Contradictions – Who Killed Goliath?

1 Samuel 17:19-50 indicates that David killed Goliath.  Yet 2 Samuel 21:18-19 indicates that Elhanan did the deed.  Is this a Biblical contradiction?

No, and there are two separate reasons why.

Most of the explanations I came across have to do with what is likely a scribal error in copying the text in 2 Samuel 21.  They draw in 1 Chronicles 20:5, and argue that based on this passage, it is easy to see how a scribe mis-copied the Hebrew by misreading two Hebrew characters, so that the brother of Goliath becomes Goliath.  I track with and generally agree that this is an accurate explanation – a scribe copied the text incorrectly.

But all of that is also assuming that there is only one Goliath.  I think this is the bigger problem that apologists skip over when addressing the alleged contradiction.

If you read the two accounts in 1 Samuel 17 and 2 Samuel, it seems very clear that these are two separate events.  1 Samuel occurs when David is yet a shepherd boy, the youngest brother sent by his father to check on his brothers at war.  2 Samuel is well after David has become king.  So why would we assume that there is only one large man named Goliath?  Is it unreasonable to conclude that there could be more than one Goliath?  That both were very large men?  In 2005 archaeologists uncovered an engraving from this time period and area with the word Goliath.  That could mean that Goliath was a common name.  And it could be that Goliath might be a term or name given to particularly large guys in this area, at this time, sort of the equivalent of our calling a large, intimidating guy Tiny.

In other words, it is not impossible that there were two Goliaths, both of them very large and strong.  Trying to defend the idea of a singular Goliath may be useful, but I’m not sure it’s necessary.  Either way, there isn’t necessarily a contradiction here.



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