2 Samuel 8:17
And Zadok the son of Ahitub, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, were the priests; and Seraiah was the scribe;
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(17) Ahimelech, the son of Abiathar.—So Ahimelech is also described in 1Chronicles 18:16; 1Chronicles 24:6; on the other hand, Abiathar is expressly said to be the son of Ahimelech in the narrative in 1Samuel 22:20-23. This difficulty is increased by the further notices of the men bearing these names. Ahimelech was certainly the high priest who gave the shew-bread to David, and was slain in consequence by Saul (1 Samuel 21, 22), and Abiathar, who fled to David, and afterwards became high priest, and was finally put out of the high-priesthood by Solomon (1 Kings 1, 2) was certainly his son; but, on the other hand, in 1Chronicles 24:3; 1Chronicles 24:6; 1Chronicles 24:31 Ahimelech. is said to have been the co-priest with Zadok during the reign of David, and our Lord says that David ate the shew-bread “in the days of Abiathar, the high priest” (Mark 2:26). These apparently conflicting facts have occasioned unnecessary perplexity. The simple solution of the difficulty seems to be that both names were borne alike by father and by son, so that both of them are spoken of sometimes under one name, sometimes under the other.

On the double high-priesthood of Zadok and Abiathar, see Note at the beginning of 2 Samuel 6.

2 Samuel 8:17. Zadok and Ahimelech were the priests — That is, as some think, Zadok was the high-priest, and Ahimelech his sagan or vicar; or, according to others, neither of these was the high-priest, but they were both only the vicars of Abiathar, and heads of the sacerdotal families, the second priests, to use the language of Scripture, 2 Kings 25:18. The former was of the family of Eleazar, (1 Chronicles 6:8,) the other of Ithamar. The family of Eli was now declining fast; and in the next reign the other family was advanced to the high-priesthood, Abiathar and his posterity being quite thrown out. Seraiah was the scribe — Or secretary of state, as we now speak. But Bishop Patrick observes, that as the word ספרsopher, which we translate scribe, imports something of learning, as the word scribe, so often occurring in the New Testament, also does, he takes Seraiah to have been the king’s prime counsellor in the law. And others think there were two of this character, one an ecclesiastical and the other a civil scribe. Thus “the sacred writer no sooner gives us an account of David’s executing justice and judgment, but he immediately adds a list of the great officers then employed by him. For a principal part of a king’s wisdom, as well as of his felicity, consists in the choice of able ministers to discharge the great offices of the state.” — Delaney.

8:15-18 David neither did wrong, nor denied or delayed right to any. This speaks his close application to business; also his readiness to admit all addresses and appeals made to him. He had no respect of persons in judgment. Herein he was a type of Christ. To Him let us submit, his friendship let us seek, his service let us count our pleasure, diligently attending to the work he assigns to each of us. David made his sons chief rulers; but all believers, Christ's spiritual seed, are better preferred, for they are made kings and priests to our God, Re 1:6.For a similar account of the officers of Solomon's kingdom, see 1 Kings 4:1-6, where Jehoshaphat is still the recorder, and Benaiah is advanced to be captain of the host in the room of Joab. The recorder seems to have been a high officer of state, a kind of chancellor, whose office was to keep a record of the events of the kingdom for the king's information, and hence, he would naturally be the king's adviser. See Esther 6:1-2; Isaiah 36:22; 2 Chronicles 34:8. Such an officer is found among the ancient Egyptians and Persians.

Ahimelech the son of Abiathar - According to 1 Samuel 22:9-23, Abiathar, Zadok's colleague, was the son of Ahimelech. Abiathar the son of Ahimelech continued to be priest through the reign of David. (Compare also 1 Kings 1:7, 1 Kings 1:42; 1 Kings 2:22-27.) It almost necessarily follows that there is some error in the text.

The scribe - Or secretary of state 2 Kings 12:10; 2 Kings 18:37, different from the military scribe (Judges 5:14 note).

17. Zadok … and Ahimelech … were the priests—On the massacre of the priests at Nob, [1Sa 22:19], Saul conferred the priesthood on Zadok, of the family of Eleazar (1Ch 6:50), while David acknowledged Ahimelech, of Ithamar's family, who fled to him. The two high priests exercised their office under the respective princes to whom they were attached. But, on David's obtaining the kingdom over all Israel, they both retained their dignity; Ahimelech officiating at Jerusalem, and Zadok at Gibeon (1Ch 16:39). The son of Ahitub; not of that Ahitub, 1Sa 22; for that was of Ithamar’s race, but this of Eleazar.

