And he ordered his bodyguards, “Kill these priests of the Lord, for they are allies and conspirators with David! They knew he was running away from me, but they didn’t tell me!” But Saul’s men refused to kill the Lord’s priests.
Then the king said to Doeg, “You do it.” So Doeg the Edomite turned on them and killed them that day, eighty-five priests in all, still wearing their priestly garments. Then he went to Nob, the town of the priests, and killed the priests’ families—men and women, children and babies—and all the cattle, donkeys, sheep, and goats.
Only Abiathar, one of the sons of Ahimelech, escaped and fled to David. When he told David that Saul had killed the priests of the Lord, David exclaimed, “I knew it! When I saw Doeg the Edomite there that day, I knew he was sure to tell Saul. Now I have caused the death of all your father’s family. Stay here with me, and don’t be afraid. I will protect you with my own life, for the same person wants to kill us both.”
(1 Samuel 22:17-23)
David lied to protect himself from Saul (21:13). Sadly, his lie led to the death of eighty-five priests. Why would Saul have his own priests killed? Saul suspected a conspiracy among Jonathan, David, and the priests. His suspicion came from Doeg’s report of seeing David talking to Ahimelech, the high priest, and receiving food and a weapon from him (22:9-10). Saul’s action showed his mental and emotional instability and how far he had strayed from God.
Why did God allow eighty-five innocent priests to be killed? Their deaths served to dramatize to the nation how a king could become an evil tyrant. Where were Saul’s advisers? Where were the elders of Israel? Sometimes God allows evil to develop to teach us not to let evil systems flourish.
Serve God but don’t expect it to be a ticket to wealth, success, or health. God does not promise to protect good people from evil in this world, but he does promise that ultimately all evil will be abolished. Those who have remained faithful through their trials will experience great rewards in the age to come (Matthew 5:11-12; Revelation 21:1-7; 22:1-21).