🔼The name Ahimelech: Summary
- My Brother Is King, Brother Of the King
- From (1) אח ('ah), brother, and (2) מלך (melek), king.
🔼The name Ahimelech in the Bible
There are three men named Ahimelech in the Bible, and the most famous one is probably Ahimelech, who is the son of Ahitub and descendant of Eli, and priest at Nob during the reign of king Saul (1 Samuel 21:1). He is the priest to whom young David and his entourage of young men flee right after Jonathan warns him by shooting in arrow and telling his lad that the arrow went far (1 Samuel 20:37-38). David lies about his reason for being there and asks for provisions. Ahimelech gives him the consecrated Bread of the Presence (Exodus 25:30) and also the sword of Goliath of Gath.
Doeg, Saul's Edomite chief herdsman, is present at this transfer and informs Saul about it. Ahimelech, wholly innocent, is accused of treason and executed by Doeg. Doeg also kills eighty-five other priests of YHWH, presumably their families as well, and the entire population of Nob. Only Abiathar, a son of Ahimelech, escapes, joins David, and names his son Ahimelech, after his murdered father (2 Samuel 8:17, 1 Chronicles 24:3, 24:6, 24:31; in 1 Chronicles 18:16 he's called Abimelech). David commemorates Ahimelech in a song that would later be known as Psalm 52.
🔼Etymology of the name Ahimelech
The name Ahimelech consists of two elements. The first part of the name comes from the common but curious word אח ('ah), meaning brother:
The noun אח ('ah) means brother, or more broadly: a fellow member of a social economic node (a "house") within a broader economic whole.
This word's lavish inclusion in names strongly suggests that the deity was reckoned by this word — in modern times we mostly speak of Our Father in Heaven but in antiquity the deity appears to have also been addressed as Our Brother. The New Testament appears to entertain that dynamic in the tenet that the Word is God's Son, and all who have the Word are godly brothers. Also note the similarity with the verb חוה (hawa), to show, tell, make known.
The noun אחוה ('ahawa) means brotherhood and אחות ('ahot) means sister.
The second part of the name Ahimelech comes from the common Hebrew word מלך (melek), meaning king:
The noun מלך (melek) means king, and a king is not merely a glorified tribal chief but the alpha of a complex, stratified society, implying a court and a complex government.
The Bible insists that a society must be governed by a triad of anointed sovereigns, namely prophets, priests and the king. A good king causes his people to be prosperous and peaceful whereas a bad one causes poverty and strife. The difference between the two is dictated by how close to the Law of Nature (a.k.a. the Word of God) the king operates. A kingdom that is wholly in tune with the Law consists of only sovereign individuals and is thus without a physical king.
An Aramaic cognate verb מלך (malak) means to consult, which confirms that the concept of royalty indeed evolved from wisdom and intellectual prowess rather than brute physical or political strength, as is commonly suggested.
From this noun derives the verb מלך (malak): to be or become king, the nouns מלכה (malka) and מלכת (meleket): queen or court-lady, the noun מלוכה (meluka): kingship or royalty, and the nouns מלכות (malkut), ממלכה (mamlaka) and ממלכות (mamlakut), meaning sovereignty or kinghood.
For a meaning of the name Ahimelech, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads My Brother Is King. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names suggests Brother Of the King. BDB Theological Dictionary proposes Brother Of Melech, the latter being the Ammonite deity Molech.