These two passages appear to be contradictory:

So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him. (1 Samuel 17:50)

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)

How can these be reconciled?


2 Answers 2


1 Chronicles 20:5 records the same event. However, it states that it was the brother of Goliath.

Other translations, such as the NIV, show the reference in 2 Samuel 21:19 as being the brother of Goliath as well.

It most likely is just dependent on the translator of the time.


An explanation for the first question is that God is in control over everything and that everything happens because he has allowed it. Sometimes he strike people with afflictions, but that does not mean he really wants to do it. Note the word "willingly" in the second verse. He does not do it willingly, but that does not mean he doesn't do it.

An explanation for the second question is that it was Goliath's brother (since Goliath himself had already been slain). Note that names and relations was not as well recorded then as it is today. Also, the same writer would not make such a large mistake in this obvious example.

In this type of issue, where there might be doubt as to whether the translation is correct or not, it's a good idea to examine the original source and if that is not possible examine a number of different translations of the passage. I did this by looking up the verse in every English translation available at BibleGateway.com and found that the most of them uses the word "willingly". Many says that God does not enjoy doing it and some says that he does not do it by heart.

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    The "willing" is the word I focused on for the first part, but it begs the question: how does one coerce an omnipotent being? if it isn't by will, then by what? (note: when we do things against our will, that is because we have external pressures). Re the second - is there any particular scriptural support for the "brother" idea? Jan 11, 2012 at 12:36
  • @MarcGravell There are more than one level of will. It is not just a question of willing or not willing. A father sometimes has to discipline his child. It is not his desire to do it, but he recognizes that not doing it would (eventually) yield grave consequences. Therefore he disciplines his child, not by force and not by desire, but for everyone's best. God does the same thing. He punishes the wicked because he is loving and just, it is his very nature that urges him to do it, not external forces (for there is none).
    – Shathur
    Jan 11, 2012 at 12:46
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    ultimately I guess maybe arguing over the literal equivalence of a word post-translation isn't going to be fruitful. In my usage of the word, your examples are still "willing", even though it is with reservation - however, it is entirely possible that either or both of the word usage ("willing") has evolved, and/or the original word has slightly different connotation. Or the "tl;dr;" version: yeah, maybe "willing" is OK as a word here. Jan 11, 2012 at 12:55

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