David-at-Nob Event Sequence
An event may appear insignificant but could be a key step that triggers a sequence of events toward fulfillment of God’s promise. Irrespective of the apparent significance of the trigger event, how a person responds could determine whether they follow or depart from God’s Schedule. Respond in every event knowing your next step could be ordered to open doors and release your blessing. An example: David’s meeting with priest of Nob Ahimelek appeared insignificant initially but triggered an event sequence that exposed Saul’s disrespect for clergy independence and authority, fulfilled God’s promise of punishment to Eli, and provided David a benefit that endured through almost the remainder of his life. David’s interactions with Ahimelek in the meeting conveyed compassion that likely contributed to his blessing.
David’s meeting with Ahimelek the priest of Nob is important for its effect on subsequent events, though the meeting itself appears insignificant. The sequence of events triggered by the meeting include Saul’s massacre of the priests of Nob, which exposed his disrespect for clergy independence and authority while fulfilling God’s promise of punishment to Eli and his descendants. Also, the event sequence resulted in a blessing for David: through Abiathar, son of Ahimelek (descendant of Eli), who escaped the massacre and served David for more than forty years as companion and clergy. Abiathar was retired from the priesthood at the conclusion of his service to David.
David had met with Ahimelek at Nob to request short-term food supply and weapon. Ahimelek provided him with leftover consecrated bread and the “…sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah…” [1 Samuel 21:9]. However, a sequence of events triggered by the meeting was more important than the items David received from Ahimelek. Therefore, David-Ahimelek meeting at Nob illustrates an event of little significance that triggered an event sequence (or cascading events) of great consequences. Furthermore, David’s response in the trigger event conveyed compassion that likely contributed to his blessing from the event.
The importance of the meeting derives from two occurrences. First, the interactions were witnessed by Doeg the Edomite, a servant of Saul serving a detention under the priest. Second, David showed concern for Ahimelek’s safety by withholding information regarding his dispute with Saul so Ahimelek could interact with him normally without taking a side in the dispute. He recognized Ahimelek needed protection from potential accusations by Saul regarding the interactions and did what he could to protect him. Although his compassion was not effective in protecting Ahimelek from Saul, David benefited immensely from the interactions, not because of the material items he received but because of subsequent events triggered by the interactions.
To understand the importance of David-Ahimelek meeting, we recall an antecedent event: a prophecy for Eli and his household and descendants, whereby God declared punishment on Eli for honoring his sons more than God “by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel” [1 Samuel 2:29]. God declared to Eli as follows: “The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your priestly house, so that no one in it will reach old age” [1 Samuel 2:31]. Further in Verse 33, he added: “Every one of you that I do not cut off from serving at my altar I will spare only to destroy your sight and sap your strength, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life.”
We discuss the event sequence triggered by David-Ahimelek meeting, focusing on Saul’s disrespect for the independence and authority of the clergy, how Saul’s massacre of the priests of Nob fulfilled God’s promise of punishment to Eli, and David’s benefit from the massacre that endured with him through almost the remainder of his life. The study adds to understanding that an event may appear insignificant but could be important as the trigger for an event sequence that leads to fulfillment of God’s promise.
Saul Responds to David-Ahimelek Meeting—
Massacre of the Priests of Nob
In response to information regarding David-Ahimelek interactions at Nob, King Saul ordered massacre of priests of Nob, because “…you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, giving him bread and a sword and inquiring of God for him, so that he has rebelled against me and lies in wait for me, as he does today…” [1 Samuel 22:13].
Saul had received a report that Priest of Nob Ahimelek prayed for David and provided him with food and weapon. He interrogated Ahimelek; pronounced him guilty of conspiracy; and ordered his mercenary, Doeg the Edomite, to execute Ahimelek and the other priests. Doeg killed eight-five priests that day and destroyed the city of Nob [1 Samuel 22:18–19]: “So Doeg the Edomite turned and struck the priests, and killed on that day eighty-five men who wore a linen ephod. Also Nob, the city of the priests, he struck with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and nursing infants, oxen and donkeys and sheep—with the edge of the sword.”
