Prepare Ye The Way!

For the Love of the Spirit

Eli’s Sons

This is the third article in the series about Samuel.  When it started with Little Sammy, it was not intended to develop into a series but there ya are!  🙂  After the addition of Eli’s Sons, I will create a page giving links to all the articles in the series and updating it as more are added.

In Little Sammy I told the story taken from I Samuel 1 of how Samuel came to be born out of his mother’s (Hannah) grief at being childless.  In the second of the series, Hannah’s Prayer, I lifted straight from I Samuel chapter 2 the prayer of Hannah after she turned the just weaned child Samuel over to Eli the chief priest for religious service.

Now, in this third of the series we will hear of the two son’ of Eli.  It is not a departure of the story of Samuel himself as will be seen.  Their story besides being a part of the general narrative, helps to illustrate the most important element of the plot up to and through the anointing of Saul.

Eli’s Sons

Now Eli had two sons and at the very beginning of their story I Samuel 2:12 tells us very bluntly and as a harsh matter of fact  that,

Eli’s sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord.

In the very beginning of the story of Samuel and his life and deeds, Eli’s sons had a brief mention, but only to tell their names, Hophni and Phinehas.  Their names were given, it was told that they were sons of Eli, and that they were also priests.  But it was merely an aside and nothing else was said about them from that point to this.  Now we get into the story proper of these two scoundrels.

I cannot imagine a very happy ending for these two guys from this ominous start in verse 12.

Have you heard of many people in the Bible called “wicked” and “without regard for the Lord” who had pleasant endings?

Me either.You see, they were priests serving under their father Eli and though Eli was the chief priest, his sons were responsible for and performed many of the duties of a priest for the people of Israel.

One of these duties occurred at the time of sacrifice, particularly that which was called the Fellowship Offering whose purpose was a voluntary act of worship: thanksgiving and fellowship.  It included a communal meal.

The interior organs of the sacrificial animal along with the fat attached to them were taken to the altar.  The meat would be placed on the altar for burning and the fat  burned off .  It was unlawful to eat of any fat.  The fat was for God.

The priest shall burn [the entrails] on the altar as food (roasting), an offering made by fire, a pleasing aroma.  All the fat is the Lord’s.  This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live: You must not any fat or blood. (Leviticus 3 16-17)

Now it was a general practice established by tradition that after the burning of the fat, the meat that was not burned in the fire (except for the fat which could not be eaten in any case) was taken and prepared for the communal meal and for private family meals by boiling it in a pot, kettle or cauldron.

It was the way of doing things that a servant of the priest would come up to the person presenting the sacrifice and with a long three-pronged fork makie a random plunge into a boiling pot with the meat.  Whatever was pulled up on the fork was the priest’s portion of the sacrifice.  What was left in the pot was for the person making the sacrifice to eat or share as they wished.

But, Hophni and Phineas had “no regard for the Lord,” which meant more than just no theoretical or intellectual knowledge.  It meant more importantly that they had no relationship with God whatsoever.  There were no acknowledgments of any claims that God had on their lives.  They were indifferent to God’s presence in their lives or in the act of sacrifice.  Having “regard for the Lord” also meant a commitment to the Covenant Relationship that was the most important aspect of the Jewish faith.   They “dissed” God.

They couldn’t be bothered by all this Fellowship Sacrifice business.  They didn’t want “Pot Luck.”  They would send their servant to the person making the sacrifice and demand to pick the choice part of the sacrifice before it had even had the fat burned off of it on the altar.

If the man said to him, ‘Let the fat burned up first, and then take whatever you want,’ the servant would then answer, ‘No, hand it over now; if you don’t, I’ll take it by force.’

The sin of the young men (Hophni and Phineas)  was very great in the Lord’s sight, for they were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt. (I Samuel 2:16-17)

Through all this we flash back to Samuel, still very young at this point.  We hear that he was ministering before the Lord and even wearing a priestly garment made of linen that was called an ephod.  Each year his mother would come up from Ramah to Shiloh with Elkanah and each year she would present Samuel with a gift of a sleeveless robe.  It reached to the knees and was worn under the ephod.  Eli would bless Elkanah and Hannah and say,

May the Lord give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to the Lord. (I Samuel 2:20)

Then they would go home.  Hannah ended up conceiving and giving birth 5 more times — three sons and two daughters.

This little bit is important in the story of Eli’s wicked sons.  It shows a sharp contrast between the regard that Samuel had for God as opposed to the utter lack of regard held by the sons for the God whom they were supposedly serving as his priests.  It is mentioned another time at the end of this description of the sins of Eli’s sons that,

the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men. (v. 26) (see also Luke 2:52)

Abbott and Costello (Hophni and Phineas?)

Well, all this bad behavior could not help but come to Eli’s attention.  He heard of the contempt for the sacrifice and he also heard that the boys were having sex “with the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of the Meeting.”  (v 22).  It is taken to be that these “women” were similar to Temple Prostitutes as from the Canaanite practices and was expressly forbidden in the Hebrew religion. (Deut. 23:17-18)

He called them on the carpet for it.  He spoke to them very sternly on all that they were doing and warned them that a sin against God was the worst type of sin because there was no remediation for it. But they,

 . . . did not listen . . . for it was the Lord’s will to put them to death (v. 25)

WHAT!?

That sounds like God decided not to let Hophni and Phineas listen.  That sounds like God already decided that he was going to kill them and closed their hearts to any words of warning from Eli.  No more or any chances, boys.  You’re goners.

Now I know God is famous in the Old Testament for putting wicked people to death, but this is the first I have heard of him actually preventing them from changing their ways and thereby being spared (saved).  This doesn’t sound like my God from the Bible.

And in fact, it is not.

The interpretation of this verse should be taken as that Hophni and Phineas were already so far gone in their wickedness that there was no turning back.  They were so enslaved by their own evil that were hopeless.  They were past the point of no return.

Well, that concludes the story of the wickedness of Hophni and Phineas.  Next we get to share in the story of just what God had in mind for them.

NEXT:

Prophecy Against the House of Eli

February 9, 2012 Posted by | Bible Stories | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment