1 Samuel 2:22-36
The story of Eli is the saga of a careless father and toothless leader. It is the sober account of the tragic consequences of failing to seek true conversion and sound character in those who are closest to you. Scripture places Eli before us as a man divinely chosen and privileged by God, yet one fatal flaw destroyed many faithful works, including causing obscurity in his lineage.
Eli’s conduct with his sons is chiefly in view here (vv.22-26). Scripture mentions the age of Eli to perhaps make us aware of the infirmities that come with old age. Although Eli was “very old” (v.22), his age was no excuse or justification for his failure to lead. To the profanity and greed described in verses 12-17 is added immorality. Not just any immorality, but sexual sin with women who were supposed to be dedicated to religious services (v.22; Ex.38:8). Whether this was some type of cultic prostitution practiced in Canannite religions or simply fornication is unimportant. The point is that the depth of their sin was willful, flagrant, and appalling.
Where did Eli fail? How did he sin against the Lord? What was the root of his sin?
- His sin was rooted in his depth of his character.
- His sin was a reflection of his moral weakness and light esteem of God.
After a long time of forbearance, here we discover that special privileges bestowed by God’s favor involve serious responsibility. When a person does not carry out that responsibility in faithfulness, the effects are devastating. God reminded him of a grace spurned and abused (vv.28-29). Eli’s punishment would consist of:
- The depriving of strength (v.31)
- The shortening of life (vv.32-33)
- The loss of prosperity and the infliction of misery (vv.33-34)
The fulfillment of the death of Eli’s two sons is recorded in 1 Samuel 4:17-22. It is one of the saddest in the record of Holy Scripture. In later years, Saul killed one of Eli’s descendants (1 Sam.22:17-20); and later Solomon replaced Eli’s family with the family of Zadok (1 Kin.2:26-27, 35). In 1 Samuel 2:35, the “faithful priest” refers immediately to Samuel, but ultimately to the Lord Jesus Christ (Cf. Heb.3:1ff).
Eli’s story reveals the consequences of our lack of parental forethought, prayer, and wisdom. Often our severe tones of asserting authority, our lack of discipline to check wrong tendencies, and our avoidance of the essential truths of the Gospel inflame a silent resistance to true religion in the heart. We must keep dealing with matters of the heart with our children. The power of early habit plays an important role in the formation of character, and it is likely that if a child is trained up in the way he should go, he will not depart from it when he is old (Prov.22:6). Prayer, the Word of God, and example are the best tools to do this essential work.