Now 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? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” 29 And David said, “What have I done now? Was it not but a word?” 30 And he turned away from him toward another, and spoke in the same way, and the people answered him again as before. ~1 Samuel 17:28-30
Little baby brother is showing big tough front-line brother up. Big tough front-line brother is mad. He is mad because he is jealous, prideful, and insecure about his own failure to do that which baby brother has the courage to do.
Why did you come here small boy? Just who do you think you are? I’ll tell you what I think: you are nothing. You probably left the one itty-bitty responsibility you had unattended. I know you. I know what is in your black heart. You are bored. You are lazy. You are just looking for some action in your miserable, purposeless life. You have no business here on my turf. You are worthless; better yet, you are evil. Go back where you came from, inferior.
Eliab, in his unrighteous anger, used every angle he could find to discredit David. He sought wholeheartedly to deny him the honor due him for his courage and hunger for righteousness.
Nevertheless, David was obedient. He was zealous for the Lord. He was courageous, fearless, and wise even despite the towering foe he knew he was about to face and the pain of his brother’s injurious accusations.
Eliab would not hear of it. He made sure his false accusations and unfounded charges were loud and clear. He tells David he is presumptuous as he himself stands presuming upon his innocent brother.
David is not fazed. David answers softly and turns around. He continues about his Father’s business. Consider, though, that there are quite a lot of things David could have said or done to defend himself.
He could have argued. He could have cried. He could have owned it. He could have gone back home. He could have clocked his brother a good one. He could have reciprocated his brother’s false accusations. Doubtless, there are countless ways David could have returned evil for evil. None of them,however, would result in giving glory to God.
The bottom line is, David had bigger fish to fry and he knew it. He’s got no time for this kind of infantile tomfoolery. David was interested in only one thing – the Lord’s will. He knew it was not his reputation that was ultimately at stake here; it was the Lord’s! How important it was for him to overlook the insults being hurled at him and turn away from that mess. Therefore, he was wise. He was patient. He was forgiving. Such things are apparent by the way he held his peace (save a question or two about the validity of the charges) and, in doing so, kept his peace.
Likewise, Matthew Henry writes, “Those that undertake great and public services must not think it strange if they be discountenanced and opposed by those from whom they had reason to expect support and assistance; but must humbly go on with their work, in the face not only of their enemies’ threats, but of their friends’ slights and suspicions.”