While Saul and the men under his command are terrified by Goliath’s taunts and by his call for one-on-one combat, David’s reaction is wholly different. Observing the giant’s words—and the fear of his fellow Israelites—David is filled with what Matthew Henry describes as “holy indignation.”
In his first recorded words in Scripture, David puts two questions to his brothers and other nearby soldiers. First, he asks what reward has been offered for the man who kills Goliath and ” ‘takes away the reproach from Israel?’ ” It is difficult to see why he asks this question in verse 26, since it appears that the men already have explained the reward in verse 25. Perhaps verse 25 is merely an account of the gossip in the army’s ranks. In any case, David is making no effort to hide his disgust over the reproach being cast upon his people, and he understands that Goliath must be killed for the reproach to be removed. But in his second question, he asks why everyone is so afraid to make the attempt. He asks, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” David is doing what none of the other Israelites seems able to do —he is looking past Goliath’s ferocious exterior and seeing the giant as God sees him. What he sees is an “uncircumcised” man, one outside God’s covenant, a self-declared enemy of the Lord of Hosts. Goliath has no right to defy the God of Israel or the armies that exist to do His bidding. It is as if David is asking, “What about God?” David wants the Israelites to know that Goliath has insulted God, and that God surely will not let him stand. Thus, He will give victory to the man who is willing to fight the giant.
These words of David sting at least one of the men of war—his eldest brother, Eliab. Clearly ashamed by David’s fearlessness in contrast to his own terror, he lashes out, accusing David of pride and insolence of heart, and insinuating that he came to the front just to satisfy his curiosity. Also, he lets everyone around him know that David is just a shepherd, and (at least in his eyes) not a very responsible one. But David does not try to refute Eliab; he simply asks, “Is there not a cause?” and goes right on asking his embarrassing questions. He wants someone, anyone, to take up the cause of God’s honor, but the Israelites cannot overcome their fear.