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ABIATHAR

Abiathar was son of High Priest Ahimelech and grandson of Ahitub. He was the tenth high priest and was fourth in descent from Eli, in the linage of Ithamar, the younger son of Aaron. His high priestly linage of descendance was of Achimelech, Ahitub, Phinehas, Eli, Ithamar, Aaron. The word Abiather stands for father of excellence. He was a man with strong faith in God and the one never make sense to give up. Abiathar served David for the entirety of his reign of 40 years and along with Zadok as High Priest. Abiathar's household estate was at Anathoth in Benjamin, one of the cities assigned to the sons of Aaron.

While David was fleeing for fear of Saul, as Saul was behind him for his life, as per the instruction of Prophet Gad, he escaped to Hereth in the land of Judah along with his brothers and whole his father's household. When Saul was camping in Gibeah with all his servants around him, Doeg the Edomite and Chief of Saul's herdmen, disclosed to Saul that David and his companions went to the High Priest Ahimelech, father of Abiathar, in Nob, the city of priests, to inquire to LORD about him, and that Ahimelech gave him food and the sword of Goliath to David. Furious Saul summoned Ahimelech, the priest and all his father's house, all the priests who were in the city of Nob. Doeg killed all the priests in the sanctuary of Nob with the edge of his sword, counting eighty-five of them. However Abiathar managed to run away from the scene, narrowly got escaped and fled, bearing with him the Ephod, after David who was then in the cave of Adullam. He was the only one who could escape the slaughter inflicted upon his father's house by King Saul. Accession of Abiathar was a big consolation and strength to David. David felt bitterly for the massacre of Abiathar's household, and this made his heart warm toward him.

Abiathar, having become priest thus got firmly attached to David and enabled to inquire to the Lord for him and to forsee the future through the Ephod. It was a customary practice in the Old Testament that appointed High Priest inquires God with Ephod. Ephod was a kind of garment, which differed according to its use by the High Priest, during religious services. It included also the Urim and Thummim [Doctrine and Truth] by means of which the High Priest consulted Lord. Later, King David learned through Abiathar's Ephod the disposition of the people of Keila and the best plan of campaign against the Amalekites. Abiathar adhered to David through out his wanderings while King Saul pursued him. He was also one of the chief counselors of David and was afflicted in all wherein David was afflicted. Abiathar was with David as a priest while he reigned in Hebron.

When David ascended the throne of Judah, Abiathar was appointed High Priest and the King's Advisor. Meanwhile Zadok, of the house of Eleazar, had also been made High Priest in charge of public relation. These appointments continued in force till the end of David's reign. Abiathar firmly stood loyal to David when his son Absalom rebelled against him. As per the order of King David, he left Jerusalem to Kidron with the Ark of the Covenant, but later he was directed by David to return with the Ark.

Once David got installed on the throne, by all means he wanted to carry the Ark back into the city. David made him houses in the city of David, and prepared a special place for the Ark of God, and pitched for it a tent. Together with the High Priest Zadoc, Ahimaaz son of Zadoc, Jonathan the son of Abiathar, Abiathar carried the Ark before him when David brought it up to Jerusalem and followed David in his flight. This revealed the fidelity of Abiathar, Zadok, Jonathan the son of Abiathar, and other priests and Levites and their firm adherence to David and his interest. They knew Davidís great affection to them and their office, notwithstanding his failures and losses in his life regarding his son Absalom. The Ark of the Covenant is the holy item in the Tabernacle, renowned for its mysterious powers against the enemies of Israel. The Ark of the Covenant resided in the Holy of Holies, the innermost room of the Tabernacle. Access was only permitted once per year, on the Day of Atonement and only to the High Priest. Contents inside the Ark were the two stone tablets of the Law, Aaron's rod that budded and the golden pot of hidden Manna. They set down the Ark of God at the place where David had prepared for it and Abiathar offered sacrifices until all the people had finished leaving the city, which revealed his integrity to God and the King.

However, when Adonijah self claimed as David's successor on the throne, Abiathar supported him and was one of his chief partisans, while Zadoc was in favor of Solomon. As he took part in the attempt to raise Adonijah to the throne instead of Solomon, he was banished to his native village Anathoth in the tribe of Benjamin. He narrowly escaped with his life, which was spared by Solomon only on the strength of his long and faithful service to his father David and as he carried the Ark of God. He was deprived of his high priesthood and Zadoc was pronounced as the sole High Priest in the reign of Solomon. The priesthood thus passed from the house of Ithamar.

In the Gospel according to St.Mark Jesus referred about Abiathar: "And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the showbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?" (Mark 2:26) This reference occurred during the life-time of Abiathar when he was a priest and his father Ahimelech was the High Priest. After David left his friend Jonathan, son of King Saul, sorrowfully, knowing about the intention of Saul to kill him, he went to Nob, place of Ahimelech the priest. Hungry David asked Ahimelech to give him five loaves of bread. The priest answered David, and said that there is no common bread with him, but there is hallowed bread and it can be given if the young men have kept themselves away at least from women. As David assured that men were living away from their house for three days, the priest gave him hallowed bread as 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. It is opinioned about this reference of Abiathar by Jesus in order to say, in effect that during the time of Abiathar, who as a renowned priest was a real stickler for the law, and in whose days we would expect the law to be followed, David and his friends were allowed to do this and it eventually pointed for a subtle slam against the Pharisees' authority.

Many Theologians suspect that Ahimelech and Abiathar are probably interchanged in many references in the Scripture.

(Excerpts from 'Light of Life - The Bible : A Family Companion' to be launched)

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