Ahimelech the son of Abiathar; so Abiathar called his son by the name of his father, 1 Samuel 22:20. The priests, i. e. the chief priest next under Abiathar, who fled to David, 1 Samuel 22:20, and now was high priest, as may be gathered from 2 Samuel 15:35 1 Kings 2:27,35: under him these two were the next chief priests, or the second priests, each one being chief of the house of his father, Zadok of Eleazar, and Ahimelech of Ithamar. See Numbers 3:32 1 Chronicles 24:3,4. Or these two are here mentioned, because they constantly attended upon the king, that he might consult with them in the matters of the Lord, as need required.

And Zadok the son of Ahitub, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, were the priests,.... Not high priests, as Josephus (i) suggests, for there was only one high priest at a time; indeed there was a "sagan", or deputy priest, on occasion; and so Abarbinel says that Zadok was the high priest, and Ahimelech his second or deputy; but the truth of the case was this, Abiathar was high priest only, and continued so until the time of Solomon, when he was thrust out of his office, and Zadok put into it; and Ahimelech his son and Zadok were the principal priests under him, the one of the family of Ithamar, the other of Eleazar; so the Targum on 1 Chronicles 18:16 calls them "sagans", or deputies of the high priesthood. Zadok is mentioned first, though Ahimelech was the son of the present high priest, because he was in great favour with David, as afterwards with Solomon, in whose days the high priesthood was translated to him; the family of Eli being now upon the decline, and near being removed from the high priesthood, as was foretold by Samuel it should:

and Seraiah was the scribe; or secretary of state; in 1 Chronicles 18:16 he is called Shavsha; he seems to have had two names.

(i) Ut supra, (Antiqu. l. 7. c. 5.) sect. 4.

And Zadok the son of Ahitub, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, were the priests; and Seraiah was the scribe;
17. Zadok the son of Ahitub] Zadok was of the house of Eleazar (1 Chronicles 6:4-8). He joined David at Hebron after Saul’s death (1 Chronicles 12:28), and remained faithful to him throughout his reign. In Absalom’s rebellion he left Jerusalem along with David, and only returned at his command (2 Samuel 15:24-29; 2 Samuel 17:15). Through him David communicated with the elders of Judah concerning his return (ch. 2 Samuel 19:11). Finally, when Abiathar joined the rebellion of Adonijah, Zadok remained faithful to David, took part in the anointing of Solomon, and was made sole high-priest (1 Kings 1:8; 1 Kings 1:44; 1 Kings 2:35), which office he held during some part of Solomon’s reign (1 Kings 4:4).

Ahimelech the son of Abiathar] Since Zadok and Abiathar are elsewhere constantly mentioned together as the high-priests in David’s reign, and it is clear from 1 Samuel 22:20-23 that Abiathar was the son of Ahimelech, and from 1 Kings 1; 1 Kings 2:26 that he held office throughout David’s reign, it seems necessary to emend the text and read Abiathar the son of Ahimelech. The error, if it is one, appears also in 1 Chronicles 18:16; 1 Chronicles 24:3; 1 Chronicles 24:6; 1 Chronicles 24:31, and must have existed in one of the original documents from which these books were compiled. It seems hardly probable, though not impossible, that the high-priesthood of Abiathar is assumed as known, and only the assistant priests mentioned, who stood in the same relation to him as Hophni and Phinehas to Eli (1 Samuel 1:3): or that Ahimelech officiated for a time as deputy for his father, who was incapacitated by illness or other cause.

priests] Zadok officiated in the Tabernacle at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 16:39), Abiathar probably before the Ark in Jerusalem. On the origin of this double high-priesthood, see preliminary note to ch. vi., p. 88.

Seraiah] Called in 1 Chronicles 18:16 Shavsha, and probably the same as Sheva or Sheya (2 Samuel 20:25) and Shisha (1 Kings 4:3).

scribe] Secretary of state: an official mentioned several times in the course of the history: e.g. 2 Kings 12:10; 2 Kings 18:18; 2 Kings 18:37; 2 Kings 22:3, &c.

