Saul Kills the Priests at Nob
“Ahimelech answered the king, ‘And who among all your servants is so faithful as David, who is the king’s son-in-law, and captain over your bodyguard, and honored in your house?’ ” (v. 14).- 1 Samuel 22
As David fled from Saul, he concerned himself with more than just saving his own life. We see this in today’s passage, which explains that David took his parents to Moab and secured a safe haven for them there (1 Sam. 22:1–4). The text does not say this explicitly, but the king of Moab may have been well disposed to David because of David’s familial relation to the Moabites through his great-grandmother Ruth (Ruth 4:13–17). Perhaps more significant is that David’s action shows us his concern to honor his parents even when his life was in danger. If Saul was after David, certainly he would be after the rest of David’s family as well. Thus, David’s ensuring the safety of his mother and father was a tangible act of love toward them and evidence of his commitment to the law of God (Ex. 20:12).
David did not remain in Moab, for the prophet Gad told him the Lord wanted him to return to Judah (1 Sam. 22:5). Although he was on the run, he had the word of the Lord with him through the prophet, distinguishing him from Saul, from whom God had departed in judgment (18:12). And as we read further on in 1 Samuel 22, we see the evidence of God’s absence in Saul’s life most clearly.
We are talking, of course, about Saul’s slaughter of the priests at Nob. Recognizing that even his own tribe was not on his side, Saul condemned them for not keeping him informed about David and Jonathan. Here we see Saul’s paranoia, for he ranted about Jonathan and David’s conspiring to lie in wait in order to kill Saul (vv. 6–8). Certainly that was not true, but Saul’s madness made him unable to see the truth that David was a loyal servant of his.
David’s well-known loyalty to Saul prompted Ahimelech the priest to assist David when he came to Nob, according to the words of Ahimelech himself when Saul confronted him for supplying David’s needs (vv. 9–15). Clearly, Ahimelech did not know the full extent of Saul’s hatred for David even if he suspected that something was wrong when David came to him (21:1). This did not lead Saul to show any mercy. He put Ahimelech and the priests of the Lord to death, as well as the rest of the town of Nob (22:16–19). No fear of God was left in Saul’s heart.
One priest escaped, however. Abiathar, son of Ahimelech, fled to David, who pledged to protect him (vv. 20–23). David saw that his actions led Saul to Nob, and he took in Abiathar to make up for how he had inadvertently caused the priests’ death. That is what godly people do—attempt to make right what they have made wrong.
Matthew Henry comments on today’s passage that nothing is too vile for men to do when God has given them over to the lust of their hearts. Saul’s murder of the priests at Nob shows the depths to which human beings can descend when they are consumed by sin. Only the restraining hand of God keeps people from being as bad as they could possibly be. Let us thank God for restraining evil and pray that He will continue to do so.
Passages for Further Study
2 Chronicles 24:20–22
2 Thessalonians 2:1–12