ABC:1 Samuel 23
|“|| 1 Samuel 22:20 And one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped, and fled after David.
1 Samuel 23:6 And it came to pass, when Abiathar the son of Ahimelech fled to David to Keilah, that he came down with an ephod in his hand.
2 Samuel 8:17 And Zadok the son of Ahitub, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, were the priests; and Seraiah was the scribe;
1 Chronicles 18:16 And Zadok the son of Ahitub, and Abimelech the son of Abiathar, were the priests; and Shavsha was scribe;
1 Chronicles 24:6 And Shemaiah the son of Nethaneel the scribe, one of the Levites, wrote them before the king, and the princes, and Zadok the priest, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, and before the chief of the fathers of the priests and Levites: one principal household being taken for Eleazar, and one taken for Ithamar.
Reading 1 Samuel 21 and 22 in context clearly shows that Ahimelech the priest, the son of Ahitub, was the father of Abiathar. What happened was that David while fleeing from Saul went to Ahimelech the priest, who had the sword of Goliath who David had earlier killed. David asked for it, was given Goliath's sword, and Ahimelech gave David the priest's holy bread for his journey (as later mentioned by Jesus in Mark 2:25-26). However, Doeg the Edomite, one of Saul's servants, was there and saw the whole thing, and told Saul what happened.
An enraged Saul then had Ahimelech's whole family slaughtered, 85 priests, at the hand of Doeg, with one exception - Abiathar, one of Ahimelech's children, managed to escape. Abiathar fled to David for protection and served David in the role of priest, later carrying the Ark of the Covenant. (2 Samuel 15:29) However, Abiathar fell out of favor with Solomon later on and was removed from office for supporting Solomon's older brother, in an apparent claim to the throne. (1 Kings 2:26-27) Naturally the critic was doubtless aware that the accounts show Abiathar was the son of Ahimelech, they just ask a rhetorical question to imply there is a contradiction.
|“|| 1 Samuel 21:1 Then came David to Nob to Ahimelech the priest: and Ahimelech was afraid at the meeting of David, and said unto him, Why art thou alone, and no man with thee?
2 And David said unto Ahimelech the priest, The king hath commanded me a business, and hath said unto me, Let no man know any thing of the business whereabout I send thee, and what I have commanded thee: and I have appointed my servants to such and such a place.
3 Now therefore what is under thine hand? give me five loaves of bread in mine hand, or what there is present.
4 And the priest answered David, and said, There is no common bread under mine hand, but there is hallowed bread; if the young men have kept themselves at least from women.
5 And David answered the priest, and said unto him, Of a truth women have been kept from us about these three days, since I came out, and the vessels of the young men are holy, and the bread is in a manner common, yea, though it were sanctified this day in the vessel.
6 So the priest gave him hallowed bread: for there was no bread there but the shewbread, that was taken from before the LORD, to put hot bread in the day when it was taken away.
7 Now a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before the LORD; and his name was Doeg, an Edomite, the chiefest of the herdmen that belonged to Saul.
8 And David said unto Ahimelech, And is there not here under thine hand spear or sword? for I have neither brought my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king's business required haste.
9 And the priest said, The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom thou slewest in the valley of Elah, behold, it is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod: if thou wilt take that, take it: for there is no other save that here. And David said, There is none like that; give it me.
10 ¶ And David arose, and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath.
1 Samuel 22:11 Then the king sent to call Ahimelech the priest, the son of Ahitub, and all his father's house, the priests that were in Nob: and they came all of them to the king.
As seen from the Interlinear (original Hebrew text overlaying the English), Ahimelech is mentioned first as Abiathar's father in 1 Samuel 21-30, but after 2 Samuel 8 begins getting mentioned as the son of Abiathar. Thus a strong possibility is that Abiathar just named his son Ahimelech after the father who had been murdered by Saul.
Chronologies of David's life show that somewhere from 15-30 years passed between the time Ahimelech, Abiathar's father was killed in 1 Samuel 22, and the period in 2 Samuel 8:17/1 Chronicles 24 where Ahimelech is now mentioned as alive and the son of Abiathar. 2 Samuel 2:11 mentions David reigning 7.5 years over Judah during part of this time. 2 Samuel 5:4 mentions that David was 30 years old when he began reigning and that he reigned 33 years. At any rate, 15-30 years is enough time for Abiathar to have had a son who became a priest like his father and grandfather (in those days, priesthood was restricted to the Levites, one of Israel's tribes, so it was a family profession). The following is the Interlinear for all passages where Ahimelech's name is mentioned in the Bible:
|“|| 1 Samuel 21:1 Then came <bow'> David <David> to Nob <Nob> to Ahimelech <'Achiymelek> the priest <kohen>: and Ahimelech <'Achiymelek> was afraid <charad> at the meeting <qir'ah> of David <David>, and said <'amar> unto him, Why art thou alone, and no man <'iysh> with thee?
2 And David <David> said <'amar> unto Ahimelech <'Achiymelek> the priest <kohen>, The king <melek> hath commanded <tsavah> me a business <dabar>, and hath said <'amar> unto me, Let no man <'iysh> know <yada`> any thing <m@uwmah> of the business <dabar> whereabout I send <shalach> thee, and what I have commanded <tsavah> thee: and I have appointed <yada`> my servants <na`ar> to such <p@loniy> and such <'almoniy> a place <maqowm>.
1 Samuel 21:8 And David <David> said <'amar> unto Ahimelech <'Achiymelek>, And is there <yesh> not <'iyn> here under thine hand <yad> spear <chaniyth> or sword <chereb>? for I have neither brought <laqach> my sword <chereb> nor my weapons <k@liy> with me <yad>, because the king's <melek> business <dabar> required <hayah> haste <nachats>.
