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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?

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    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. – Lance Roberts Jan 11 '12 at 15:14
  • @LanceRoberts lesson learned my friend... – user364 Jan 11 '12 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. – Jack Douglas Jan 11 '12 at 15:34
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    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. – Jon Ericson Jan 11 '12 at 15:51
  • Please supply the chapter and version information in your citations. – Ruminator Jul 3 '18 at 23:08
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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.

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    (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 Jul 3 '18 at 21:03
  • Amichai see my answer here. – Bach Jul 5 '18 at 14:28
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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.

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This is actually 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.

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This is a contradiction obviously. Brother of Goliath was inserted by KJV translators, brother is not present in older texts. KJV editors altered to "square" the discrepancy . How much else of this editing has gone on?

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  • These four were born to the giant in Gath II Samuel 21:22. This 'Goliath' was the first Goliath's son. Obviously. Welcome to BH. – Nigel J Jul 3 '18 at 20:53
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    Welcome to the BH site, Mary Gold. Your answer seems to be valuable. It was downvoted because this is not a forum or chat type site. Here we are looking for more elaborated answers, for answers that provide some explanation and context. Please do come back and explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations and references. Do have a look at some accepted answers to see how all the thing is going on down here and take a couple of minutes to take this tour to learn more about this site. – Constantin Jinga Jul 4 '18 at 6:26
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The study of Higher Criticism in Biblical Literature indicates four strands of histort. (J,E,D, and P). The J and E histories contain many double narratives because the early J history stories told by word of mouth are repeated by the Ephraimites and those stories by word of mouth dropped the Judah tribal names and replaced them with the tribal names of the Ephraimites. Think of the children's game of gossip where circled, each child whispers what the preceding child relayed in the ears of the next child. By the time the message has returned to the first child, it is not atall what was originally said. "Word of mouth" bible stories produced doubles narratives like this one: Example: "David killed Goliath, the Hittite, whose shew was like a weaver's beam" changes in 2nd Samuel 21:19 to: Elhanan killed Goliath. 1611, King James, not wanting to "change God's Word, added in italics: "the son of" Goliath. The RSV Bible removed it because it was not in the original Hebrew. My research this morning also indicated not "the son of" but "the brother of.) Scholars later added the D or Deuteronomic Code and P, The Priestly writings,thus making the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus Numbers and Deuteronomy. My biblical professor had a favorite message in all the 40 credit hrs of class time I had with him: "Those who know the Bible, and that's all they know, do not know the Bible." Then he would say: "The Bible is a record of the revelation of God, given to a particular people, as much as they are willing and able to receive." Jesus said (Apocrypha) "Why do you marvel at what I do, seek and find, and all these things will be given to you." Or to summarize both persons: "Research." Tom Edison did this 10,000 times lookingfor the correct filament for the electric lightbulb. He continued with 8001 because he knew the answer was already there! From the wheel to the Space Ship to the 4th dimension is tge revelation of God given to a particular people as much as they are willing to "seek and find" and receive. -Rev, Marvin Purser, 83 now, 6531 Johnson St. Hollywood, Fl.33024-7734. Ordained Disciples of Christ minister. My closet friends have always been Jews. lol!

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    This answer was so in-concise that I gave up trying to understand it. It would have helped had there been some paragraph breaks to alleviate the strain of attempting to decipher the answer. Please take the Tour and Help, see below. Welcome to BH. – Nigel J Sep 10 '20 at 11:30

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