1 Sam 21:1-9 and 22:8-23 The Death of the Priests CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
In these passages, David runs from Saul to Nob, the city of the priests, after attempting to seek refuge among the Philistines [1 Sam21:10-15]. He had to get away so quickly that Ahimelech is afraid when David shows up. What transpires leads to the death of the priests.
The first thing Ahimelech wants to know is why David is alone. In other words, David is not traveling with his servants [his ordinary entourage, v.2]. Instead, he is traveling with a few young men [v.4]. David lies and explains that the reason is that the king’s business is secretive and hasty [v.2, 8].
Then David asks for some bread and the only bread available is the hallowed shewbread that has been removed from the table of shewbread [v.v.5-6]. David said that it was in a manner common, because it was no longer before the Lord. Nevertheless what he asks was not lawful [Matt 12:3-4]. The priest allows David and the young men to have the loaves, though, because they have not been with women in three days [Lev15:16-20].
A major problem develops while David is there. Doeg the Edomite is there and sees David. David knew that this was going to be a problem because Doeg would report seeing David with the priests [[1 Sam22:22]. Doeg was the chief herdman for Saul, having been taken after Saul defeated the Edomites [1 Sam14:47-52].
When Saul complains that his “friends and family” have let David get away and have withheld his whereabouts, Doeg tells Saul about the incident in Nob [1 Sam 22:9]. Ahimelech, the priest, turns out to be of the offspring of Eli [1 Sam 14:3]. And so the Lord uses this event to actually fulfill his prophecy to Eli regarding his seed [1 Sam2:30-34].
Doeg lies to Saul when he tells Saul that Ahimelech inquired of the Lord for David. And this lie is partly why Saul orders the death of the priests [v.13]. But Saul adds his own lies to make the matter worse. He accuses Ahimelech of conspiracy with David against the king [v.13-15] which Ahimelech truthfully denies. At this point, Saul is delusional.
Nevertheless, Saul orders the priests to be slain, yet none of his personal guard will execute his command [v.17]. So the king orders Doeg to slay the priests and he kills 85 of them, and men, women and children, oxen, sheep and asses [v.18-19]. It is a total massacre. And by this, all of Eli’s men are cut off with the exception of Abiathar, who seeks refuge with David [v.20-23].