Who killed Goliath? Is there any doubt? Some say, yes, because of a verse in 2 Samuel that seems to contradict 1 Samuel 17 that says David killed Goliath. In the Hebrew text (Jewish Publication Society translation), the killing of Goliath is attributed to Elhanan:
2 Sam 21:15 And the Philistines had war again with Israel; and David went down, and his servants with him, and fought against the Philistines; and David waxed faint. 2 Sam 21:19 And there was again war with the Philistines at Gob; and Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite slew Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.
A Contradiction About Who Killed Goliath?
The Hebrew text (Jewish Publication Society translation) also says:
1 Sam 17:4, 23-24 And there went out a champion from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. . . And as he [David] talked with them [his brethren], behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke according to the same words; and David heard them. And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid.
1 Sam 17:49-51 And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slung it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead; and the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell upon his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David. And David ran, and stood over 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 that their mighty man was dead, they fled.
Clearly, the Bible tells us that David killed Goliath. But what about the verse in 2 Samuel?
Let’s first remember that as Christians, we believe the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God (That’s the “I” in IVDARR. Read: What is IVDAR? Or IVDARR?). Since the Bible is inerrant, whenever we find something that appears to be a contradiction, we must dig deeper to find an answer. Let’s look at possible explanations for 2 Samuel 21:19 by beginning with what we know for certain.
- We know that in 1 Samuel 17 the Bible tells us that David killed Goliath.
- In 2 Samuel 21:19 and 1 Chronicles 20:5 we read of another war with the Philistines.
- The Bible names Elhanen, in 2 Samuel 21:19, as one who fought the Philistines and killed Goliath.
This raises the questions: If Goliath was already dead, how could Elhanan have killed him? Or is the Bible wrong? (God forbid!)
Most scholars believe that it was the brother of Goliath who was killed by Elhanan. They base their belief on this verse that names Elhanan and the man he killed, and also tells that he was the brother of Goliath:
1 Chronicles 20:5 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.
Clarification in Some Translations
Bible translations based on the manuscripts that originated around Atioch, Syria (the KJV and NKJV only), have added the words “the brother of” to 2 Samuel 21:19. You might be thinking it is wrong to add words that weren’t there in the Hebrew manuscripts, but note that the words are italicized to indicate they have been added. Insertion of words in italics is also done for readability. In this case, some Bibles added words for clarity. Both the KJV and NKJV read:
2 Samuel 21:19 And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaareoregim, a Bethlehemite, slew the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. [underlining mine; Italics found in KJV and NKJV translations. Some Bibles will also have the added words in a lighter font.)
In recent years, as this explanation has been more widely accepted, some of the Bibles that are translated from the Alexandrian line of manuscripts (those that originated around Alexandria, Egypt) have also added “the brother of” — however, most do not contain the addition. Again, translators support the inclusion of these words with the verse in 1 Chronicles that tells of Elhanan and provides the additional information (1 Chron 20:5, above).
While “the brother of” is the most widely accepted explanation, there are two other explanations that have been suggested for “who killed Goliath?”
- The Jewish Targum suggests that Elhanan, which means “God is gracious,” is another name for David, and, Jair refers to Jesse. This explanation suggests that Elhanan was David’s original name and the name of David was given to him when he became king.
- Others suggest that “Goliath” could be a title and not a name. In this case, it’s supposed that there could have been two fighters from Gath named Goliath.
Of the three possible explanations, the last one is most unlikely. The explanation suggested by the Jewish Targum might sound good, but it is also without merit since there is no support for David ever having been called anything other than David. Plus, Jair being a reference to David’s father Jesse is simply conjecture. Furthermore, 2 Samuel 21:19 says Goliath was slain in the valley of Gob, and we know for certain David fought Goliath in the Valley of Elah.
Again, the most widely accepted explanation is that Elhanan killed the brother of Goliath and that 1 Chronicles 20:5 supports this reasoning by providing additional information. This is similarly seen in the New Testament when one gospel account will provide additional detail that is not found in another. Therefore, we accept that the words “the brother of” were correctly added for clarification and to settle what seems to be a contradiction about who killed Goliath? Answer: David killed Goliath, just as we are told in 1 Samuel 17:49-51.
