“And one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped, and fled after David. And Abiathar showed David that Saul had slain the LORD’S priests. And David said unto Abiathar, I knew it that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul: I have occasioned the death of all the persons of thy father’s house” (1 Samuel 22:20-23).
David is saddened to learn of the events that took place at Nob, especially since he was the cause of it. David is getting his life in order by determining to walk with the Lord, but there were still consequences of his past sins. “David, with characteristic tenderness of conscience, accuses himself of being the cause of all this bloodshed” (R. P. Smith).
“When Saul heard that David was discovered, and the men that were with him, (now Saul abode in Gibeah under a tree in Ramah, having his spear in his hand, and all his servants were standing about him;) Then Saul said unto his servants that stood about him, Hear now, ye Benjamites; will the son of Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards, and make you all captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds; That all of you have conspired against me, and there is none that showeth me that my son hath made a league with the son of Jesse, and there is none of you that is sorry for me, or showeth unto me that my son hath stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as at this day?” (1 Samuel 22:6-8).
King Saul had learned of David’s whereabouts. His mind was so confused and paranoid that he believed that everyone was conspiring against him to set up David as king. This may have happened around the time that David’s family decided it would be wise to flee Bethlehem. Saul trusted no-one, not even his own son Jonathan.
“Then answered Doeg the Edomite, which was set over the servants of Saul, and said, I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob, to Ahimelech the son of Ahitub. And he inquired of the LORD for him, and gave him victuals, and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine” (1 Samuel 22:9-10).
As far as Saul was concerned even Doeg was in on the conspiracy. But Doeg had some information that would convince Saul of his loyalty. He recounted to the king his version of what happened in Nob. He spun the details so that both David and Ahimelech would look bad in his eyes. This story had its desired effect, Saul was now convinced that the priesthood was with David too.
“Then the king sent to call Ahimelech the priest, the son of Ahitub, and all his father’s house, the priests that were in Nob: and they came all of them to the king. And Saul said, Hear now, thou son of Ahitub. And he answered, Here I am, my lord. And Saul said unto him, Why have ye conspired against me, thou and the son of Jesse, in that thou hast given him bread, and a sword, and hast inquired of God for him, that he should rise against me, to lie in wait, as at this day? Then Ahimelech answered the king, and said, And who is so faithful among all thy servants as David, which is the king’s son in law, and goeth at thy bidding, and is honourable in thine house? Did I then begin to inquire of God for him? be it far from me: let not the king impute any thing unto his servant, nor to all the house of my father: for thy servant knew nothing of all this, less or more. And the king said, Thou shalt surely die, Ahimelech, thou, and all thy father’s house. And the king said unto the footmen that stood about him, Turn, and slay the priests of the LORD; because their hand also is with David, and because they knew when he fled, and did not show it to me. But the servants of the king would not put forth their hand to fall upon the priests of the LORD” (1 Samuel 22:11-17).
Doeg has lied when he said that the priest sought the Lord for David. He did not deny giving David the bread and the sword, but he rejected the false facts about inquiring of God for David. If Saul was in his right mind he would have believed Ahimelech above Doeg, but he was not, and so did not. His heart was so wicked that he had no conscience about murdering the priest and his family. Only Saul’s men saw sense and refused to carry out his order. No doubt their refusal to obey their Commander-in-Chief added to his suspicion about them.
“And the king said to Doeg, Turn thou, and fall upon the priests. And Doeg the Edomite turned, and he fell upon the priests, and slew on that day fourscore and five persons that did wear a linen ephod. And Nob, the city of the priests, smote he with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and sucklings, and oxen, and asses, and sheep, with the edge of the sword” (1 Samuel 22:18-19).
Doeg killed eighty-five priests and then went into the town to destroy every living thing, man, woman, child and beast. He went beyond what Saul asked of him, probably just to exalt himself in the king’s eyes. He had no qualms about murdering a man of God, for he was an Edomite and not of Israel. Esau, the father of the Edomites, had rejected his birthright (see Genesis 25:31-34). Doeg was as far from God as Saul was. This wicked act was intended as a warning to all; “If you arbour David, then expect the king’s wrath.” The news of this massacre further alienated the people from Saul.
All this was a result of David’s faithlessness and sin, and he composed Psalm 52 to commemorate this event. Yet God had other reasons for allowing this to take place too. This fulfilled the curse that was upon the family of Eli for their own wickedness (see 1 Samuel 2:27-36). “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee” (Psalm 76:10).