Dan Drust

Software Developer
based in Grand Rapids, MI

Where is Eloquent’s static create method?

15 June 2020

Lately I’ve been working on a Laravel 7 project using Eloquent ORM. While trying to unit test some services I kept running into the fact that the services had source-code dependencies on Eloquent Models. Ideally I’d like to inject the model as a dependency and take advantage of Laravel’s dependency injection framework, but that would automatically instantiate the class. The particular service I was trying to get under test was using the static Model::create method. Since I’m dealing with a static method would dependency injection work?

Eloquent models look an awful lot like Laravel’s facades - classes whose collection of static methods hide the details of a complex subsystem. Maybe this was just hiding away some details? A quick look at Illuminate\Database\Eloquent\Model showed no signs of inheritance from Illuminate\Support\Facades\Facade. Various Stack Overflow answers also reinforced that models were distinct from facades.

So where does this create method live, then? A quick search of the Model class revealed no static method called create. And it’s traits? Nothing.

In order to not get too far away from the problem at hand, I fired up a php artisan tinker session. Given that there is no definition static method create, could I call create on a new instance of Model? I tried to create a new user calling (new User)->create(...)…and it worked!

At this point my question is answered. Can I perform a create operation against an injected, instantiated Eloquent model? Yes. But why?

I’m used to working with Rails’ ActiveRecord where, more or less, static methods on the model class represent querying operations against a table and instances of the model class represent a single row of data. Eloquent’s model class is really breaking my assumptions at this point.

I figured this would be a great time to take a nice tour of the class looking for clues as to how a call to create is handled. All the way at the bottom of the class live two PHP magic methods _call and _callStatic. The methods’ DocBlocks noted that these methods handle dynamic calls to the model. So my calls to create as a static and member function must touch these methods. Interestingly, _callStatic creates a new instance and re-calls the method as a member function which mirrors what I’d done earlier in the tinker session.

The _call method was where my answer lied. It gets a new Illuminate\Database\Eloquent\Builder instance and forwards the call there. Builder includes lots of methods that I’d expect to see as static methods in the Active Record pattern like find, findMany, findOrFail, first, firstOrCreate, etc.

So when it comes to CRUD operations, almost any static method call to an Eloquent model will be passed along to a query builder. These static calls will actually be made as member calls, and in fact they can be made only as member calls. So, contrary to my assumptions, a Eloquent model instance doesn’t necessarily represent a row of table data. It can, but it doesn’t have to.

I was able to type hint my service’s Eloquent model dependency and perform my create operation on the injected instance just fine.

Written by Dan Drust on 15 June 2020

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