A Question I Was Asked:

Did David or Elhanan Kill Goliath?

The Question:

Who really killed Goliath? It is David in 1 Samuel 17, but 2 Samuel 21:19 is ambiguous, maybe even saying that Elhanan killed him. Then there is a further reference to this in 1 Chronicles 20:5. Can you explain this?

UK Apologetics Reply:

David certainly killed Goliath (as 1 Samuel 17:50 makes clear). But let us look at 1 Chronicles 20:5:

In another battle with the Philistines, Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver's rod.

The brother of Goliath was Lahmi, it was he who was killed by Elhanan. The part which refers to Goliath there is "who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver's rod."

So those accounts present no problem, the problem occurs in some translations (but not all) of 2 Samuel 21:19. So let us look at that, first of all in the (correctly-rendered) NIV:

In another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jair the Bethlehemite killed the brother of Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver's rod.

There is no problem there whatsoever. The verse is also rendered correctly in the King James Version but incorrectly in the ASV, the Good News Bible, the 1599 Geneva Bible, the New American Standard Bible and several others. Here is another example of the incorrect rendition in which it is stated that Goliath (rather than his brother) was killed by Elhanan:

Then there was another battle with the Philistines at Gob; and Elhanan son of Jaare-oregim, the Bethlehemite, killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver's beam. (NRSV).

So that is incorrect. The problem occurs because the Hebrew is somewhat confusing in that verse and Goliath is certainly referred to, but it is his brother who was killed by Elhanan - not Goliath himself.

If the reader has access to them, several Bible commentaries explain the translative problems within 2 Samuel 21:19 very well. These include Barnes Notes on the Bible, Clarkes Bible Commentary, John Gill's Exposition of the Bible and the Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament.

So Goliath was indeed killed by David, but his brother, Lahmi, was later killed by Elhanan.

Robin A. Brace. June 6th, 2013.