1 Samuel 22:19 NASN

19 He also struck Nob the city of the priests with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and infants; he also struck oxen, donkeys, and sheep with the edge of the sword.

Seeing that Doeg the Edomite had single-handedly killed the priest after the king's official had refused to participate in the massacre.

Did he also carry out his massacre of the inhabitants of Nob single-handedly?

  • 1
    A related (and equally illogical) question.
    – Lucian
    Aug 27, 2021 at 16:18

3 Answers 3


Look at it this way. Doeg the Edomite didn't do it with his bare hands. He used weapons. Part of his weapons would include his son's and servants under his command. It's common to mention just the person in control in the Old Testament (Tanakh).

Note Doeg was "the chief of Saul’s herdsmen" (1 Sam. 21:7, ESV). Thus, he could have had help. However, within the context of 1 Sam. 22, King Saul and his whole army was around watching. So, with that protection it is feasible that Doeg could have killed 85 priests by himself. However, it would seem that he had some help under his command to kill the entire city of Nod. "he put to the sword" הִכָּ֣ה לְפִי־חֶ֔רֶב (1 Sam. 22:19) is an expression used for commanding to kill (Deut. 13:15-16).

Look at Abram and Lot. Their flocks with their servants where so large that they had to separate to different areas for the land to support their herds (Gen 13). Apparently Aram's servants made him equivalent to the city nations in that area.

Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner. These were allies of Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 And he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. 16 Then he brought back all the possessions, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his possessions, and the women and the people. (Gen. 14:13–16, ESV)

  • Correct. | 1 Samuel 22:19 literally states הִכָּ֣ה "he put" לְפִי "to-[the]-mouth" חֶ֔רֶב "[of a] sword" representing the same type of Wrath from Deuteronomy 13:16. Aug 27, 2021 at 14:25
  • 2
    It's not just common to mention the person in charge in the tanakh, but in basically all languages and cultures. This has nothing to do with Hebrew. So we say that Casesar conquered Gaul or Alexander conquered Persia. It really makes you think what people are thinking if they view these basic idioms as some kind of cryptic semitic puzzle.
    – Robert
    Aug 27, 2021 at 20:54
  • @Robert Good statement.
    – Perry Webb
    Aug 27, 2021 at 21:03

1 Samuel 22:

18 The king then ordered Doeg, “You turn and strike down the priests.” So Doeg the Edomite turned and struck them down. That day he killed eighty-five men who wore the linen ephod. 19He also put to the sword Nob, the town of the priests, with its men and women, its children and infants, and its cattle, donkeys and sheep.

Did Doeg the Edomite kill the whole town of Nob single-handedly as alluded in 1 Samuel 22:19?

It was probable for 2 reasons:

  1. Doeg was a professional killer.
  2. It wasn't supposed to be a fight but an execution order from King Saul.

If anyone resisted, Doeg could always call for reinforcement. The outcome would be the same. There was no point to resist King Saul. There didn't seem to be any attempt to fight back:

20 But one son of Ahimelek son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled to join David.

Instead of resisting Doeg, Ahimelke ran.


Note the following very Hebraistic ways of speaking:

  • 1 Chron 19:18 - David killed seven thousand of their charioteers and forty thousand of their foot soldiers
  • 2 Sam 8:5 - David killed 22,000 of them
  • 1 Kings 11:24 - When David killed the Zobaites ...
  • 1 Sam 27:11 - David killed everyone in the towns he attacked
  • 1 Sam 30:17 - David struck them down from twilight until the evening of the next day, and not a man remained alive
  • 2 Sam 8:1 - David struck the Philistines, and subdued them ...
  • 1 sam 27:9 - David struck the land and did not leave a man or woman alive

Thus, the Hebrew quite often ascribes the act of the followers to the leader. In all of these cases, David either was leading a band of 600 men or the armies of Israel consisting of many thousands. That is, the fact that "David did something", especially militarily does not mean he did it alone but with help of many under his command.

Exactly the same is true in 1 Sam 22:19 - if Doeg slaughter everyone and everything, he could not physically do this alone even if all stood still and waited to be killed. He clearly had the help of a company of soldiers under his personal command which the other army commanders refused to do.

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