1 Samuel 21:7
Now a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before the LORD; and his name was Doeg, an Edomite, the most chief of the herdsmen that belonged to Saul.
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(7) A certain man.—Among the personages who surround Saul in the Bible story appears incidentally the keeper of the royal mules, and chief of the household slaves, the “Comes stabuli,” “the constable of the king,” as appears in the later monarchy. “He is the first instance of a foreigner employed in a high function in Israel, being an Edomite, or Syrian, of the name of Doeg—according to Jewish tradition, the steward who accompanied Saul in his pursuit after the asses, who counselled him to send for David, and who ultimately slew him, according to the sacred narrative—a person of vast and sinister influence in his master’s counsels.” (Stanley, Lectures on the Jewish Church, Lect. 21) Some traditions affirm that the armour-bearer who slew Saul on Mount Gilboa was not Doeg, but Doeg’s son.

The Hebrew words rendered in the English Version, “the chiefest of the herdmen that belonged to Saul,” are translated in the LXX. by “feeding the mules of Saul;” and in accordance with this reading, in 1Samuel 22:9 also, they have changed “Saul’s servants” into “Saul’s mules.” The Vulg. and the other versions, however, translate as the English Version, “potentissimus pastorum,” although in some of the Vulg. MSS. there is an explanatory gloss, evidently derived from the singular interpretation of the LXX., This (man) used to feed Saul’s mules.” There can be no foundation in tradition or otherwise for such a reading, as we never read until the days of King David of mules being used by royal princes. (See 2Samuel 13:29; 2Samuel 18:9.) Before David’s time, the sons of princes used to ride on asses. (See Judges 10:4; Judges 12:14.) Ewald, disregarding the current Jewish tradition respecting the ancient connection of Doeg with the house of Kish, considers that this influential chieftain of the king probably came over to Saul in his war with Edom.

Detained before the Lord.—Several interpretations have been suggested for these words. (a) He was at the sanctuary of the Tabernacle as a proselyte—one who wished to be received into the religious communion of Israel. (b) He was detained there for his purification on account of supposed leprosy, or simply in fulfilment of a temporary Nazarite vow. (c) According to Ephrem Syrus (who probably referred to some lost tradition), he had committed some trespass, and was detained there till he had offered the appointed sacrifice. Any one of these reasons—all sufficiently probable in themselves—would have occasioned a residence long or short at the sanctuary at Nob. At all events, when the fugitive David recognised the presence of one of Saul’s most unscrupulous servants, whom he must have known well, his mind must have misgiven him, and he, probably on this account, hasted to get away, and at once begs the old high priest to furnish him with any arms he might have laid up in the priestly homes.

1 Samuel 21:7. Detained before the Lord — That is, at the tabernacle. It is not to be imagined that he was detained here by force, but by his own choice he stayed there that day, either because it was the sabbath day, on which he might not proceed on his journey, or for the performance of some vow, or other religious duty, to which he had obliged himself. His name was Doeg, an Edomite — His native country was Edom; but he was proselyted to the Jewish religion.21:1-9 David, in distress, fled to the tabernacle of God. It is great comfort in a day of trouble, that we have a God to go to, to whom we may open our cases, and from whom we may ask and expect direction. David told Ahimelech a gross untruth. What shall we say to this? The Scripture does not conceal it, and we dare not justify it; it was ill done, and proved of bad consequence; for it occasioned the death of the priests of the Lord. David thought upon it afterward with regret. David had great faith and courage, yet both failed him; he fell thus foully through fear and cowardice, and owing to the weakness of his faith. Had he trusted God aright, he would not have used such a sorry, sinful shift for his own preservation. It is written, not for us to do the like, no, not in the greatest straits, but for our warning. David asked of Ahimelech bread and a sword. Ahimelech supposed they might eat the shew-bread. The Son of David taught from it, that mercy is to be preferred to sacrifice; that ritual observances must give way to moral duties. Doeg set his foot as far within the tabernacle as David did. We little know with what hearts people come to the house of God, nor what use they will make of pretended devotion. If many come in simplicity of heart to serve their God, others come to observe their teachers and to prove accusers. Only God and the event can distinguish between a David and a Doeg, when both are in the tabernacle.Detained before the Lord - Either to fulfill a vow Acts 21:23-27, or on account of uncleanness, or under the law of lepers Leviticus 13:4, Leviticus 13:11, Leviticus 13:21, or as a proselyte. It is not impossible that Doeg may have been in custody or in sanctuary for some crime. 7. Doeg, an Edomite—who had embraced the Hebrew religion.

