When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.” “Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” (1 Samuel 17:28-29).
Not everyone was exited to see David at the battlefield or to hear him ask questions about fighting the giant. David's oldest brother, Eliab, became angry at David and accused him of having wrong motives. Eliab assumed his little brother was shirking his duties at home had sneaked away to see the action. So, he took it upon himself to reprimand him hardly and put him in his place, telling David that he was only a shepherd boy, and a wicked and conceited one at that. Clearly, Eliab was harboring some offence in his heart toward David.
Though we don't know much of the history between these two brothers, the likely cause for the tension between them and Eliab's aggressive and angry behavior can be found in the story of the prophet Samuel's anointing of the future king of Israel. As mentioned in the last chapter, not long before this battle, the prophet Samuel had visited the house of Jesse and anointed David - instead of Eliab - as the future king of Israel. This must have been quite the blow to Eliab's ego. In that day, being the eldest male child was a position of great significance. It came with responsibility and authority within the family. This would have been a huge part of Eliab's personal identity. Yet, when Samuel came, God passed over Eliab in favor of David.
Eliab may have outwardly seemed like an excellent choice, but according to God he did not measure up (see 1 Sam 16:6-7). This reality would have difficult for Eliab to accept. It was socially insulting for David to receive a higher honor than eldest brother. Usually, this sort of transfer of honor only occurred when an elder sibling died or committed an act of great dishonor. Neither of those things had happened, yet inexplicably Samuel had chosen David over all of his older brothers. It is no surprise, then , that Eliab responded spitefully to David. More likely, he was experiencing a great deal of insecurity and jealousy.
Not only did David receive harsh criticism from his brother, but he also received negative and critical feedback from King Saul. When David presented his idea to king, Saul replied: "You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth” (1 Sam 17:33). Imagine the conviction David must have felt to rebuff this criticism and negative feedback from the king. This was not just his older brother, but the king of Israel. Yet David felt so confident in God's calling that even the king's criticism seems to have had little impact on him. For David, showing up to face Goliath involved ignoring the criticism and questioning of his brothers and King Saul and refusing to give in the fears that often accompany criticism from others.
To face the giants in our lives, we too will need to ignore the critics. Success brings the fears and doubts of insecure people to light. The anointing always stirs up criticism. This was true of Eliab and doubly true of Saul. Later, David's success caused such fear and jealousy in Saul that Saul tried to kill David because he saw him as a threat to his throne. For this reason, when we show up to fight giants in our lives, we need to be prepared for criticism from others.
This criticism can manifest as harsh words and dissension disguised as input or correction. It can look like questioning out character or our ability to succeed. Regardless, criticism serves one purpose - to introduce fear into the situation in an attempt to sabotage a person's success. Insecure people don't like to see others succeed, because it challenges their lifestyle. Another person's success creates a contrast to their own experience and perhaps lesser degree of success. It may make them feel inadequate or cause them to question their own worth. As a result, like Eliab and Saul, they become critical and attack the potential for success in others.
Of course, critical people don't see it that way. They often don't realize what's going on in their hearts or why they feel the need to pull others down. Critics often think they are helping. I am sure Eliab felt justified in chastising David for leaving his duty with the sheep. I am sure Saul felt he was only being reasonable in telling David that he was sure to fail. Critics always seem to find a grain of truth to rub in our noses. They like to counter faith with logic. This is one reason why it is so important to be confident of our assignment. It helps us to set our priorities.
(Fragment from Leif Hetland's book "Giant Slayers")
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