In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 2, verse 26; Lord Jesus speaking to the Pharisees about their hypocrisy in keeping the Sabbath rest; condemned their indisposition to perform a righteous act, by quoting how David and his soldiers feeing from King Saul’s persecution and being hungry and homeless, ate from the consecrated bread offered to God in the Temple, offered to them by the High Priest, Lord Jesus calls Abiathar (Mark 2:26)
The problem arises when reading the story of the event in 1Samuel 21, we encounter that the High Priest who offered the holy bread to David was called in fact, Ahimelech, who officiated during the days of Saul, until he got executed by this King for helping David (1Samuel 21:1-6; 22:11-18).
The inconvenience increases when this Ahimelech is called several times “Son of Abiathar” (2Samuel 8:17; 1Chronicles 24:6); but in other places is said to be the “father of Abiathar” (1Samuel 23:6).
Apart from the answers offered by Liberal critics, who simply avoid the controversy by attributing errors to the Sacred Scripture; traditional Christianity has offered the following solution.
To help us identify who was this High Priest, we must have a clear picture of the historical background of this personage.
1 – A High Priest during the time of Saul, offered this assistance to David and his supporters, for which he was accused of treason and executed by King Saul. This man the Bible calls Ahimelech (1Samuel 21:1-6; 22:11-18).
2 – Ahimelech’s son, called by the OT, Abiathar, escaped this slaughter of the priestly family and joined David’s forces. Later on, after David became King, he was named High Priest, and officed until the times of King Solomon, who ended up deposing him of his office.
(1Samuel 22;20-21; 1Kings 2:26-27).
In these historical account, the Bible provides us with an orderly line of events, and two clear names: Ahimelec, the High Priest that helped David and was executed by Saul; and Abiathar, the High Priest that succeeded his father Ahimelech, and officiated until his deposition by Solomon.
If Scripture is correct, we have then three different people:
Abiathar, the Father of Ahimelech;
Ahimelech, the son of Abiathar and father also of another Abiathar;
and Abiathar, the son of Ahimelech who lasted until Solomon’s days.
Considering that in a few verses, also this middle Ahimelech is called “Son of Ithamar”, his ancestors (1Chronicles 24:1,3), and also “Son of Ahitub”, another closer ancestor (1Samuel 22:20); it is understood that the use of names among the people of the time was lose compare to our days.
The final conclusion is that the central figure here is Ahimelec, who offered the sacred bread to David, who was the son of a live High Priest called by second name Abiathar, and also father of the Abiathar that lived until Solomon’s times, and that for that reason this last Abiathar carried the name of his Grandfather, as it was the custom among Semites at the time.
The reason why Lord Jesus said the name Abiathar, it is because legally speaking, Abiathar grandfather, was still alive and officially in charge of the High Priesthood, possibly the historical Ahitub or even Ahija; while Ahimelech was officiating on his behalf.