Some argue that the Bible is contradictory concerning who killed Goliath. The argument is that 1 Samuel 17:50 says that David killed Goliath, yet 2 Samuel 21:19 says that Elhanan killed Goliath. However, there is a reasonable explanation that resolves this alleged contradiction in the Bible.
Scriptures – Who Killed Goliath?
1 Samuel 17:50 – David Killed Goliath
So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David.1 Samuel 17:50
2 Samuel 21:19
And there was again war with the Philistines at Gob, and Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim, the Bethlehemite, struck down Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.2 Samuel 21:19
The Answer – Who Killed Goliath,
1 Chronicles 20:5 Says Elhanan Killed Goliath’s Brother
1 Chronicles 20:5 says that Elhanan killed Goliath’s brother:
And there was again war with the Philistines, and Elhanan the son of Jair struck down Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.1 Chronicles 20:5
There Was Likely a Copyist Error in 2 Samuel 21:19
Gleason Archer suggests this concerning 2 Samuel 21:19 containing a copyist error:
1. The sign of the direct object, which in Chronicles comes just before “Lahmi,” was ‘-t; the copyist mistook it for b-t or b-y-t (“Beth”) and thus got Bet hal-Lahmi (“the Bethlehemite”) out of it.2. He misread the word for “brother” (‘-h) as the sign of the direct object (‘-t) right before g-l-y-t (“Goliath”). Thus he made “Goliath” the object of “killed” (wayyak), instead of the “brother” of Goliath (as the Chronicles passage does).3. The copyist misplaced the word for “weavers” (‘-r-g-ym) so as to put it right after “Elhanan” as his patronymic (ben Y-‘-r-y’-r–g-ym, or ben ya ‘arey ‘ore -gim — “the son of the forests of weavers” — a most unlikely name for anyone’s father!). In Chronicles the ‘ore grim (“weavers”) comes right after menor (“a beam of “) — thus making perfectly good sense.Archer, Gleason. ”Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties”, 179.
So, the solution to this alleged contradiction is that 1 Chronicles 20:5 preserves what the original text says, while 2 Samuel 21:19 contains a copyist error.
Foundational Principles Regarding Bible Difficulties
There are some foundational principles that apply to all alleged and apparent contradictions in the Bible. To read more, see Bible Difficulties: Foundational Principles.
More Answers to “Contradictions” in the Bible
To read more answers to alleged and apparent contradictions in the Bible, see “Contradictions” in the Bible Answered.
These books are also excellent resources: