1 Samuel 22:18
And the king said to Doeg, Turn you, and fall on the priests. And Doeg the Edomite turned, and he fell on the priests, and slew on that day fourscore and five persons that did wear a linen ephod.
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(18) And Doeg the Edomite . . . fell upon the priests, and slew on that day fourscore and five persons.—No doubt, assisted by his own attached servants, Doeg carried out this deed of unexampled barbarity. For this act the Edomite servant of Saul has been execrated in the most ancient Jewish writings perhaps above any other of the famous wicked men who meet us in the Holy Scriptures. For instance, we read in the Babylonian Talmud how “Doeg the Edomite, after his massacre of the priests, was encountered by three destructive demons. One deprived him of his learning (concerning which see above, in Note on 1Samuel 22:9), a second burned his soul, and a third scattered his dust in the synagogues”—Treatise Sanhedrin, fol. 106, Colossians 2. The Babylonian Talmud has a still more curious comment on the iniquity of Doeg, in which David is bitterly reproached by the Most High for being the cause of Doeg’s great sin and its terrible consequences. “Rav Yehudah recorded that Rav had said . . . The Holy One, blessed be He! had said to David, How long shall this iniquity cling to thee? Through thee the priests of Nob were slain; through thee Doeg the Edomite became a reprobate; and through thee Saul and his three sons were slain.”—Treatise Sanhedrin, fol. 95, cols. 1, 2.

A linen ephod.—The ordinary priests appear to have worn a linen over garment, similar in form to the high priestly cape or ephod. They came probably from Nob to Gibeah (the distance was not great) clad in their official costume, out of respect to the king who sent for them. The murderous deed assumes a still more awful character when we recollect who were the victims—the priests of the living God, clad in their white ministering robes!

1 Samuel 22:18. Doeg the Edomite turned and fell upon the priests — The country of Doeg is very properly here mentioned, and again repeated, to wipe off the stain of this butchery from the Israelitish nation, and to show why he was so ready to do it; because he was one of that nation which had an implacable hatred against all Israelites, and against the priests of the Lord. And slew on that day fourscore and five persons — “The massacre of these innocent men was so outrageous, so bloody, and so horrible, that it paints the character of Saul in the blackest colours, and exposes him as a warning, not only to tyrannical monarchs, but likewise to private persons, who give a loose to the instigations of jealous suspicions and intemperate wrath.” — Chandler. That did wear a linen ephod — That is, ministered unto the Lord; but we are not to understand by the ephod such a garment as the high-priest wore, for this is distinguished from the high-priest’s ephod by the matter of it, which was merely linen. The priests had probably all put on this habit, on account of appearing before the king.22:6-19 See the nature of jealous malice and its pitiful arts. Saul looks upon all about him as his enemies, because they do not just say as he says. In Ahimelech's answer to Saul we have the language of conscious innocence. But what wickedness will not the evil spirit hurry men to when he gets the dominion! Saul alleges that which was utterly false and unproved. But the most bloody tyrants have found instruments of their cruelty as barbarous as themselves. Doeg, having murdered the priests, went to the city, Nob, and put all to the sword there. Nothing so vile but those may do it, who have provoked God to give them up to their hearts' lusts. Yet this was the accomplishment of the threatenings against the house of Eli. Though Saul was unrighteous in doing this, yet God was righteous in permitting it. No word of God shall fall to the ground.We are not to suppose that Doeg killed them all with his own hand. He had a band of men under his command, many or all of whom were perhaps foreigners like himself, and very likely of a Bedouin caste, to whom bloodshed would be quite natural, and the priests of the Lord of no more account than so Early sheep or oxen. 1Sa 22:17-19. Saul Commands to Kill the Priests.

17, 18. the footmen that stood about him—his bodyguard, or his runners (1Sa 8:11; 2Sa 15:1; 1Ki 1:5; 1Ki 14:28), who held an important place at court (2Ch 12:10). But they chose rather to disobey the king than to offend God by imbruing their hands in the blood of his ministering servants. A foreigner alone (Ps 52:1-3) could be found willing to be the executioner of this bloody and sacrilegious sentence. Thus was the doom of the house of Eli fulfilled [1Sa 2:30-36].

