An Edomite; chief of the herdsmen of Saul. When David, warned by Jonathan, fled from Saul to the priest Abimelech at Nob, he found Doeg there. On pretense of being on the king's service, David was hospitably entertained, received the sword of Goliath from Abimelech, and escaped (I Sam. xxi. 2-11). Saul, upon hearing of David's escape, accused his servants of aiding David, whereupon Doeg revealed what had taken place at Nob (ib. xxii. 6-10). Saul took Abimelech to task for what he had done (ib. 11-13), and ordered his runners to kill the priests of Nob (ib. 17); the runners refused to obey, and thereupon Doeg at Saul's command fell upon the priests, and also destroyed Nob (ib. 18, 19). Psalm lii., according to its introductory verse, is directed against Doeg.
Doeg is the subject of many rabbinical legends, the origin of which is to be found in part in Psalm lii. Though he died at the early age of thirty-four years (Sanh. 69b), he is regarded by the rabbis as the greatest scholar of his time, the epithet being supposed to have been applied to him because he made every one with whom he disputed "blush" (Midr. Teh. lii. 4; ed. Buber, p. 284). He could bring forward 300 different questions with reference to one single ritual case (Ḥag. 15b). But he was lacking in inward piety, so that God was "anxious () concerning his end, and "mourned" () for him (Sanh. 106b). His most unfortunate qualities, however, were his malice, jealousy, and calumnious tongue. He sounded the praise of David before Saul (I Sam. xvi. 18) only in order to provoke his jealousy, ascribing to David qualities that Saul lacked (Sanh. 93b; compare Midr. Shemuel. xix., end). He cherished a grudge against David, whose opinion prevailed over his own in determining the site for the Temple at Jerusalem (Zeb. 54b), and he had well-nigh succeeded in proving by his arguments that David, as a descendant of Ruth the Moabite, could not, according to the Law, belong to the congregation of Israel, when the prophet Samuel interposed in David's favor (Yeb. 76b, 77a; Midr. Shemuel xxii.). He also declared David's marriage with Michal to be invalid, and induced Saul to marry her to another.
Doeg not only disregarded the sanctity of marriage (), but he also slew with his own hands the priests of Nob, after Abner and Amasa, Saul's lieutenants, had refused to do so (Gen. R. xxxii.; Midr. Teh. lii. 4). As it often happens with those who strive for something to which they are not entitled, he lost that which he possessed (Gen. R. xx.). God sent the three "angels of destruction" () to Doeg; the first caused him to forget his learning, the second burned his soul, and the third scattered the ashes (Sanh. 106b; differently, Yer. Sanh. x. 29a). According to some he was slain by his own pupils when they found that he had forgotten his learning (Yalḳ., Sam. 131); others maintain that he was slain by David when he (Doeg) informed him of the death of Saul and of Jonathan (II Sam. i. 2; Pesiḳ., ed. Buber, iii. 28b; Ginzberg, "Die Haggada bei den Kirchenvätern," i. 38).
According to another Midrash, Doeg tried to preserve the life of Agag, the king of the Amalekites-Edomites, by interpreting Lev. xxii. 28 into a prohibition against the destruction of both the old and the young in war (Midr. Teh. lii. 4). Doeg is among those who have forfeited their portion in the future world by their wickedness (Sanh. x. 1; compare ib. 109b). Doeg is an instance of the evil consequences of calumny, because by calumniating the priests of Nob he lost his own life, and caused the death of Saul, Abimelech, and Abner (Yer. Peah i. 16a; Midr. Teh. cxx. 9 [ed. Buber, p. 504]).
The Hebrew text of I Sam. xxi. 7 is difficult, and consequently the genuineness of that verse has been unnecessarily suspected; it is presupposed by xxii. 9 (see H. P. Smith, "Commentary on Samuel," p. 198). The designation, however, of Doeg as "mightiest of the shepherds" () of Saul is unusual and unlikely. Budde ("S. B. O. T.") proposes "mightiest of the runners" () (after Grätz, "Gesch. der Juden," i. 183, note 4), while Lagarde ("Mittheilungen," iii. 350) reads "driver of the mules" ()—a reading confirmed by xxii. 9 in Septuagint, and by Judges x. 4; I Sam. ix. 3; II Sam. xvi. 2; and I Chron. xxvii. 30. Doeg was probably detained at the sanctuary by a taboo when he saw David (compare W. R. Smith, "Religion of the Semites," 2d ed., p. 456). The mention of Doeg in the title of Ps. lii. is a late interpolation of no critical value.