The biblical record about David killing Goliath is full of contradictions and inconsistencies.
David was not averse to taking credit for other people’s achievements in his kingdom. Although it was Joab who captured Rabbah, David took the credit (2 Samuel 12:26-31). Similarly, the killing of Goliath was originally part of a collection of stories in which heroes of David’s army killed giants (2 Samuel 21:15-22). But soon, David himself was substituted for one of the giant-killers.
Two different Goliath Killers
1 Samuel says David killed Goliath; but 2 Samuel credits it to Elhanan; one of David’s mighty men: “In another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jaare-Oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite” (2 Samiel 21:19). The King James Bible version that Elhanan killed “the brother of Goliath” is a blatant doctoring of the bible. The words “the brother of” are in italics, indicating they are not in the original Hebrew manuscript but were added at the discretion of King James translators.
So who killed Goliath; David or Elhanan? The evidence indicates it was certainly not David. Under Rehoboam, Israel became divided into two kingdoms; one pro-David: the other anti-David. Both gave conflicting historical reports which were later edited into the bible. As a result, the biblical record about David killing Goliath is full of contradictions and inconsistencies.
David is initially described as “a man of war” (1 Samuel 16:18); so how can he be simultaneously a youth untrained for war? (1 Samiel 17:33). He lives in the palace with Saul (1 Samuel 16:19-23); so how can he, at the same time, live at home with his father? (1 Samuel 17:17-18). He is Saul’s armour-bearer (1 Samuel 16:21); so how come he is unable to carry Saul’s armour? (1 Samuel 17:38-39).
Saul personally employs him as harp-player before he kills Goliath (1 Samuel 16:23); so how come we suddenly discover after he kills Goliath that Saul has never met him before? (1 Samuel 17:55-58). David kills Goliath with a catapult (1 Samuel 17:50); so how can he also kills him with a sword? (1 Samuel 17:51). After he kills Goliath, he takes his head to Jerusalem (1 Samuel 17:54); so how come when he is later introduced to Saul, he is still carrying Goliath’s head in his hand? (1 Samiel 17:57-58).
David runs to the Philistines
Indeed, David could not have carried Goliath’s head to Jerusalem after killing him because the Israelites did not capture Jerusalem from the Jebusites until much later, after David had become King (2 Samuel 5:6-7). After ostensibly killing Goliath, David is compelled to run for his life from Saul. But of all the places to run to, he ends up in Philistine territory. Of all the cities he could choose for safety, he chooses Gath, the very hometown of Goliath (1 Samuel 27:3-11).
Surely, if David really killed Goliath, Goliath’s hometown would be the last place he would run to for refuge. That is a sure way for him to get killed. But instead, David is welcome in Gath by Goliath’s people. He even applies to join the Philistine army in a war against Israel (1 Samuel 29:1-11).
This is just not credible. How are we to believe that a teenager who is an errand-boy at lunchtime becomes a five-star General by suppertime, to the approval of everyone including the more seasoned soldiers? (1 Samuel 18:5). It beggars belief that, in answering the Goliath challenge, Saul would place the destiny of Israel on the shoulders of a little boy armed only with a catapult.
The story of little David killing mighty Goliath is endearing. It might even be profitable for spiritual instruction. But it is essentially pro-Davidic propaganda, and not an accurate portrait of events.
Even prophecies about David in the bible are polemical. One of them says: “David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, nor will the priests, who are Levites, ever fail to have a man to stand before me continually to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to present sacrifices” (Jeremiah 33:17-18).
This is a false prophecy that must have been inserted by pro-David priests into Jeremiah’s writings. Zedekiah was the last king of Davidic lineage in Israel. He was killed along with all his sons. From Zedekiah to Jesus, no son of David sat on the throne of Israel. From AD 70 to date, no Levite has offered burnt offerings and sacrifices.
Jeremiah himself complains about scribes inserting falsehood surreptitiously into the scriptures. He writes: “How can you say, ‘We are wise, for we have the law of the Lord,’ when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?” (Jeremiah 8:8).