By Al R. Hodges
Retired IMB Missionary
Selfish ambition creates a spiritual blindness detrimental to one’s own soul and to the well-being of others in the family of God. David was loyal to King Saul because Saul was God’s anointed. David trusted God’s timing for when he himself would become king. He was committed to never doing Saul harm (I Samuel 24:6; 26:9). Saul, on the other hand, filtered everything through the lens of his own paranoia. He thought David and Jonathan were plotting his demise. He wrongly suspected his own most trusted soldiers of disloyalty. He was a very troubled man pursuing David from pillar to post, seeking to take his life. Our Scripture passage finds David along with several hundred dissidents hiding in the wilderness of En-gedi.
A report came in of his whereabouts (v. 6) as Saul was holding court in his home town of Gibeah. The monarchy was in its earliest stages, and there was no palace in Jerusalem. That would come later. Saul was more a military leader than a reigning monarch. His scepter was the spear in his hand. His court was under the shade of a tamarisk tree.
Upon hearing about David’s location, Saul flew into a rage accusing his own inner circle of disloyalty and conspiracy (vv. 7-8). He referred to David as “Jesse’s son,” refusing to use his name so as to deride him as a son of a poor peasant. He accused Jonathan, who was not present, of plotting with David to overthrow him. He accused his men of knowing about a plot but not telling him. Spiritual warfare is real. The evil spirit afflicting Saul (I Samuel 16:14) blinded him from obvious truth, and he was ready to believe any lie of the enemy. He was primed for Doeg, the Edomite.
Doeg (v. 9) was not an Israelite. Edomites were enemies of Israel, yet somehow Saul took Doeg into his confidence and refused to believe his own men. He told Saul of having seen David at the priestly town of Nob, two miles from Gibeah. He said David had been aided and abetted by Ahimelech the priest there (v. 10).
Saul convoked the whole priestly family to appear before him, and interrogated Ahimelech. He was abusive and accusatory (vv. 11-13). Ahimelech defended David with logical reasoning (v. 14). He defended himself, saying that it was part of his ministry to pray for the nation’s leaders and to give them Godly counsel when asked. He had only done for David as he had always done, and had no knowledge of a conspiracy against the king (v. 15).
Such was Saul’s spiritual blindness he had lost all sense of reason or respect for God. He ordered the immediate death of Ahimelech and his whole family (vv. 16-17) but his men refused to strike down the priests. Doeg, however, was only too willing to comply. Not only did Doeg kill all the priests assembled at Gibeah (except for Abiathar, Ahimelech’s son who escaped to David), he killed every inhabitant of the priestly town of Nob, both men, women, and children (ch. 22:18-23).
Selfish ambition and paranoia form a lethal combination destructive to a church, a kingdom, and to one’s own soul.