Translation of 1 Kings 2:26-27 (MT)

26. And to Abiathar the priest, the king said, “to Anathoth, go upon your fields, for a man of death are you and on this day I will not let you die for you lifted the ark of the Lord Yhwh before David my father and for you submitted in all that my father submitted to.
27. And Solomon banished Abiathar from being a priest for Yhwh to fulfill the word of Yhwh that he spoke against the house of Eli in Shiloh.

Comments on the Text

Two verses. They report and repeat the same thing. First, “the king” commands Abiathar to move to Anathoth as he merits death. Instead of killing him, for whatever crime he might have committed, the king merely sends him away. In verse 27, “Solomon” banishes him in fulfillment of an oracle against Eli in Shiloh. We should consider each of these issues briefly in turn.

The first and only (as far as I can tell) time that Abiathar is affiliated with Anathoth is in this verse. The only other time that this place has been mentioned in the Bible thus far was Joshua 21:18, in the list of Levitical cities. That implies that 1 Kgs 2:26 makes Abiathar a Levite, since he apparently has land there in this case. Remarkably, one important biblical personage supposedly had priestly connections and came from Anathoth: the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 1:1). Could this note here be an indication about the origin (regardless of whether it was legendary or historical) of the priests of Anathoth? The reference to Abiathar’s carrying the ark is 2 Sam 15:29, where he carries out this duty, the priest who ultimately replaces him. These two priests supposedly returned the ark to Jerusalem and stayed with it during David’s flight from his son Absalom. The king’s sending Abiathar away from the court was not included in David’s final words to Solomon. That suggests that different hands may have been responsible for each piece of this literary puzzle. (The reference to “the king” could imply the same, though David is named in 1 Kgs 2:26.) Curiously, it is not said that Abiathar adheres to the king’s command. It is just presumed.

The location of Anathoth (from Koenen, “Anatot,” Wibilex)

Verse 27 then reports essentially the same thing, this time in the mouth of “Solomon.” The other important elements all differ as well. Abiathar is affiliated with a different place, namely Shiloh. Whereas the king saved him through his sending him away in v. 26, Solomon punishes him with banishing in v. 27. The king’s saving Abiathar resulted from a positive aspect, carrying the ark. But Solomon’s banishing him resulted from the sinful actions of Eli and his sons. The reference here is to 1 Sam 2, though this negative prophecy was essentially already fulfilled in 1 Sam 4. Again, this was not part of David’s command to Solomon in the chapter’s opening, and again it is not explicitly said that Abiathar departed, though it is strongly suggested.

For all intents and purposes, this is the end of Abiathar’s story. The Enneateuch (i.e., Genesis through Kings) tells us no more about him, though he does appear two more times. First Kings 2:35 reports that he was officially replaced by Zadok as priest, and 1 Kgs 4:4 includes him in a list of Solomon’s officers as a priest. Neither of these add anything to what the reader has learned about Abiathar thus far. Alternatively, he does appear peripherally in Chronicles’ retelling of David’s story.

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