Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Who killed Goliath?

In recent days, I have spent some time on the above subject, and it had begun with the reading of the first post, by the same name, by a Professor of the Old Testament, Dr Claude Mariottini. I was startled when I first came across the title, “Who killed Goliath?” I thought to myself, “I have gone through both books of Samuel and enough of the Old Testament stuff, but I had NOT previously come across any ambiguity as to who killed Goliath. Why, did this professor pose this question?” Did you also think it is clear-cut, even your Sunday School kids know the answer?

And so, I went back to my own study notes, which I refer to them as “my private commentary” on the Word of God. From the commentary that I had written up, it was this, and which I had previously accepted them plainly:

1 Samuel 17:49-51 – David killed Goliath {“everybody” knows that}

2 Samuel 21:19 (NIV84) – “Elhanan son of Jaare-Oregim [c] the Bethlehemite killed Goliath [d] the Gittite ….”

and the NIV84 footnote for [c] is this: “2 Samuel 21:19 Or son of Jair the weaver”; and for [d] is this: “2 Samuel 21:19 Hebrew and Septuagint; 1 Chron. 20:5 son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath”

1 Chron. 20:5 (NIV84) read as follows: “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.”

From here, previously, I concluded that David killed Goliath, and Elhanan killed the brother of Goliath, Lahmi (assuming Jaare-Oregim and Jair were the same person, the father of Elhanan). But the Professor, in his first part of a 3-part article, said this:

“But the answer to the question “who killed Goliath” is not as easy as it seems. Several years ago, a group of international Old Testament scholars met in Paris at a two-day conference to discuss this issue. The topic of the conference was “Who Killed Goliath.” Scholar after scholar presented papers on different aspects of this issue. After two days of discussion, those scholars concluded that it was impossible to decide who killed Goliath.”

The Professor, in his articles, gave a few views of other scholars, but I would NOT go into them in any details, because I consider them as having little merit, but if you like, you can read all the 3 parts of the Professor’s article here: Who killed Goliath? Part 1; Who killed Goliath? Part 2; Who killed Goliath? Part 3. In the last part, the Professor gave His own take of who killed Goliath. Imagine, a group of international OT scholars, after researches and a 2-day conference could NOT conclusively decide who killed Goliath!

So, I commented on the Professor’s part I of his article:

“Unless, it is argued that the equating of Jaare-Oregim to Jair is NOT acceptable, it appears that Elhanan killed Lahmi, the brother of Goliath whom David killed. Goliath could be a family or clan name, such was NOT uncommon in those days. The key figure would then be called “The such and such”, and in this case, “The Goliath”; and David killed The Goliath. Elhanan killed “a Goliath”, and that Goliath was the brother (Lahmi) of The Goliath.

With due respect, less fuss over this might be better.”

Without seeing the Professor’s view, my conclusion was that Goliath was probably a clan or family name of some giants. My own study of OT scriptures, without always ignoring genealogy, and my more recent study on a similar “same name issue” character, Obed Edom, had helped to me to believe Goliath could be a clan or family name. Those interested, can read my separate article on Obed-Edom, although it is quite separate from Goliath, but related, in the sense that the controversy over the “secret” or “pleasing ways” of Obed Edom also hinges on whether there was one Obed Edom throughout or there was more than one Obed Edom - “Secret of Obed Edom, faulty premise more likely”.

By now, you are probably wondering what the Professor’s view is! But before I reveal that, let me say that the Professor expressed his objection to the purported harmonisation of the 2 accounts of a Goliath being killed, one account in 2 Samuel (2 Samuel 21:19) and the other, in 1 Chronicles (1 Ch 20:5).

While there was a case for saying that a harmonisation was perhaps attempted, but the Professor’s slant was that the writer or he called him or them, the chronicler(s) of the Books of Chronicles, introduced “the corruption” to resolve the inconsistency of the 2 accounts of Goliath being killed in the Books of Samuel (1 Samuel 17:49-51 – David killed Goliath; and 2 Samuel 21:19 – Elhanan killed Goliath). Originally, I got a little confused and thought that the Professor was referring to a translation of 1 Chronicles, and so, I mistakenly thought that “the brother of” (Goliath) was introduced by a translator, but when I went to the Hebrew text (OT originally written in Hebrew) of 1 Ch 20:5, I realised that “the brother of” was in the Hebrew text. And so, my final conclusion is that I cannot agree with the Professor that “the brother of” was introduced into the Chronicles to harmonise the 2 accounts of Goliath being killed, in the Books of Samuel. Why do I say that?

My understanding is that we have to be clear first of all, whether we are referring to the original text, written in Hebrew, or a translation (into another language) of the Chronicle’s account. We need to distinguish between the original authors of the various books or epistles that made up the Bible (the official 66 Books – canonised Scriptures), and groups of persons who translate the Bible into other language(s). According to 2 Tim 3:16, all Scripture is given by inspiration of God (KJV) or is God-breathed (NIV84); and so, we must believe the original authors had the inspiration from God, and in that sense, whatever that was written in Scripture (the original versions) had the approval of God, minimally, to me, God allowed them to be entered the ways the original authors entered them, influenced by their own personal styles and so on and so forth. Because of this understanding it is proper that a Christian takes the Bible as it is, authoritative; it is the words of God, there is no mistake in the words of God; any “mistake” that we see in the written form (as written by the original authors) of the words of God, it can only be the “mistake” made by the authors (NOT talking about the translators), but even so, since God had allowed it to be recorded as such, such “aberration” is NOT “fatalistic”.

