Eliab's Reluctance: A Story of David and Goliath

Updated: Nov 1, 2019

“Move out!” the commander shouted, and Eliab's stomach swooped as he glanced to his brother.

“Here we go again,” Abinadab said grimly, his brows low over his eyes with concern as he picked up his leather shield.

Shammah tossed the other two their simple spears. Eliab caught his easily and held the point upright as the army began to move up the steep hill. The grass had been worn down by the trampling of thousands of sandals passing back and forth every day for a month. The once clear air of the heights was now tainted with the scent of cookfires, sweat, and fear.

Eliab leaned closer to Abinadab. “How long will we do this?”

Abinadab glanced upwards at his taller, elder brother. “Until someone rises to the challenge.”

Eliab turned his gaze forward with a painful swallow, feeling heat creeping down his neck. He was tall and broad-shouldered. As a firstborn son, he was used to taking responsibility and bearing the mantle of leadership. His father was old, and someday the weight of their large family would be laid on his shoulders—if they weren't all slaughtered here on this battlefield. He had seen the other men looking his way, waiting for him to rise to the challenge that awaited them every morning. Yet, like all the others, Eliab was silent. He was terrified at dying and losing not only his life, but his people's freedom. Eliab felt a flash of shame and clutched the spear a little tighter.

They arrived at the summit of the low mountain and saw the enemy already spread out on the opposite mountain range that bordered the triangular valley. The dirt road that wove through this valley was a chief trade route, and the Philistines wanted the valuable land for their own. This valley was dangerously close to several Israelite cities, Eliab's hometown of Bethlehem included. Eliab pressed his lips together and thought of his wife and children at home, pushing down a rising panic. He was here to protect them. He needed to keep them safe from this godless horde.

The sun broke through the cloud cover and Eliab squinted against the reflection of thousands of bronze spear tips and various bits of armor on the commanders. He licked his lips, shifting his comparably rustic weapons uncomfortably. The Philistines had skilled smiths, while Israel did not. Not long ago, the Philistines had seen to it that any blacksmith in the land of Israel had been murdered. Eliab gritted his teeth—it might take generations to regain all the knowledge that had been lost!

He reached down by his side to reassure himself that his sling and stone pouch were in place. This was where he and his kinsmen excelled. There were bowmen among them, but his shepherd tribe had been born with a sling in their hand and could shoot a stone some 750 paces, and in shorter range, they struck with deadly accuracy.

“Brothers!” a familiar voice broke through his thoughts, and he turned with surprise. The youngest of his seven brothers was pushing his way to the front of the line, a grin on his face. “I'm pleased to see you are all well!”

Eliab nodded at David. David was a young man, unmarried still, but despite his youth, he was already favored by Saul for his musical talents. David had been promoted to Saul's armor-bearer not that long ago, and he was often staying with Saul in Gibeah.

“How is our father?” Eliab asked.

“He is well. He has sent bread and grain for you,” David's gaze encompassed all three brothers. “And cheeses for your commander.”

Eliab leaned on his spear and asked after his wife and children. David was still filling the brothers in with all the news from his visit home when a shout rang up the mountain slope.

“Well?” the voice roared. “Have you sheep-lovers found a man worthy of my challenge? Send him down here to me to fight.”

Eliab's heart tightened. Reluctantly he turned and David shifted to stand beside him, peering down the slope. Eliab pre