A priest, the son of Ahimelech, of the line of Eli.
On the slaughter by Doeg at the in stance of king Saul of the priests at Nob, Abiathar escaped, carrying the ephod with him; and, as was natural, cast in his lot with David (1 Sam. 22:20-23). When David at length ascended the throne, Zadok and Abiathar apparently shared the high-priesthood between them (cp. 1 Chron. 15:11, 12; 2 Sam. 15:24 seq.; 15:35, etc.).
The mention of Ahimelech, son of Abiathar, as priest with Zadok in 2 Sam. 8:17, is regarded by some as a copyist's error, whereby the names of father and son were transposed. But the number of allusions to Ahimelech, the son of Abiathar, as priest, is so great that an error is improbable (1 Chron. 18:16, Septuagint; 24:3, 6, 31). A simpler explanation is that, since Abiathar was becoming quite old (he was about seventy years of age at the time of Absalom's revolt), his son and legal successor assumed the burdensome priestly functions and was called priest, as Phinehas served during the lifetime of Eli and was called priest (1 Sam. 1:3; 2:11).
The aged Abiathar remained faithful to the king during Absalom's rebellion, and rendered the fugitive monarch great service (2 Sam. 15:24, 29, 35, 36; 17:15; 19:11); but when later Adonijah sought to wrest the succession to the throne from Solomon, Abiathar cast his priestly influence with the military influence of Joab, another old man, in favor of the attractive aspirant (1 Kin. 1:7). Though this attempt failed, he again favored Adonijah after David's death (1 Kin. 2:12-22). For this he was deposed from the high-priesthood, and Zadok, a priest of approved loyalty, but of the other branch of the Aaronic family, was put into his place (1 Kin. 2:26, 35). His deposition involved that of his sons, Ahimelech and Jonathan, and thus the rule of the house of Eli came to an end, according to prophecy (1 Sam. 2:31-35).
The passage in 1 Kin. 4:4 probably refers to the time immediately prior to his deposition. Abiathar is alluded to by our Lord in the New Testament (Mark 2:26).