Verse 17. - Zadok... and Ahimelech... were the priests. We have already seen that this was contrary to the letter of the Mosaic Law, and yet that there was no schism, and that by patience matters came back to the right groove. Zadok, of the elder line of Eleazar (1 Chronicles 6:4-8, 50-53), was high priest at Gibeon, and Ahimelech, of the junior line of Ithamar, was the high priest at Jerusalem. 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). It is also remarkable that our Lord makes Abiathar the person who gave David the shewbread (Mark 2:26), whereas in 1 Samuel 21. he is repeatedly called Ahimelech. As both the LXX. and the Vulgate support the Hebrew against the Syriac, and as the reading "Ahimelech" is confirmed by 1 Chronicles 18:16 and 1 Chron 24:3, 6, 31, we must reject the emendation of the Syriac, and conclude that there was a double tradition respecting these names, some manuscripts making Abiathar the father, and others giving the seniority to Ahimelech. Our Lord made Abiathar the father, but the scribes, in their editing of the Hebrew text, gave that place to Ahimelech, yet did not carry out their restoration so thoroughly as not to leave proof that the names probably ought to be reversed. Seraiah was scribe. His office was similar to that of a secretary of state with us. For Seraiah we have Shavsha in 1 Chronicles 18:16, Shisha in 1 Kings 4:3, and Sheva in 2 Samuel 20:25. This illustrates what has just been said as to the uncertainty about proper names. They are always most difficult to read, as the sense gives no aid, and these various forms of a name that does not occur elsewhere really bear witness to the high antiquity of the manuscripts uses by the scribes in settling the text of the Old Testament; and also to their self-restraint in not making them all forcibly agree. 2 Samuel 8:17Zadok the son of Ahitub, of the line of Eleazar (1 Chronicles 6:8; 1 Chronicles 6:11-12), and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, were cohanim, i.e., officiating high priests; the former at the tabernacle at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 16:39), the latter probably at the ark of the covenant upon Mount Zion. Instead of Ahimelech, the Chronicles have Abimelech, evidently through a copyist's error, as the name is written Ahimelech in 1 Chronicles 24:3, 1 Chronicles 24:6. But the expression "Ahimelech the son of Abiathar" is apparently a very strange one, as Abiathar was a son of Ahimelech according to 1 Samuel 22:20, and in other passages Zadok and Abiathar are mentioned as the two high priests in the time of David (2 Samuel 15:24, 2 Samuel 15:35; 2 Samuel 17:15; 2 Samuel 19:12; 2 Samuel 20:25). This difference cannot be set aside, as Movers, Thenius, Ewald, and other suppose, by transposing the names, so as to read Abiathar the son of Ahimelech; for such a solution is precluded by the fact that, in 1 Chronicles 24:3, 1 Chronicles 24:6, 1 Chronicles 24:31, Ahimelech is mentioned along with Zadok as head of the priests of the line of Ithamar, and according to 1 Chronicles 24:6 he was the son of Abiathar. It would therefore be necessary to change the name Ahimelech into Abiathar in this instance also, both in 1 Chronicles 24:3 and 1 Chronicles 24:6, and in the latter to transpose the two names. But there is not the slightest probability in the supposition that the names have been changed in so many passaGes. We are therefore disposed to adopt the view held by Bertheau and Oehler, viz., that Abiathar the high priest, the son of Ahimelech, had also a son named Ahimelech, as it is by no means a rare occurrence for grandfather and grandson to have the same names (vid., 1 Chronicles 6:4-15), and also that this (the younger) Ahimelech performed the duties of high priest in connection with his father, who was still living at the commencement of Solomon's reign (1 Kings 2:27), and is mentioned in this capacity, along with Zadok, both here and in the book of Chronicles, possibly because Abiathar was ill, or for some other reason that we cannot discover. As Abiathar was thirty or thirty-five years old at the time when his father was put to death by Saul, according to what has already been observed at 1 Samuel 14:3, and forty years old at the death of Saul, he was at least forty-eight years old at the time when David removed his residence to Mount Zion, and might have had a son of twenty-five years of age, namely the Ahimelech mentioned here, who could have taken his father's place in the performance of the functions of high priest when he was prevented by illness or other causes. The appearance of a son of Abiathar named Jonathan in 2 Samuel 15:27; 2 Samuel 17:17, 2 Samuel 17:20, is no valid argument against this solution of the apparent discrepancy; for, according to these passages, he was still very young, and may therefore have been a younger brother of Ahimelech. The omission of any allusion to Ahimelech in connection with Abiathar's conspiracy with Adonijah against Solomon (1 Kings 1:42-43), and the reference to his son Jonathan alone, might be explained on the supposition that Ahimelech had already died. But as there is no reference to Jonathan at the time when his father was deposed, no stress is to be laid upon the omission of any reference to Ahimelech. Moreover, when Abiathar was deposed after Solomon had ascended the throne, he must have been about eighty years of age. Seraiah was a scribe. Instead of Seraiah, we have Shavsha in the corresponding text of the Chronicles, and Sheva in the parallel passage 2 Samuel 20:25. Whether the last name is merely a mistake for Shavsha, occasioned by the dropping of שׁ, or an abbreviated form of Shisha and Shavsha, cannot be decided. Shavsha is not a copyist's error, for in 1 Kings 4:3 the same man is unquestionably mentioned again under the name of Shisha, who is called Shavsha in the Chronicles, Sheva (שׁיא) in the text of 2 Samuel 20:25, and here Seraiah. Seraiah also is hardly a copyist's error, but another form for Shavsha or Shisha. The scribe was a secretary of state; not a military officer, whose duty it was to raise and muster the troops, for the technical expression for mustering the people was not ספר, but פּקד (cf. 2 Samuel 24:2, 2 Samuel 24:4,2 Samuel 24:9; 1 Chronicles 21:5-6, etc.).
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