Doeg the Edomite
Doeg was an Edomite, chief herdsman to Saul, King of Israel. He is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible book of First Samuel, chapters 21 and 22, where he is depicted as responsible for the deaths of a large number of priests.
After parting from Jonathan, David fled from Saul's jealous anger and went to Nob. He went to Ahimelech, the High Priest, claiming to be on a clandestine royal mission. Ahimelech fed David and his men with the showbread, and gave David the sword of Goliath. Doeg was present and witnessed Ahimelech's service to David. (1 Sam 21)
Later, Saul asked about the whereabouts of David, and his herdsman spoke up:
- Then answered Doeg the Edomite, which was set over the servants of Saul, and said, I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob, to Ahimelech the son of Ahitub. (1 Sam 22:9)
However, Doeg omitted to inform King Saul that David had pretended to be on a secret mission on behalf of the king. He did not inform the king that Ahimelech was deceived by David, and that Ahimelech provided support because he thought he was serving the king.
Therefore Saul, with only part of the story, summoned the High Priest and his entire company and, in a rage, ordered them all killed. His officials refused to raise their hands against the priests and Saul turned to Doeg, who carried out the executions. Saul followed that up with an attack on the city of Nob, the city of the priests, and the families of the priests – men, women, and children – were put to the sword. Only Abiathar escaped, and fled to join David.
David later showed remorse for his part in the incident:
- And David said unto Abiathar, 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. (1 Sam 22:22)
The heading above Psalm 52 records that David wrote it after Doeg the Edomite betrayed Ahimelech to Saul.
In Rabbinical literature
He is the subject of many rabbinical legends, the origin of which is to be found in part in Psalm 52.
Though he died at the early age of thirty-four years, he is regarded by the rabbis as the greatest scholar of his time, a strong description being supposedly applied to him because he made every one with whom he disputed "blush". He could bring forward 300 different questions with reference to one single ritual case. But he was lacking in inward piety, so that God was "anxious" concerning his end, and "mourned" for him. His most unfortunate qualities, however, were his malice, jealousy, and calumnious tongue. He sounded the praise of David before Saul only in order to provoke his jealousy, ascribing to David qualities that Saul lacked. He cherished a grudge against David, whose opinion prevailed over his own in determining the site for the Temple at Jerusalem, and he had well-nigh succeeded in proving by his arguments that David, as a descendant of Ruth the Moabite, could not, according to the Law, belong to the congregation of Israel, when the prophet Samuel interposed in David's favor. He also declared David's marriage with Michal to be invalid, and induced Saul to marry her to another.
Doeg not only disregarded the sanctity of marriage, but he also slew with his own hands the priests of Nob, after Abner and Amasa, Saul's lieutenants, had refused to do so. As it often happens with those who strive for something to which they are not entitled, he lost that which he possessed. God sent the three "angels of destruction" to Doeg; the first caused him to forget his learning, the second burned his soul, and the third scattered the ashes. According to some he was slain by his own pupils when they found that he had forgotten his learning; others maintain that he was slain by David when he (Doeg) informed him of the death of Saul and of Jonathan.
According to another Midrash, Doeg tried to preserve the life of Agag, the king of the Amalekites-Edomites, by interpreting Lev. 22:28 into a prohibition against the destruction of both the old and the young in war. Doeg is among those who have forfeited their portion in the future world by their wickedness. Doeg is an instance of the evil consequences of calumny, because by calumniating the priests of Nob he lost his own life, and caused the death of Saul, Ahimelech, and Abner.
Later, Jehoash (Joash) was the only one of Jehoram's male descendants to escape extermination at the hand of Athaliah. The slaughter was considered a divine retribution for David's role in causing the death of the priests at Nob, but Jehoash escaped death because on that earlier occasion one priest, Abiathar, had survived.
- 1 Samuel 21:7
- Jewish Encyclopedia article on Ahimelech
- Sanh. 69b
- Midrash Tehillim lii. 4; ed. Buber, p. 284.
- Ḥag. 15b.
- Sanh. 106b.
- 1 Samuel 16:18
- Sanh. 93b; compare Midrash Shmuel 19, end.
- Zeb. 54b
- Yeb. 76b, 77a; Midrash Shmuel xxii.
- Genesis Rabbah 32; Midrash Tehillim 52. 4.
- Gen. R. 20.
- Sanh. 106b; differently, Yer. Sanh. 10. 29a.
- Yalḳ., Sam. 131
- 2 Samuel 1:2; Pesiḳ., ed. Buber, iii. 28b; Ginzberg, "Die Haggada bei den Kirchenvätern," i. 38.
- Midrash Tehillim 52.4.
- Sanh. x. 1; compare ib. 109b.
- Yer. Peah 1.16a; Midrash Tehillim 120.9 [ed. Buber, p. 504].
- Compare 1 Samuel 22:17-21
- Sanh. 95b. Cited in Jewish Encyclopedia article on Jehoash.