In our study a few days ago we found David fleeing to the house of God at Nob where he was graciously received by the high priest Ahimelek and given five loaves of bread and the sword of Goliath that had been stored in the tabernacle. While at the tabernacle, David recognized another man there named Doeg who is the chief shepherd of Saul. Doeg recognized David too, so David knew it wasn't safe to remain at Nob. He went and hid in the cave of Adullam where his family came to visit him and where four hundred men, displeased with King Saul's administration, joined up with David against his enemy. David wanted to make sure his parents don't come to any harm so he asked the king of Moab to give them shelter in his capital city, for David is related to the Moabites through his great-grandmother Ruth. After making sure his parents were safe, a prophet from Gad advised him to move further down in to the territory of Judah, where he is hiding in the forest of Hereth at the moment.
The scene now switches to King Saul who is sitting in the shade of a tree, in a state of paranoid agitation, in his hometown of Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin. "Now Saul heard that David and his men had been discovered. And Saul was seated, spear in hand, under the tamarisk tree on the hill at Gibeah, with all his officials standing by his side. He said to them, 'Listen, men of Benjamin! Will the son of Jesse give all of you fields and vineyards? Will he make all of you commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds? Is that why you have all conspired against me? No one tells me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse. None of you is concerned about me or tells me that my son has incited my servant to lie in wait for me, as he does today.'" (1 Samuel 22:6-8)
At this point Saul doesn't yet know that the priest at Nob helped David when he was hungry and without a weapon. But he knows his son Jonathan helped David to escape from Gibeah. He knows four hundred men of the tribe of Judah---David's tribe---have given their allegiance to David instead of to their current king. The news that his own son and several hundred of his subjects are not on his side has thrown him into one of his unstable, suspicious moods. He accuses the men of his own hometown of conspiring against them and says, "Will David do for you what I have done for you? Because you are the men of my own tribe, I have given you the best positions in my government and in my army. I have given you the best of the fields and vineyards. You have been richly rewarded because you are my kinsmen and because I expect you, of all people, to be loyal to me. If you turn against me do you think you will fare as well under David's administration as you have under mine? No, you will be lucky if he doesn't put you to death! Why are you plotting against me? Why didn't you tell me Jonathan was plotting against me? My very own son intends to reveal my location to David the minute I step foot outside of the territory of Benjamin, then David and his men will fall upon me and kill me."
None of this tirade is true, with the exception of Saul having shown preferential treatment to the men of his own tribe. But there's no evidence these men are plotting to kill him. There's certainly no reason to believe Jonathan wants his father dead. And we know for a fact that David isn't lying in wait beside a roadway somewhere ready to pounce upon Saul as he passes by. David is hiding in fear for his own life, not devising a plan to take Saul's life.
Saul has become so paranoid that he always has his spear in his hand, which is going to be the case pretty much all the time from now on. He'll sleep with his spear beside him even when he's surrounded by his bodyguards and his army. I think that's because he trusts no one, not even his most loyal servants. One of his servants speaks up to prove his loyalty to Saul by imparting information he knows the king will be grateful to hear. "But Doeg the Edomite, who was standing with Saul's officials, said, 'I saw the son of Jesse come to Ahimelek son of Ahitub at Nob. Ahimelek inquired of the Lord for him; he also gave him provisions and the sword of Goliath the Philistine.'" (1 Samuel 22:9-10)
Why did Doeg not provide this news sooner? Why has he been standing around with Saul's soldiers keeping his mouth shut? It could be that he did not originally intend to betray David and that the only reason he does so now is because everyone around Saul is being accused of treasonous intentions. He may be anxious to prove his fealty in a moment when Saul looks likely to throw a spear at somebody. Or it could be that he was waiting for an opportune moment to make a big deal of himself by offering the information directly to the king in the presence of all of the king's top officials. He might be hoping for a monetary reward or a promotion.
In revealing what he witnessed at Nob, Doeg betrays not only a godly man like David but also puts the priest's life in danger. When the priest helped David, he had no idea David had been declared an enemy of the crown. The priest wouldn't have believed David was an enemy of the crown even if he'd been told such a thing, as we will see when he defends David in tomorrow's study. But Saul believes David is plotting to assassinate him and will accuse the priest of knowing about the plot and of aiding and abetting David in this plot. As a result of Saul's paranoia and of the words of the wicked Doeg, the high priest, all the other priests, the members of their families, all the citizens of Nob, and even all the animals at Nob will lose their lives.