Congregation Ohave Shalom - Young Israel of Pawtucket

On-line Tanach Class
Doeg haEdomi [the Edomite]


Doeg was a key figure in King Saul's court at the end of his reign, as the future King David entered the national spotlight. Doeg was there when David killed Goliath, and he was central to King Saul's pursuit of David.

The main description of Doeg in Tanach is in Shemuel I 21-22, during the pursuit of David. On the advice of King Saul's son, Yehonatan, David had fled. He headed to Nov, which is a city populated by Kohanim. On arriving in Nov, David encountered Achimelech and asked for support. He told Achimelech that he was on a secret mission from King Saul, and Achimelech gave David the showbread from the Mishkan, which was the portion of the Kohanim. Achimelech also gave David the sword of Goliath.

Doeg was in the town at this time, and he reported to King Saul that the town of Nov had been complicit in David's escape. King Saul ordered his men, and specifically Doeg, to wipe out the town; they did so.

Doeg's Name
Doeg is identified in Tanach as both Doeg and Doyeg. The Radak (Shemuel I 22:18) suggests that both of these were names by which he was known. Alternatively, "Doyeg" is a reference to King Saul catching him like a fish (Dag), as King Saul turned to Doeg after Doeg informed him of their role in David's escape, and King Saul said, "You kill them."

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 106b) presents an interesting alternative. "Doeg" is a verb for "worry." Specifically, Gd worried at first that Doeg might become corrupt, and then when Doeg did go bad, Gd said, "Vay, that this one went bad!"

Doeg's "surname" is also intriguing; was he an Edomite? His position, which we'll describe momentarily, would indicate that he was Jewish. Radak (Shemuel I 21:8) suggests that Doeg was simply from the land of Edom. We have several similarly named people in Tanach. Uryah haChiti was not a Hittite; he came from there. Iti haGitti was from Gat, but he was not a Philistine.

Doeg's Power
When Doeg is introduced, in Shemuel I 21, he is identified as "Abir haRoim," the most powerful of the shepherds. The juxtaposition of this title with his position at King Saul's ear is odd, and the commentators look to the broader meaning of "shepherd" within Tanach. Classically, our patriarchs were identified as shepherds. This leads Rashi to comment on "Abir haRoim" that Doeg was the Av Beis Din, the head of the High Court. (The Midrash Tehillim 3:4 is likely Rashi's source for this conclusion.)

In Tehillim 3:2, King David turns to Gd and says, "Rabim Kamim Alai," "Great ones stand against me." This may be understood as a reference to great numbers, or to great figures. Rashi comments that "Great" means foes who are great in Torah, great in wisdom, great in wealth and great in physical strength, and Rashi numbers Doeg in that list of enemies.

The Midrash (Midrash Shemuel 18:4) considers Doeg a formidable character in the politics of the time. King Saul tells Shemuel that he had not wiped out Amalek, "Ki Yareisi Es haAm," "because I feared the nation." The Midrash indicates that Doeg was the one who King Saul feared.

Doeg was a leading Torah sage. The Gemara (Chagigah 15b) indicates that Doeg, along with Achitofel, was able to come up with 300 questions regarding a complicated, intricate section of law. The Gemara also indicates (Sanhedrin 106b) that Doeg may have been somewhat frustrated, as the law did not follow his conclusions.

Doeg's Hatred of David

Doeg seems to have come up against David on a couple of occasions, aside from the Nov Massacre.

The first was after David defeated Goliath. King Saul turned to his entourage, and asked, "Who is this boy?" We know, from the context, that King Saul already knew David. He was actually asking whether David came from a line which could produce royalty (Yevamos 76b-77a). Doeg responded, "Ask whether he is even Jewish!" Doeg was referring to David's ancestress, Ruth the Moabitess, and the prohibition against Jews marrying Moabites. Avner, a general, objected that the prohibition extended only to male Moabites, for reasons related to the original prohibition's specifics.

The debate dragged out, until Avner cited Shemuel himself as saying that the prohibition was only against males, and so Ruth was all right.

This debate did have fallout for David on a second occasion, though. King Saul had promised his daughter, Michal, to the man who would defeat Goliath. Basing himself on Doeg's argument (Bereishis Rabbah 32:1), King Saul refused to let David marry Michal, and instead tried to marry her to Palti ben Layish.

Doeg also tried another tack against David, complimenting him to King Saul in order to incite King Saul's jealousy (Sanhedrin 93b).

Next week, Gd-willing, we will learn more about Doeg. Specifically, we will look at the way our sages understood what made Doeg do the things he did.

Have a good week,
Mordechai Torczyner



This was the second week of two on the topic of Doeg HaEdomi, Doeg the Edomite.

As we learned last week, Doeg was a member of King Saul's royal court, and he was the head of the Jewish "Supreme Court." He was the one who informed King Saul that the Kohanim in Nov had helped David flee from him, providing both food and a weapon (unaware that King Saul was pursuing David). King Saul ordered Doeg to kill out the Kohanim of Nov, which he did.

This week, we learned about two topics:
1. What corrupted Doeg, and
2. What was Doeg's end.

What Corrupted Doeg
Midrashic sources indicate that there were three flaws in Doeg's personality. These flaws appear to be linked.

