15

In 2 Samuel 21, we are told that Goliath was killed by Elhanan:

19 In another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jaare-Oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod.   NIV1984

But previously Goliath was killed by David:

50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.  NIV1984

How is this possible - is this a contradiction in the Bible?

5
  • 4
    The KJV does a better job by inserting the text "the brother of". It's critical in Bible translation/exegesis to always look at the parallel passages in the Bible. Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 15:14
  • @LanceRoberts lesson learned my friend...
    – user364
    Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 15:16
  • @LanceRoberts interestingly this is one of the passages that differs between NIV1984 and NIV. I found the footnotes in the NIV, ESV and NASB interesting too. Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 15:34
  • 1
    Good work at pulling a great question out of yesterday's drafts. It seems like potential contradictions could be a rich vein to mine for questions in. Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 15:51
  • 1
    Please supply the chapter and version information in your citations.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 23:08

5 Answers 5

12

See: 1 Chronicles 21:25:

And there was war again with the Philistines; and Elhanan the son of Jair slew Lahmi, the brother of Goliath the Gittite, whose spear staff was like a weaver's beam.

Goliath in Samuel 21 is actually Goliath's brother.

It could be that the original audience of the Bible understood that the name Goliath could refer to both siblings or the text in Samuel may be slightly corrupted.

4
  • 2
    (1) Outside of pure speculation, what evidence is there that ancient readers understood one man's name could refer to his sibling without confusion? (2) What textual evidence indicates that 2 Sam 21.19 may be corrupted, and not that 1 Chr 21.25 is a deliberate change to harmonize a contradiction? This answer doesn't show it's work.
    – user2910
    Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 21:03
  • Amichai see my answer here.
    – bach
    Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 14:28
  • 1
    @user2910, "In another election, Bush won in 2002.— But wait, didn't Bush already win the election in 2000 for a term lasting until 2004? — Right, I'm taking about brother Jeb.". Commented Sep 12, 2021 at 13:06
  • +1 to @ray-butterworth Maybe Goliath was something like a lastname/surname Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 21:19
2

This is most likely a redactional error. As Amichai points out, in Chronicles 21:25 it is clearly Lahmi the brother of Goliath that is slain by Elhanan, not Goliath.

According to this revealing article, originally the verse in Samuel read exactly like the one in Chronicles. But then errors crept in the text and became defective; instead of את לחמי אחי גלית הגתי it read את לחמי את גלית הגתי. Instaed of אחי, "the brother", it became את "the". This of course presented a problem for a subsequent scribe as the verse wasn't readable, "And Elhanan son of Jaare-Oregim killed Lahmi, Goliath the Gittite." (The word Oregim was also in the wrong place, as it clearly belongs to the end of the verse כמנור ארגים. This was yet another error in redaction). Whom did he kill, Goliath or Lahmi? Besides, Lahmi never occurs anywhere else in the bible as a proper name (besides for the Lahmi that appears in Chronicles, of course, of which this particular scribe wasn't aware). In order to deal with this problem, the scribe edited the words את לחמי to בית הלחמי, “the Bethlehemite.” Now the verse would read better, “And Elhanan, son of Jaare-Oregim the Bethlehemite, killed Goliath the Gittite.”

This is clearly the best solution to resolve the apparent contradiction in the book of Samuel itself, plus it effectively explains the similarities between Samuel and Chronicles and the minor differences that exist between them.

3
  • I'll upvote if you change "actually" to "probably" or "most likely", because I don't think it's fair to convey very high certainty in your conjecture, even if it is a good one.
    – David
    Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 9:17
  • 1
    @David you are right, although I'm 99 percent convinced that this is a redactional error, it is still conjecture. I edited per your suggestion.
    – bach
    Commented Sep 12, 2021 at 1:39
  • Thank you! I agree with you! =)
    – David
    Commented Sep 12, 2021 at 11:43
1

This contradiction is addressed by many of the commentators on the verse in II Samuel.

Solomon Ben Isaac writes that Elhanan is in fact David. Thus both verses are stating that Goliath was killed by David. Though not adduced by Solomon as support for his contention, the Aramaic translation of Jonathan Ben Uziel renders Elhanan as David. (In his commentary to Chronicles, Solomon does quote Jonathan Ben Uziel, but there he adds another explanation that there were two different Goliaths.)

Joseph Kara states that Elhanan cannot be a reference to David, and since David killed Goliath, "Goliath" must be referring to someone other than Goliath who was killed by David. He supports this by noting that in Chronicles the verse states that Elhanan killed the brother of Goliath.

David Kimhi argues that the Hebrew word את, which is often dropped in translation, can also mean "with", so that the verse is actually saying that Elhanan killed someone with Goliath – and as per Chronicles that someone was Goliath's brother. He also notes that Jonathan Ben Uziel translates Elhanan as David, but says that he has no idea what that's about.

David Altshuler echoes Kimhi's translation of את as "with", as well as the reference to Chronicles where the person is described as Goliath's brother.

0

I know of a certainty that the giant mentioned in 2 Samuel 21:19 is not the same giant. The two events in 1 and 2 Samuel are completely different. David killed Goliath while Saul was king and David was king when the second giant was killed. Nobody ever seems to notice that. So it was Lahmi or anyone else for that matter who was killed in 2 Samuel. There were other giants killed as well during that time. So the two events in Samuel are separate events. The first was when Saul was king and the second was when David was king. So the only real question, if there needs to be one, is why was 2 Samuel written the way it was? I believe there is an answer if we search long and hard. In any case, 1 Chronicles clears everything up anyway.

1
  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Oct 3, 2023 at 23:32
0

What is clear is that since the "brother of" Goliath is in italics the phrase was added in the KJV. It's not a contradiction but is likely athe result of a copyist error. But there are other plausible explanations as well. It's possible that there was more than one giant in Gath named Goliath just as in Israel there were many common names among people in the same town. Another possible explanation is that rather than being the brother of Goliath he could have been the son of Goliath as the Jewish Bible states.

3
  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics! and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others. I also recommend going through the Help Center's sections on both asking and answering questions.
    – agarza
    Commented May 11 at 3:32
  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented May 11 at 3:32
  • Hey Dwight! Welcome to the Biblical Hermeneutics SE. Glad you are here. Please take a moment to take the site tour and check out what we are looking for in answers and the FAQs. This site can be tricky at first. We look for answers that show effort, research, and references. Consider an edit to add citations and reliable sources that support your answer.
    – Jason_
    Commented May 11 at 4:09