, the
son of Saul, because of Yahweh's oath that was between them, between
David and Jonathan the son of Saul. 8So the king took Armoni and
Mephibosheth, the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she
bore to Saul, and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom
she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite; 9and he
delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them
on the hill before Yahweh. So they fell, all seven together, and were
put to death in the days of harvest, in the first days, in the
beginning of barley harvest.
Saul did have illegitimate sons, and they are listed in the biblical
text. The fact that Ishbosheth was never listed as the offspring
of any such relationship but was twice included in listings of Saul's
sons is a very strong implication that Ishbosheth was just as
legitimate as Jonathan, Malchishua, and Abinadab, who were listed as
Saul's sons in the genealogies quoted above.
One additional point needs to be made about the listing of Rizpah's
sons above. One of them was named Mephibosheth, which has the
same "bosheth" ending as Ishbosheth's name. This Hebrew word did
denote shame, and "Mephibosheth" meant "scatterer of shame." Because of
this, "One"--whoever he is--might argue that this is an
implication that the shame of illegitimacy was suggested by the
names of two of Saul's sons, i. e., Ishbosheth and Mephibosheth, but
there are problems in that assumption: (1) It assumes that illegitimacy
would be the only reason why someone would have been given a name that
had the word "shame" incorporated in it. (2) Saul's first son by Rizpah
was named Armoni, which comes from the Hebrew word 'armown, which meant
an elevated citadel or palace. Hence, the name Armoni meant
"palatial." Why would a first illegitimate son be given a name
denoting elevation or honor but the second one a name denoting
shame? (3) The text quoted above shows that Saul had a
grandson, through Jonathan, who was also named Mephibosheth [scatterer
of shame]. Is this supposed to mean that that Jonathan's son
Mephibosheth was also illegitimate?
That last question is easy to answer, because the reason for the name
given to Jonathan's son Mephibosheth is implied in 2 Samuel 4.
2 Samuel 4:4 Jonathan, Saul's son, had a son who was lame in his feet.
He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from
Jezreel; and his nurse took him up and fled. And it happened, as she
made haste to flee, that he fell and became lame. His name was
As we noticed in the genealogies above, Mephibosheth was listed as
"Merib-Baal," which meant "Baal is advocate." This was probably
his first name, which was later changed to Mephibosheth. The text
quoted above gives a likely reason for the name change. He was
crippled in an accident, so he was given another name with "shame"
attached to it. That physical handicaps were considered shameful
in biblical times can be confirmed by reading Leviticus 21:16ff, where
rigid ceremonial restrictions were placed on the physically
handicapped. No handicapped person could come near to the altar
or the "veil" of the tabernacle. The reason? "Because he has a
blemish" (v:23). With this kind of attitude toward physical
handicaps in those days, it isn't hard to understand why a crippled
child would have been given a name that denoted shame.
Besides all this, the text quoted above explains that Jonathan's
Mephibosheth was crippled when news about the deaths of Saul and
Jonathan reached Mephibosheth's nurse. A grandson would have been
considered a part of one's "house," so the fact that Mephibosheth
survived the deaths of Saul and Jonathan and was still alive when
Saul's other grandchildren were hanged in 2 Samuel 21 is clear proof
that all the house of Saul was not killed at one time.
When all biblical information on this subject of Saul's "house" is
evaluated, one [not Turkel's "One"] can see that there is no basis at
all for Turkel's/One's claim that Ishbosheth was an illegitimate
son. It is an entirely speculative "explanation" of the problem
posed by 1 Chronicles 10:6, which says that all of Saul's house "died
together." If Turkel would invest some time in becoming familiar
with the Hebrew mind and culture, maybe he wouldn't make mistakes like
assuming that an illegitimate birth kept a male offspring from being
considered his father's son.