Be a Berean
Search the Bible, like the Bereans (Acts 17:11), and find answers and reasoning for difficult questions. Always remember, as Christians we are not expected to fully understand everything in the Bible…but we are expected to believe God. Because we know that we have an inspired and inerrant Bible — preserved, as promised, by God– we can believe those things which don’t fully understand. Seek the Lord as you read and study His word and believe and trust that He will reveal all truth to you.
Psalm 119:18 Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.
James 1:5-6 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting…
1 John 2:27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.
Jesus is the Reason this Ministry Exists
We continue to reach people worldwide with the truths of God's Word and the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Your generosity is both a blessing and encouragement. Our mission is to glorify God by equipping, encouraging, and empowering YOU to understand the Bible and grow in faith. If our online resources have blessed you, please support Reasons for Hope* Jesus. Our ministry outreach has grown significantly and . . .
Please support Reasons for Hope* Jesus with a donation of $5, $10, $20, or more. A donation of any amount is needed and greatly appreciated.
CLICK TO DONATE
to Reasons for Hope*Jesus(a 501c3 Ministry)
Use a Credit Card or PayPal for safe, secure giving.
***A Hidden Message in Psalm 23?***
Hidden in the six verses of Psalm 23 are 11 names for Jesus. When you subscribe to our newsletter, we’ll send you The Names of God in Psalm 23 PDF that reveals all 11 names and Scripture verses of comfort and hope (link will be sent in your confirmation email).
A Room with a View of Eternity—The Last Will & Testament of Jesus Christ Take a seat at the Master's table. Learn about the riches He gives to all who are His. This book will bless and encourage you, give you hope, and help you live in the joy of your salvation and the riches of Christ that are yours.
The Top Ten Got Questions? in 2021
- The Meaning of NUMBERS in the Bible?
- The Meaning of COLORS in the Bible?
- How are the Shepherd’s ROD and STAFF Different?
- How long did JOB SUFFER?
- What is the Significance of the Wise Men's THREE GIFTS? And were they kings?
- Did The Wise Men Arrive 12 DAYS AFTER JESUS’ BIRTH? Or Was It Much Later?
- Which Old Testament Book Did JESUS QUOTE most often?
- How Did the Wise Men Know This Was the Messiah and KNOW TO FOLLOW HIS STAR?
- Did Jesus Fight Satan to Take Back the KEYS of Death and Hell?
- Was Jesus CRUCIFIED on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday?
More Popular Got Questions & Articles
- Is Leonard Cohen’s “HALLELUJAH” a Christian Song?
- How was Jesus Like a Worm? What’s the CRIMSON (OR SCARLET) WORM in Psalm 22?
- What do the 12 stones UNDER the JORDAN River mean? (Joshua 4)
- If BAPTIZED as an Infant, Do I Need to Be Re-Baptized?
- What are the NAMES of JEHOVAH Hidden in Psalm 23?
- How Many MIRACLES Did Jesus Do?
- Where did OT Saints go at death? ABRAHAM'S BOSOM?
- Is Satan’s Real Name LUCIFER?
- Was MARY a LEVITE Making Jesus both a Priest and King?
- What Does It Mean to TASTE & SEE That God Is Good? (Psalm 34)
- What are the “I Will ” STATEMENTS of Satan, God, and Jesus?
- Do ANGELS TAKE US TO HEAVEN When We Die?
- SIN, INIQUITY, TRANSGRESSION? How are they different?
- What Did Jesus Say About HEAVEN (and HELL)?
- Why Was a RAM SACRIFICED in Genesis 22 Instead of a Lamb?
TOP TEN Videos from Reasons for Hope* Jesus
- Memorial Day BAGPIPES TRIBUTE: Amazing Grace
- RISE AND SHINE and Give God the Glory, Glory!
- PAUL HARVEY: THE BIRDCAGE
- WERE YOU THERE When They Crucified My Lord?
- PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: A SOLDIER'S PLEDGE
- JOHN WAYNE ~ WHY I LOVE AMERICA
- Hark! the Herald Angels Sing -- CHARLIE BROWN Christmas
- THE LEGEND OF THE CANDY CANE - A Christmas Story to Share
- Erwin Lutzer - We Will Not Be SILENCED
- Jimmy Stewart - Nativity Scene Prayer: Mr. Krueger's Christmas