So the king ordered Doeg, "You turn and strike down the priests!" And Doeg the Edomite turned and struck down the priests himself. On that day he killed eighty-five men who wore the linen ephod.
1 Samuel 22:18, 19. (GIBEAH.)
I. A HEARTLESS WORSHIPPER; "detained before Jehovah" (1 Samuel 21:7). Whatever may have been the reason of his detention, there can be no doubt that he was present in the sacred place either unwillingly and by constraint, or offering a formal and hypocritical worship. "He concealed his heathen heart under Israelitish forms." He was more observant of the conduct of others in the house of God than careful to correct his own. He cherished "a wicked mind," and perhaps revolved therein how he could turn what he saw to his own advantage, or employ it for the gratification of his hatred and enmity. All who join in the outward forms of worship do not "lift up holy hands without wrath and disputation."
II. A MALICIOUS INFORMER (vers. 9, 10). His immediate purpose in giving information may have been to avert the reproaches of the king from his courtiers; but he must have known what its effect would be with respect to the high priest, and doubtless deliberately aimed at producing it. He also appears to have gone beyond the truth; perchance supposing that when he saw the priest take "the sword of Goliath" from behind the ephod, he used the latter for the purpose of "inquiring of the Lord." "Thou lovest evil more than good; and lying rather than to speak righteousness. Thou lovest all devouring words, O thou deceitful tongue" (Psalm 52:3, 4).
III. A RUTHLESS EXECUTIONER (vers. 18, 19). What others, whose consciences were not hardened, refused to do he willingly and readily accomplished, and probably found therein a gratification of the enmity of his race against Israel. The command of the king could not relieve him of his responsibility for his deed of blood. "Louis XIV., who had sanctioned the Dragonades, died declaring to the cardinals Rohan and Bissy, and to his confessor, that, being himself altogether ignorant of ecclesiastical questions, he had acted under their guidance and as their agent in all that he had done against the Jansenists or the Protestant heretics, and on those his spiritual advisers he devolved the responsibility to the supreme Judge" (Stephen, 'Lect;. on the Hist. of France').
IV. A RETRIBUTORY INSTRUMENT (see last homily). When the great wickedness of men like Doeg is considered, it is not surprising that David (living under the former dispensation) should predict and desire their due punishment as public enemies; "not in a spirit of revenge, but rather in a spirit of zeal for the glory of God, desire for the vindication of right, and regard for the peace and purity of society" ('Expositor,' 4:56), as he does in Psalm 52, "The punishment of an evil tongue" (see inscription): -
"Why boastest thou thyself in wickedness, O mighty man?
And Ahimelech answered the king, and said, And who is so faithful among all thy servants as David.
I. IT WAS A LIFE OFTEN UP IN DEFENCE OF THE KING'S BETTER NATURE AGAINST HIS WORSE NATURE. He aimed to rescue Saul from Saul. It is as if he had said, "Why do you so unking yourself as to injure a man who would not injure you? David is your friend. Jealousy demeans you. Jealousy and not David is your real foe."
II. AGAIN, IT WAS A LIFE GIVEN UP IN DEFENCE OF AHIMELECH'S OWN BETTER NATURE AGAINST HIS LOWER NATURE. Doubtless this high priestly life was of value to him who had it. But he made no plea foe it. He pleaded only for the life of the outcast and fugitive.
III. IT WAS A LIFE GIVEN UP IN DEFENCE OF THE INNOCENT FUGITIVE. Ahimelech, friend of the king, dared to defend the outcast David.
IV. NOW CONSIDER THAT THIS DEFENCE — THREE FOLD — IS WORTH WHATEVER IT COSTS. The defence of my neighbour's better nature against his worse nature; of my own better nature against my worse nature, and of Christ against the world, is worth whatever it may cost. First, because a man's soul, or immortal nature, is of more value to him than any imaginable physical safety or comfort. Second, because my neighbour's better nature is of more value to the world and to me, than anything else I can give to the world, or the world can give me. This world has enough of everything but goodness. It does not need that I give it anything, unless I can give it goodness. Let me help a man to conquer himself and I am a philanthropist. Third, it is worth all it costs because, in defending the outcast against the king, we may be defending the king against the outcast. In the councils of heaven Saul the king is the outcast and David the outcast is the king. This striking reversal of the real and the apparent is one of the most ordinary of processes when heaven looks at earth. Things are not what they seem. However little the evidence of it, Righteousness is the one true monarch over men.
(Edward Braislin, D. D.).
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