1 Samuel 22:11 Then the king <melek> sent <shalach> to call <qara'> Ahimelech <'Achiymelek> the priest <kohen>, the son <ben> of Ahitub <'Achiytuwb>, and all his father's <'ab> house <bayith>, the priests <kohen> that were in Nob <Nob>: and they came <bow'> all of them to the king <melek>.
1 Samuel 22:14 Then Ahimelech <'Achiymelek> answered <`anah> the king <melek>, and said <'amar>, And who is so faithful <'aman> among all thy servants <`ebed> as David <David>, which is the king's <melek> son in law <chathan>, and goeth <cuwr> at thy bidding <mishma`ath>, and is honourable <kabad> in thine house <bayith>?
1 Samuel 22:16 And the king <melek> said <'amar>, Thou shalt surely <muwth> die <muwth>, Ahimelech <'Achiymelek>, thou, and all thy father's <'ab> house <bayith>.
1 Samuel 22:20 ¶ And one <'echad> of the sons <ben> of Ahimelech <'Achiymelek> the son <ben> of Ahitub <'Achiytuwb>, named <shem> Abiathar <'Ebyathar>, escaped <malat>, and fled <barach> after <'achar> David <David>.
1 Samuel 23:6 And it came to pass, when Abiathar <'Ebyathar> the son <ben> of Ahimelech <'Achiymelek> fled <barach> to David <David> to Keilah <Q@`iylah>, that he came down <yarad> with an ephod <'ephowd> in his hand <yad>.
1 Samuel 26:6 ¶ Then answered <`anah> David <David> and said <'amar> to Ahimelech <'Achiymelek> the Hittite <Chittiy>, and to Abishai <'Abiyshay> the son <ben> of Zeruiah <Ts@ruwyah>, brother <'ach> to Joab <Yow'ab>, saying <'amar>, Who will go down <yarad> with me to Saul <Sha'uwl> to the camp <machaneh>? And Abishai <'Abiyshay> said <'amar>, I will go down <yarad> with thee.
1 Samuel 30:7 ¶ And David <David> said <'amar> to Abiathar <'Ebyathar> the priest <kohen>, Ahimelech's <'Achiymelek> son <ben>, I pray thee, bring me hither <nagash> the ephod <'ephowd>. And Abiathar <'Ebyathar> brought <nagash> thither the ephod <'ephowd> to David <David>.
AHIMELECH BEGINS GETTING MENTIONED AS ABIATHAR'S SON
2 Samuel 8:17 And Zadok <Tsadowq> the son <ben> of Ahitub <'Achiytuwb>, and Ahimelech <'Achiymelek> the son <ben> of Abiathar <'Ebyathar>, were the priests <kohen>; and Seraiah < S@rayah> was the scribe <caphar>;
1 Chronicles 24 24:3 And David <David> distributed <chalaq> them, both Zadok <Tsadowq> of the sons <ben> of Eleazar <'El`azar>, and Ahimelech <'Achiymelek> of the sons <ben> of Ithamar <'Iythamar>, according to their offices <p@quddah> in their service <`abodah>.
1 Chronicles 24:6 And Shemaiah <Sh@ma`yah> the son <ben> of Nethaneel <N@thane'l> the scribe <caphar>, one of the Levites <Leviyiy>, wrote <kathab> them before <paniym> the king <melek>, and the princes <sar>, and Zadok <Tsadowq> the priest <kohen>, and Ahimelech <'Achiymelek> the son <ben> of Abiathar <'Ebyathar>, and before the chief <ro'sh> of the fathers <'ab> of the priests <kohen> and Levites <Leviyiy>: one <'echad> principal <'ab> household <bayith> being taken <'achaz> for Eleazar <'El`azar>, and one taken <'achaz> for Ithamar <'Iythamar>.
1 Chronicles 24:31 These likewise cast <naphal> lots <gowral> over against <`ummah> their brethren <'ach> the sons <ben> of Aaron <'Aharown> in the presence <paniym> of David <David> the king <melek>, and Zadok <Tsadowq>, and Ahimelech <'Achiymelek>, and the chief <ro'sh> of the fathers <'ab> of the priests <kohen> and Levites <Leviyiy>, even the principal <ro'sh> fathers <'ab> over against <`ummah> their younger <qatan> brethren <'ach>.
Psalms 52:1 ¶ <<To the chief Musician <natsach>, Maschil <maskiyl>, A Psalm of David <David>, when Doeg <Do'eg> the Edomite <'Edomiy> came <bow'> and told <nagad> Saul <Sha'uwl>, and said <'amar> unto him, David <David> is come <bow'> to the house <bayith> of Ahimelech <'Achiymelek>.>> Why boastest <halal> thou thyself in mischief <ra`>, O mighty <gibbowr> man? the goodness <checed> of God <'el> endureth continually <yowm>.
2 Samuel 8:17 Controversial
Furthermore, the 2 Samuel 8:17 passage is controversial since some older manuscripts transpose the names, mentioning Abiathar as the son of Ahimelech rather than the other way around.
|“|| "Instead of Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, the Syriac transposes the names, and reads, 'Abiathar the son of Ahimelech' This agrees with the list in 2 Samuel 20:25, and it is certain that Abiathar outlived David (1 Kings 2:26), and that he was David's high priest throughout his reign, though Zadok is not only constantly associated with him, but is placed first, as the man of higher rank (2 Samuel 15:24-35; 2 Samuel 17:15; 2 Samuel 19:11; 2 Samuel 20:25)."
-The Pulpit Commentary
Given the extensive time difference between the passages where Abiathar is mentioned as the son of Ahimelech, and the passages where Ahimelech is mentioned as the son of Abiathar, it's quite possible Abiathar just had a son named Ahimelech in honor of his murdered father.