First, some people have said they had never read this story, so it must be that Jesus was misquoting scripture. But in fact, this is found in 1 Samuel 21, and is included below the text of the story of what Jesus said as recored in Matthew 12:2-4 and Mark 2:23-26.
Second, some have said that there is an apparent contradiction where “in Matthew Jesus states that it was not lawful for David to eat the consecrated bread. However in the book of 1 Samuel the Priest Ahimelek says to them it is okay for them to have the bread provided that they have kept themselves from women. So which is…A) Only permissible for the Priest to eat. or B) Permissible as long as you have kept yourself from a women”.
Third, some have said that there is a different apparent contradiction where in Mark, Jesus is reported as saying David entered the temple in the time of Abiathar the high priest, yet in 1 Samuel 21, it reports the priest was Ahimelech. Which was it?
I am providing the scripture to review before I tackle the two apparent contradictions.
2 But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.” 3 But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, 4 how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? 5 Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent?
24 The Pharisees were saying to Him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And He *said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions became hungry;26 how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?”
1 Samuel 21:1-6
21 Then David came to Nob to Ahimelech the priest; and Ahimelech came trembling to meet David and said to him, “Why are you alone and no one with you?” 2 David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has commissioned me with a matter and has said to me, ‘Let no one know anything about the matter on which I am sending you and with which I have commissioned you; and I have directed the young men to a certain place.’ 3 Now therefore, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever can be found.” 4 The priest answered David and said, “There is no ordinary bread on hand, but there is consecrated bread; if only the young men have kept themselves from women.” 5 David answered the priest and said to him, “Surely women have been kept from us as previously when I set out and the vessels of the young men were holy, though it was an ordinary journey; how much more then today will their vessels be holy?” 6 So the priest gave him consecrated bread; for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence which was removed from before the Lord, in order to put hot bread in its place when it was taken away.
Now, to address whether it was permissible for the consecrated bread to be eaten if you had kept yourself ceremonially clean, or if you had to be a priest (as Jesus stated), we have to look at Leviticus 24:5-9. There we see that only priests (Aaron and his sons) could eat the consecrated bread.
5 “Then you shall take fine flour and bake twelve cakes with it; two-tenths of an ephah shall be in each cake. 6 You shall set them in two rows, six to a row, on the pure gold table before the Lord. 7 You shall put pure frankincense on each row that it may be a memorial portion for the bread, even an offering by fire to the Lord. 8 Every sabbath day he shall set it in order before the Lord continually; it is an everlasting covenant for the sons of Israel. 9 It shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place; for it is most holy to him from the Lord’s offerings by fire, his portion forever.”
That being the case, Jesus was right, and the priest lied (or at best was wrong about the law).
Now to address whether Abiathar was the high priest, or whether it was Ahimelech. If you look at the passage in 1 Samuel 21, you will notice it does not mention whether Ahimelech was the high priest. We see in 1 Samuel 22:20 that Ahimelech was the father of Abiathar.
1 Samuel 22:20
But one son of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled after David.
It may be that Abiathar was high priest and Ahimelech was only a priest. Or it may be that both were high priests. Alternatively, according to some, “Some English translations omit the phrase “…the high priest…”, as it does not appear in some manuscripts. Perhaps the error is that of a transcriber, who in error, penned Abiathar rather than Abimelech. Or, perhaps Abiathar is mentioned as high priest, as he was contemporary with David and in Jewish thought, no doubt inseparably associated with David, as he was with David throughout the calamities of his life, leading to and through his reign. Abiathar was the son of Abimelech, and was to become High Priest after his father.”
Like Abiathar and Ahimelech, Annas and Caiaphas were father and son and were both high priests at the time of Jesus.
Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all!
and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year.
Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family.
In fact, it was not unusual for the priesthood to be recognized as belonging to more than one person, although only one could be high priest at a time. This is seen in Luke 3:2.
in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.
So… the story Jesus told IS found in the Old Testament. More than that, Jesus was right to say it was unlawful for David and his men to eat. Even more, there are multiple ways to address the fact that Jesus said ‘Abiathar’ and 1 Samuel 21 records ‘Ahimelech’.