Then the king sent to summon Ahimelech the priest, the son of Ahitub, and all his father’s house, the priests who were at Nob, and all of them came to the king. 12 And Saul said, “Hear now, son of Ahitub.” And he answered, “Here I am, my lord.” 13 And Saul said to him, “Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, in that you have given him bread and a sword and have inquired of God for him, so that he has risen against me, to lie in wait, as at this day?” 14 Then Ahimelech answered the king, “And who among all your servants is so faithful as David, who is the king’s son-in-law, and captain overyour bodyguard, and honored in your house? 15 Is today the first time that I have inquired of God for him? No! Let not the king impute anything to his servant or to all the house of my father, for your servant has known nothing of all this, much or little.” ~1 Samuel 22:11-15
Saul inquires deceitfully but Ahimelech answers honestly. The priest basically says this: “Look, I always help and encourage David. It’s my job, and besides that, why wouldn’t I? He’s one of your best men!” Ah, but here’s where Ahimelech gets confused: “Let not the king impute anything to his servant or to all the house of my father.”
It is true enough that Ahimelech was innocent in this affair with David. Clearly, if he and his priests had been guilty of that which Saul accused – conspiring against their king and rallying forces with David to commit treason, they would not have come to speak so obediently and so willingly when called by Saul. But who was it that had already imputed a curse upon Ahimelech’s house, as well as his father’s house? Not Saul.
On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God,and he did not restrain them. 14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.” ~1 Samuel 3:12-14
God. God had planned Ahimelech’s destruction long before this incident ever occurred. Ahimelech belonged to Eli’s house and the destruction of all Eli’s descendants was God’s sovereign will. God uses Saul and Doeg’s wickedness to accomplish his own will and carry out his righteous judgment. This is what is bound to happen to sons and daughters when fathers blaspheme God and remain passive over gross evil lying within their sphere of influence:
And the king said, “You shall surely die, Ahimelech, you and all your father’s house.” 17 And the king said to the guard who stood about him, “Turn and kill the priests of the Lord, because their hand also is with David, and they knew that he fled and did not disclose it to me.” But the servants of the king would not put out their hand to strike the priests of the Lord. 18 Then the king said to Doeg, “You turn and strike the priests.” And Doeg the Edomite turned and struck down the priests, and he killed on that day eighty-five persons who wore the linen ephod. 19 And Nob, the city of the priests, he put to the sword; both man and woman, child and infant, ox, donkey and sheep, he put to the sword. ~1 Samuel 22:16-19
Notice that Ahimelech never rats out David. He never pleads his case fully. He never so much as implies that David misled him as he actually did. He protects the honor and respect due David as his spiritual liaison at all personal costs. This priest, unlike his ancestors, was willing to serve both God and his people sacrificially. He was willing to take the heat for another man as good and innocent as he.
Unfortunately, the truth is that Saul hates God’s priests – no matter how good they may be. He hates righteousness. He’s embittered toward the things of God and angry about his own rejection by God because of it. Saul likely enjoys taking out his frustrations against God on God’s true servants. ‘Tis true of many corrupt and ungodly leaders who preside even today over God’s holy people.
This massacre is so evil that even the servants closest to King Saul refuse to carry it out at his command. Only the traitor, Doeg, is willing. Not only does he kill the priests, though. He kills every man, woman, child, and animal.
Isn’t it something how an evil man is willing to annihilate an entire city for his own warped, perverted, selfish causes, but unwilling to do the very same thing for God’s glory? Remember this:
And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed be you to the Lord. I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” 14 And Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?” ~1 Samuel 15:13-14
Yeah. Not so long ago God had commanded Saul to annihilate a people – man, woman, child, and animal. Did he do it? No. He kept some back for himself in pretense of piety. What he was unwilling to do for God’s sake, he was more than willing to do for his own sake here with the priests and their city.
Through all of this mess, Ahimilech never changed. He was a good man. He was an honorable servant of God. He was a good spiritual leader. Ahimelech was simply born into the wrong house at the wrong time. Therefore, he suffers God’s righteous judgment at the hands of the world’s most wicked men. I guess it’s not about Ahimelech. It’s about God’s glory. And, despite his unfortunate lot, Ahimelech proves righteous. He is trusting of God’s provision – giving David bread he knew he could not replace, trusting God to provide for his need. He is subordinate to a ruthless king – going to Saul immediately and answering him honestly. He is faithful – giving all he has to a needy friend and never speaking evil of him even when it could have saved him personally. Ahimelech was a good guy.
So, I guess that means good guys finish last, sometimes. Sometimes they do. Others might say they finish first, though. Ahimelech got to glory early and Saul, well, Saul doubtless won’t ever get there. Keep your heads up, good guys. “The path to heaven runs through miles of clouded hell.” ~Imagine Dragons