Archive for the ‘Elhanan’ Tag

King David Versus the Ammonites, the Arameans, and the Philistines   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of King David

Image in the Public Domain





2 Samuel 10:1-19 and 12:26-31

1 Chronicles 19:1-20:8


“Let us be strong and resolute for the sake of our people and the land of our God; and the LORD will do what He deems right.”

–Joab, in 2 Samuel 10:12, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)


King David’s Ammonite war frames the story of Uriah and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11 and 12), absent from 1 Chronicles.

Ammonite court politics caused the Ammonite war.  Nahash, King of Ammon, had died.  Hanun, listening to bad advice, mistook David’s official condolences for a spy mission then humiliated his envoys.  David’s forces won battles, though.  They did so against superior Ammonite-Aramean forces.  The author meant for us to understand that God was on the side of Israel in this war.

1 Chronicles 20:4-8 tells of another war against Philistines.  It seems that keeping Philistines down was difficult.  This passage mentions Elhanan, who slew the brother of Goliath.  This passage contradicts 2 Samuel 21:19, which says that Elhanan slew Goliath.  This language in 2 Samuel 21:19 is very similar to that in 1 Chronicles 20:5.  2 Samuel 21:19, of course, also contradicts 1 Samuel 17, which tells us that David slew Goliath.  If I were a Biblical literalist, this matter would bother me.

Back to the beginning of the Ammonite war….

David had kept faith/kindness (hesed) with King Nahash of Ammon, just as he did with Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9.  The text makes the connection between those two chapters.  We readers are to think positively of David in his dealings, with Mephibosheth and his treaty partner, the King of Ammon, according to the text.

One translation of hesed is “kindness.”  Kindness is absent from the end of the story; the forced labor of prisoners of war, although common in the region at the time, indicates the opposite of kindness.  Kindness is also absent toward Uriah the Hittite in 2 Samuel 11.

David, in these and other cases, practices hesed selectively.





David, Goliath, and Elhanan, Too   Leave a comment

Above:  David With the Head of Goliath, by Nicolas Tournier

Image in the Public Domain





1 Samuel 17:1-18:5


I went out to meet the Philistine,

and he cursed me by his idols.

But I drew my own sword;

I beheaded him, and took away disgrace from the people of Israel.

–Psalm 151:6-7, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)


One can learn much by consulting an unabridged concordance of the Bible.

2 Samuel 21:18-22, set during the reign of King David, begins:

After this, fighting broke out again with the Philistines, at Gob; that was when Sibbecai the Hushathite killed Saph, a descendant of the Raphah.  Again there was fighting with the Philistines at Gob; and Elhanan son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehmite killed Goliath the Gittite, whose spear had a shaft like a weaver’s bar.

–2 Samuel 21:18-19, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

1 Chronicles 20:15, also set during David’s reign, mentions Elhanan the Benjaminite, too.  The Chronicler altered 2 Samuel 21:19, though.

Again there was fighting with the Philistines, and Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi, the brother of Goliath the Gittite; his spear had a shaft like a weaver’s beam.

–1 Chronicles 20:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

One Elhanan son of Dodo the Bethlehemite receives a brief mention in 2 Samuel 23:24 and 1 Chronicles 11:26.  Whether Elhanan son of Jair/Jaare-oregim was Elhanan son of Dodo is uncertain.  According to Hans Wilhelm Herzberg, I and II Samuel:  A Commentary (1964), the son of Jair/Jaare-oregim being the son of Dodo is “questionable.”

According to 1 Samuel 17:7, the shaft of Goliath’s spear

was like a weaver’s bar,

just like the spear shaft in 2 Samuel 21:19 and 1 Chronicles 20:5.

If I were a Biblical literalist, the questions of who slew Goliath and who Elhanan killed would bother me.  I am not a Biblical literalist, though.  I agree with the scholarly opinion that Elhanan slew Goliath and that someone altered 1 Samuel 17 to relabel “the Philistine” occasionally as Goliath.  Besides, I know of the tendency to credit kings for the deeds of their warriors.  One may recall reading of Saul receiving credit in 1 Samuel 13:4 for what Jonathan had done in 13:3.

If I were a Biblical literalist, I would also seek to reconcile 1 Samuel 16:18-23 (in which Saul, having learned who Jesse and David were, took David into the royal court) with 1 Samuel 17, in which David had not yet entered royal service (verses 12-15) and Saul did not know who Jesse and David were (verses 55-58) until David told him in verse 58.  I would also try to reconcile 1 Samuel 16:18-23 with 1 Samuel 18:2, in which David entered royal service after slaying Goliath.

