PSALM FIFTY TWO: DOEG THE EDOMITE
This Psalm was composed by David after his experience with Doeg the Edomite. Throughout the song, David has that man in mind. The story is told in 1 Samuel 21:1-9 and verses 23-26. We have in the body of the Psalm a description of Doeg as a boastful and treacherous man (v.1), a liar and slanderer (v.2), a deceiver for personal gain, a lover of evil more than good, a lover of lies more than truth (v.4), a lover of seeing others hurt.
The contrast between Doeg and David is vivid: the former is like a dead tree dug out and the latter is like a green olive tree. Doeg trusted in riches – David trusted in the mercy of God. David would be blessed forever – Doeg would be cursed forever. David will praise God for His help – Doeg will live in remorse. David waited upon God’s Name – Doeg did not know it.
David was a good example to the people of God (v.9) “It is good before Thy saints that I wait upon Your Name.” Doeg was an outstanding example of evil. What a terrible thing, but note how David responds in this Psalm: “Why boastest thou in mischief O mighty man?” There is pathos in this question, for David recognizes that Doeg was a great man – A MIGHTY MAN, and yet he says “Why do you boast yourself in evil?” Doeg had been guilty of horrible butchery. He slew 85 priests plus the inhabitants of the town they were in. What fury was in the man that he could slaughter people in that fashion? It was not war, it was genocide. David is moved to say, “Why do you boast? A great man like you!” Persecution will not annihilate God’s people. Down the ages, it is a story told over and over again. It has one theme – “Slay them! Slay them! Slay them!” and yet the righteous are still on the earth, for God takes care of His people.
Doeg was determined to persecute David. “Thy tongue deviseth mischief,” sang the psalmist. The tongue is the essential instrument in boasting, reviling, slandering, and speaking. When the tongue is used to persecute it is very subtle–like a man pretending to shave you with an open razor, and in the act, cutting your throat. Doeg was pretending loyalty to Saul, and reveling in betraying David. In fact, he was determined to expose the priests. He had been “detained before the Lord,” in other words he had been held in the priests’ power. Woe betide us when people follow private feuds in any walk of life. It was a private feud that led Doeg to perpetrate the massacre of priests and innocent people. Of course, Doeg wasn’t really on anyone’s side – he was only on Doeg’s side. “Thou lovest evil more than good” sings David. No man can love evil and good equally. It is impossible to serve two masters. You cannot serve God and mammon – Doeg loved profit – he loved mammon. “God shall likewise destroy thee forever,” by inspiration David’s song spells out the sentence against Doeg, lest he should repent. There comes a time when God speaks no more to a person. David uttered these opinions from experience.
What he is actually saying is, “Nobody gets away with it!” Sometimes we are apt to say about those who despitefully use us, “Ah well, they’ll get away with it!” No! Neither will we “get away with it.” As far as God is concerned, NOBODY gets away with it. “Shall not the judge of the earth do right?” David, prophesying by the Holy Spirit depicted the dreadful end of this man. Henceforth he was a doomed man. God would destroy him. There are four ideas here, where David speaks of God laying Doeg prostrate, “God shall destroy thee for ever, take thee away, pluck thee out of thy dwelling place in the land of the living.” LAYING PROSTRATE is a figure of an action like chopping down a tree; “He will chop you down!” Today we hear the phrase, “I’ll cut him down to size!” There is only ONE who can really cut us all down to size – He is God Almighty. If necessary He will chop us down.
Another phrase used by David is enlightening:- Dissolving as by fire – burning the whole tree that has been plucked up. “PLUCK thee out of thy dwelling.” When a discarded tree is cut down – burn it. It is of no further use – except for burning. Not only will the tree be cut down, and burned up, the ashes will be swept away. So no real evidence is left of what has happened to it. Eradicated completely from the spot where he was, they hear of him no more. It is a strange thing.
When God deals thus with the wicked there is an effect upon the righteous. They shall see, and fear, and laugh at him. Bear in mind that this man’s name (Doeg) like the names Cain, and Judas Iscariot, have never been used in naming children. They are not given to children. No-one in his right mind would call a child by one of these names. But notice what the righteous thought and said:- “THIS is the man that made not God his strength.” It is good to take note of that.
“He trusted in the abundance of his riches.” Doeg was Saul’s chief herdsman. He had a good job with Saul. The king had given him the task of looking after his cattle. That was not one man looking after a few cows. He was the man in charge of vast herds, and was in the position where he could make money hand over fist. “He strengthened himself in his wickedness.” When in a position of power, as this man was, one must ever remember how power corrupts. Doeg trusted in the abundance of riches, and his wickedness corrupted him. He was more eager to please Saul than he was to please God. When he spoke in this way about Doeg, David knew what he was talking about. He himself had been put by God in the presence of Saul, and his life was now in danger. But here was one who was willing to do anything for Saul – quite willing to tell Saul where David was. Through this man, David could lose his life; and this man was the very one willing to do the butchery.
Doeg must have found his office very profitable, and his slaughter of the helpless in that village brought its own reward. As far as Saul was concerned, Doeg had done a good thing.
Then David strikes another chord on his harp and starts a new stanza: “BUT I am like a green olive tree in the house of the Lord.” His use of the word GREEN indicates ‘Like a flourishing tree.’ The Olive Tree, in a healthy state, has leaves all the time, and can live for a very long time. Some have lived for nearly 2,000 years. Doeg had planned and plotted David’s murder. He had schemed and intrigued, given Saul all the news he was able to collect, determined to see David slain. He had lied, he had murdered, he had planned, he had spied – he was a wicked man through and through. He made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches.” But David’s answer was, “Well, when all is said and done, I am like a flourishing olive tree.”
So, THE MIGHTY MAN is plucked up by the roots and David declares of himself, “I’m planted, rooted, fixed and flourishing.” GOD does it. It is true that Doeg flourished for a while on lies, wickedness, and attacking those who loved God. He did not trust in the Lord nor make God his strength. At one time David was running away, in fear of his life. Doeg was one of the main adversaries. David did nothing about this man, BUT GOD DID. God took him up by the roots, and the same God planted David, and finally established him upon the throne.
How simple and yet how profound is the theme of the Psalm: The wicked shall be torn up by the roots – they that wait upon the Lord He will plant, and they will flourish forever.
Copyright (c) 1995, Hedley Palmer. All rights reserved.