Eighty-five priests lay dead. All innocent. All slaughtered by Doeg. But he wasn’t through. Hotfooting it to the victims’ hometown, “He also put to the sword Nob, the town of the priests, with its men and women, its children and infants, and its cattle, donkeys and sheep” (1 Samuel 22:19 NIV).
The massacre was set in motion with a lie by–of all people–David. Fleeing again from his irrational father-in-law, he had gone into the tabernacle at Nob. David convinced Ahimelech, the priest, that the king had sent him in haste on a secret mission.
Willing to lend a helping hand, the trusting priest gave David what he had available. No harm would have been done if there had not been a malicious eyewitness.
For some reason, the king’s top herdsman was also in the sanctuary that day. As if it were a get-out-of-jail card, Doeg kept what he had seen and heard for an opportune time. That was not long in coming.
Years earlier King Saul began deceiving himself with a lie of his own making: that his son and son-in-law were out to get him. There was no evidence of it. Quite the opposite, in fact. Nevertheless, Saul’s tormented mind continually fueled his conspiracy lie. Once, during a woe-is-me mood, the king enlarged the fabrication to include his closest officials:
For all of you have conspired against me so that there is no one who discloses to me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse, and there is none of you who is sorry for me or discloses to me that my son has stirred up my servant against me to lie in ambush, as it is this day” (1 Samuel 22:8 NASB).
Whether Doeg construed this as a do-or-die moment or a fleeting chance to suck up to the king, he played his card:
Then Doeg the Edomite, who was standing with Saul’s officials, spoke up: “I saw the son of Jesse meet with Ahimelech son of Ahitub, in Nob. I saw Ahimelech pray with him for God’s guidance, give him food, and arm him with the sword of Goliath the Philistine” (1 Samuel 22:9-10 MSG).
When all eighty-five priests were brought to the enraged king, Ahimelech protested his innocence. At any point Doeg could have vouched for the priest, but he did not. Instead, he carried out Saul’s command to kill the whole lot of them. Then on to Nob with his bloody sword for genocide! But there was a survivor.
Somehow Abiathar, a son of Ahimelech, escaped the massacre and found David. Receiving the heart-wrenching news, he took the blame: “Then David said to Abiathar, “I knew on that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul. I have brought about the death of every person in your father’s household” (1 Samuel 22:22 NASB).
Is it any wonder that Solomon, David’s future son, would someday include in his wisdom sayings:
Here are six things God hates, and one more that he loathes with a passion: eyes that are arrogant, a tongue that lies, hands that murder the innocent, a heart that hatches evil plots, feet that race down a wicked track, a mouth that lies under oath, a troublemaker in the family (Proverbs 6:16-19 MSG).