ABIATHAR (uh bi' uh thahr) Personal name meaning, “father of abundance.” The son of Ahimelech and the eleventh high priest in succession from Aaron through the line of Eli. He survived the slaughter of the priests at Nob and fled to David, hiding in the cave of Adullam from King Saul (1 Samuel 22:1). Having escaped with the ephod, Abiathar became the high priest and chief counselor for David (1 Samuel 23:6). Repeatedly, he inquired of the Lord for David (1 Samuel 23:9; 1 Samuel 30:7; 2 Samuel 2:1; 2 Samuel 5:19). Abiathar shared with Zadok the responsibility of taking the ark to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 15:11-12; 2 Samuel 15:24). While Abiathar remained faithful to David during Absalom's rebellion (2 Samuel 15:1), he later supported Adonijah as successor of King David instead of Solomon (1 Kings 1:7). Solomon deposed him from the priesthood and banished him to Anathoth, his home town, fulfilling the prophecy to Eli (1 Samuel 2:31-35). Only because of his faithful service to Solomon's father, King David, was he spared the death penalty (1 Kings 2:26-27). Zadok was then made the official high priest (1 Kings 2:35), though Abiathar retained the title (1 Kings 4:4). Abiathar's two sons, Ahimelech and Jonathan, followed their father in the priesthood. Even while Abiathar was serving as high priest, his son, Ahimelech, became prominent in priestly service (1 Samuel 21:1-9; 2 Samuel 8:17; 1 Chronicles 18:16; 1 Chronicles 24:3,1 Chronicles 24:6,1 Chronicles 24:31).
Mark 2:26 records Jesus' statement that David took the showbread from the place of worship when Abiathar was high priest at Nob. 1 Samuel 21:1 reports that this happened when Ahimelech, the father of Abiathar, was still the high priest. However, a few days after this incident Abiathar did become high priest (1 Samuel 22:19-20). Some New Testament Greek manuscripts omit “when Abiathar was high priest.” It may be that Abiathar was co-priest with his father. Or a copyist of the Gospel of Mark may have copied the text wrong. See Priests; Levites; Chief Priest.
Donald R. Potts
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.