1 Samuel 17:50—Why does this verse say David killed Goliath when 2 Samuel 21:19 says Elhanan killed Goliath?

Problem: In 1 Samuel 17:50–51, David is said to have cut off the head of Goliath after striking him with the stone from his sling. However, according to 2 Samuel 21:19, it was Elhanan the son of Jaare-Oregim that killed Goliath. Why does one passage claim that David killed Goliath when the other claims that Elhanan did?

Solution: The passage in 2 Samuel 21:19 which reads, “Elhanan the son of Jaare-Oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam” (the italicized words “the brother of” are not in the Hebrew text), is obviously a copyist error. This is substantiated by the fact that there is a parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 20:5 that reads, “and Elhanan the son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.” The corruption of the passage in 2 Samuel 21:19 is traceable to the confusion by a copyist of several letters and words which, when combined in a certain way, could yield the reading found in the 2 Samuel passage.

1 Samuel 17:54—How could Goliath’s head be carried to Jerusalem when it was held then by the Jebusites.

Problem: When David killed Goliath and cut his head off, the city of Jerusalem was still in the hands of the Jebusites. David did not conquer the city until much later (2 Sam. 5:6–9).

Solution: It does not say that Goliath’s head was taken immediately to Jerusalem. But David took his trophy there eventually when he made Jerusalem the place of his throne.

See All Problems

This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.