The Biblical stories one needs to read the most closely are the tales one thinks one knows.  One may not know those stories as well as one thinks.

“David and Goliath” has become shorthand for being an underdog.  That theme does exist in the story.  However, I choose to focus on another theme, that of the consequences of mocking God.  1 Samuel 17 drives home that the uncircumcised Philistines (verse 26) were mocking the “ranks of the living God.”  Some translations use “disgrace” instead of “mock.”  Everett Fox, in Volume II of The Schocken Bible, points to the Philistine champion falling face-down (verse 49) as if in a posture of worship after David found the Philistine warrior’s weak spot and killed him.  Fox also refers to another Biblical example of mocking God in the presence of Hebrew soldiers.  He mentions the Assyrian mocking of God in 2 Kings 18, during the reign of King Hezekiah.  One may remember that, in 2 Kings 19, an angel slew the Assyrian army.

Mocking God is a bad idea.  So is shutting down one’s critical faculties.  I refuse to check my brain at the threshold of a church building and at the cover of a Bible.  I also try not to mock God.

Anyway, for the rest of the story…

David went on to forge a friendship with crown prince Jonathan, win battles, and make a name for himself, according to 1 Samuel 18:1-5.  The author presented David as possessing excellent royal qualities.  David was becoming a political threat to King Saul, in that monarch’s unsettled mind.





Psalm 151   1 comment

Above:  David and Goliath, by Ilya Repin

Image in the Public Domain


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226


1 I was small among my brothers,

and the youngest in my father’s house;

I tended my father’s sheep.

2 My hands made a harp;

my fingers fashioned a lyre.

3 And who will tell my Lord?

The Lord himself; it is he who hears.

4 It was he who sent his messenger

and took me from my father’s sheep,

and anointed me with his anointing oil.

5 My brothers were handsome and tall,

but the Lord was not pleased with them.

6 I went out to meet the Philistine,

and he cursed me by his idols.

7 But I drew his own sword;

I beheaded him, and took away

disgrace from the people of Israel.

–Psalm 151, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)


Psalm 151, allegedly by David, is the combination of two texts, which Geza Vermes labels Psalm 151A and Psalm 151B in The Dead Sea Scrolls in English (Third Edition, 1987).  Psalm 151A (translated by Vermes), slightly longer than its counterpart in the final Greek text, follows:

1  I was smaller than my brothers,

and younger than the sons of my father.

He made me a shepherd of his flock,

and a ruler of over his kids.

2  My hands have made a pipe and my fingers a lyre.

I have rendered glory to the Lord;

I have said so in my soul.

3  The mountains do not testify to him,

and the hills do not tell (of him).

The trees praise my words and the flocks my deeds.

4  For who can tell and speak of,

and recount the works of the Lord?

God has seen all, he has heard all, and he listens to all.

5  He sent his prophet to anoint me,

Samuel to magnify me.

My brothers went out to meet him,

beautiful of figure, beautiful of appearance.

6  They were tall of stature with beautiful hair,

yet the Lord did not choose them.

7  He sent and took me from behind the flock,

and anointed me with holy oil

as a prince of his people,

and as a ruler among the sons of his Covenant.

Psalm 151B, according the Vermes translation from Cave 11 at Qumran, follows:

1Then I saw the Philistine taunting [from the enemy lines]….

Variations of Psalm 151 exist in Old Latin, Arabic, and Ethiopic psalters.  One version of Psalm 151 continues:

And I slung three stones at him in the middle of his forehead,

and laid him low by the might of the Lord.

In Psalm 151, as we have it in composite form, we read of the anointing of David, of his arrival in the court of King Saul, and of the slaying of Goliath.  Psalm 151A draws from 1 Samuel 16 and Psalm 151B from 1 Samuel 17.  In 1 Samuel 16 and 17 an observant reader might notice that, although Saul knows David in the last half of chapter 16, the monarch is not familiar with him in chapter 17.  The Sources Hypothesis explains this discrepancy.

A Bible nerd or geek might also know of Elhanan, a warrior under King David.  2 Samuel 21:19 states that

Elhanan son of Jaareoregim, the Bethlehemite, killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

To complicate matters, 1 Chronicles 20:5 informs us that

Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi, the brother of Goliath the Gittite; his spear had a shaft like a weaver’s beam.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

One attempt to reconcile these discrepancies is arguing that David and Elhanan were the same person in 2 Samuel 21:19.  This ignores the fact they are indisputably separate in 1 Chronicles 20:5, the text of which is corrupt.  In that verse, miscopying the letters that spell Bethlehem gives rise to “Lahmi, the brother of.”  Scripture does contain conflicting accounts of many events.  Why should the slaying of Goliath be different?

