Narcissist Case Study – Eliab, David’s Oldest Brother

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Psalm 19:7

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.

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A “testimony of the Lord” is a Biblical account of God’s dealing with someone in accordance with His nature and His ways.  While those accounts often do not specifically outline the Biblical principles at play, they are excellent illustrations of truth gleaned in other parts of the Bible.  A “case study” or a “cautionary tale” might be modern ways of referring to these accounts.  And as Psalm 19:7 and I Corinthians 10:11 state, these accounts can provide wisdom to those who are naive (or simple).

One such account is that of Eliab, David’s oldest brother.

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1 Chronicles 2:13-15

13 and Jesse became the father of Eliab his firstborn, then Abinadab the second, Shimea the third, 14 Nethanel the fourth, Raddai the fifth, 15 Ozem the sixth, David the seventh;

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Eliab was tall and handsome, but there was something wrong lurking inside him.  During Samuel’s search for Saul’s replacement as king God made that clear, and used Eliab to make the point that He cares much more about what is inside people’s hearts than in their outward appearance or abilities.

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1 Samuel 16:6-7

When they entered, he [Samuel] looked at Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

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The fact that God said He rejected Eliab from being selected as King indicates that God had  considered Eliab as a candidate to be the King.  (God in his infinite wisdom and thoroughness probably had considered every male in Israel for the position.)  Eliab had the opportunity to go from being an average person to King of Israel, but was disqualified because of what was in his heart.   What God saw was revealed later, when their father Jesse sent David to take some food and to check on his brothers.

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When David saw how the entire army of Israel were afraid at the sight and taunts of Goliath, he spoke to the men standing next to him to confirm what they were saying about the king’s reward for killing Goliath.

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1 Samuel 17:26-29

26 Then David spoke to the men who were standing by him, saying, “What will 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 taunt the armies of the living God?” 27 The people answered him in accord with this word, saying, “Thus it will be done for the man who kills him.”

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But Eliab’s response was telling.

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28 Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab’s anger burned 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 insolence and the wickedness of your heart; for you have come down in order to see the battle.” 29 But David said, “What have I done now? Was it not just a question?”

See the entire exchange between David and his brother Eliab here

 

David was simply wondering who was going to stand up to this giant who was taunting God.  There was nothing wrong with what he did – David was looking at things with the eyes of faith, and  God approved.  Eliab’s aggressive accusations toward David, however, revealed what was actually in his own heart.

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Romans 2:1

Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.

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Eliab’s claim to know what was in David’s heart, and lashing out with a strongly accusatory statement at David’s simple question addressed to other people showed that Eliab was the one with insolence and wickedness in his heart, not David.  The word Eliab used – insolence – is the same word for insolent pride used in Proverbs 21:24.  Therefore, Eliab was accusing David of having insolent pride (narcissism in modern colloquial terms) and equating David’s narcissism with wickedness.  But, Eliab was the narcissist, not David.

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In addition, Eliab made a point of publicly declaring his superiority by belittling David when he asked “And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness?”.  Eliab was saying to David, “you’re a nobody, spending your time in the middle of nowhere, only taking care of a pitiful handful of sheep” – compared to me “the warrior””.  This was a classic move of a scoffer.

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In pride, Eliab may have thought that he was the one who should have received the anointing to be king instead of his y0ungest brother, because he was physically superior in height and looks, as well as being the oldest son – which conferred a special status that he had enjoyed his entire life.  Not receiving the anointing, and being told that God had rejected him, would have angered someone who already had insolent pride.  He also may have been jealous of David’s ability to look at Goliath’s challenge through eyes of faith.

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David’s response “What have I done now?”  implies that David had faced Eliab’s wrath before.  David did not defend himself from Eliab’s attack – he could have done a tit for tat, saying to Eliab, “You’re the narcissist”, but he didn’t…..

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Proverbs 26:4

Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
Or you will also be like him.

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…….and He did not try to explain himself and his motives.  But he did not completely let it go, with a small soft rebuke to Eliab’s attack by saying “I was just asking a question”, before ignoring Eliab and continuing the discussion with others.

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Proverbs 26:5

Answer a fool as his folly deserves,
That he not be wise in his own eyes.

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Eliab’s insolent pride, which disqualified him from being king and was revealed through accusing David of what he himself was guilty, was in stark contrast to David’s eyes of faith.

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Putting “Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism” Into Perspective

 

 

 

 

 

2 responses

  1. Thank you for your posts. I have found a lot of useful information about recovering from narcissistic abuse, but not much of it is from a Christian perspective, so I really appreciate your blog. It’s amazing how God has used Bible passages I’ve known for years to specifically help me through this, like Psalm 3:3 and Psalm 62 (esp. v. 4-8). And there are a lot of verses in Psalm 119 about others lying and persecuting David, but he just keeps his heart and his mind on God’s precepts, like v. 69 “The arrogant have forged a lie against me; With all my heart I will observe my precepts.” Anyway, just wanted to say thanks. Our God really does supply all of our needs.

    • Thanks for your comment! I was just reading and thinking about those same passages in Psalm 119 in the past week. They’re great!

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