Now, for the translators, it is a whole lot of a different story. The individual translator may claim he was inspired by the Holy Spirit for particular verse translation, but you have to decide if you can believe him. There are so many translations out there, and frankly speaking, there are some legitimate disapproval of some of the translations. Which translators are right? You, be my guest.

So, since we are NOT talking about a translation of the Chronicles, but the original Hebrew text, and “the brother of” (Goliath) was found in the Hebrew text, I can accept NO corruption of the Chronicle’s account, despite the Professor’s inclination. The suggestion that the original authors of Chronicles had wanted to harmonise the 2 apparent contradictory accounts (in the Books of Samuel) of who killed Goliath is just a speculation; no one knows the truth of that.

Now, to be clear, it was the 2 Samuel 21:19 account that did NOT have “the brother of” (Goliath) in its original Hebrew text; and translators, including the 1984 NIV translators, attempted to harmonise it to 1 Ch 20:5, through the use of footnotes. I accept the Professor’s protest against 2011 NIV’s rendering which inserted “the brother of” directly into the verse, and by way of footnote, mentioned that the Hebrew text did NOT contain the phrase, “the brother of”. With due respect to the Professor, we could argue against the introduction of “the brother of” by the translators, but we should NOT argue “corruption” by the original author(s) of the Books of Chronicles. Meaning, if we like, we can regard that there were 3 events, and NOT 2 events, meaning, David’s killing in 1 Samuel 17:49-51, as one event, Elhanan of Jaare-Oregim’s killing, as another event (2 Samuel 21:19), and finally, Elhanan of Jair’s killing, as a separate event (1 Ch 20:5).

It is obvious, by now there was more than one (1) Goliath; two (2) if you want to treat 2 Sam 21:19 and 1 Ch 20:5 as referring to the same account, three (3) if we treat all the accounts as separate. Then who killed Goliath? Even if we accept 1 Ch 20:5 as it was written, i.e. it was a brother of Goliath (called Lahmi), and NOT Goliath, who was killed, there were still two (2) Goliaths in the Books of Samuel. So who killed Goliath? My answer, you already know, in brief, from the above, David killed one Goliath, Elhanan of Jaare-Oregim killed another Goliath, and Elhanan of Jair killed another Goliath (called Lahmi); Goliath was (I believe) a clan or family name. What about the Professor’s answer?

The Professor ‘s answer is that Goliath was probably referring to a group of warriors, something like in the US, there were the “navy seals”. In other words, David killed one such warrior, and Elhanan(s) killed other such warrior(s). The support cited by the Professor was that there was a recent discovery made, where a potsherd was dug out in Gath where Goliath lived, that had “Goliath” written on it, and the inscription was believed to have been made over 100 years subsequent to David’s time. In reply to my comment, the Professor agreed that it was possible that there were a family of Goliaths. However, he said that he believed the archaeological find could indicate that the name was used by other people. Now, there is NO conclusion to that last statement; for to me, who were “other people” and who were the descendants of Goliath clan, who is able to tell now?; a 100 years from David’s time was NOT very long, possibly, the children of the deceased Goliaths, were still around and could be the “other people”.

Until more light can be shed from archaeological discoveries, there is only so much we can deduce from the information recorded for us in Scripture. I suppose, of the two views, mine or the professor’s, you can just take one. I will still stick to mine, though, and I will say a little bit more about it.

Normally, such family name or clan, as I understand them to be, there was a “head” and the head started the line (or name), and it was possible that the Goliath that David killed was The Goliath headman. The timing could suggest that, since when David killed The Goliath, he (David) was still a young boy who did NOT have any warriors with him, unlike his brothers who were already serving at the battleground; the other accounts appeared to have occurred subsequent to David’s killing. Of course, it was also possible that because of the fame of David, well, “The David”, the Goliath that he killed was being labeled as “The Goliath”. In any case, there were 2 or 3 Goliaths killed.

It is too long a shot to claim that Elhanan and David were the same man. The suggestion that David was without sword, and it was another who killed the Goliath and David just assumed the credit, it is NOT admissible (this was one of the views expressed by other scholars), for it was CLEARLY stated in 1 Sam 17:51 that David killed the giant with the giant’s sword – “David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the scabbard. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword.”

Finally, as I have hinted in my comment against the Professor’s 1st post, all of these should NOT distract us from the story of David’s slain of a giant with a sling and a stone. In Biblical interpretation, the part of the Word that clearly has no ambiguity, we accept without questioning, and if we have to, we will drop ambiguous parts, favoring the one without ambiguity. Compared with the others, where goliaths were also killed, David’s story is “big deal”, NOT without reasons or merits: David was still a shepherd boy, courageous for a boy, he stood for God, he chose to arm appropriately, yes, he was without sword or armor, he used only a sling and smooth pebbles.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions - It is understandable we do NOT have revelation of all of Scripture (i.e. we do NOT understand all of Scripture), and some parts of the Bible, to us, really are short, in details, but Scripture was NOT intended to record everything; Scripture itself, in John 21:25, said there would NOT be enough room in the world to contain it, if we had recorded just all the things that Jesus did. But we CANNOT doubt the integrity of Scripture.

PS: If you cannot remember anything else, still just continue to remember David killed a Goliath with a sling and a stone!

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