The Wicked Sons of Eli While Samuel Remains True

Consider this story told by Bernard L. Brown, Jr., president of the Kennestone Regional Health Care System in the state of Georgia: Brown once worked in a hospital where a patient knocked over a cup of water, which spilled on the floor beside the patient’s bed. The patient was af … More


Eli’s sons were sons of the Devil (v. 12). Because they were priests, they took advantage of their position. They took part of the sacrifices before they were offered to God on the altar and before the fat was burned off, which was against God’s laws (Lev. 3:3-5) (vv. 13-17). In addition, they were sleeping with the women who served them (v. 22). The sad part was that Eli did little or nothing to stop them (vv. 23-24). He just let his sons ruin their lives and the lives of others, as this undermined the integrity of the whole priesthood. This may seem harsh but, according to Numbers 15:22-31, Eli should have responded by executing his sons. Even in this bad environment, Samuel is growing in favor with God (vv. 18-21) and (v. 25-26). He is dedicated to God and backed by his mother’s prayers. During this time God was good to Hannah. She had five other children but she never forgot Samuel during all those years.

God sends a prophet to old Eli who told him that God was through with his as the high priest and judgment is coming to his sons (vv. 27-34). It is evident, as we read this portion of scripture, that Eli was not just a father who needed to deal with his rebellious sons but, in a more serious vain, he was the high priest who was ignoring the sins of priests who were under his jurisdiction. This was a very serious matter and, as a result, the Lord took the necessary disciplinary action that Eli would not take. Eli was guilty of honoring his sons above God by letting them continue in their sinful ways. As religious leaders, they may have thought they could get away with it but God, who is just, brought judgement. Eli and his sons were not faithful, so God said He would choose someone else who was (v. 35). This prophecy shows that the priesthood did not die with Eli. Historically, after the death of Eli, the priestly functions were taken over by Samuel who had been trained by Eli. However, only gradually was confidence restored to the priesthood.


I must not try to rationalize away God’s standards. If there is ever any situation in my life, family or work where I know things are wrong and I allow them to continue I will be treading on dangerous ground, just as Eli was.

I Samuel 2:12-36 (English Standard Version)

Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the LORD. The custom of the priests with the people was that when any man offered sacrifice, the priest's servant would come, while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand, and he would thrust it into the pan or kettle or cauldron or pot. All that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is what they did at Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. Moreover, before the fat was burned, the priest's servant would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, "Give meat for the priest to roast, for he will not accept boiled meat from you but only raw." And if the man said to him, "Let them burn the fat first, and then take as much as you wish," he would say, "No, you must give it now, and if not, I will take it by force." Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the LORD, for the men treated the offering of the LORD with contempt. Samuel was ministering before the LORD, a boy clothed with a linen ephod. And his mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year when she went up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, "May the LORD give you children by this woman for the petition she asked of the LORD." So then they would return to their home. Indeed the LORD visited Hannah, and she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. And the young man Samuel grew in the presence of the LORD. Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. And he said to them, "Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. No, my sons; it is no good report that I hear the people of the LORD spreading abroad. If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the LORD, who can intercede for him?" But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the LORD to put them to death. Now the young man Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the LORD and also with man. And there came a man of God to Eli and said to him, "Thus the LORD has said, 'Did I indeed reveal myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt subject to the house of Pharaoh? Did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? I gave to the house of your father all my offerings by fire from the people of Israel. Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?' Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: 'I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,' but now the LORD declares: 'Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days are coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your father's house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. Then in distress you will look with envious eye on all the prosperity that shall be bestowed on Israel, and there shall not be an old man in your house forever. The only one of you whom I shall not cut off from my altar shall be spared to weep his eyes out to grieve his heart, and all the descendants of your house shall die by the sword of men. And this that shall come upon your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you: both of them shall die on the same day. And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever. And everyone who is left in your house shall come to implore him for a piece of silver or a loaf of bread and shall say, "Please put me in one of the priests' places, that I may eat a morsel of bread."'"

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