Who Really Killed Goliath?
Question: First Samuel 17 says that David killed Goliath, but 2 Samuel:21:19 says that Elhanan killed Goliath (if we eliminate the italics, which weren’t in the original text). It does say Elhanan killed “the brother of Goliath,” but the words in italics were obviously added later to avoid the contradiction. That bothers me. I read a statement by a certain bishop who said that inserting “the brother of ” in italics was a dishonest cover-up and proved that the Bible has been doctored up not only here but elsewhere as well. How do you respond to this charge?
Response: First of all, we can quickly dismiss the charge of dishonest doctoring of the Bible. Would someone who was trying to change the meaning of a passage put his amendment in italics? That would be like a counterfeiter writing across the face of each of his phony bills, “This is a counterfeit.” In fact, the italics are added by the translators to provide what is implicit but not expressed.
It often seems that a word or words were left out because of the lack of exact word equivalents between languages. In this case, however, it was necessary for the translators to insert “the brother of” for a number of reasons. First of all, because that was the only thing that made sense. Obviously this was not Goliath. To imagine that the original manuscript said it was Goliath is to accuse whoever wrote First and Second Samuel of having an unbelievably bad memory. After all, the author, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, had already recorded some 34 chapters earlier that David had killed Goliath 45 years before this incident. One can only say to the skeptics at this point, “Me thinkest thou protesteth too loudly!”
One is sorely tempted to lose patience with the critics who have been dragging out this alleged contradiction in the Bible for at least 200 years. How can they search every page of the Bible so diligently as to come up with numerous apparent discrepancies and at the same time overlook the fact that 1 Chronicles:20:5 records the same incident and states, without italics, that the giant Elhanan killed was “the brother of Goliath”? Moreover, there we are given the name of this giant. His name was not Goliath, but Lahmi.
That Lahmi was Goliath’s brother is not nearly as interesting as the fact that we learn from this passage that he was only one of four brothers of Goliath. So there were five of these fearsome Philistines living in Gath at the time David killed Goliath! One understands, then, why it was that when he went out to dispatch Goliath, David carefully chose exactly five smooth stones for his sling from the brook to take with him (1 Samuel:17:40)! That fact also gives us further insight into the incredible accuracy that David had with a sling—he only needed one stone for each giant.
—An excerpt from In Defense of the Faith (pp. 146-48) by Dave Hunt