“And the people answered him after this manner, saying, So shall it be done to the man that killeth him. And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle. And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?” (1 Samuel 17:27-29).
Eliab totally misunderstood why David was in the camp. Without any information he jumped to an unsound conclusion. We wonder if he would have reprimanded his brother if he knew that Jesse had sent David to gather news about his son’s welfare?
It is interesting to note the “now” in David’s question, for it appears that he was always being picked on by his elder brothers. Eliab had misjudged David’s motives for being so close to the battle, and was inferring that he was irresponsible, wicked and proud [insolent]. Yet in reality he was being obedient, responsible and brave. Eliab never said one nice thing to David, instead he was foul, unkind and unjust.
It makes us wonder if Eliab, the oldest son of Jesse, was a little envious of David being honoured and anointed by Samuel. We must remember that he knew that he had been rejected by the Lord when the prophet told him to stand back in the line. “See the folly and wickedness of envy! How groundless its jealousies are, how unjust its censures, how unfair it representations? God preserve us from such a spirit!” (John Wesley). Also, it is possible that this soldier was ashamed of his fearfulness in facing Goliath. So hearing David’s questions and courageous words must have stung him. He lashed out at his little brother’s words, but was silent when it came to the blasphemies of the enemy. What would have happened if David had gone home that day?
Every true servant of Christ is sure to be criticised instead of applauded and praised. In fact we ought to question ourselves if we are not misjudged by others. “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). Satan will target those churches, preachers and ministries that are the greatest hindrance to his work. Desire to live obedient lives dedicated to God, and we will be branded legalistic and holier-than-thou. State that Christ has saved us from sin and the flesh, and we will be accused of being self-righteous Pharisees. No wonder Satan is known as “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10).
Abel was rejected and killed by his brother Cain (Genesis 4:1-16). Joseph was rejected and sold into slavery by his brothers (Genesis 37). Jesus was rejected by his brothers too, “For neither did his brethren believe in him” (John 7:5). The Lord teaches that this is always going to happen to those who trust in Him. “A man’s foes shall be they of his own household” (Matthew 10:36). It is good to know then that we have a “friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). “They that undertake public services must not think it strange, if they be opposed by those from whom they had reason to expect assistance, but must humbly go on with their work, in the face, not only of their enemies threats, but of their friends slights, suspicions, and censures” (John Wesley).
There was a cause [a reason] why David was there, though his brothers did not perceive it. There was a reason for the way he spoke and the things he spoke about. God had a plan that was being carried out by the shepherd boy, one which would affect every man, woman and child until the close of world history and then throughout eternity. David, though walking in the Spirit, would not have known all the details of God’s plan, but we can see the Lord at work in it all. “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:9-14) … “According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:11).