Questions From Readers
● Who was the high priest during David’s reign, Zadok or Abiathar?—S. B., U.S.A.
When King Saul had Abiathar’s father, High Priest Ahimelech, slaughtered, Abiathar fled to David. (1 Sam. 22:9-23) David finally gained the throne and made him the high priest. Some have suggested, though, that after Ahimelech’s death King Saul had Zadok installed as high priest, not recognizing Abiathar, who was under David’s protection. They hold that, following his ascension to the throne, David made Abiathar an associate high priest along with Zadok. Such a view is taken due to the fact that Zadok and Abiathar are regularly mentioned together as having high positions in the priesthood.—2 Sam. 15:29, 35; 17:15; 19:11; 20:25; 1 Ki. 1:7, 8, 25, 26; 4:4; 1 Chron. 15:11.
However, the inspired record nowhere mentions any appointment of Zadok as high priest under King Saul. It is possible that Zadok’s prominence is due to his being a seer or prophet, just as the priestly prophet Samuel received greater mention in the record than did the high priest of his time. (2 Sam. 15:27) The evidence indicates that Abiathar was the sole high priest during David’s reign and that Zadok then occupied a position secondary to him.—1 Ki. 2:27, 35; Mark 2:26.
The text at 2 Samuel 8:17 has caused some question in this regard, since it says that “Zadok the son of Ahitub and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar were priests” at the time. It has been suggested that the names of Ahimelech and Abiathar were transposed by a scribal error. However, the record at 1 Chronicles 18:16; 24:3, 6, 31 confirms the order of the names. So it appears that Abiathar had a son also named Ahimelech, and that this Ahimelech, along with Zadok, served as secondary priest under High Priest Abiathar.