When Saul learned from Doeg that Ahimelek had helped David during his flight he ordered all of the priests killed. Ahimelek protested his innocence, claiming that he was only helping David out of ignorance, not knowing that David had fallen out of favour. Saul’s officials were unwilling to slaughter the priests so Doeg did it, killing 85 priests and putting the town of Nob to the sword. Abiathar escaped and brought the story to David. Should it surprise us that God did not act immediately to execute Saul for this evil? Why was David subsequently so hesitant to kill the man God had chosen as Israel’s first king when he is nothing but a murdering despot?
David fled to the wilderness and had to battle two enemies, the Philistines on the one hand and Saul’s pursuit on the other. David was successful battling the Philistines as God gave him victory but he had to constantly flee from Saul’s advances. We see the reason for David’s failure to attack Saul in chapter 24: “He said to his men, ‘The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord’” (24:6). David’s actions cause Saul to repent and he returned home and left David in peace for the time being.