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…
If there had been a conspiracy to frustrate the Divine purpose in relation to David, his relatives could scarcely have kept him out of sight more persistently, or brought him forward more sluggishly and reluctantly. Men were slow to see the seeds of future greatness and godliness which the Lord beheld, and they looked not for succour in the direction whence He had ordained it to come. Praise belongs to Him for carrying out His own purpose despite the want of discernment and sympathy on the part of His people. If His thoughts had not prevailed over men's thoughts, the Jewish nation would have lost one of its greatest kings, and the Bible one of its most instructive histories. The Divine wisdom in the choice of David was soon proved when the time of trial came, and he had an opportunity of showing the regal spirit the grace of God had given to him. The second triumph is by far the more famous, but we must not suffer its splendour to hide from us the true glory of the first. The man who kills a giant will always be more talked of than the man who, against the force of strong temptations, controls his own temper; but it is none the less true that — "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city,"
I. DAVID'S VICTORY OVER HIMSELF. It is not difficult to conjecture the cause of Eliab's ill-will and unjust upbraidings. He had not forgiven David for the distinction that God had granted, and the cruel spirit of envy had turned him from a brother into a foe. This fiendish passion of envy, so common in human nature, can not only destroy the joy of a brother in a brother's welfare, but would also, if it could get into a mother's heart, be hellish enough to make her miserable at the thought of the prosperity of her own first-born boy. What a foul thing that must be which finds the elements of its own perdition in a sight of the paradise God gives to others, and which would be wretched and woebegone in heaven itself if it met with anyone having stronger wings or a higher place than its own! When, in the last judgment, Envy is placed at the bar of God, what an indictment will be laid against the Evil Spirit! The insulting anger of Eliab — the cruelty of Joseph's brethren — the murderous wrath of Cain — and the greatest share in the greatest crime in the world, the crucifying of the Lord of glory — will be charged upon him. The taunts and insinuations of Eliab must have cut David to the quick. If the undeserved rebuke had been administered in private, it would have been hard to bear; but Eliab was base enough to be a public slanderer, and sought, by his foul aspersions, to do irreparable damage to David's reputation amongst those who saw him that day for the first time, and would be too ready to think that there must be good grounds for these charges of pride and arrogance, seeing they were made by the young man's own brother. The temptation must have been strong to answer it with words of burning indignation, and only a man of much meekness and of great self-control could have replied to it as David did. Who likes to be accused of vile motives which he knows have no place in his heart, and to hear his very virtues denounced as being nothing but hideous vices which he tries to conceal by means of pious airs and canting pretensions? It was a cross of this kind David had to carry, and he bore it as if there had been given to him some prophetic foresight of the perfect example of Him who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, and who, when He was reviled, reviled not again. The restraint which David put upon his temper under this great provocation was the most godly thing he could have done, and therefore it was the wisest and most profitable. Having regard to the great work before him, it was very important that David should keep his temper. Could the second victory have been achieved if he had failed in the first conflict? That which was right amidst the temptations of one hour was the best preparation for the arduous labours of the next hour. All of her things being equal, he who is most triumphant over temptation and most faithful to duty today will be the strongest for work and warfare tomorrow.
II. DAVID'S VICTORY OVER GOLIATH. History records many instances in which cruelty, and tyranny, and persecution haw thoroughly outwitted themselves and frustrated their own purposes. Charity must not rejoice in iniquity, but it may exult in the defeat of iniquity, and especially when iniquity plays the part of a scorpion and stings itself, and when, like Haman, it unwittingly prepares a gallows for its own execution. The defeat of the Philistines in the downfall of their great champion is a most striking illustration of this kind of self-destruction. "Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel; for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears" (1 Samuel 13:19). This cruel policy was so successful that on one occasion there were only two swords or spears possessed by the entire Jewish army. Saul and Jonathan had them; but all the rest of the people had to use such cumbrous and clumsy weapons as unskilled hands could make without fire or hammer. Necessity has always been the mother of invention, and we may be certain that, when iron weapons were denied to the Hebrews, their skill was largely developed in other directions. The youth of the land could not practise sword exercise, or learn to poise the spear, and therefore they would be driven to make themselves master of other methods of defence and assault. Before this period the Benjamites had become famous for their skill in slinging, for "Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men left-handed; everyone could sling stones at an hair-breadth, and not miss" (Judges 20:16). When all edged weapons were taken from them, the people would be sure to turn again to those in whose use their fathers had been so renowned, and practice would again make perfect. Thus the issue proved that the Philistines laid the foundation of their own defeat when they took all swords and spears from the Israelites, and compelled them to try other means of accomplishing their deliverance. The foes of God's people meant it for evil, but God overruled it for good. David's skill with the sling would have failed to gain the victory if it had been divorced from faith in God. It was his trust in the Lord which gave such calmness to his soul, as surely as it was the calmness of his soul which helped to make his arm so steady and his aim so sure. His faith, however, was not a fanatical faith, which violates reason and neglects the most appropriate means. When he refused to wear Saul's armour, he proved his common sense as much as he displays his confidence in God. The faith of David was also associated with experience as well as with reason. He remembered past mercies, and thereby encouraged his heart to rest in Him who is ever the same. The most effectual way of chasing away despair and regaining confidence is to adopt the Psalmist's resolve — "I will remember the works of the Lord: Surely I will remember Thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all Thy work, and talk of Thy doings."
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."