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The prophetic relationship between the slaughter at Nob with the earlier curse on the house of Eli
Inevitably, Saul discovered that David was organising an army and, in his almost constant state of paranoia engendered by his continuing slide away from God, as his torment from the evil spirit continued (particularly now David was no longer present to play his harp for him), he accused his servants of conspiring with David. At this point, Doeg the Edomite stepped forward (22:9), and reported that he was present when David went up to Nob and conversed with Ahimelech the priest. His presence there was recorded in 1 Samuel 21:7 and he revealed to Saul that Ahimelech helped David and his men by giving him provisions and the sword of Goliath. Saul promptly sent for Ahimelech and asked, "Why have ye conspired against me?" and, after hearing Ahimelech's explanation, he pronounced the death sentence on him (v161): "Thou shalt surely die, Ahimelech, thou, and all thy father's house." These words of Saul remind us of the curse on Eli's household which was declared in I Samuel 2:31. Saul turned to his soldiers and commanded them to kill the priests but they wanted nothing to do with killing the priests of the Lord. However, Doeg the Edomite was more than willing to curry favour with Saul and he killed the eighty-five priests who wore the linen ephod and then he went to Nob and destroyed it, killing "with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and sucklings, and oxen, and asses, and sheep" (v191). Following this slaughter, the tabernacle and the altar were moved to Gibeon (II Chronicles 1:3).
One son of Ahimelech, named Abiathar, escaped this slaughter and fled to find David. Thus Abiathar, the great-great-grandson of the wicked priest Eli, was the sole survivor of the curse on the house of Eli, as recorded in 1 Samuel 2:27. Abiathar told David all that Saul had done and he replied, no doubt in tears, "I knew it that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul: I have occasioned the death of all the persons of thy father's house" (v221). David invited Abiathar to stay with him and we learn from the next chapter (23:9) that Abiathar had escaped with the ephod and the breastplate of righteousness.
Chapter 23 records the continued attempts by Saul to take the life of David and we read (v13) that David's band of four-hundred men had now grown to six hundred. He was continually successful in escaping from Saul because "God delivered him not into his hand." Jonathan now sought out David in the wilderness of Ziph and offered him encouragement (v171): "And he said unto him, 'Fear not for the hand of Saul my father shall not find thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee, and that also Saul my father knoweth'". As we learnt from Chapter 18 and 19, Jonathan had great spiritual insight and the two of them made a covenant before the Lord before Jonathan returned home. Although the Ziphites reported David's hiding place to Saul, before he could attack it, God sent a diversion. As he pursued David (v27) a messenger told Saul that the Philistines had made a raid on the land and Saul called off his pursuit to go and meet the challenge of the Philistines. David made good use of his divinely engineered escape and returned to his stronghold at En-gedi.
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