Responses to Bismikaallahuma

Who Killed Goliath?

In this article Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi wants us to consider the following verses as a contradiction in the Bible:

In 1 Samuel 17: 51, we are told that David slewed the Philistine champion Goliath:

Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled.

Yet in 2 Samuel 21:19, we read that Elhanan was the person who slewed Goliath:

And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaareoregim, a Bethlehemite, slew Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear [was] like a weaver's beam.

In the most recent versions of the Bible, we find that this contradiction has been harmonised by the translators by putting the words "the brother of" in brackets right before Goliath's name in 2 Samuel 21:19. However, this obvious tamperation of the text is unacceptable because nowhere do we find these very words in the original Hebrew of 2 Samuel 21:19.


Menj can only reproduce contradictions that have been thoroughly addressed time and time again. Most of these contradictions have already been responded to and can be found on our site and others as well.

At times we will be responding to these contradictions directly. The following response is taken from Dr. Gleason L. Archer:

First Samuel 17:50 states that David cut off Goliath's head with the giant's own sword, after he had first felled him with a sling and a stone. Because of this amazing victory over the Philistine, David became the foremost battle-champion among the Israelite troops, even though he was still a mere teenager. But 2 Samuel 21:19 in the Hebrew Masoretic text states that "Elhanan the son of Yaare-oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver's beam." As this verse stands in the Masoretic text, it certainly contradicts 1 Samuel 17. But fortunately we have a parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 20:5, which words the episode this way: "And Elhanan the son of Jair slew Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite." It is quite apparent that this was the true reading, not only for the Chronicles passage but also for 2 Samuel 21:19.

The earlier manuscript from which the copyist was reading must have been blurred or damaged at this particular verse, and hence he made two or three mistakes. What apparently happened was the following:

1. The sign of the direct object, which at Chronicles comes just before "Lahmi," was '-t; the copyist mistook it for b-t or b-y-t ("Beth") and thus got Bet hal-Lahmi ("the Bethlehemite) out of it.

2. He misread the word for "brother" ('-h) as the sign of the direct object ('t) right before g-l-y-t ("Goliath"). Thus he made "Goliath" the object of "killed" (wayyak), instead of the "brother" of Goliath (as the Chron. passage does).

3. The copyist misplaced the word for "weavers" ('-r-g-ym) so as to put it right after "Elhanan" as his patronymic (ben Y-'r-y'-r--g-ym, or ben ya'arey 'or'e-gim - "the son of the forest of the weavers" - a most unlikely name for anyone's father!). In Chronicles the 'oregim ("weavers") comes right after ("a beam of") - thus making perfectly good sense.

In other words, the 2 Samuel 21 passage is a perfectly traceable corruption of the original wording, which fortunately has been correctly preserved in 1 Chronicles 20:5. (Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties [Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI, 1982], pp. 178-179; bold emphasis ours)

Furthermore, the fact that scribes carefully transmitted the error found in 2 Samuel 21:19 is a testimony to their honesty in trying to accurately transmit the text, regardless of how difficult the reading may have been.

Sam Shamoun

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