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Biblical Archaeology Review 47:3, Fall 2021

Epistles: How Many?

Biblical Archaeology Review

How many wives did King David have?

Answer: Eight

According to the genealogical list of David’s male offspring, in 1 Chronicles 3:1-9, the biblical king had seven wives: Ahinoam the Jezreelite, Abigail the Carmelite, Maacah (daughter of King Talmai of Geshur), Haggith, Abital, Eglah, and Bathsheba (daughter of Ammiel).

Limited polygamy was permitted in ancient Israel, and marriage agreements were business or political transactions rather than love matches. Because ancient Israel was a patrilineal society, and the primary purpose of any marriage was to produce a male heir, it is possible that King David had other wives who did not bear him a son and who are thus unaccounted—Tamar was hardly the only daughter beside David’s 19 sons. The case in point may be Saul’s younger daughter and David’s first wife, Michal, who is missing from the above list and who, according to 2 Samuel 6:23, bore David no children.

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