The Youngest Brother


The three oldest sons of Jesse had followed Saul to the battle. And the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, 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. For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening.

And Jesse said to David his son, “Take for your brothers an ephah of this parched grain, and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers. Also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See if your brothers are well, and bring some token from them.”

Now Saul and they and all the men of Israel were in the Valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. And David rose early in the morning and left the sheep with a keeper and took the provisions and went, as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the encampment as the host was going out to the battle line, shouting the war cry. And Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. And David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage and ran to the ranks and went and greeted his brothers. As he talked with them, behold, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.

All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were much afraid. And the men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. And the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel.” 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?” And the people answered him in the same way, “So shall it be done to the man who kills him.”

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.” And David said, “What have I done now? Was it not but a word?” I Samuel 17:13-29 ESV

For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. I Corinthians 1:25-29 ESV


A king once had three sons who went off to seek their fortunes. The older brothers had always thought of the youngest one as very stupid, and so they called him Simpleton. As they traveled, Simpleton kept them from destroying an anthill, some ducks, and a beehive. Then they came to a castle where all the people had been turned to stone. In order to free the castle someone had to perform three tasks, but if anyone failed, he would also be turned to stone. The first task was to gather up a thousand pearls scattered in the forest. The two older brothers tried and failed, so they were turned to stone. But Simpleton got help from the ants he had saved, and succeeded. The next task was to get a key from the bottom of a lake, which a grateful duck did for Simpleton. The third task was to choose the youngest of three sleeping princesses who looked exactly alike. The youngest had eaten honey before she went to sleep, and the queen bee of the hive Simpleton had saved helped him. The spell was broken, everyone came back to life, and Simpleton married the youngest princess.

There are many fairy tales where the youngest brother is thought to be stupid and worthless, and it seems like it might have been a little like that in David’s family. His oldest brothers were soldiers in Saul’s army, but David still spent time taking care of the family’s sheep. Even though he sometimes helped Saul, his brothers still didn’t think he was worth much compared to them. So when David started asking about Goliath and talking as if he were interested in becoming Israel’s champion, his oldest brother got angry with him and told him off. Eliab thought that David was being an annoying younger brother who thought he was much bigger and better than he was.

God often works through people who seem weak and foolish. He does this to show that people who are strong and powerful can’t do things on their own. Only with God’s help can anyone accomplish anything. Sometimes people who are famous or rich or powerful have a hard time understanding that they need God. Some people look at Jesus in his weakness and suffering on the cross, and it seems to them like a very foolish way for God to save his people. But God used what seemed weak and humble to win the victory over sin and death. On our own we are completely helpless to save ourselves, but we can trust God to save us through what Jesus did for us on the cross.


Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to save us when we couldn’t save ourselves. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.