[b-hebrew] 2 Samuel 21:19 - slew the brother of Goliath the Gittite

schmuel schmuel at nyc.rr.com
Sat Dec 17 08:04:59 EST 2005

Hi Folks,

2 Samuel 21:19 - 
And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaareoregim, a Bethlehemite, slew (the brother of -italics KJB) Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver's beam. 

     Here are a few more thoughts on this.  Please bear with my thinkings, many of you have a very different sense of the text than I am presenting, and I want to place my questions within context.

     Again, I am not particularly interested in rehashing the various competing theories of how either 1 Chronicles 20 or 2 Samuel could have been corrupted.  They are all theoretically textually possible, they are all rather strained and difficult, and they all conclude that the Masoretic Text is a corrupted text, since the true original would have been maintained in zero manuscripts in any languages (not even translation languages, Targum, Peshitta, Vulgate, Greek).  And they generally have to assume multiple independent corruptions from one original to the present text.

     Such theories also have to assume that at one time the text was allowed (by God or man) to corrupt, and then an artificial perfection and super-high standard of textual maintenance was later applied to a corrupt text. From that point on, which would have had to be at least 1700 years ago in this verse, a time that was pre-Masoretic, the text was keep at a super-high consistency, and no attempt was made to "smooth" the verse for harmony purposes in any known manuscripts. Yet this  strong textual protection would have been applied to a severely corrupted text.  It would be like letting the horses out and the viruses and spam in, and then doing a top-level barn-security firewall.

    So again, I find all the various textual corruption theories difficult, and of little relevance to analysis.  They also do not fit my view of the Bible text.

    Occasionally some (not all) King James Bible proponents have taken the "corruption" view, that the true original vanished from the line, and that the King James Bible essentially is restoring the true sense, now lacking in the extant Masoretic Text, with the italics.  That the Masoretic Text was corrupted, not simply needing clear exposition in translation.  This theory has always been interesting, however it has an element that I have been uncomfortable with, as the verse in Samuel becomes the only one claimed demonstrable MT error from this viewpoint.  In other difficult cases, the Masoretic text is translated verbatim, and harmonized in exegesis, although on occasion the minority MT reading is used (as in the famous Psalm 22:16). 
    Or there is another view, that the original text was simple error-laden.  The writer of 2 Samuel (or perhaps Chronicles or both) simply did not know what they were doing, or know the facts, and wrote an errant text. That the text was not God-inspired.  The theories of how this happened are similar to the theories mentioned above, and again not my realm of particular interest.

    And sometimes either of these two views is maintained by appealing to other supposed corruptions in the Masoretic text, especially the mathematical questions, as between certain accounts given in two books.  Yet these other verses always have a number of their own fascinating elements, and often just as great a difficulty in the proposed corruption theories, and can in fact be viewed quite easily through a lens of textual perfection and harmonization.  Ergo I am not interested in appeals involving other verses' supposed errors when viewing "(the brother of) Goliath" verse .  To a large extent, been there done that.

     Ok, that being said, what are the issues and questions ?

     One, there is one line of thought that views the usage in 2 Samuel 21:19 as an ellipsis.  Not so much an overt grammatical ellipsis, but more on the level of a contextual ellipsis, one that is understandable grammatically.  You might say that author was allowing for the understanding that this was "the brother of Goliath", without the necessity of so stating.
     Yet this view really has a very important adjunct for consideration.  That the 2 Samuel author could well have been writing Goliath in the "giant" sense, one of the multiple (apparently five) Goliath with which the Israelites had combat in those years.   Elhanan slew a "Goliath the Gittite", one who is the brother of the most-known Goliath, the one previously slain by David.

     (And for these views, in the previous post, I give some references of similar types of usages and questions in other verses in the Tanach and NT.  Also availble are a number of the references that discuss all the Goliath verses and the five Goliaths.). 

     Now in either case the English translator would face an interesting decision.  The 2 Samuel 'Goliath as one of the five giants' understanding would be very easy to miss in the English translation.  And if the English translator understood exactly which Goliath was being referred to in 2 Samuel, ie. "Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite", then it would surely make sense to place "the brother of" in italics (or small print in the 1611 King James Bible) as words of consistency and clarity for the English reader.  

    That being done, for consistency and accuracy in translation, the common accusation against the King James Bible here of "adding words" would simply show a lack of understanding of proper translation.  

    And similarly the accusation against the Masoretic Text of being errant would also show a non-comprehension of the Hebrew usage involved.

Steven Avery
Queens, NY

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