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Abiathar (אביתר, Ebyathar, Evyatar, the [divine] father is pre-eminent), in the Bible, son of Achimelech or Ahijah, priest at Nob, the fourth in descent from Eli. The only one of the priests to escape from Saul's massacre, he fled to David at Keilah, taking with him the ephod (1 Sam. xxii. 20 f., xxiii. 6, 9). He was of great service to David, especially at the time of the rebellion of Absalom (2 Sam. xv. 24, 29, 35, xx. 25). In 1 Kings iv. 4 Zadok and Abiathar are found acting together as priests under Solomon. In 1 Kings i. 7, 19, 25, however, Abiathar appears as a supporter of Adonijah, and in ii. 22 and 26 it is said that he was deposed by Solomon and banished to Anathoth. In 2 Sam. viii. 17 Abiathar, the son of Achimelech should be read, with the Syriac, for Achimelech, the son of Abiathar. For a similar confusion see Gospel of Mark ii. In reporting Jesus words the evangelist has confused Abiathar with Ahimelech, a mistake into which he was led by the constant association of David‘s name with Abiathar.<ref name=EB/> Suggestions made to evade 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 are baseless.<ref name=EB>"Abiathar", Encyclopedia Biblica</ref>

When his father was slain with the priests of Nob, he escaped, and bearing with him the ephod, he 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 Encylopedia Abiathar was deposed from office when he was deserted by the Holy Spirit without which the Urim and Thummin could not be consulted [.p.56]

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. In Mark 2:26, reference is made to an occurrence in "the days of Abiathar the high priest." But from 1 Sam. 22, we learn explicitly that this event took place when Achimelech, the father of Abiathar, was high priest.

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