II Samuel 21:17, Who Killed Goliath?

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.

//Thus was the brother of Goliath slain. Or was he?

In the original Hebrew, it is Goliath himself who is slain by Elhanan! The words “the brother of” were added to the English translation of this verse to match I Chronicles 20:5, where it is Goliath’s brother, and not Goliath himself, who was slain. These words do not exist in the original version in Samuel. Here is the NIV version of the same verse:

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.

So, who killed Goliath? Was it David, or was it Elhanan, one of David’s elite men of war? Given that the writing of II Samuel precedes Chronicles by several centuries, the earliest tradition says Elhanan. Yet, somehow, the myth of David’s great victory grew, and today has become a beloved story of courage for underdogs everywhere.

There are actually several clues in the Bible that hint the oldest tradition (Elhanan) is the true slayer of Goliath, but I won’t go into them all here. Suffice it to say it’s a fascinating study.

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