Who killed Goliath?


I’m about to quote the Bible:

“Then there was another battle with the Philistines at Gob; and Elhanan son of Jaare-oregim, the Bethlehemite, killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.”

2 Samuel 21:19

Ooooh. Thought it was David who killed Goliath. Hmmm. Well there might have been two of them. Goliath might be a fairly common name. However, in a later re-write:

“In another battle with the Philistines, Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod.”

1 Chronicles 20:5

Ah. It was his brother. Good to have that cleared up. Of course, the writer of 1 Chronicles here is contradicting the writer of 2 Samuel – probably having noticed that 2 people are supposed to have killed the same guy.

This is all quite understandable given the merging of legal codes, history, folk tales, and myths that make up the Jewish scriptures. Similar contradictions and re-writings crop up in plenty of things that we have to deal with as historical sources. Unpicking this kind of thing in order to understand what actually might have happened is a huge part of doing history, and unpicking this kind of thing in order to understand what it might mean is a huge part of doing theology.

If, however, you happen to have been tempted by the modern heresy of “Biblical Innerancy”, then you should probably just ignore these bits altogether. They really won’t help you sleep at night. You should probably just go and shout at some gays about how they’re going to hell. You’ll need to ignore a lot more of the Bible to do that, as well, but, if you’re going to be inconsistent (which you have to be to follow this heresy,) then you may as well be consistently inconsistent.

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