After David became king, Elhanan killed the Philistine champion called Goliath.    

Christians are confronted with the following contradictions about David in the bible.  David is “a young boy, untrained for war:” David is a “skilled warrior.”  David is living at home: David is living with Saul.  David enters Saul’s service as a harp player: David enters Saul’s service as a Goliath-fighting warrior.  Saul knows David and his father: Saul does not know David and his father.

Nevertheless, these turn out to be minor contradictions.  There are more major ones in the bible that effectively lead to the conclusion that the whole story of David killing Goliath is fabricated.


Choice of David

The terms of the combat between the Israelites and the Philistines were ostensibly laid down by Goliath.  Instead of having the two armies battle it out, he said: “Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” (1 Samuel 17:8-9).


When David offers to meet this challenge, Saul is said to have told him: “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” (1 Samuel 17:33).  It therefore beggars belief that Saul would then agree to put the fate of the whole nation of Israel on the shoulders of inexperienced young David.  While fully acknowledging that there is nothing God cannot do, it is not credible that Saul would agree that Israel should be represented by David’s incompetence, after all no directive about this came from God.

The idea that Saul may have been persuaded by David’s tale of having killed a lion with his bare hands just won’t cut it.  Such tall tales are not believed without proof.  Even more ludicrous is Saul’s agreement that little David should fight mighty Goliath without armour and with nothing but a catapult.  Rather than provoke a revolt by his regular soldiers, Saul would have selected one of his trained and experienced military officers to do the job.


Two different killings

And then there is the problem of the actual killing of Goliath.  Did David kill Goliath with a catapult or did he kill him with a sword?  The bible is double-minded, recording two contradictory oral traditions side-by-side.  As a result, David killed Goliath twice.  The first time, he killed him with a catapult: “So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and KILLED HIM. But there was no sword in the hand of David.” (1 Samuel 17:50-51).  The second time, David killed him with a sword: “Therefore David ran and stood over the Philistine, took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and KILLED HIM, and cut off his head with it. (1 Samuel 17:51).

We are then told what David did with Goliath’s head: “David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his armor in his tent. (1 Samuel 17:54).  This is nothing but pure fiction.  David could not have taken Goliath’s head to Jerusalem at this time because the Israelites had not yet captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites. 

According to 2 Samuel, Jerusalem was not captured from the Jebusites until after David became King: “The time came when King David and his men set out to attack Jerusalem. The Jebusites, who lived there, thought that David would not be able to conquer the city, and so they said to him, ‘You will never get in here; even the blind and the crippled could keep you out.’ (But David did capture their fortress of Zion, and it became known as ‘David’s City.’)” (2 Samuel 5:6-7).

This suggests then that, in the original story, David was already king when Goliath was killed.  Indeed, in the version crediting Elhanan with killing Goliath, David is already king and Elhanan is a member of his elite fighting squad. (2 Samuel 21:19).


More anomalies

The confusion in the bible account is compounded by the fact that while we are told in 1 Samuel 17:54 that after killing Goliath, David carried his head to Jerusalem; three verses later we are told he carried it elsewhere: “Then, as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand.” (1 Samuel 17:57).

David was then made a General in the Israeli army, and we are told this promotion of a young upstart over older more-experienced soldiers pleased everyone including Saul’s officials. (1 Samuel 18:5).  This is nothing short of political propaganda.


City of refuge

But the clincher is as follows.  After ostensibly killing Goliath, David became so popular that Saul soon saw him as a threat to his throne.  He was determined to kill him and David had to run for his life.  Of all the places that David could find to seek refuge, he ended up in Philistine territory: “That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of GATH.” (1 Samuel 21:10).  This is absolutely incredible.  How could the arch-enemy of the Philistines seek refuge in Philistine territory?  Of all the cities that David could choose for safety, he chose Gath, the very hometown of Goliath: “So David dwelt with Achish at GATH, he and his men, each man with his household.” (1 Samuel 27:3).

This is conclusive proof that David did not kill Goliath.  If he did, the last place he would seek refuge would be in Goliath’s hometown.  That is a sure way to get him killed.  But according to the bible record, David not only lived for years among the Gittites, the people of Gath, he was even prepared to go to war on their side against Israel.  However, the Philistine commanders objected on the grounds that he could not be trusted: “He must not go with us into battle, or he will turn against us during the fighting. How better could he regain his master’s favor than by taking the heads of our own men? Isn’t this the David they sang about in their dances: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands’?” (1 Samuel 29:4-5).  

This is another giveaway.  It shows that whatever tens of thousands David killed; they could not have been Philistines and certainly could not have included Goliath the Gittite.  As a matter of fact, when David became king, his bodyguards were 600 Philistines headed by Ittai the Gittite. (2 Samuel 15:18-22).  If after all this you still think David killed Goliath the Gittite, then you are entitled to your gullibility.

Let me try and draw some more plausible conclusions than the classical David killed Goliath fable.  David was a soldier in Saul’s army.  He performed such great exploits that the people sang about him killing tens of thousands to Saul’s thousands.  Saul felt threatened by David and decided to kill him.  David sought refuge in Philistine territory.  After David became king, Elhanan killed the Philistine champion called Goliath.  His head was then brought to Jerusalem. (Continued).



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