Regardless of the truth of the identity of the slayer of Goliath and the reality of certain events in the life of David, one can draw spiritual lessons from those stories and from Psalm 151.  God chooses those He will; human standards to not apply.  Also, when God calls us, we might be among those most surprised by the vocation.  We need not worry, though; God qualifies the called.  Also, as a note in The Orthodox Study Bible (2008) offers,

Goliath stands for the sinful passions of arrogance and vainglory (see also Ps. 143 [144 in the Hebrew psalter]).  Thus, with the Lord’s help, we slay these giants with humility.

–Page 778

Aside:  I added the brackets and the contents thereof.

According to 1 Samuel 17, Goliath was an imposing figure.  He stood about nine feet tall.  His bronze breastplate weighed about 130 pounds.  The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s bar.  The iron head of that spear weighed about 15 pounds.  He was indeed intimidating.  Yet he had a weak spot and God was on the side of David and Elhanan, depending on the text one prefers.

Even the mightiest foes have weaknesses, this story reminds us.  And, if one trusts in God, one can exploit that fact, to the benefit of one’s group, the narrative teaches.  But who will allow God to work through us, or will we shrink back in fear?  Will we, by the help of God, slay proverbial giants or will they slay us?






Unexpected Agents of Grace   1 comment

Goliath Laughs at David

Above:  Goliath Laughs at David, by Ilya Repin

Image in the Public Domain


The Collect:

O God of life, you reach out to us amid our fears

with the wounded hands of your risen Son.

By your Spirit’s breath revive our faith in your mercy,

and strengthen us to be the body of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33


The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 17:1-23 (Thursday)

1 Samuel 17:19-32 (Friday)

1 Samuel 17:32-51 (Saturday)

Psalm 150 (All Days)

Acts 5:12-16 (Thursday)

Acts 5:17-26 (Friday)

Luke 24:36-40 (Saturday)



Praise God in his holy temple;

praise him in the firmament of his power.

Praise him for his mighty acts;

praise him for his excellent greatness.

Praise him with the blast of the ram’s horn;

praise him with the lyre and harp.

Praise him with timbrel and dance;

praise him with strings and pipe.

Praise him with resounding cymbals;

praise him with loud-clanging cymbals.

Let everything that has breath

praise the LORD.


–Psalm 150, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The reasons to praise God are myriad, beyond any human capacity to count.  One of those reasons is that God frequently works via people some of us (at best) consider unlikely agents of grace.

Consider David, O reader.  Yes, I know that 2 Samuel 21:19 has Elhanan, son of Jair from Bethlehem kill Goliath of Gath, and that 1 Chronicles 20:5 has the same Elhanan kill Lahmi, brother Goliath.  If that is not sufficiently confusing, David plays the lyre for King Saul in 1 Samuel 16 yet has not gone to work for the monarch yet in chapter 17.  These contradictions result from the combining of differing traditions in the canon of scripture.  Such contradictions are commonplace in the Old Testament, starting in the early chapters of Genesis.  One needs merely to read the texts with great attention to detail to detect them.

I use 1 Samuel 17, in which David, not Elhanan, kills Goliath, for that is the version the framers of the lectionary I am following chose.

In 1 Samuel 17 young David seemed to be the least likely person to rid Israel of the menace Goliath posed.  A crucified troublemaker from the Galilee seemed to be an unlikely candidate for an inspiring and timeless religious figure.  Apostles hiding in fear after the crucifixion of Jesus seemed to be unlikely candidates for leaders in a movement to change the world.  They faced persecution; most of them died as martyrs.  As Jesus said,

Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

–Luke 6:22-23, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The theme of seemingly unlikely agents of grace occurs in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).  It is easy to overlook the fact that many in the original audience found the idea of a good Samaritan shocking, even beyond improbable.

The real question I address is not the identities of agents of grace but human biases regarding who is more or less likely to be one.  We mere mortals need to learn theological humility, especially regarding how we evaluate each other.  Do we even attempt to look upon each other as God perceives us?

The composite pericope from Acts 5 reminds us that functioning as an agent of grace might lead one to harm.  Sometimes people suffer for the sake of righteousness because the light exposes darkness for what it is.

…the light shines in the darkness,

and the darkness has not overcome it.

