And the king said unto the footmen that stood about him
Or the "runners" F6; the running footmen, that used to run before him when he went out from place to place, and were here waiting on him, ready to set out whenever he should give the orders to go elsewhere. The tradition of the Jews is, that these were Abner and Amasa F7; but, as Kimchi observes, they were not footmen, but princes, captains in the army, and the first of them the general of it: turn and slay the priests of the Lord;
he owns them to be the priests of the Lord, and calls them so, and yet gave orders to put them to death, though innocent; one would have thought this their character would have flown in his face, and stung his conscience, and deterred him from so foul a fact: because their hand also [is] with David;
as well as Ahimelech; which did not at all appear, nor that they had so much as seen him at Nob, only Ahimelech; and still less that they had entered into a conspiracy with him: and because they knew when he fled, and did not show it to me;
which also was false; they knew nothing of the flight of David, and therefore could not discover it to the king: but the servants of the king would not put forth their hand to fall
upon the priests of the Lord;
their consciences would not suffer them to do it; they refused to obey the king's orders, and chose rather to expose themselves to his resentment, than to be guilty of such a crime. Saul's footmen had more sense of honour, justice, and truth, than he himself had, and were worthy of praise; but they would have been deserving of more, if they could not have prevailed upon him by entreaties and remonstrances to have forborne such a bloody execution, instead of being the tame spectators of it, they had taken him, and bound him as a madman, and so facilitated the escape of the priests, and prevented this shocking scene of wickedness.
F6 (Myurl) "cursoribus", Pagninus, Montanus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.
F7 Midrash Tillim apud Abarbinel. in loc.