“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 desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle’.” 1 Samuel 17:28
No reason is given for Eliab’s hostile reception of David. The purpose of David’s visit was to bring food sent by their father. David’s response, “Now what have I done?” suggests this wasn’t the first time his brother had been hostile towards him. Other passages in the Bible suggest David didn’t receive strong support from his family. Consider these two lines from Psalms that David wrote: “I am a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my own mother’s sons’” (Psalm 69:8) and “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me” (Psalm 27:10).
We can only guess at the possible reasons for the tension. David had a strong faith from an early age and perhaps this made his family uncomfortable. Perhaps they didn’t think David as the youngest should have been anointed by Samuel to be the next king. Yet even in that incident David wasn’t initially invited to the meeting with Samuel. Samuel had to ask Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” (1 Samuel 16:11). Interestingly enough when David was sent by his father to visit his brothers a shepherd was found to mind the sheep (17:20), but not when Samuel visited.
While David had disappointments with his family, it didn’t negatively affect him. David learnt to forgive his family and move on. He’s a good example to us of forgiving those closest to us.