SynopsisDavid is currently hiding from Saul, but Saul is not sitting idle, he’s looking for David. He finds out that David has been discovered, but he doesn’t yet know where David is. So Saul gathers his officials, and gives them a talking to:
Saul said to them, “Listen, men of Benjamin! Will the son of Jesse give all of you fields and vineyards? Will he make all of you commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds? Is that why you have all conspired against me? No one tells me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse. None of you is concerned about me or tells me that my son has incited my servant to lie in wait for me, as he does today.” (verses 7–8)
Unfortunately, Doeg happens to be there, and he reports to Saul that he saw David at Nob, and that Ahimelech inquired of the LORD for David, and gave him bread and a sword. So Saul summons Ahimelech, along with his father’s entire family, and questions them. In fact, he accuses Ahimelech of conspiring with David, and helping him to rebel against Saul and lie in wait for him. Ahimelech is righteously indignant; first of all, he doesn’t believe David would do anything against Saul, since nobody in Saul’s service is as loyal as David—not to mention the fact that David inquires of God all the time, so inquiring of God in this particular instance wasn’t in any way unusual—and secondly, Ahimelech knows nothing about what’s going on.
This isn’t good enough for Saul, who orders his guards to kill Ahimelech and his father’s entire family. Saul’s officials aren’t willing to kill the priests of the LORD, but Doeg is, and he carries out the execution. Not only that, but he puts to the sword the entire town of Nob, which is a Levite town, including the women and children, and even the livestock.
The only person who escapes is Abiathar, Ahimelech’s son. He goes to join David, and tells him what has happened. David immediately blames himself; he remembers that he’d seen Doeg, when he was at Nob, and he knew that he would be sure to tell Saul. He tells Abiathar to stay with him, and he’ll be safe.
ThoughtsAgain, in this passage, Saul sounds a lot more paranoid than prudent. It’s true that there might have been a valid concern that David would take over as king if David were anyone else, but Saul should know David well enough to know that David wants to serve Saul faithfully. And for Ahimelech to tell Saul that nobody is as faithful as David was probably the wrong thing to say—I’m sure that just enraged Saul more.
I don’t think it was a good thing for David to tell Abiathar that it’s his fault that Abiathar’s whole family was killed, though. When I read David taking responsibility, and saying that he knew Doeg would tell Saul, it just makes him sound very irresponsible to me. If David knew that Doeg would tell Saul, then why did he put Ahimelech’s life in danger? And even once that mistake was made, he shouldn’t have told that to Abiathar, who would—rightfully—blame David for his family’s death. (Not that this passage says Abiathar did blame David. Maybe he didn’t.) But again, I’m reminded of the fact that he is still young. He may be a man after God’s own heart, but he doesn’t yet have a lot of experience.