6. Why have you come down here? (1 Samuel 17:28).
Eliab’s anger burns at David, but it’s unlikely that his frustration relates solely to the moment before them. David was anointed instead of Jesse’s eldest son, leaving the latter to burn with bitterness. Now David asks questions of the soldiers rather than his elder brother and Eliab’s anger spills over. The scene is reminiscent of Joseph’s relationship with his brothers. The jealousy of the elder brother is unleashed when the younger brother is given greater honor.
From David’s vantage point, he is receiving criticism from a voice that may have been quite important to him. Criticism always stings, but it hurts even more deeply when it comes from one whose opinion matters a lot. As David’s oldest brother, Eliab’s voice may have been nearly as valuable to David as his own father’s. When Eliab responds harshly to David in front of the army David admires, likely the younger brother was devastated.
Criticism that comes from those closest to us hurts, and there’s no magical way to soften that pain. As leaders, we must accept that such criticism can occur, and do our best to move forward with the right response. David could have been mature enough to see Eliab’s response for what it truly was–jealousy. But to do that, he would have to see how the moment looked from Eliab’s angle. Perhaps David could salve his hurt by knowing that his oldest brother was hurting even more.