–John 1:5, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2010)

Perhaps we do not recognize agents of grace sometimes because we are caught up in the darkness and are oblivious to that fact.  Mustache-twirling villains, commonplace in simplistic morality plays, are rare in real life.  Most “bad guys” imagine themselves to be good, or at least engaged in necessary, if unpleasant work.

Another reason for failing to recognize agents of grace is functional fixedness.  We simply do not expect something, so we do not look for it.  We seek agents of grace as we know them and miss those agents of grace who do not fit our preconceptions.

How might God surprise you, O reader, with unexpected (to you) agents of grace?  And what will that grace cost you?





Adapted from this post:


David and Goliath   1 comment

Above:  Gustave Dore’s Depiction of David Holding Goliath’s Head


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


1 Samuel 17:32-51 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And David said to Saul,

Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with the Philistine.

And Saul said to David,

You are not able to against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.

But David said to Saul,

Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth; and if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and struck him and killed him.  Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, seeing that he has defied the armies of the living God.

And David said,

The LORD delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.

And Saul said to David,

Go, and the LORD be with you!

Then Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a helmet of bronze on his head, and clothed him with a coat of mail.  And David belted on his sword over his armor, and he tried in vain to go, for he was not used to them.  Then David said to Saul,

I cannot go with these; for I am not used to them.

And David put them off.  Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in his shepherd’s bag or wallet; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.

And the Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him.  And when the Philistine looked, and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, ruddy and comely in appearance.  And the Philistine said to David,

Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?

And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.  The Philistine said to David,

Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.

Then David said to the Philistine,

You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down, and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with the sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s and he will give you into our hand.

When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine.  And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone, and slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.

So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine, and killed him; there was no sword in the hand of David.  Then David ran and stood over the Philistine, and took his sword and drew it out of his sheath, and killed him, and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.

Psalm 144:1-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Blessed be the LORD my rock!

who trains my hands to fight and my fingers to battle;

2  My help and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer,

my shield in whom I trust,

who subdues the peoples under me.

3  O LORD, what are we that you should care for us?

mere mortals that you should think of us?

4  We are like a puff of wind;

our days like a passing shadow.

5  Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down;

touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.

6  Hurl the lightning and scatter them;

shoot out your arrows and rout them.

7  Stretch out your hand from on high;

rescue me and deliver me from the great waters,

from the hand of foreign peoples,

8  Whose mouths speak deceitfully

and whose right hand is raised in falsehood.

9  O God, I will sing to you a new song;

I will play to you on a ten-stringed lyre.

10  You give victory to kings

and have rescued David your servant.


The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


Here we have the familiar story of David and Goliath.  But read it again.  Read it very carefully.  We have two sources edited together.  If you, O reader, look carefully, you can see some or all of the seams.  (Hint:  Focus on the use of “God” versus the use of “the LORD.”)  Follow the bouncing ball with me.  David plays the lyre to soothe Saul’s mind in 1 Samuel 16, and even becomes the king’s armor-bearer.  Yet Saul does not know David in 1 Samuel 17.  And then there is the case of Elhanan, one of King David’s warriors, who, according to 2 Samuel 21:19, slew Goliath.  In 1 Chronicles 20:5, however, Elhanan slew Goliath’s brother.  Make of all this what you will.

But may none of this detract from the story and what we learn from it.  There is something inherently unlikely about a slightly built young man, armed only with some stones and a slingshot, defeating a mighty warrior nearly ten feet tall.  Goliath’s height is plausible, given the variety of manifestations of genetic mutations.  Some have suggested that he suffered from Marfan’s Syndrome, for example.  And, as scary as this sounds and is, there are people who know how to kill others with just one well-placed blow or cut.  So a devastating blow to the center of the forehead is also plausible.  Most important of all in the story is that David was able to get the stone to Goliath’s weak spot, and therefore deliver his people from an immediate threat.

The unlikely optics of the confrontation made clear that David did not win because of the armor he could not wear well or the standard military armaments he did not use.  No, the circumstances made plain that this victory belonged to God.

When we feel helpless we tend to forget that we have God.  I write from experience.  And I detect another lesson, one I have missed every previous time I  have read this account from 1 Samuel 17.  David’s experience as a shepherd protecting the sheep prepared him for the confrontation with Goliath.  So, when we feel helpless, might we be better equipped than we think?  Maybe we need to think creatively about prior experiences and how they have prepared us for our current circumstances.

Anyhow, in all our daily challenges, great and small, mundane and extraordinary, may God guide our hands and direct our thoughts so that we, trusting in grace, may act for the good–individual and collective–and the glory of God.





Adapted from this post: