2 Samuel 21:19

Just Who Killed Goliath?

Everyone knows David killed Goliath, right? Then what's going on with this verse in some translations?:

2 Samuel 21:19 (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."

2 Samuel 21:19 (NASB) "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."

But here's how it appears in the KJV:

2 Samuel 21:19 (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."

This verse's "sister verse" is found in 1 Chronicles 20:5, where all versions say "the brother of Goliath". However, the issue is not so easily settled...

Here's the typical KJV-only argument against versions like the NIV and the NASB (taken from a sermon by Rev. Tom Weaver entitled "Are You Weeding A Garden or Fighting A Battle?". :

"Everyone knows that David killed Goliath, but not according to the NIV. They have added another bald face lie! Looking to II Samuel 21:19, they translate, "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." That is a lie! Let me remind you that God cannot lie. If the book has a lie in it then it is not God's book."

This verse and this line of reasoning appear quite often on KJV-only websites, in KJV-only sermons, and in KJV-only books. This "lie", coupled with the apparently shocking stupidity of modern translators, is how KJV-only supporters try to make people think the modern versions are ridiculous and pathetic. I mean, were the NIV translators really so inept that they didn't know the story of David and Goliath, and also didn't realize what 1 Chronicles 20:5 said even though they provided a cross-reference to it?

Of course not. It's not complicated to explain, so the line of reasoning used here by KJV-only folk like Rev. Tom Weaver is either uninformed or just plain deceptive. Reread his last sentence: "If the book has a lie in it then it is not God's book." Now look again at how it's worded in the KJV:

"slew the brother of Goliath"

Of great importance to this issue is the KJV's use of italics. The words "the brother of" are italicized here in the KJV because they do not appear, nor are implied, in the Hebrew from which this verse is translated. These words were added to the text of the KJV, most likely because the translators were matching up the account with the 1 Chron 20:5 passage and trying to eliminate a perceived contradiction. However, according to Rev. Tom Weaver's quote, then even the Hebrew from which the KJV was translated contains a lie and therefore cannot be God's word.

This is a serious problem, and raises some other very serious questions that don't bode well for KJV-onlyism:

1. Since the Hebrew is therefore lying as well, why was it used for generating the KJV?

2. Since the Hebrew appears this way, there must not have been any inerrant Scripture until the KJV came out in 1611. What then of inspired inerrant Scripture prior to the KJV?

3. Why are "corrections" to the KJV labeled as heresy while "corrections" to the Hebrew scripture that's been around much longer accepted as inspired scripture? Couldn't God get it right the first time?

However, if the Hebrew is the way God intended it to be, other serious questions arise that also don't bode well for KJV-onlyism:

1. Why are versions like the NIV and NASB, which accurately follow the Hebrew God inspired, criticized so strongly when in fact it's the KJV that has deviated from the Hebrew?

2. If the Hebrew is the way God intended it to be, how can the KJV be "inerrant and infallible" when versions like the NIV and NASB, have translated more accurately on even a single phrase? (ie. How can the KJV be "inerrant and infallible" when it deviates from the "inerrant and infallible" manuscripts it was translated from?)

Some Comic Relief

When shown a possible contradiction in the KJV, it is sometimes amazing to see the explanations that KJV-only supporters come up with to explain away a "contradiction". For example, I've read where a KJV-only supporter in all seriousness said that the reason the 3 temptations of Christ are in different orders in Matthew and Luke is because there were really 4 temptations (one was done twice), and each accout leaves out one of the duplicates! Thus, neither Gospel has the order wrong!:

Temptation #In Matthew?In Luke?
1. Bread into stonesYesYes
2. Worship SatanNoYes
3. Jump off templeYesYes
4. Worship Satan againYesNo

Just for fun, let's see if we can do the same. I'm not saying any of these are right, I'm just turning the tables a little (I realize some of these are ridiculous, but this is just for fun.):

1. The Goliath in 2 Sam 21:19 might not be the same one that David killed. (ie. there was more than one Goliath.)

2. Elhanan killed Goliath in the sense that by killing Goliath's brother, Elhanan was killing the last remaining relative of the famous villain, thus ending Goliath's lineage.

3. Maybe Goliath's brother was as big and as fearsome as Goliath, thus people considered him to be "the next Goliath".

4. Elhanan was another name that David was known by (and thus Jaare-Oregim was another name for his father, Jesse).

5. Elhanan struck Goliath at the exact same moment that David used his sling-shot, so they both get credit for killing Goliath.

6. (my personal favorite:) After being killed by David, Goliath was raised from the dead and later killed again by Elhanan.

OK, OK, I'll stop before it gets silly. Back to the serious stuff... :-)


When KJV-only supporters use 2 Samuel 21:19 to slam the NIV and NASB, they do so without realizing (or maybe some do, but don't care) that they are slamming the Hebrew as well. It is especially alarming when this criticism comes from KJV-only preachers, since preachers are very influential and have a great responsibility as to what they say. If the KJV-only preacher's knowledge of the Hebrew is there (and it should be, especially with the help of the italics involved in this verse, and the fact that they should know something about the language from which the KJV was translated), facts are being deliberately avoided in order to voice their own problematic opinion to their congregations as Scriptural truth.