King Saul orders his guards to kill the priests but somehow the guards refuse to carry out this order which is subsequently carried out by Doeg the Edomite.Under normal circumstances this should have been regarded as a treasonous act which carried a death sentence.Could Saul have been guilt stricken because somehow he seems not offended by the guards action nor did he pursue the matter further.

1 Samuel 22:16-17 NIV

16 But the king said, “You will surely die, Ahimelek, you and your whole family.”

17 Then the king ordered the guards at his side: “Turn and kill the priests of the Lord, because they too have sided with David. They knew he was fleeing, yet they did not tell me.”

But the king’s officials were unwilling to raise a hand to strike the priests of the Lord.

Why were the guards not charged for refusing to carry out the king's order?

  • They were the Lord's anointed.
    – Dottard
    Aug 13, 2021 at 11:40
  • Where does the text say they weren't punished? Whenever I've read this, I just assumed they were, but that this was not interesting or important enough to include in the story - do you think Saul only did what is written in Samuel? That all of his actions as king were recorded?
    – Robert
    Aug 13, 2021 at 15:35

2 Answers 2


Ellicott succinctly observes that:

But the servants of the king would not put forth their hand.—“And thus they were more faithful to Saul than if they had obeyed his order, which was against the commandment of the Lord, whose servant the king was no less than they.”—Wordsworth.

David made a similar decision, more than once, not to harm King Saul because, he was the "Lord's anointed". 1 Sam 24:6, 10, 26:9, 11, 23.

  • 1 Sam 24:6 - So he said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed. May I never lift my hand against him, since he is the LORD’s anointed.”

Thus, it is reasonable, that Saul realized that it is legal to disobey an illegal order! And, Saul's guards were not guilty of disobeying because they had a greater duty to God.


There is an obvious, simple answer, yet it is obscured by a traditional doctrinal foundation. One that may push back on this outline.

The simple fact is that you can’t touch the righteous - those that God ‘sees’ as righteous. And this is seen all through out the Old Testament. Noah couldn’t be ‘touched’. Neither could Abraham during his wars, neither could Lot. Neither could Joshua. Neither Esther, or Mordecai, nor Rachel, nor Daniels 3 friends, nor David……. etc.

It’s simple. Satan can not ‘touch’ righteousness. Impossible. It is only the righteous themselves that can ‘consent’ to being touched. And that is exactly what a Martyr is. Someone who lays their life down - by choice, in worship.

The priests could not be touched. The righteous can not be touched. Full stop.

The guards could not carry out the order. Neither could Balek, again, you can't ‘touch’ the righteous. Saul would have ‘instinctively’ known that. Via the evil spirit that motivated him. The one we ‘see’ when he threw the spear ‘at’ David.

  • It seems to me that the faithful are definitely "touchable." In this case, there's little doubt that Doeg the Edomite acted under the influence of Satan as he became a mass-murderer that very day. Matthew 24:9 states: "Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name." I doubt that anyone who was martyred "consented" to being taken away to torture and death, any more than the priests of Nob consented to being murdered (1 Sam. 22). Satan appears to be granted a great deal of latitude by God to touch, torture and destroy.
    – Xeno
    Aug 13, 2021 at 20:57
  • @Xeno When ‘under’ the Law, Satan can rightfully use that Law to ‘touch’ the elect. The Law is a ‘weapon’ Satan can ‘use’ to afflict those ‘under’ it. And did!(and will, as per your reference to Matthew). Without that ‘weapon’, he can’t ‘touch’ the righteous. Example, fortunately Lot was not under Law, therefore he had to be taken away. It’s easy to see this possibly being so under the OT, but the contention with this ‘view’ arises when/if you ask whether it’s still so today.
    – Dave
    Aug 13, 2021 at 21:27

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