Abiathar (אביתר, Ebyathar, Evyatar, "the [divine] father is pre-eminent" or "father of plenty"), in the Hebrew Bible, son of Ahimelech or Ahijah, High Priest at Nob, the fourth in descent from Eli (1 Sam. 23:6) and the last of Eli's House. The only one of the priests to escape from Saul's massacre, he fled to David at Keilah, taking with him the ephod and other priestly regalia (1 Sam. 22:20 f., 23:6, 9). He was of great service to David, especially at the time of the rebellion of Absalom (2 Sam. 15:24, 29, 35, 20:25). In 1 Kings 4:4 Zadok and Abiathar are found acting together as priests under Solomon. In 1 Kings 1:7, 19, 25, however, Abiathar appears as a supporter of Adonijah, and in 2:22 and 26 it is said that he was deposed by Solomon and banished to Anathoth. In 2 Sam. 8:17 Abiathar, the son of Achimelech should be read, with the Syriac, for Achimelech, the son of Abiathar.
A similar confusion occurs in Gospel of Mark 2:26: in reporting Jesus' words, the evangelist used the name Abiathar when we might expect to see Jesus mention his father Ahimelech. Suggestions made to resolve the difficulty — e.g. that father and son each bore the same double name, or that Abiathar officiated during his father's lifetime and in his father's stead—have been supported by great names, but have not been fully accepted.
When his father and the priests of Nob were slain on the command of Saul, Abiathar escaped, bearing with him the ephod. Rabbinical literature that linked the later extermination of the male descendants of David with the priests of Nob, also link the survival of David's descendant Joash with that of Abiathar. (Sanh. 95b)
Abiathar joined David, who was then in the cave of Adullam (1 Sam. 22:20-23; 23:6). He remained with David, and became priest of the party of which he was the leader (1 Sam. 30:7). When David ascended the throne of Judah, Abiathar was appointed High Priest (1 Chr. 15:11; 1 Kings 2:26) and the "king's counselor" (1 Chr. 27:33-34). Meanwhile, Zadok, of the house of Eleazar, had been made High Priest. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia Abiathar was deposed from office when he was deserted by the Holy Spirit without which the Urim and Thummin could not be consulted. Another version says he was Co-Pontiff with Zadok during King David. He supported Prince Adonijah over Prince Solomon, and was deposed by him and exiled in Anathoth.
These appointments continued in force till the end of David's reign (1 Kings 4:4). Abiathar was deposed (the sole historical instance of the deposition of a high priest) and banished to his home at Anathoth by Solomon, because he took part in the attempt to raise Adonijah to the throne. The priesthood thus passed from the house of Ithamar (1 Sam. 2:30-36; 1 Kings 1:19; 2:26, 27). Zadok now became sole high priest. Abiathar's removal from the Priesthood fulfilled that other part of the curse on the House of Eli—that the Priesthood would pass out of the House of Eli.
Later use of the name
- Chisholm 1911.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Abiathar". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 62.
- "Abiathar", Encyclopedia Biblica
- Jewish Encyclopedia p.56
- Jewish Encyclopedia p.56
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