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towns of Judah from the hands of the Philistines, as we shall soon see was the case.
In the meanwhile, Saul had heard of this move. ment, and purposed to go in pursuit of David. He was encamped on a height near Gibeah, his tent pitched under a tree there, and wielding his spear, the ensign of royalty, in the midst of those who were to accompany him on the expedition. The address which he made to his men, shows the torturing jealousy which reigned within his breast. Summoning them around him, he said: "Hear now, ye Benjamites, --will the son of Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards, and make you all captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds; that all of you have conspired against me, and there is none that showeth me that my son hath made a league with the son of Jesse, and there is none of you that is sorry for me, or showeth unto me that my son hath stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as at this day?"
There was one present who was ready to come forth as the friend of the king, and to enter into the spirit of his revengeful feelings against David. It was Doeg the Edomite, of whom mention has already been made, and who, it will be recollected, was at Nob at the time that David was there. He now informed Saul of this, and that David came to the high priest; the latter inquiring of the Lord for him, and giving him food, and the sword of Goliath the Philistine.*
The enraged monarch had now an object on which to wreak his vengeance. He despatched messengers immediately, who brought before him not only Ahimelech, but "all his father's house, the priests that were in Nob.” Saul demanded the respectful attention of the high priest, “ Hear now, thou son of Ahitab.”
He answered, "Here I am, my lord.”
The king proceeded: "Why have ye conspired against me, thou and the son of Jesse, in that thou hast given him bread, and a sword, and hast inquired of God for him, that he should rise against me, to lie in wait as at this day ?"
Ahimelech was conscious of his innocence, and knew that he received David as one high in favor with the king, and, as he supposed, on important public business. It was not the first time that he had inquired of the Lord for David, and why should he have deemed it criminal in this instance, or displeasing to Saul. In view of these things, he thus expostulated with the king : "Who is so faithful among all thy servants as David, which is the king's son-in-law, and goeth at thy bidding, and is honorable in thine house? Did I then begin to inquire of God for him ? be it far from me: let not the king impute any thing unto his servant, nor to all the house of my father : for thy servant knew nothing of all this, less or more.”
* But he did not mention a very important circumstance with which he was undoubtedly acquainted, and which would have placed the conduct of Ahimelech in a different light,--that of David's declaring that he was on the business of the king. Doeg evidently intended to produce the impression that the high priest was privy to the movements of David, and willing to aid him in them. He thus proved himself a base and malicious slanderer.
It was a reasonable and touching appeal, but produced no other effect upon Saul than to rouse to a higher degree of fury the malevolent passions that had the mastery over him. " Thou shalt surely die, Ahimelech, thou, and all thy father's house.” So saying, he ordered some of the footmen who were near him, immediately to put Ahimelech and the other priests of the Lord to death ; " because,” he added, " their hand also is with David, and because they knew when he fied, and did not show it to me.”
Jealousy and revenge, when they take full possession of the soul, as in the case of Saul, are inexorable. They are deaf to the voice of reason. Neither justice nor humanity can arrest them in their furious career. They urge on to deeds of violence and blood. They complete the fiendlike character of the murderer and the assassin.
These passions have their beginnings, and acquire their growth in malignity by degrees Reader, are they ever harbored in your breast ? If so, pause and consider their issue. They had their beginnings in the breast of Saul.
Doeg slays the priests, except Abiathar, who escapes. Da
vid succors Keilah. Jonathan and David renew their covenant. Saul leaves the pursuit of David, to resist the Philistines.
The command to kill the priests on the spot, and in cold blood, struck those to whom it was given with horror. They could not raise their hands, even in obedience to the orders of their sovereign, against those who ministered at the altars of Jehovah. Not one moved; and it would seem as if their refusal might have produced at least a momentary pause in the mind of Saul, and stayed a little his vengeance. But it only roused it to a more maddening impetuosity. His eye flashed terribly with an exulting decision of purpose, as it fehl upon one near him, on whom he knew he could rely to carry
that execution. It was Doeg, the Edomite; the ready tool of the royal murderer. "Turn thou," said Saul, addressing him, "and fall upon the priests.” There was no misgiving now. The command
found immediate obedience; and his unresisting victims, to the number of eighty-five, fell by the hand of Doeg. The vindictive spirit of Saul carried the work of destruction yet further; intending, probably, by such fearful examples, to strike terror into his subjects, and put a stop to their rendering any more aid to David. By his directions, Doeg proceeded with a party of men to Nob, the city of the priests, and put all its inhabitants to death, not sparing the aged, nor the children and tender infants, and destroying all the cattle. About this time David is supposed to have composed the 52d, 109th, 17th, 140th, 35th, and 64th Psalms.
In these events, brought about by the wickedness of Saul, and in which he and the instruments of his vengeance incurred tremendous guilt, we see, at the same time, a striking fulfilment of the Divine prediction against Eli and his descendants. He had grievously offended God, because his sons had made themselves vile, and he restrained them not, and had been told that the days would come when the Lord would cut off his arm, and the arm of his fother's house, and that all the increase of his house should die in the flower of their age.
This prediction began to receive its accomplishment when the two sons of Eli were killed in battle, and himself died on the same day. It continued to be fulfilled in the massacre of the