By James Boice
Theme: Portrait of a Very Wicked Man
This week’s lessons remind us that those who do evil will eventually receive the judgment of God, and that in response to this truth we as Christians are to praise the Lord for his righteousness and trust in God’s unfailing love.
Scripture: Psalm 52:1-9
The story of David and Doeg is told in this brief section of 1 Samuel 22 and is never mentioned again anywhere else in the Bible, except in the psalm we are studying, which is introduced, as I noted above, by these words: “When Doeg the Edomite had gone to Saul and told him: ‘David has gone to the house of Ahimelech.’”
Psalm 52 is David’s personal evaluation of Doeg and the tragic events he precipitated. It has three parts: 1) a description of Doeg’s wickedness (vv. 1-4); 2) the prophesied end of this exceedingly evil man (vv. 5-7); and 3) a final contrasting portrait of David himself, showing what he was and what he hoped always to do and continue being.
As we read the first stanza of this historical psalm we find Doeg’s evil character described in three aspects.
He was proud. The word used in the psalm is “boast,” and it occurs twice, both times in verse 1: “Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man? Why do you boast all day long?” The thought conveyed in this Hebrew word is not necessarily that of a person strutting around making extravagant claims to others about his or her abilities. Rather it is that of a smug self-sufficiency that does not parade itself openly simply because it is so convinced of its superiority. Sometimes outward boasting is a cover-up for a person’s inner insecurities, but that was not what Doeg was like. As the British scholar Derek Kidner writes, “The real point is the man’s self-satisfaction. He thinks himself clever, he is absorbed in his intrigues.”1
There is some evidence for this evil element of Doeg’s character in the story itself. For if we read it carefully, we notice that there was a considerable time gap between the day Doeg was in Nob and saw David and when he reported this fact to King Saul. The end of 1 Samuel 21 tells of David’s escape to Achish, one of the rulers of the Philistines, and the start of the next chapter tells of David gathering his mighty men about him while in the stronghold at Adullam. Both of these events intervene between the time Doeg saw David with Ahimelech in Nob and when he reported this to Saul. So it was not a case of the Edomite’s merely blurting out what he knew and at the first opportunity. On the contrary, he knew he had a piece of valuable information and kept it to himself until he knew it would best serve his interests to divulge it. He saw his opportunity when Saul complained that none of his retainers was concerned about him or told him anything.
Doeg loved evil. Verse 3 says, “You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth.” The fact that Doeg told Saul what he knew would not be proof of his love of evil necessarily. He might simply have been trying to advance himself with Saul. But his ruthless murder of the priests of Nob and their families showed that he actually hated all who stood for righteousness—Ahimelech stood for righteousness and had spoken truthfully when he was interrogated by Saul—and Doeg wanted to eliminate such people and thus advance and align himself with the most evil aspects of Saul’s deteriorating moral character.
- In what way is Doeg proud or boastful? How do we see this piece of Doeg’s evil character in the story?
- What evidence is given as proof that Doeg loved evil rather than good?
Reflection: How do we see people delighting in evil today? Can you think of any examples of how the righteous are mistreated as a result?
1Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary on Books I and II of the Psalms (Leicester, England and Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 1973), p. 195.
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