by Martin A. Shue
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.
As a child growing up I attended Sunday school as did many of you I am sure. I have many fond memories of my days in Sunday school. It is there were I learned many of the great Bible stories. It seemed that each Sunday we learned of some great "man of God" along with the great exploit that he did. Each Sunday it was pointed out that these men did not do these great fetes on their own but were enabled to do these things by the hand of God. I can still remember the great stories we learned: how Noah built an ark and survived the flood, how Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt with awful plagues, how Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, how Samson used his great strength to defeat his enemies, how Elijah and Elisha performed great miracles, how Jonah was swallowed up by a whale, how little David killed the giant Goliath, etc. As a child I would listen intently to these great Bible stories while wondering all the time if I would be able to do some of the same things. I guess if I had to pick which story was my favorite it would probably be the story of David and Goliath. I have always been amazed that a young shepherd boy could take on such a skilled warrior as Goliath and actually defeat him. I guess I could relate to young David being a young boy myself. I am sure that you have heard this story many, many times throughout your life. Why it is so widely known that many in the secular world use it as well. Often in sporting events when one team is highly favored over the other it is said to be a "David and Goliath" matchup. Often times with the team representing "David" winning the game. However, many times the game goes as expected with the "Goliath" team beating the "David" team. Now we know that this didn't really happen in true life. We know that David defeated Goliath by cutting off his head, right? To this I am sure that you would agree. This brings me to the point of this essay. It wasn't until recently that I ran across something that startled me. That is what I want to discuss in this short essay. I want us to look at II Sam. 21:19 to see if we can find out who killed Goliath.
You are probably wondering what in the world I am talking about. Well, as I have learned there is some controversy concerning who killed Goliath according to some modern Bible versions. I believe you will agree that it is important that the Bible we use be accurate. We cannot have a Bible that is riddled with error. If that would be the case who is to say what is error and what is accurate. You can see the problem that would pose to the Christian as well as the non-Christian. We must be sure that the Bible we call God's word be free from error. As you are aware the story detailing David's victory over Goliath is found in I Sam. 17. Here we see a wonderful picture of how God used a young shepherd boy not only to defeat Goliath but to defeat the whole Philistine army. In every version of the Bible we can find this story in I Sam. 17. All proclaiming that David was the victor over Goliath. The problem arises when we look at II Sam. 21:19. Here we are given a list of some of the great exploits of David and his mighty men. For this essay let's look at how II Sam. 21:19 is rendered in 3 of the most popular translations.
New American Standard Version (NASV)- And there was war with the Philistines again at Gob, and Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver's beam.
New International Version (NIV)- 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.
King James Version (KJV)- 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.
Notice carefully that both the NASV and the NIV say that "Elhanan son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite". Now isn't that rather interesting! This is in direct contradiction to what we find in I Sam. 17. All these years you were led to believe that David killed Goliath. Are you and all your Sunday school teachers wrong or is there a problem with these "new" Bible versions? As you have noticed the KJV renders this verse quite different than the NASV and the NIV. It says that "Elhanan the son of Jaareoregim, a Bethlehemite, slew the brother of Goliath the Gittite" (emphasis mine) Now we have a much clearer picture of what really happened. It was the brother of Goliath that Elhanan killed and not Goliath. Once again the "new" versions are found to be in error while the KJV retains the correct reading. Again proving the KJV to be God's preserved word.
Some may object by saying that this wasn't the same Goliath that David killed. Perhaps there were two Goliath's. After all it is common for there to be more than one person with the same name. But is this the case in this verse? Is this a different Goliath? Let's take a look and see if we can determine just who this Goliath was. One of the most common objections is that in II Sam. 21:19 it says that Elhanan killed Goliath the Gittite. Many will point to the fact that David killed "Goliath of Gath". So what about this! Does this mean that it was two different men from two different places? Well, a simple look at another scripture will clear this up. Let's look at II Sam. 15:18 "All his men marched past him, along with all the Kerethites and Pelethites; and all the six hundred Gittites who had accompanied him from Gath marched before the king." (NIV) Here we see plainly that these six hundred men from Gath where called Gittites. So from this we can see that Goliath of Gath can also be called Goliath the Gittite. Now that that is cleared up let's see what else we can learn about this man from II Sam. 21:19. The NASV says that "the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver's beam" and the NIV says "who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver's rod." Here is further explanation of who they are talking about. Again let's take a look and see if we can determine if they are talking about a different Goliath. Back in I Sam. 17:7 the NASV describes Goliath by saying "And the shaft of his spear was like a weaver's beam". Funny isn't it that this is the exact same description given of the Goliath that Elhanan was supposed to have killed. The NIV says in I Sam. 17:7 "His spear shaft was like a weaver's rod," . Again we are given the exact same description in both places. One would have to conclude that the Goliath being talked about in both places is indeed the same man.
It is of utmost importance that we as Christians know that the Bible we are holding is accurate and inerrant in every way. It is the foundation that we base our whole life on. Psalms 11:3 says "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" In this brief essay I have shown you how that the NASV and the NIV have shaky foundations. I have shown you where they literally contain an error in II Sam. 21:19. I have also shown you that the KJV contains the correct reading. Now I ask you, "Can you put your whole trust in these "new" versions?" If a man is not confident in the words of his Bible, he does not have an infallible authority for his life.