detained before the Lord—at the tabernacle, perhaps, in the performance of a vow, or from its being the Sabbath, which rendered it unlawful for him to prosecute his journey.

the chiefest of the herdmen that belonged to Saul—Eastern monarchs anciently had large possessions in flocks and herds; and the office of the chief shepherd was an important one.

Detained; not by force from others, but by his own choice; he fixed his abode there for that day; either because it was the sabbath day, on which he might not proceed in his journey, or other business; or for the discharge of some vow; or to beg direction and help from God in some great business.

Before the Lord, i.e. at the tabernacle.

An Edomite; either,

1. By his habitation and conversation among those people for some considerable time, as for the same reason Uriah is called the Hittite, and Obed-edom the Gittite: or rather,

2. By his birth and nation; but he was proselyted to the Jewish religion, or took it up for sinister ends, being advanced, as here we read, to a place of trust and preferment, possibly upon this occasion. Now a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day,.... When David came to Nob, and asked bread of the priest, and had it, which this man was an eyewitness of, 1 Samuel 22:9,

detained before the Lord; either because it was sabbath day, and so he might not travel, at least no more than two thousand cubits; or by some vow of his, which he was obliged to stay and perform; or on account of some impurity he had contracted, which he came to be cleansed from; or this detention was voluntary, in order to offer sacrifice to the Lord, or pray unto him, or to study the law of God in the tabernacle, pretending to be a very religious man:

and his name was Doeg, an Edomite, being by birth an Idumean, but a proselyte to the Jewish religion; or he was of the seed of Israel, but because he had dwelt in Edom, he was called an Edomite, as Kimchi thinks; just as Uriah is called for a like reason the Hittite:

the chiefest of the herdmen that belonged to Saul; Saul had his herds and men to look after them, and this man was set over them all, to see that they faithfully discharged their trust. The same officer the Romans called the praefect, or master of the cattle (k); See Gill on 1 Chronicles 27:29, and See Gill on 1 Chronicles 27:31; though this man was not only over the king's cattle, but over those that kept them; and was in the same office as Phorbas was, under Laius king of Thebes (l), and Melanthius in Homer (m), and Faustulus to Amulius (n): but Abarbinel is of opinion that this is to be understood not of the keepers of herds and flocks, but of the shepherds or rulers of the people; and that this man was set over all the other magistrates and rulers of the people, hence said to be "set over the servants of Saul", 1 Samuel 22:9; and so Jarchi calls him "Ab Beth Din", or father of the sanhedrim, or great court of judicature; who was detained in the tabernacle to learn the law there, that he might be the better qualified for his office; but Kimchi interprets it as we do, the chief of the keepers of the herd, and both the Septuagint and Josephus (o) say that he fed the king's mules.

(k) Vid. Pignorium de servis, p. 539. (l) Senecae Oedipus, Acts 4. v. 815, 816, 839. (m) Odyss. 20. ver. 21. (n) Aurel. Victor. orig. Gent. Roman. (o) Antiqu. l. 6. c. 12. sect. 1.

Now a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day, {f} detained before the LORD; and his name was Doeg, an Edomite, the chiefest of the herdmen that belonged to Saul.

(f) Tarrying to worship before the ark.

7. detained before the Lord] In charge of the priest for some religious purpose such as the fulfilment of a vow, or purification, or on account of suspected leprosy (Leviticus 13:4; Leviticus 13:11; Leviticus 13:31). His presence in the Tabernacle implies that he was a proselyte.

