Monday, January 26, 2015

Goliath: Four Sons or Four Brothers?

Quite a while ago, a friend of mine brought to my attention a break through he had come across while reading the Bible. He asked if I recalled how preachers tend to refer to Goliath's four brothers. I affirmed. He then informed me that they were four sons—not four brothers. His evidence? "These four were born to the giant in Gath, and fell by the hand of David, and by the hand of his servants" (2 Samuel 21:22 KJV). After all, Goliath was a Gittite from Gath and "these four" referred to the four giants discussed in the previous verses. Upon reading the passage myself, it seemed that he had a solid case. Seems like very convincing information, right? 

Well, in the parallel passage found in 1 Chronicles 20, one of the giants slain is named Lahmi, and he is referred to as "the brother of Goliath." In verses 4 and 6, the other two giants are referred to as "descendants of the giants" and "descended from the giants," respectively. Plural. In 2 Samuel 21, they are referred to as "descendants of the giant" and "born to the giant." Singular. If the singular is the proper rendering, who is this giant? Is it Goliath, as would seem to be the case based on a simple reading of the text? One of the four giants mentioned is listed as Goliath's brother while the other three are listed as descendants of the giant(s). Did he have three sons and one brother? If so, why then does verse 22 say "these four"? This became confusing, so I did what I do best and started digging.

In Genesis 6:4 it says, "The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown." In Numbers 13:33 it says, "There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight." The Hebrew word, which is here retained from the original, is nepiyliym (נפילים), a masculine noun used only in the plural meaning "giants," and most translations render it thus. The word used in 2 Samuel 21 (rapah [רפה]) and 1 Chronicles 20 (rapa [רפא]), interestingly enough, does not mean "giant(s)." So why do the KJV, the NASB, the NRSV, the NKJV, the ESV, and the HSCB all render it incorrectly?

These words (rapah [רפה], singular, meaning "Rapha"; rapa [רפא], plural, meaning "Raphaim") are proper nouns designating a person—Rapha, the father of several giants among David's enemies. Ironically enough, the NIV is one of the only other Bibles, along with Darby's translation, to render it correctly, as did the Wycliffe, the Matthew-Tyndale, and the Geneva Bible centuries ago. In the Wycliffe Bible, the word in 2 Samuel 21 is rendered as "Harapha," while the word in 1 Chronicles 20 is rendered "Raphaim." In the Matthew-Tyndale Bible, the word in 2 Samuel 21 is rendered as "Haraphah," while the word in 1 Chronicles 20 is rendered "Haraphah." Here are the verses from the 1560 Geneva Bible:
2 Samuel 21
16Then Ishi-benob which was of the sonnes of Haraphah (the head of whose speare wayed thre hundreth shekels of brasse) euen he being girded with a newe sworde, thoght to haue slaine Dauid.
18And after this also there was a battel with the Phiistims at Gob, then Sibechai the Hushathite slewe Saph, which was one of the sonnes of Haraphah.
20Afterware there was also a battel in Gath, where was a man of a great stature, and had on euerie hand six fingers, and on euerie foote six toes, foure and twentie in nomber: who was also the sonne of Haraphah.
22These foure were borne to Harapha in Gath, and dyed by the hand of Dauid and by the hands of his seruants.

1 Chronicles 20
6And yet againe there was a battel at Gath, where was a man of a great stature, and his fingers were by sixes, euen foure and twenty, and was also the sonne of Haraphah.
8These were borne vnto Haraphah at Gath, and fel by the hand of Dauid: and by the hands of his seruants
Rendering these words as "giant(s)" when the words clearly do not even come close to such a meaning (in any lexicon or dictionary I looked up), even though the Raphaim were likely all giants, only serves to confuse the issue for someone who merely reads the Bible at face value rather than studying it deeper. Once we understand this information, everything becomes clear. Rapha was a giant who had five sons: Goliath, Ishbi-benob, Saph (or Sippai), Lahmi, and the unnamed 24-digited brother. So Goliath did have four brothers—not four sons.