Son of Ahimelech, and tenth high priest of the Jews. When Saul sent his emissaries to Nob, to destroy all the priests there, Abiathar, who was young, fled to David in the wilderness, 1 Samuel 22:11-23, with whom he continued in the character of priest, 1 Samuel 23:9 30:7. Being confirmed in the high priesthood on David’s accession to the throne, he aided in bringing up the ark to Jerusalem, 1 Corinthians 15:11,12, and adhered to David during the rebellion of Absalom, 2 Samuel 15:35, but afterwards was led to follow Adonijah, thus strangely betraying his royal friend in his old age. Solomon succeeding to the throne, degraded him from the priesthood, and sent him to Anathoth, 1 Kings 2:26,27; thus fulfilling the prediction made to Eli 150 years before, 1 Samuel 2:27-36. Saul, it would appear, had transferred the dignity of the high priesthood from the line of Ithamar, to which Eli belonged, to that of Eleazar, by conferring the office upon Zadok. Thus there were, at the same time, two high priests in Israel; Abiathar with David, and Zadok with Saul. This double priesthood continued from the death of Ahimelech till the reign of Solomon, after which the office was held by Zadok and his race alone.
A difficulty arises from the circumstance that, in 1 Kings 2:27, Abiathar is said to be deprived of the priest’s office by Solomon; while in 2 Samuel 8:17 1 Chronicles 18:16 24:3,6,31, Ahimelech the son of Abiathar is said to be high priest along with Zadok. The most probable solution is, that both father and son each bore the two names Ahimelech and Abiathar, as was not at all unusual among the Jews. See under ABIGAIL. In this was also we may remove the difficulty arising from Mark 2:26, where Abiathar is said to have given David the showbread, in allusion to 1 Samuel 21:1-6, where it is Ahimelech.