• Jon Forrest


The Upward Look, by Jon Forrest

Despicable Doeg

The 21st and 22nd chapters of Samuel tell about a “scum bucket” named Doeg! You may have never heard of him, but, by the time we are finished, you may be glad you never did. He was an Edomite, meaning that he was from the land of Edom where Jacob’s brother, Esau settled after their father, Isaiah died. The prophets gave entire oracles of condemnation against the evil of the Edomites. Obadiah’s entire prophecy was against Edom. It is believed that Doeg must have been a proselyte (foreigner converted to Judaism) or a Jew who had once lived in Edom because only an Israelite would have been permitted to enter the sanctuary. His name only appears in 1 Samuel 21 & 22 and in the title description of Psalm 52. The Hebrew spelling in Psalm 52 is slightly different from 1 Samuel, indicating that the name was likely not of Hebraic origin, making it more difficult for the scribes to translate. Thus, I believe him to be a proselyte.

Doeg was employed by King Saul as the head of all government shepherds. However, the LXX (Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament translation) says he was one who cared for the King’s mules. His name means “anxious.” He happened upon the conversation of David with the priest, Ahimelek, in the sanctuary at Nob when David was seeking assistance. He saw that the priest had given prayers on behalf of David and supplied food for survival as well as the sword of Goliath for fighting.

Doeg couldn’t wait for his opportunity to report the event to King Saul. He was an opportunistic tattletale. While there is nothing written concerning his motive, we know that he was seeking the King’s favor and possibly some kind of reward. Saul had just reminded him along with the other officials of the numerous material possessions he had supplied to them. When he told the King about David’s encounter with the priest, Saul’s temper flared and his anger burned. He felt betrayed by the priests there. He sent for Ahimelek. When the priest arrived, Saul asked him why he and the priests had betrayed him by helping David. Ahimelek defended David by asking what servant of the King had served him more than David. He went on to say more about David’s stellar record of loyalty and service as Captain of the King’s bodyguard and servant in his household.

The King ordered his guards to punish all of the priests by killing them. However, it appears that the guards must have considered Saul’s order illegal or immoral because they refused to kill the Lord’s priests.

But Doeg was more than willing to obey when the King turned to him with the order. He immediately slaughtered all of the priests, except for Ahimelek’s son, Abiathar, who managed to escape and flee to David.

The text tells us that 85 priests, men of God, were cut down. What happened next adds to the despicability. There are no orders recorded here from the King, but Doeg, thinking there might be more priests hiding in the community or knowing that their families lived there, turned on the town of Nob and slaughtered every man, woman, child and animal residing there. He committed genocide, snuffing out every life in the place known as “the city of priests.”

Doeg may have felt a sense of loyalty in obeying the King’s orders and going the extra step of wiping out the town, buy God would not forget his sin. Doeg never appears again in the historical accounts but, David wrote about God’s judgment on such horrific behavior in Psalm 52.

For the director of music. A maskil of David. When Doeg the Edomite had gone to Saul and told him: “David has gone to the house of Ahimelek.”

1 Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero? Why do you boast all day long, you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God? 2 You who practice deceit, your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor. 3 You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth.[c] 4 You love every harmful word, you deceitful tongue!

5 Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin: He will snatch you up and pluck you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living. 6 The righteous will see and fear; they will laugh at you, saying, 7 “Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others!”

8 But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. 9 For what you have done I will always praise you in the presence of your faithful people. And I will hope in your name, for your name is good.

Doeg did not get away with his horrific behavior and God would take care of business. While this was not handled by David, God would judge the enemy of his anointed King.

The Apostle Paul gives us encouragement to leave revenge to God when he wrote, Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. – Romans 12:19

We can leave punishment to the One who knows just how much is deserved and how much retribution should be applied even to the most despicable of enemies.

We can trust him to do it right.

This Sunday morning we will continue our sermon series, When God Build’s a King, How a lowly shepherd became a great king, with a message titled A True Leader Takes Responsibility based on 1 Samuel 22:5-23. I hope you will join us for this probing message.

Avoiding despicability,


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