Doeg, an Edomite] He may have come over to Saul in his wars with Edom (1 Samuel 14:47).

the chiefest of the herdmen, &c.] An important post in a pastoral country. Cp. 1 Chronicles 27:29; 1 Chronicles 27:31. The Sept. reads, “Doeg the Syrian, the keeper of Saul’s mules.” Cp. 1 Chronicles 27:30. “Syrian” is certainly a mistake for “Edomite,” the consonants of the Heb. words “Aramite” and “Edomite” being almost exactly alike.Verse 7. - David's visit to Nob had probably been dictated simply by a desire to get food while a few attendants were being collected for him, and under ordinary circumstances would have remained unknown to Saul. Unfortunately there chanced to be a person present there who informed the king of it, and brought a second terrible catastrophe upon the house of Eli (see on 1 Samuel 2:33); by working too upon his jealousy he caused Saul to commit a crime which sets him before us as a hateful and remorseless tyrant. This man was Doeg, an Edomite, who had, it seems, long been in Saul's service, as he was his chief herdsman. According to the Septuagint he had charge of the king's mules, but the other versions agree with the Hebrew. As herds would form the main part of Saul's wealth, his chief herdsman would be a person of importance. He was detained before Jehovah. I.e. shut up in close seclusion within the precincts of the tabernacle, either for some vow, or for purification, or perhaps as suspected of leprosy (Leviticus 13:4), or, as some think, as a proselyte. Ephrem Syrus thinks he had committed some trespass, and was detained till he had offered the appointed sacrifice. David at once felt that Doeg's presence boded much ill (1 Samuel 22:22), and it probably was the cause of his taking the rash resolution to flee for refuge to Gath. David at Nob. - The town of Nob or Nobeh (unless indeed the form נבה stands for נבה here and in 1 Samuel 22:9, and the ה attached is merely ה local, as the name is always written נב in other places: vid., 1 Samuel 22:11, 1 Samuel 22:19; 1 Samuel 21:1; Isaiah 10:32; Nehemiah 11:32) was at that time a priests' city (1 Samuel 22:19), in which, according to the following account, the tabernacle was then standing, and the legal worship carried on. According to Isaiah 10:30, Isaiah 10:32, it was between Anathoth (Anata) and Jerusalem, and in all probability it has been preserved in the village of el-Isawiyeh, i.e., probably the village of Esau or Edom, which is midway between Anata and Jerusalem, an hour from the latter, and the same distance to the south-east of Gibeah of Saul (Tell el Phul), and which bears all the marks of an ancient place, partly in its dwellings, the stones of which date from a great antiquity, and partly in many marble columns which are found there (vid., Tobler, Topogr. v. Jerusalem ii. p. 720). Hence v. Raumer (Pal. p. 215, ed. 4) follows Kiepert in the map which he has appended to Robinson's Biblical Researches, and set down this place as the ancient Nob, for which Robinson indeed searched in vain (see Pal. ii. p. 150). Ahimelech, the son of Ahitub, most probably the same person as Ahiah (1 Samuel 14:3), was "the priest," i.e., the high priest (see at 1 Samuel 14:3). When David came to him, the priest "went trembling to meet him" (לקראת יחרד) with the inquiry, "Why art thou alone, and no one is with thee?" The unexpected appearance of David, the son-in-law of the king, without any attendants, alarmed Ahimelech, who probably imagined that he had come with a commission from the king which might involve him in danger. David had left the few servants who accompanied him in his flight somewhere in the neighbourhood, as we may gather from 1 Samuel 21:2, because he wished to converse with the high priest alone. Ahimelech's anxious inquiry led David to resort to the fabrication described in 1 Samuel 21:2 : "The king hath commanded me a business, and said to me, No one is to know anything of this matter, in which (lit. in relation to the matter with regard to which) I send thee, and which I have entrusted to thee (i.e., no one is to know either the occasion or the nature of the commission): and the servants I have directed to such and such a place." יודע, Poel, to cause to know, point, show. Ahimelech had received no information as yet concerning the most recent occurrences between Saul and David; and David would not confess to him that he was fleeing from Saul, because he was evidently afraid that the high priest would not give him any assistance, lest he should draw down the wrath of the king. This falsehood brought he greatest calamities upon Ahimelech and the priests at Nob (1 Samuel 22:9-19), and David was afterwards obliged to confess that he had occasioned it all (1 Samuel 22:22).
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