|Siblings (Image: Pixabay)|
TO CHEW ON: “Now Eliab, his oldest brother, heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab’s anger was aroused against David, and he said, ‘Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.’” 1 Samuel 17:28
Two days ago we looked at how various people viewed David. Here we see him from another angle—as his older brother saw him. David’s answer to Eliab’s “Why did you come here?” is almost a nonchalant shrug: ”’What have I done now?’” It tells me that this was not the first time Eliab was on his case.
Their interchange reminds me of other Bible first born / later-born conflicts.
- Cain killed his younger brother Abel.
- Jacob connived how to get his father’s firstborn blessing from older Esau.
- Joseph (the second-youngest) was hated by his older brothers.
- In Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, it’s the oldest dutiful big brother who ends up being the antihero of the story.
Perhaps one reason Bible firstborns had trouble with their younger siblings getting special treatment was because in Israel special privilege was supposed to go to the oldest son, as in:
“… a larger inheritance, a special paternal blessing, family leadership, and an honored place at mealtimes (Genesis 25:5-6; 27:35-37; 37:21; 42:37; 43:33; Deuteronomy 21:15-17). … In Israelite ritual, the firstborn belonged to God (Exodus 13:2; 22:29-30; Numbers 3:13)” - “What's the significance of 'first-born' in the Bible” from GotAnswers.org.
As an oldest myself, I am not unsympathetic toward these Bible firstborns. Psychologist Dr. Kevin Leman has studied and written about characteristics that are often found in people according to their birth order (The Birth Order Book). I can see how many of the qualities typically found in last borns readily grate on firstborns.
Firstborn qualities: conscientious, well-organized, serious, goal-oriented, achieving, people pleaser, believer in authority, perfectionist, reliable, list-maker, critical, self-sacrificing, conservative, supporter of law and order, legalistic, self-reliant .
Lastborn qualities: manipulative, charming, blame others, attention seekers, tenacious, people person, natural salesperson, precocious, engaging, affectionate, love surprises - Kevin Leman, The Birth Order Book, 80,167.
God often chose those born later in the family for special assignments:
- Of the sons of Jacob, middle-born Judah established the ancestral line of Jesus.
- Moses, a youngest son, led Israel out of Egypt.
- Solomon (not the oldest but middle or youngest) was the one chosen of David’s sons to become king.
All this to say that whatever qualities we’re born with or that our family has nurtured in us, we still need to be yielded to God for His purposes. It’s not birth order or societally mandated privilege that determines whether God can use us or not. It’s what’s in our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7).
PRAYER: Dear Father, thank You for my family and how they have molded me. Help me to yield my firstborn tendencies to You for whatever destiny You have planned for me. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.