AHIMELECH (Heb. אֲחִימֶלֶךְ; "[the divine] brother is king" or "the Melech [deity] is my brother"), name of three biblical figures.
(1) Ahimelech, son of Ahitub, was a member of the priestly family of *Eli, who served in the Temple of *Nob (i Sam. 21–22). Ahimelech has been identified with *Ahijah, son of Ahitub, who is also mentioned in the time of Saul and who acted as a priest in Saul's war with the Philistines (14:3, 18). Ahimelech probably founded the Temple of Nob after the destruction of *Shiloh by the Philistines in the time of Samuel. He served as the high priest in Nob, and "85 persons that wear linen ephods" were under his charge (22:16–18).
When David escaped from Saul, he first came to Nob where Ahimelech provided him with bread and with the sword of Goliath, which was kept in the Temple (21:1–10, 22:10–15). *Doeg the Edomite informed Saul about it and stated that Ahimelech "inquired of the Lord" for David (22:10), for which Ahimelech (22:15) excused himself by pointing out that it was not the first time, for he had always understood that David was Saul's trusted revenger. Saul, however, put to death Ahimelech and the rest of the priests of Nob. One son of Ahimelech, *Abiathar, escaped and joined David.
(2) Ahimelech, son of Abiathar, was probably the grandson of the former. He is mentioned as a priest, together with Ẓadok, son of Ahitub, in one of the lists of David's officials (ii Sam. 8:17). In a parallel list he is called Abimelech (i Chron. 18:16; possibly a scribal error, as testified by some Mss. of the mt, as well as by the Vulg.). In the lists of David's officials in ii Samuel 20:25, and i Chronicles 26:24, as well as in the historical narratives, only Abiathar and Zadok are mentioned as high priests. Therefore, scholars doubted the historicity of Ahimelech and emended the text in ii Samuel 8:17 to read "Ẓadok and Abiathar son of Ahimelech son of Ahitub."
(3) Ahimelech the Hittite was one of the men who joined David when David fled from Saul (i Sam. 26:6). He was probably one of David's warriors, as he is mentioned with *Abishai b. Zeruiah. Ahimelech was only one of many foreigners who attached themselves to David, although most of the others joined David after he was made king.
In the Aggadah
Ahimelech would not allow David to partake of the sanctified shewbread, until David pleaded that he was in danger of starvation (Men. 95b). The dispute between Ahimelech and Saul (i Sam. 22:12–19) was based on Ahimelech's action in consulting the Urim and Thummim on David's behalf. Saul maintained that it was a capital offense, since it was a privilege reserved for the king, while Ahimelech maintained that, when affairs of state were involved, the privilege was a universal one, and certainly applied to David, in his position as a general of the army. Abner and Amasa supported Ahimelech's argument, but Doeg did not, and Saul therefore placed upon him the task of killing Ahimelech (Yal. 131).
(1) Yeivin, in: Sefer Dinaburg (1949), 30 ff.; W.W.S. von Baudissin, Kyrios als ottesname, 3 (1929), 97 ff.; Albright, Arch Rel, 202; (2) Moehlenbrink, in: zaw, 52 (1934), 204–5; Rowley, in: jbl, 58 (1939), 113 ff.; (3) Maisler, Untersuchungen, 78.