1. Desire for Power
The Jerusalem Talmud (Sanhedrin 10:2) records an interesting complaint which Doeg had against David. When David came to Nov, the Kohanim asked him certain questions regarding the preparation of the showbread (Lechem haPanim) which they gave him from the Tabernacle (Mishkan).
Doeg, as is mentioned in Tanach, was in town, at the local Temple, when David arrived. Doeg took umbrage at the fact that the Kohanim turned to David with their questions; by rights, Doeg should have been the one consulted. This made Doeg jealous of David.

On a similar note, the Babylonian Talmud (Zevachim 54b) teaches that Doeg was jealous of David for another halachic issue on which David "triumphed," the selection of a location for the Temple (Beis haMikdash). It seems that David was the one who succeeded in correctly identifying the place where the Temple should go.

This flaw in Doeg is consistent with his inclusion in a list in a Mishnah (Sanhedrin 10:2). The Mishnah includes him with Bilam, Achitofel and Gechazi. All of these were men who had a certain status, and abused/wasted it. In one of the "minor Tractates" of the Talmud (Avos deR' Nasan 41) there are two more members of this list - Kayin and Korach. The people on this list are those who "sought greatness" beyond what they had.

On a similar note, the Talmud (Sotah 9a, Tosefta Sotah 4:19) includes Doeg in a list of biblical people who desired that which was not theirs, and so lost even that which was theirs.

2. Lack of Awe of Heaven
The Talmud mentions that a person's Torah study may shield him from harm, and protect him from acting improperly. The Baalei haTosafot (Chagigah 15b, "Kol") ask why Doeg's learning didn't protect him, and conclude that this was because he lacked awe of Heaven.

This is reminiscent of a Talmudic passage (Shabbat 31), which compares learning to the keys for inner doors and awe of Heaven to the keys for outer doors. What good do keys for the inner doors do, if one can't get there?!

3. Non-Internalization of Torah
The third flaw which our sources mention is that Doeg's Torah was not internalized; it was, "from the mouth and outward. (Sanhedrin 106b)"

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 106b) interprets a verse from Tehillim as a reference to Doeg. The verse asks, speaking for Gd, "Who are you to teach my laws?" As the Talmud explains, Gd says to Doeg, "What do you say when you teach the laws of murder, and the laws of slander?!"

On a similar note, Rava makes a comment further down the same page. The Talmud mentions Doeg's brilliance in posing a large number of questions on complex topics. Rava responds, "What's so great about being able to ask questions?" Rava concludes, "Gd desires a person's heart!!"

The Midrash indicates that everyone knew Doeg was lacking when it came to Mitzvos. (See, for example, Bamidbar Rabbah 18:17.) The prophet Shemuel actually declared this, outright. As we mentioned last week, Doeg challenged David's lineage based on a legal question regarding the permissibility of marrying a Moabite. When word of this came back to Shemuel, he responded, "Doeg is a Min [opponent of Torah]! (the implication is: Why listen to him?!)" (Rus Rabbah 4)

What is Doeg's End?
We aren't told, explicitly, of Doeg's death.

In the beginning of Shemuel II, we are told that a "youth" comes to King David and tells him of King Saul's death, at the youth's hand. King Saul had been surrounded by Philistine forces, and he had asked the youth to kill him, rather than have the Philistines take him and use him as a weapon against the Jewish forces. The youth reports that he had killed King Saul, and King David kills him, saying, "You killed the annointed one of Gd!"
A Midrash (Pesikta deRav Kahana 3:16) indicates that this "youth" was Doeg; an alternate version (Midrash Tanchuma Ki Tetze 18) suggests it was Doeg's son. Rashi (Shemuel II 1:2) quotes the former version, but adds that it doesn't sit right with him.

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 69b, 106b) indicates that Doeg died at the age of 34. This is learned from King David's statement in Tehillim, that the wicked "should not live out half of their days." The standard lifespan is 70 years.

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 106b) mentions that Doeg contracted Tzaraas at one point; as is known, this is the punishment for slander.

The Gemara also mentions that King David prayed for Doeg to die. Gd responded that Doeg's learning would prevent this, and so King David prayed that Doeg should forget his learning, that he shouldn't make it into the next world, and that there should be no teachers of Torah among his descendants. (See also Midrash Tanchuma Noach 17.)

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 106b) also mentions that Doeg was punished by three angels - one made him forget his learning, one incinerated his soul, and one scattered the ashes in the synagogues and study halls.

The Mishnah in Sanhedrin (10:2) says that Doeg did not make it into the next world. Rafi asked what happened, then, with the reward he was due for in the next world, from whatever good deeds he performed! Perhaps one might answer that he was so fundamentally flawed in terms of his views and motives, that the good deeds he performed were not performed with Gd and Torah in mind, at all. There is more to say on this; perhaps another time.

We closed with a citation from Avos deR' Nasan 45. Doeg was one of three people who spoke the truth, and died for it. What he said about the Kohanim of Nov helping David was true, but as we know regarding slander, that doesn't mean he had to say it.

Over Pesach we will be having different classes at Ohave Shalom, and I won't be sending those in e-mail form. See you in two weeks, Gd-willing, when we will learn about Izevel (Jezebel).

Have a good week and a Chag Kasher veSameach (Kosher and happy Pesach),
Mordechai Torczyner

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