Elhanan son of Jair

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Elhanan son of Jair-Oregim the Bethlehemite (Hebrew: אֶלְחָנָן֩ בֶּן־יַעְרֵ֨י אֹרְגִ֜ים בֵּ֣ית הַלַּחְמִ֗י‎‎ ’Elḥānān ben-Ya‘rê ’Ōrəḡîm Bêṯhallaḥmî) appears in 2 Samuel 21:19, where he is credited with killing Goliath. As this contradicts the better-known story in 1 Samuel 17 in which it is the famous David who kills Goliath, the 4th century BC Book of Chronicles explains the second Goliath by saying (20:5) that Elhanan "slew Lahmi the brother of Goliath", possibly constructing the name Lahmi from the last portion of the word "Bethlehemite" ("beit-ha’lahmi").[1]

The King James Bible translators modified the text of 2 Samuel 21:18–19 to make it read as if David had slain Goliath's brother: "And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaare–oregim, a Beth–lehemite, slew the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver's beam", although the Hebrew text at this point makes no mention of the word "brother". Baruch Halpern supposes that storytellers displaced the deed from the obscure Elhanan to the more famous character, David.[2]

Provan and others have suggested that it is 2 Samuel 21:19 that is corrupt, rather than 1 Chronicles 20:5, arguing that "Oregim" is clearly an inadvertent duplication or homeoteleuton of the word translated "weavers", at the end of the verse, and that the scribe mistook the less common "Lahmi" for the more common "Bethlehemite".[3]

The medieval Jewish authors of the Targum Jonathan solved the problem by explaining Elhanan as an alternative name for David.[4] However, this makes it difficult to explain why David is called Elhanan in verse 19 but consistently David in the verses that surround it (15, 16, 17, 21, 22).

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  1. ^ Ralph W. Klein, Narrative Texts: Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, see section "Representative Changes in Chronicles of Texts Taken from Samuel-Kings". Compare 1 Samuel 16:1, "I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite (beit-ha’lahmi), for I have found among his sons a king for me."
  2. ^ David's Secret Demons, Baruch Halpern, (2004), p. 8
  3. ^ A Biblical History of Israel Iain William Provan, V. Philips Long, Tremper Longman, Westminster: John Knox Press, 2003, pp. 224–225
  4. ^ Miqraoth G'doloth Samuel at Hebrewbooks.org - Page 414 (in Hebrew)