A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter (Proverbs 11:13)
A talebearer is defined as one who spreads malicious gossip or secrets that may cause harm or trouble. Other descriptive terms for the talebearer are gossip, tattletale, informant, stool pigeon, or rat fink. The talebearer often tells one side of a story to either gain favor or present his version of an account first. His presentation is usually done to make himself appear right or upright in a situation. The talebearer could be a dangerous person because he may hide deep character flaws. The Bible presents such a person whose name was Doeg.
David wrote about this person in Ps. 52. In this Psalm, Doeg is presented as a liar and a slanderer; boastful and treacherous; a deceiver for personal gain; a lover of evil more than good; a lover of lies more than truth; a lover of seeing others hurt.
The story is presented in 1 Samuel 21:7; and 22:9-10. Doeg was the chief herdsman to Saul and an Edomite. He happened to be in the city of Nob on a particular day. David, who was running from the backslidden King Saul, also appeared in Nob on that day. It is noteworthy that David ran first to the prophets and priests for guidance and advice. He spoke to Ahimelech, the son of Ahitub, the 10th High Priest in Aaron’s line on that day. David had no idea of the suffering that his visit would cause to Ahimelech, the priests, and their families.
Then came David to Nob to Ahimelech the priest and Ahimelech was afraid at the meeting of David, and said unto him, why art thou alone, and no man with thee? (1 Samuel 21:1)
Ahimelech only knew good things about David and his relationship with Saul and was surprised to see him in Nob without men with him. After Samuel’s time, priests were not accustomed to having kings, princes, and high officials come to visit them, so it made Ahimelech nervous when David appeared. He even asked David why he was alone. (David was not alone, however. His men were, in all likelihood, hiding while he obtained food and weapons.) Ahimelech only knew that David was the King’s son-in-law and a faithful servant to King Saul. Naturally, he would do what he could to help David.
Ahimelech helped David by giving him shewbread to eat and giving him the sword that David used to kill Goliath in the valley of Elah. Unfortunately for all, Doeg was there and heard the entire encounter.
King Saul, who was obsessed with the murder of David, accused his men of rebellion against him because they had not told him where David was. Then, up pops the talebearer in 1Samuel 21: 9-10.
Then answered Doeg the Edomite, which was set over the servants of Saul, and said, I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob, to Ahimelech the son of Ahitub.
And he enquired of the Lord for him, and gave him victuals, and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine.
Doeg tells King Saul that David had been in the city of Nob, that he gave him food and a weapon, and embellished his tale by saying that Ahimelech enquired of God for David. Conveniently for himself, he did not mention that Ahimelech thought David was still in right standing with Saul. And he certainly did not indicate that Ahimelech was innocent in all matters dealing with David.
Saul became so angry about David’s visit to Ahimelech that he sent for Ahimelech, all of his family, and all of the priests of Nob. When they arrived, Saul accused Ahimelech of the following charges:
- You have conspired with David against me (v. 13).
- You have given him bread to sustain him in his rebellion against me.
- You have given him a sword so he could kill me.
- You have inquired of God for him so that he should rise against me, to lie in wait to kill me, as at this day.
Ahimelech responded to Saul’s charges in this way:
- I believed that David was the most faithful of all your servants (v.14).
- I was only seeking to do good to your son-in-law.
- I believed that he was about your business as he told me (21:2).
- I, as all Israel, considered him to be honorable in your house.
- Under these circumstances, it was only right to inquire of God for him, as I would do for you (v. 15).
- I have done no wrong: be it far from me. Let not the King impute sin to your servant or my father’s house, for I only did that which was right.
- I was innocent and knew nothing more or less about any difference between you both, or that he was fleeing from you.
Saul, however, refused to hear Ahimelech and directed his soldiers to kill Ahimelech, the priests, and Ahimelech’s family. However, they refused to touch the man of God because they knew that there was not the slightest justice in the murder of the innocent priests. When they refused, the King turned to the talebearer, Doeg, and directed him to murder the priests. The true character of Doeg, the talebearer, emerged. He showed himself to be one of the most heartless executioners in history. Seeking the favor of Saul, he not only killed Ahimelech, the man of God, but he killed all eighty-five of the innocent godly priests in the city.
But this blood-thirsty man refused to stop there. He went on to kill all of the men, women, children, and animals of the city of Nob.
19 And Nob, the city of the priests, smote he with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and sucklings, and oxen, and asses, and sheep, with the edge of the sword.
The Bible tells us that Doeg even killed the suckling babies! Why did this evil man do these things? He did it to gain the favor of King Saul. This talebearer wanted to make himself look good in the eyes of an evil King. If he had kept quiet about what he saw, many innocent lives would have been spared.
Providentially, Abiatha, one of Ahimelech’s sons in the line of priests, was able to escape to David, and he told him all that happened. Following was David’s response:
22And David said unto Abiatha, I knew it that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul: I have occasioned the death of all the persons of thy father’s house.
David then fully realized the danger of a talebearer, and we must also know their risk. There is a saying that if a dog brings a bone, he will take one. If a talebearer will bring information about others, be aware that they will take information about you to another if it is convenient for them. The lesson presented is a hard lesson to learn from a backslidden King and an evil talebearer but learn it we must. The Bible tells in 2 Timothy 3:16:
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
Beware of the talebearer!
Let us pray. Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word for Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path (Ps. 119:105). Help me to never be a talebearer and help me to remain free from the power of those who are talebearers. In the name of Jesus, I pray, amen.