This verse, both in the Masoretic and the Greek Septuagint says that GoliAth was killed by a man named ‘EleAnan the son of AriOrgim’ instead of David. This obviously contradicts the other famous accounts, including the account earlier on in the book of 1 Samuel.
Further, the duplicate account in 1 Chronicles 20:5 says that EleAnan actually killed GoliAth’s brother, a man named LachMi.
So what’s going on? Why does 2 Samuel get it wrong?
Well, there seems to be a simple scribal error in the original Hebrew manuscript!
That duplicate account in 1 Chronicles 20:5 also says that EleAnan (also spelled ElHanan) was actually called the son of Ari not son of AriOrgim. Indeed, the word ‘Orgim’ is not a person’s name, it means weaver. A scribe seems to have accidentally duplicated the word ‘weaver’ from the end of the verse, where it talks about GoliAth’s spear being as thick as a weaver’s beam. This duplicated word then makes the entire verse make no sense and mucks up the Hebrew grammar (and remember, Hebrew grammar works very differently from European grammar).
To clear up the confusing mess, it was assumed that ‘Orgim’ (weaver) was part of Ari’s name, making a compound name: AriOrgim, or in English: AriWeaver.
Then, because the grammar now makes no sense, the name of Goliath’s brother, LachMi (which looks like the word for ‘bread’), was probably ‘corrected’ by someone to form part of the name of ‘Bethlehem’ (which means ‘house of bread’)!
Lastly, the scribe seems to have confused two similar-looking Hebrew words: אחי (brother of) and את (a Hebrew grammatical marker). So he turned the ‘brother of’ into that marker, essentially removing the word from the text!
So we started off with ‘EleAnan the son of Ari killed LachMi, the brother of GoliAth,’ and we ended up with, ‘EleAnan the son of AriWeaver from Bethlehem killed GoliAth’!
What a mess!
This Hebrew scribal error – possibly a result of more than one scribe – was either present when the Septuagint was translated in the 3rd century BCE, or some later person ‘helpfully’ ‘corrected’ the Septuagint text to agree with Hebrew error. We don’t know which it was.
So while the Bible cannot contradict itself, copyists can. It’s a good example of an apparent contradiction that’s easily solved by a little insider knowledge.
It also shows the inadequacy of certain Bible translations, as some have done nothing at all to correct this error!
It’s good that many modern Bibles insert the words ‘the brother of’ to help fix the problem, but then they leave in the reference to ‘Bethlehem’ – making no note of the fact that it’s a corruption of the name of GoliAth’s brother.
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