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by Wayne Blank
"The Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but The Lord looks on the heart"
Saul was "taller than any of the people" (1 Samuel 9:2 RSV), but his height did not make him wise; Saul was rejected as king over Israel because of his poor judgment. Eliab was also a physically impressive man (i.e. "When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, "Surely The Lord's anointed is before him," see below) but with Saul's failure so obvious, The Lord declared that wisdom is what makes a good leader, not being tall or short, "for The Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but The Lord looks on the heart." There was nothing wrong with tall Eliab; he may have been chosen as king by The Lord if not for the lesson of "man's politics" made evident from the example of Saul.
"The Lord said to Samuel, "How long will you grieve over Saul, seeing I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons."
It wasn't just Eliab who was passed over; all of Jesse's sons were deliberately not chosen - except for the youngest, shortest one - who despite his size, had more battle courage, and faithfulness and obedience to God, than his brothers.
"Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, "Neither has The Lord chosen this one." Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, "Neither has The Lord chosen this one." And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, "The Lord has not chosen these." And Samuel said to Jesse, "Are all your sons here?"
Eliab was among the Israeli troops who failed to meet the battle challenge of Goliath. When young David was sent by Jesse to deliver supplies to his brothers, he heard Goliath's challenge.
"Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, named Jesse, who had eight sons. In the days of Saul the man was already old and advanced in years. The three eldest sons of Jesse had followed Saul to the battle; and the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the first-born, and next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. David was the youngest; the three eldest followed Saul, but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father's sheep at Bethlehem.
Eliab's resentment toward David boiled over again when David asked why someone, including his "big brother," didn't go out and fight the Philistine. When the answer became obvious, David went out and did it himself (see Shochoh).
"And David said to the men who stood by him, "What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine, and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?"
Fact Finder: Which of Eliab's daughters (i.e. a niece of King David) married King Rehoboam (i.e. a grandson of King David) of Judah?