1 Samuel 17:28
And Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab's anger was kindled against David, and he said…
Hitherto David has had little suffering. Life is made up of trials: the Christian's course is never free from them: this we are to see here, for this seventeenth tells us, besides the contest with the lion and the bear, of three great trials which at this time befell the "man after God's own heart." I dare say that when you have read this chapter you have thought of David's wonderful faith and courage as seen in his conflict with the giant; and yet it tells us of three trials and three victories; and I believe that either of the other two was much more painful, and required more faith than was necessary to nerve him for the single combat.
1. Observe, then, in the first place, that after David was anointed he went back to his duties as before; for "Saul sent messengers unto Jesse, and said, Send me David thy son, which is with the sheep." For one moment he had been exalted, and then all went on as before. Then a brilliant career seemed opening before him: he was most unexpectedly sent for to the court. But as soon as the benefit was received it was forgotten; for ingratitude is the commonest of faults: David is not wanted now; the king's head is full of war matters; he stands in need of men, and not of boys; he wants swords and slicers, not harps and music. Oh! never be carried away with the love of popularity; it is not worth striving after; there is nothing that may be more quickly lost. Only let some unkind report be raised about you, or some great man sneer at you, and the people will be ready, to a man, to turn against you. And so David goes quietly back, resumes the shepherd's dress, takes the place of the youngest son, and feeds his father's sheep. I declare that seems to me to have been the greatest of the three trials; he must indeed have had strong faith, and he must have been endued with the grace of humility. And was it not so with our blessed Lord Himself? At the age of twelve years He is found "sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions: and all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers." "He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them;" (Luke 2:49, 51), and for eighteen years He remained in obscurity. Such was David's first trial here. Flattered one moment, and thrown aside the next; at one time likely to be famous in the court, and very shortly afterwards sent to feed the sheep near his father's homestead. Would it be very trying to be laid aside by illness, to sink into obscurity?
2. And now we come to a trial of a different kind, but equally painful, perhaps, or at all events one that shows the depth of his piety. We can quite understand how anxious Jesse was for the safety of his boys: his three eldest sons are gone to the battle; Eliab is there, the pride of his heart: so David is sent with a little present from home, and doubtless many kind messages, as Joseph was sent by Jacob to visit his brethren at Shechem. And when he comes, then his elder brother takes him to task, and utters the most cruel and vindictive insinuations. And here, too, Jesus can sympathise with His people. When He entered upon His public ministry, the first place at which He preached was His own city Nazareth. As He loved His mother, so He evidently had special affection for His own city, His neighbours, and near kindred: it was this love which made Him preach in the synagogue at Nazareth; but they would not receive Him; for "a prophet has no honour in his own country." There are some people who can bear a long trial, who may yet be thrown off their guard by a sudden temptation; and so perhaps it was quite as difficult to give Eliab back a gentle answer, as it was to go quietly home from the palace to the sheepfold. Gentle natures are often sensitive, and sensitive people are almost always irritable. Oh! temper! temper! what a trial it is to those that are afflicted with it! and terrible is the guilt of those who provoke an irritable person. But David gained the victory, and must have made Eliab sensible of the wrong he had done him. This was a far greater victory, though little noticed, little thought of at the time, and not so much observed even now by those who read this chapter, as the contest with the giant shortly afterwards.
3. And now a word upon the third trial and the third victory. David fells the giant. There is no battle, but flight on the one hand, and eager pursuit on the other; in a few minutes the hills are completely deserted, and we can only hear the shouts of the pursuers gradually dying away in the direction of Ekron. There lies the headless body in the valley of Elah: come and let us stand by it, and learn one or two lessons. Behold in David the type of David's Son. When the great Captain of our salvation was tempted of the devil, He did not contend with him as God, but only as one of ourselves. He just took the "smooth stones out of the brook;" He met and defeated him as any Christian may, with the words of Scripture; as any Jew might then, with quotations from the Book of Deuteronomy. The Philistine, you see, but for David's faith, would have been stronger than the Israelites. The giant did not fall by sword and spear, but David's faith in God brought victory to his countrymen. It was because David was in the camp that Israel conquered. Would we be loyal Churchmen, would we do good service to our Church, let us be men of God; let us so behave, that the Lord Jesus shall still be in the midst of us; let us make use of the stones from the brook, of prayer, and Holy Scripture; and the Lord will yet save us from ruin, though He may see fit to humiliate us. How did David know that he was equal to this emergency? What made him sure that he should conquer the giant? He had had experience of God's help before. So indeed had the Israelites; they had gained a great victory under Samuel, and had reared their "Ebenezer;" but this was forgotten now, and therefore their faith failed them. But not so David. And then David knew nothing about the use of armour, though no doubt Saul provided him with the best; but he was expert in the use of the sling. Ah! those "stones from the brook," how are they dispised! Any other means of grace is more valued than Scripture. No doubt David was regarded as a hero from Dan to Beersheba; the slaughter of the giant made him famous, and his praise was in everyone's mouth. Yet I think I have shown you that the killing of the giant was a very little matter; that what is really to be admired is David's faith; and that either of the other two trials was in reality more severe.
(C. Bosanquet, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab's anger was kindled against David, and he said, "Why have you come down? With whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride, and the naughtiness of your heart; for you have come down that you might see the battle."