Turn thou; or, go about, to wit, from man to man, till thou hast killed all.

The Edomite; which is noted to wipe off the stain of this butchery from the Israelitish nation, and to show why he was so ready to do it, because he was one of that nation which had an implacable hatred against all Israelites, and against the priests of the Lord.

Slew on that day fourscore and five persons, with his own hand; which was not difficult, when no resistance was made.

That did wear a linen ephod; not at that time, as some fancy, but usually; such as used to minister to the Lord in a linen ephod, which priests and Levites used to do. See Exodus 28:40, &c.; 1 Samuel 2:18. And the king said to Doeg, turn thou and fall upon the priests,.... For determined he was they should die; if one would not put them to death, another should, and who so fit for this bloody work as the false accuser of them, and false witness against them?

and Doeg the Edomite turned; immediately, he at once obeyed the king's orders, as brutish as they were:

and fell upon the priests; with his sword in hand:

and slew on that day fourscore and five persons that did wear a linen ephod; not the ephod of Urim and Thummim, which was only worn by the high priest, but a garment wholly linen, worn by common priests; the Targum is,"who are fit to be clothed with a linen ephod;''not that they were clothed with it, but were deserving of it; or it designs the great and more honourable among the servants of the Lord, as Kimchi observes, for such were clothed with this garment, as Samuel and David; and he thinks it suggests, that more were slain than these; and the Septuagint version makes them to be eight hundred five, and Josephus (h) three hundred eighty five; in the slaying of whom, as the same writer says, Doeg was assisted by some wicked men like himself; and the slaughter did not end here, as the 1 Samuel 22:19 shows.

(h) Antiqu. l. 6. c. 12. sect. 6.

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.
18. that did wear a linen ephod] See on 1 Samuel 2:18. The distinctive priestly dress should have reminded Saul of the sacredness of their persons.On receiving this information, Saul immediately summoned the priest Ahimelech and "all his father's house," i.e., the whole priesthood, to Nob, to answer for what they had done. To Saul's appeal, "Why have ye conspired against me, thou and the son of Jesse, by giving him bread?" Ahimelech, who was not conscious of any such crime, since David had come to him with a false pretext, and the priest had probably but very little knowledge of what took place at court, replied both calmly and worthily (1 Samuel 22:14): "And who of all thy servants is so faithful (proved, attested, as in Numbers 12:7) as David, and son-in-law of the king, and having access to thy private audience, and honoured in thy house?" The true explanation of אל־משׁמעתּך סר may be gathered from a comparison of 2 Samuel 23:23 and 1 Chronicles 11:25, where משׁמעת occurs again, as the context clearly shows, in the sense of a privy councillor of the king, who hears his personal revelations and converses with him about them, so that it corresponds to our "audience." סוּר, lit. to turn aside from the way, to go in to any one, or to look after anything (Exodus 3:3; Ruth 4:1, etc.); hence in the passage before us "to have access," to be attached to a person. This is the explanation given by Gesenius and most of the modern expositors, whereas the early translators entirely misunderstood the passage, though they have given the meaning correctly enough at 2 Samuel 23:23. But if this was the relation in which David stood to Saul, - and he had really done so for a long time, - there was nothing wrong in what the high priest had done for him; but he had acted according to the best of his knowledge, and quite conscientiously as a faithful subject of the king. Ahimelech then added still further (1 Samuel 22:15): "Did I then begin to inquire of God for him this day?" i.e., was it the first time that I had obtained the decision of God for David concerning important enterprises, which he had to carry out in the service of the king? "Far be from me," sc., any conspiracy against the king, like that of which I am accused. "Let not the king lay it as a burden upon thy servant, my whole father's house (the omission of the cop. ו before בּכל־כּית may be accounted for from the excitement of the speaker); for thy servant knows not the least of all this." בּכל־זאת, of all that Saul had charged him with.
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