As we discuss in a previous study under Punishment of Saul Conveys God’s Promise, the event was Saul’s second violation of the separation of state and worship and indicated he had no remorse for his first violation and the punishment he received as a result. In this incident, he imposed his authority on the priesthood by interrogating Ahimelek’s interactions with David, passing judgment over the priests, and executing the judgment. Ahimelek had explained to him that his interaction with David was consistent with normal conduct in the relationship between a priest and worshiper [1 Samuel 22:15]: “Was that day the first time I inquired of God for him? Of course not! Let not the king accuse your servant or any of his father’s family, for your servant knows nothing at all about this whole affair.” Ahimelek tried to defend himself by asserting priestly privilege and explaining he was not aware of any dispute between the king and David. However, Saul was not persuaded. He passed judgment and ordered the massacre.
Nob Massacre Fulfilled God’s Promise
In addition to exposing Saul’s disregard for the authority and independence of the clergy, the Nob massacre fulfilled God’s promise of punishment to Eli.
Two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, had showed themselves corrupt in their positions as priests of the Lord. They had no regard for the Lord and helped themselves to the offering without respect for any limitations of priestly privilege. Eli was aware of his children’s behavior through reports from the people. He advised them but did not do enough to restrain them [1 Samuel 3:12-13]: “In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them.”
What God had “spoken concerning his house” was that “The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your priestly house, so that no one in it will reach old age” [1 Samuel 2:31]. Saul’s massacre of the priests of Nob fulfilled an aspect of God’s promise of punishment to Eli. However, not every descendant of Eli was killed in the massacre: “But one son of Ahimelek son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled to join David” [1 Samuel 22:20]. Subsequent events showed he was a lasting blessing to David, as we discuss in the next section.
Abiathar in Service for David
The Nob massacre released Abiathar to the service of David. He “escaped and fled to join David” and was well received [1 Samuel 22:22–23]: “Then David said to Abiathar, ‘That day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew he would be sure to tell Saul. I am responsible for the death of your whole family. Stay with me; don’t be afraid. The man who wants to kill you is trying to kill me too. You will be safe with me.’” It appears God released Abiathar from ancestral punishment and assigned him a mission as David’s companion and clergy.
Thereafter, David relied on Abiathar for clergy authority: “Now Abiathar son of Ahimelek had brought the ephod down with him when he fled to David at Keilah” [1 Samuel 23:6]. David called on Abiathar for the authority as needed. For example, he called on Abiathar when he needed to seek direction from God on whether to depart from Keilah: “When David learned that Saul was plotting against him, he said to Abiathar the priest, ‘Bring the ephod’” [1 Samuel 23:9]. Another example was when he needed to seek God’s direction to pursue Amalekites that raided his base at Ziklag [1 Samuel 30:7–8]: “Then David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelek, ‘Bring me the ephod.’ Abiathar brought it to him, and David inquired of the Lord, ‘Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?’”
Abiathar served David as clergy through most of the remainder of David’s life. However, close to the end of David’s forty-year reign as king of Israel, Abiathar strayed by supporting David’s son Adonijah in an unsuccessful attempt to usurp the kingship: “Adonijah conferred with Joab son of Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest, and they gave him their support” [1 Kings 1:7]. The usurpation attempt by Adonijah was put down and David made Solomon king. Thereafter, Solomon retired Abiathar from the priesthood [1 Kings 2:26-27]: “To Abiathar the priest the king said, ‘Go back to your fields in Anathoth. You deserve to die, but I will not put you to death now, because you carried the ark of the Sovereign Lord before my father David and shared all my father’s hardships.’ So Solomon removed Abiathar from the priesthood of the Lord, fulfilling the word the Lord had spoken at Shiloh about the house of Eli.”
Summary of What We Learned
An event may appear insignificant but could be a key step that triggers a sequence of events toward fulfillment of God’s promise. Irrespective of the apparent significance of the trigger event, how a person responds could determine whether they follow or depart from God’s Schedule. Respond in every event knowing your next step could be ordered to open doors and release your blessing.
As an example, we discuss David’s meeting with priest of Nob Ahimelek. The meeting appeared insignificant itself but triggered an event sequence that exposed Saul’s disrespect for clergy independence and authority, fulfilled God’s promise of punishment to Eli, and provided David a benefit that endured through almost the remainder of his life. It appears God released Abiathar from ancestral punishment and assigned him to a mission as David’s companion and clergy. David’s interactions with Ahimelek conveyed compassion that likely contributed to his blessing from the event.
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