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The Senseless Slaughter of God’s Sacred Priesthood

Wendy Blight

Day: 22 | Plan: 1-2 Samuel

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 22

1 Samuel 22:22 (NIV) Then David said to Abiathar, ‘That day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew he would be sure to tell Saul. I am responsible for the death of your whole family.’

Today we witness breathtaking brutality: Saul’s out-of-control rage that results in the senseless slaughter of God’s sacred and holy priesthood.

Our story opens with Doeg, the Edomite, informing Saul about David’s activities in Nob. Enraged, Saul sent for Ahimelek, the priest who helped David that fateful day. He accused Ahimelek of conspiring against him with David.

Ahimelek answered that Saul had no reason to mistrust David. David was Saul’s son-in-law. Captain of his bodyguard and a trusted subject of the king. And, David told Ahimelek he was on a secret mission for the king.

Saul had none of it. Listen to his bone-chilling words to God’s holy man: “You will surely die, Ahimelek, you and your whole family” (1 Samuel 22:16). King Saul initially ordered his guards to kill the priests, but they refused. Next, he ordered Doeg, the Edomite, to kill the priests. Doeg not only killed the priests, he also put to the sword the entire town of Nob, its men, women, children, cattle, donkey and sheep. He went beyond Saul’s orders, and Saul did nothing to stop him.

King Saul’s unbridled rage knew no bounds. A few chapters back, Saul had refused to annihilate the Amalekites, God’s sworn enemies. (1 Samuel 15) And yet now, he not only ordered the slaughter of God’s holy priesthood but also permitted the annihilation of Nob. Historically, this type of punishment was reserved for Israel’s most notorious enemies. This horrific act fulfilled God’s prophecy against the house of Eli in 1 Samuel 2:29-36.

One priest, Abiathar (son of Ahimelek), escaped. He fled to David for protection. When David heard what had happened, he confessed his deception and took responsibility for the death of Abiathar’s family and the entire community.

David’s confession didn’t erase the consequences of his actions, but God redeemed them. By saving Abiathar, God stripped the Israelite priesthood from Saul and placed it in the hands of David! Saul lost his only means to hear from and access the Lord.

This tragic event marked the beginning of David’s priestly staff, a staff that would intercede on Israel’s behalf and serve at the tabernacle.

Examining the actions of David and Saul through the eyes of this story reveals why David is a man after God’s own heart.

Saul’s unraveling did not happen overnight. It came in stages as he strayed from God, allowing his self-serving attitude, destructive pride and out-of-control emotions to poison everything he said and did.

Words to describe Saul: sulking, pouting, berating, scheming, ranting and raging.

David’s success did not happen overnight either. It began in the sheepfold as he faithfully sought the Lord and continued as he humbled his heart and patiently waited for his time to take the throne.

It’s easy to see why God called David a man after His own heart. Oh, how I want to have a heart like David’s!

Prayer: Father, sometimes the stories in Scripture are hard to read. I struggle to understand how you can stand by and allow such evil. But with each story, You teach me no matter how out of control things seem, You are always in control. No matter how desperate and evil man is, You are Sovereign. Your plans are perfect and will not be thwarted. In the end, good will win out over evil. Every time. Help me keep these truths tucked in my heart as the events of our world unfold before me each and every day. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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